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A Wholesome Approach to Major Depressive Illness

Concepts of Depression and Anxiety in Ayurveda Stress, which is a normal physiologic response to happenings that threaten us, may act as a trigger in the development of mental disturbances. Excessive stress at regular intervals elevates the serum levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This has various far-reaching impacts; hypertension, an imbalance in sugar metabolism, the stiffness of muscles, and tachycardia, which subsequently lead to headaches, lethargy, poor immune function, sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. Ayurveda refers to Depression as “Vishada”. As per the traditional Indian school of medicine, the lack of harmony between psychological energies (sattva, rajas, tamas) supplemented by an imbalance in physical energies (vata, pitta, kapha) is regarded as the main causative factor of mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. Depression commonly exhibits depressed sattvik energy and elevated rajasik and tamasik energies. Depleted ojas (the essence of all elements) also plays a role in its precipitation by inhibiting the Prana Vayu responsible for the optimal functioning of the human mind. Lethargy, abnormal movements, slurred speech, irritability, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and decreased libido usually indicate depleted ojas. Contrarily, melancholy, despair, and loss of interest in life’s activities implicate peaking rajasik and tamasik energies. Causes of Depression and Anxiety The absence of mental integrity Yielding to negative thoughts and emotions such as hatred and anger Detectable Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety Recurring empty, tense or melancholic moods Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities Irritable tendency and involvement in conflicts Lack of self-esteem Feelings of guilt and delusional thoughts Withdrawal from societal affairs Indecisiveness and lapses in concentration Excessive or inadequate sleep Suicidal thoughts Exacerbation of pre-existing chronic disorders Natural Remedies for Depression and Anxiety Ayurvedic medicine for depression generally incorporates Rasayanas (elixirs) which posses the capacity to enhance the coordination between learning, retention, and recall, thus, equalizing the balance of emotions. Ayurveda also employs rejuvenating techniques and lifestyle modifications to take action against depression and anxiety. Pranayama (Meditation) for 20 minutes twice every day is an effective tool to combat all forms of stress. Going to bed early ( before 10 pm ) during the nocturnal Kapha period produces sound, restful sleep and is considered to be the best medicine for anxiety. Waking up early is essential to prevent depression as sleeping until late is associated with clogging of channels of communication existing between the heart and mind, leading to dull, depressed moods. Daily judicious exercise releases positive neurological hormones called endorphins, elevates mood, increases the individual’s processing capabilities and accentuates Agni It is essential to defecate every morning as constipation may lead to headaches, dullness, tiredness and finally, depression. Appropriate intake of water should be ensured throughout the day. It is of great therapeutic value to adopt a positive attitude towards life and, to mingle with new groups of people. Ingestion of foods that are unprocessed such as milk, clove, walnut, pear, coconut, soaked almonds, raisins, dates, cottage cheese (Paneer) and Ayurvedic buttermilk blocks elevation of Kapha and liberates ojas, thus, lightening emotions. These comprise the best natural anxiety medication. Adjunctively, alcohol and junk food should be avoided. Spices like black pepper increase the co-ordination among different functions of the mind. Abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil massage): A daily abhyanga from head to toe, with Geranium, lavender or sesame oil improves circulation, enables cleansing of toxins from tissues and, provides a calming effect. An individual’s tactile sense is related to his emotions, thus, while massaging oneself, tactile activation required to balance Vata dosha is possible. This is amongst the most effective modes of anxiety treatment in Ayurveda. Shirodhara: This involves the application of medicated oil to the forehead with pendulum motion for 30-60 minutes. This relaxes and activates the hypothalamus to induce sleep through reduction of stress. Nasyam: This entails the application of medically active drugs or oils through the nostrils. Padabhyangam: It is a herbal foot massage procedure that stimulates vital pressure points to bring about mental calmness and stress relief. Kizhi: This technique involves powders, herbs, rice and, sand tied in tiny pouches of muslin cloth. These constituents are heated and the pouch is lightly pressed over specific areas of the body. Kizhi enhances circulation and prevents generation of oxidative stress, thus, antagonizing the symptoms of depressive illness. Rasayanas: They are Ayurvedic formulations, consisting of different proportions of a wide variety of herbs. Rasayanas provide excellent nutritional harmony to restore emotional balance. They primarily provide nourishment to the Prana Vata, which influences a person’s energy, creative qualities, perception, and consciousness. Rasayanas constitute the most widely accepted form of Ayurvedic medicine for depression and mainly, involve the following herb extracts- Arjuna myrobalans: It is effective in fortifying cardiac function and emotions. It speeds up the disposal of degenerated cells and replaces them with fresh, vital ones, thus, improving the body’s regenerative capacity. Basil: It helps in accentuating the body’s intrinsic resistance to stress. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): It is extremely efficacious in equalizing the balance of Prana Vata and delivers emotional stability.

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