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Stress and Ayurveda

Eustress and Distress

Today stress is unavoidable. By definition terms, stress is defined as anything constituting a threat, real or apparent, which would adversely affect the organism. It can be induced by several factors like environmental changes, extremes of temperature, high altitude, restraints, fear, rage, anxiety, shock, grief, pain and so on. As far as body is able to cope with it, a stress act as a normal stimulus required for our physical and social well being and is better known as Good stress or “eustress” which help in improving the performance. On the other hand, stress becomes “distress” when the individual is unable to cope with it and it causes induce a number of clinical maladies, like hypertension, coronary artery disease, peptic ulcer, asthma, migraine, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes mellitus, thyrotoxicosis, behavioral disorders like anxiety and depression and the

list is very long.

Stress management

The fact that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is well recognized in Ayurveda, as its foremost

objective is maintenance and promotion of the health of the healthy. To prevent stress there

are two approaches.

1. To avoid factors inducing stress and vitiating dosas; &

2. To increase the coping capacity of the


Avoiding Stress : Sahasam sada varjayate (D. G. Su. 4/7). (4) Rationally the best

approach is to hit at the root cause, and this is particularly ideal strategy in the stress-

management. Stress avoidance has been best appreciated by Caraka who states that in order to protect one’s life one shouldalways avoid over-exerting himself. However, in today’s

world of bottle neck competition, stress is an inevitable companion of success. This stress is justified also because of the results it bring along, however, the stress induced diseases

can not be acceptable. Therefore, although stress avoidance is the ideal approach, it is not

the most appropriate strategy and stress needs to be managed by strengthening the body’s

adapting capacity to the stress. The coping capacity of the body can be increased by life

style modifications, dietary interventions and / or drug treatment, all these being well

organized under the umbrella of rasayana therapy, one of the eight branches of classical


Classification of Rasayana

Ayurvedic approach to complete health is not fundamentally drug oriented, drugs being just

one aspect of this multidimensional approach. All the same rasayana therapy in its purview

includes drugs, dietary regimens and codes of


Acara rasayana, constitutes the balanced use of sense organs, non-violence and self control

is advised. This also suggests a regular routine free from stress (C.Ci. 1/4/30-35).

Ajasrika rasayana is about observing a nutritious and balanced dietary routine. A

balanced diet consisting of all the six rasas and modified as per desa, kala (climate,

environment and season), age and prakrti (dosic constitution) of the individual. In

disease states, the dietary substances opposite to vitiated dosas are advised. In health, the

balanced diet is considered the best rasayana.

Ausadha rasayana, i.e., the drug treatment becomes effective only when the first two are

appropriately followed. Thus, to obtain the maximum benefits of rasayana therapy, one

should regularly observe acara rasayana be careful of his diet and intermittently take

rasayana drugs after proper purification.

Mechanism of action of rasayana

It has been universally agreed that rasayana therapy is the most appropriate mean of

achieving healthy dhatus (tissues). Moreover, rasayana ultimately improves ojas, the

essence of all dhatus. The healthy dhatus can be obtained by:

1. Directly improving the quality of posaka rasa, that in turn nourishes all dhahatus.

satavari asparagus racemosus), dugdha (milk) and ghrta (ghee) are rasayanas that

act in this way.

2. Balancing agni (digestion and metabolism) is equally important means

of promoting the quality of dhatus. Bhallataka (Semicarpus anacardium) and

pippali (Piper longum) are rasayanas acting in this way.

3. An optimal competence of srotas is another important requisite for a healthy

body. Guggulu (Commiphora mukul), is the best example of rasayanas effective at

the level of srotas. Recently reported hypolipidaemic and antiatherosclerotic

activity of guggulu confirms this mode of action.

4. Dravya-prabhava:- generally the drugs with properties similar to pacified dosas

and depleted dhatus and / or properties opposite to vitiated dosas and aggravated

dhatus are used for treatment. Sometimes, however, the beneficial effects of drugs can not be explained in this simple ways. In that case, the drug is said to act by dravya-prabhava.

Most of the medhya rasayana act by dravya-prabhava. n modern scientific terminology, rasayana drugs are known to have antioxidant, immunomodulator, antidepressant, anxiolytic,

antiulcer activity and are also proving effective on the animal models of stess.

Prasasta-dhatu-janakatwe sati jara-vyadhi-nivarttakatwam rasayanatwam-iti laksanam

phalati. Rasah sara ojobhutah, tasya ayanam prapti sadhanam rasayanam ojayamitti.

(Ayurveda Darsanam)

Potential utility of Antisress Rasayana

herbs in Stress Management

Stress has been postulated to be involved in the aetiopathogenesis of a variety of diseases

ranging from psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety and cognitive dysfunction, immunosuppression, to endocrine disorders including diabetes mellitus, peptic ulcer, hypertension and ulcerative colitis. Modern life style makes us more prone to stress and in turn to stress induced disorders. The routine of tests and treatments is tedious and combined with the economic burder of the disease, causes more stress to the already stressed person. The poor individual is thus trapped in a vicious cycle resulting in the progression of stress induced diseases. Antistress agents are therefore, required to break this cycle.

Modern system of medicine is still in want of an effective antistress agent. Though drugs like diazepam and fluoxetine are claimed to have antistress activity but these drugs do no

fulfill the criteria of a true, safe and specific antistress agent. Panax ginseng has been

developed as a natural medicine for a variety of clinical disorders in modern medicine and

is recognized as an antistress agent. It is, however, now known to induce several

adverse effects like ‘Ginseng abuse syndrome’. Rasayana herbs have been

demonstrated to have potential as antistress agents and the answer to a safe and effective

antistress agents probably lies here.

Several rasayana herbs used as antistress agents have shown antioxidant,

immunomodulator, hepatoprotective, antidepressant and anxiolytic effects in

various experimental and clinical studies. Oxidative free radicals (OFR) are constantly

formed in the body and an excessive generation of OFRs or/and defective

scavenging mechanisms have been implicated in a diverse range of degenerative disorders.

Including rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic stress is known to augment

the generation of OFRs in various biological systems and to interfere with the activity of

enzymes like superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase which help in the

removal of OFRs. Abnormal accumulation of OFRs leads to cell membrane lipid

peroxidation. Toxic peroxide metabolites induce excessive cellular injury. Apart from

diseases, free radical induced stress has been implicated in aging and immunosuppression.

Several rasaya drugs like Asparagus racemosus, Bacopa monnieri, Boerhavia diffusa, Centella asiatica, Convolvulus pluricaulis, Emblica offcinalis, Piper longum, Tinospora cordifolia, Picrorrhiza kurroa,Curcuma longa, Withania somnifera have been reported to have significant antioxidant action. Since these rasayanas have widespread clinical use, including disease postulated to be induced by OFRs it is possible that, at lease a part of their

therapeutic effects are due to reduction of oxidative stress. Likewise, antiaging benefits

may be due to a similar mechanisms.Rasayana herbs with predominant

hepatoprotective effects, like Picrorrhiza kurroa, Tinospora cordifolia possibly help to

xenobiotics. Another important use of rasayana is the modulation of immune

response, as choronic stress has an immunosuppressive action which adversely

affects the defence mechanisms of the body increasing its susceptibility to various

diseases. Few herbs that have been shown to possess a significant immunomodulatory

action are Asparagus racemosus, Picrorrhiza kurroa, Curcuma longa, Withania somnifera,

Tinospora cordifolia, Piper longus, Azadirachata indica and Holorrhena

antidysentrica. The difference between rasayana drugs and classical

immunostimulants is that the former appears to optimize the immune system only when it

is compromised. They have been shown to influence both cellular and humoral immunity

by acting on immune function mediators. Rasayana drugs are, therefore, likely to be of

immense value in drug – and radiation – induced immunosuppression and that seen

with prolonged illness and intractable prolonged stress.

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