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Ayurveda and Medicines for
Diabetes Mellitus

Ayur-veda, which translates itself into "life-knowledge" is a resource of many promising herbs for the treatment of diabetes, in the ayurvedic system. Diabetes which is belived to have a genetic predisposition to insulin resistance and vulnerablity to an impaired pancreas, combined with inumerable agricultural information, have challenged South-Asian physicians to develop a highly sophisticated response featuring life-style changes and hypoglycemic agents.

Ayurvedic physiology is a humoral system which is based on three humors - kapha, vata, and pitta. Kapha is belived to be cold, viscous and wet. Vata is belived to be cold and dry. Pitta is belived to be hot and dry. Disease, as Ayurveda explains it is an imbalace between these humors. Any and every disease condition is supposed to be a result of an imbalance arising out of a disturbed ratio of these three humors.

Ayurvedic medicine has long recognized a pathological condition called madhumeha, or "Honey urine", which is one of the twenty different types of identified conditions involving urinary changes (prameha). It was first said to have been described by Sushruta, c. 1000 BC.

In Ayurveda we identify two types of conditions relating to - madhumeha: kapha-predominant and vata-predominant. The kapha-predominant type, is one in which kapha is said to overwhelm other humors, and is said to be caused as a result of laziness, inactivity, overeating of cold, sweet, and oily foods, or oversleeping during the day. The vata-predominant type is said to be caused as a result of a defective sperm or ova.

The parallel to the modern medical model of patho-physiology is striking and does speak volumes of the analytical studies that this system is based on and its precision. Our own term, diabetes mellitus, is roughly equivalent to madhumeha wherein both systems are seen deriving the name of the condition from a cardinal symptom. Kapha predominant madhumeha, caused by lifestyle factors, corresponds to our "type 2" diabetes. Vata predominant, linked to heredity, corresponds to type 1.

Ayurvedic system suggests several ways of treatment for kaphaja madhumeha. The exercise is divided into two types, vigorous and continuous. Foods which balance kapha include barley, millet, sorghum, bitter gourd, kulattha, mung beans, fenugreek, garlic, and onion, a reccomedation that might come from a trained nutritionist/dietician. A partial list of Ayurvedic herbs for kapha-predominant madhumeha is listed here as under -

Common oral hypoglycemic treatments for diabetes in Ayurvedic medicine :

Gymnema sylvestre (Gurmar)

Azadirachta indica (Neem)

Eugenia jambolana (Jamun)

Ashphaltam (Shilajeet)

Momordica charantia (Karela)

Encostemma littorale (Nahi)

Tribang Bhasma (mineral

Caesalpina bounducella

Caseari esculenta (Saptachakra)

Curcuma aromatica (Haridra)

Plumbago zeylanica (Chitrak)

Zinc ash (Jasat Bhasma)

Tin Ash (Vanga Bhasma)

Pterocarpus marsupium (Asana)

Chandra Prabha

Ayurveda as for vata predominant madhumeha, recommends bitter foods, calorie restriction and yoga to prevent complications. It also mentions that Vasanta Kusumakara Ras, a mineral preparation is a special drug for this condition, and also prescribes some detoxification therapies.

In the condition of vata predominant madhumeha, it also emphasizes the herb, Pterocarpus marsupium (Asana). Preliminary studies have shown that P. marsupium may help by regenerating pancreatic beta cells, but Sushruta is recorded to have said that the herb is only effective in recently diagnosed cases. Peterocarpus m. is also found to have a hypoglycemic effects.

The traditionall method of administering Pterocarpus marsupium is a very unique process. In this process a wooden bowl is made from the bark of the tree and every night it is filled with boiling water and placed under the patient's bed. In the morning the patient drinks the water, now rich in chemical constituents absorbed from the bowl.