The ancient Indian traditions of Ayurveda (eye-yure-vay-duh) are making their way into the fabric of different modalities western people are choosing to practice and utilize medicine; tips and insights about Alzheimers disease are no exception to the offerings of this system. In current times, many people might be hearing the word “Ayurveda” being tossed around in conversations about health or medicine; but not that many people know exactly what it is. The word itself is Sanskrit, translating to “the science of life.” It is the oldest known form of medicine, beginning about 5,000 years ago.
Alzheimers disease is a degenerative, progressive terminal illness with no accepted cure as of today. It is a form of dementia that impairs the memory, behavior, and thinking of the person affected. It usually occurs in people over the age of 65. The nervous tissue in the body is actually deteriorating in people who have this disease, which of course largely affects the performance and health of the brain. Nerve cells in the memory area are found to be greatly reduced in size and count as opposed to those of a healthy person. Patients tend to be unable to obtain new memories, and exhibit signs of short-term memory loss. Other symptoms can include loss of familiarity with environment, wandering aimlessly, depression, hostility, disinterest, loss of inhibitions, inability to recognize family and friends, difficulty concentrating, and seizures or hallucinations. Muscles get rigid, movement becomes impaired, and bodily functions slowly get lost as the brain progressively degenerates, which is what ultimately leads to the death of the patient.
Each individual with Alzheimers will have a different disease process. It is indeterminable how long it will take to reveal its presence and become noticeably apparent. It can progress for years without anybody detecting any obvious symptoms. Ayurveda offers advice on how to possibly prevent Alzheimers disease from manifesting, as well as some tips on what to do if it has already taken hold of a person.
Specifically, Brahmi and Ashwagandha are traditional Ayurvedic herbs that strengthen the whole body and sharpen the mind. They can be swallowed in capsules or made into a tea or decoction and taken daily. The National Brain Research Center conducted a study where they gave mice Alzheimers and subsequently gave them Ashwagandha root extract. The scientists concluded that the herb actually reversed memory loss in the mice, and they think it could be categorized as a cure for the disease in humans.
Ghee is specially clarified butter that has a particular affinity for nurturing the brain and nervous tissue in the body; it can be added to food and eaten. Milk and dairy products also have these building, or anabolic qualities which are necessary for people in this state of illness. The diet must be filled with many good quality fats and plenty of unctuous and heavy, yet healthy foods. Regular exercise to keep blood flowing sufficiently is also very important for these patients. All of these practices would be very beneficial for those affected because they all counter deterioration and fortify as well as nourish the brain.
Massaging the entire body with oil every day can be incredibly helpful. Sesame oil is great for people with degenerative diseases because people in this state are exceptionally dry, cold, and light. Sesame oil is warming, heavy, and deeply penetrating to all tissue layers. Massaging the body daily with this literally saturates and moisturizes every tissue, including of course the nervous system, much more than lotion ever could. Alzheimers is part of a list of diseases in Ayurveda known as vata, which encompass all deteriorative, or catabolic ailments. Oil application is a necessary therapy for anyone with any of these illnesses because it embodies precisely the opposite of all of the qualities associated with degeneration. It is like giving your thirsty dry tissues a long and satisfying drink of water.
Some more specialized Ayurvedic treatments that can be practiced are panchakarma, nasya, shirodhara, shiro vasti, and shiro lepa. Panchakarma refers to the traditional Ayurvedic detoxification regimes that have reportedly afforded more longevity and rejuvenation in a voluminous number of patients with many diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Nasya is a medicated oil that is dropped into the nostrils and inhaled. The oil infiltrates into the cavities of the brain and directly medicates the nervous system. Shirodhara is medicated oil or liquid that is continuously poured over the pituitary gland for about a half hour. It has been known to restore oxygen, glucose, and blood to brain cells. Shiro vasti is a treatment where medicated oil is kept on the head within a tall sealed cap for about 20-30 minutes. Shiro lepa is medicated herbal paste that is smeared on the head and kept on for an extended period of time, usually held in place with a cap made of banana leaves.
If one is lucky enough to find a local Ayurvedic practitioner or clinic that offers these treatments, it would be an extraordinary addition to the health regime of a person that suffers from Alzheimers. However if it is not possible to find, as Ayurvedic practitioners and clinics are still rare in the US at this time, nasya oil is fairly easy to acquire and the therapy can be performed at home. This treatment alone would be an excellent remedy to incorporate into every day practice, in addition to proper diet, herbs, and exercise of course.
These are general Ayurvedic guidelines and suggestions for how a person living with Alzheimers disease can have a more comfortable and long life, as well as for how to better prevent a person from getting it to begin with. This ancient system of medicine recognizes the original character of each individual’s physiology, and will customize a regime for each body’s unique constitution. To learn more about the principles and systems of Ayurveda, and for help about a particular case, contact a local certified practitioner.
By Stevie Paul
Kerala Ayurveda Mart
Ayurveda For You