Two and a half years ago, Laxmi Prasad (25), web designer from Tumakuru, Karnataka, noticed white scaly patches on his skin.
A dermatologist diagnosed Prasad with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition with symptoms such as scaly patches and significant itchiness on the knees, elbows, torso, and scalp.
A few months after he began using medicated lotions and some oral medicines, his scaly rashes and itchiness reduced considerably. However, these symptoms soon resurfaced, especially on his elbows.
After using previously prescribed medications for six months, he decided to try out Ayurveda. His ayurvedic physician gave him some ghee-based medicines as well as lotions to apply on the affected area. Prasad was also advised to restrict the use of non-vegetarian food, dairy products and spicy and oily foods.
He used ayurvedic medicines for almost a year. While his symptoms improved, he was shocked to notice that his symptoms had relapsed after a few months.
After that, he reached out to ayurvedic physician Dr Shruthi S, assistant professor and panchakarma expert from Ashwini Ayurvedic Medical College, Tumkuru. She advised him to go in for panchakarma therapy.
Dr Shruthi told Happiest Health that chronic skin conditions and conditions that have relapsed need panchakarma (detoxification therapies) to eliminate toxins and promote the healing process. “External applications such as lotions and ointments can only give symptomatic relief. However, when we go for detoxifying therapies, the chances of a relapse are low,” she adds. After undergoing therapeutic emesis (inducing vomiting in order to remove toxins) followed by purgation, Prasad felt a difference in his condition. A single session of emesis took a week, followed by a rest phase for about 15 days. Later, he received purgation for eight days.
Immediately after emesis, his skin became itchier. However, he found relief within a week. During his rest period, he discovered that some foods such as eggs, baked foods and pickles triggered his condition. By the end of the second therapy his skin had become almost normal.
“I could visibly feel the difference after I received detox therapy. My skin lesions disappeared in a week after the treatment,” he says.
Read on to know more about the details of an ayurvedic treatment plan.
Ayurvedic explanation of skin conditions
Ayurveda classifies skin health conditions under an umbrella term- kushta. There are around 18 kinds of skin conditions based on the involvement of the vital elements of the body, called tridosha– vata (air element), pitta (fire element), or kapha (water element).
Dr Rupali Anjankar, an ayurvedic consultant from Shree Vishwarupa Ayurveda Panchakarma Yoga Chikistalaya, Wardha, Maharashtra, explains the symptoms of skin conditions as below.
- Symptoms of vata skin conditions are extreme dryness and roughness, blackish discoloration, and skin lesions that are often cracked and scaly. The most important symptom is pain.
- Pitta skin conditions come with sensitive skin issues, redness, and pus formation and are always associated with a burning sensation.
- Symptoms of kapha skin conditions are swelling and itchy skin with liquid secretions (watery pustules).
Dr Anjankar says that ayurvedic management includes treatment strategies based on these symptoms. The predominant element is kept in mind while planning the management.
Read more about the ayurvedic way of skincare here
Stage-wise management plan
“We can treat the condition and give better results if someone comes to us in the early stages. Unfortunately, people reach out to us after trying every possible medicine,” says Dr Shruthi.
However, Dr Anjankar says that the condition can be managed at any stage. In the early stages, herbal medicines are given in various forms such as decoctions, tablets, capsules and syrups. Moreover, experts advise external medicines such as herbal oils and medicines. If the condition is advanced or is relapsing, detoxification therapy is introduced before these medicines. There are five therapies of which either therapeutic emesis and purgation are used or their combination.
Ayurvedic physicians believe that medicines just complement the healing process while the main role is played by right diet and some lifestyle modifications.
Importance of diet
Prasad was asked not to eat foods such as deep-fried and fermented foods (pickles), spicy, oily, and salty foods, non-vegetarian food, and eggs. He was asked to refrain from consuming milk products especially sour yogurt, cheese, and paneer.
Dr Shruthi says, “Even when they identify foods that aggravate their condition, people don’t say no to it.” If we eat the right food, the condition can be very well managed, she adds.
In a 2015 study, researchers from the National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur, conducted a survey involving 503 participants with a skin condition and their food habits. The findings confirmed that wrong food habits (viruddha ahara) are the potential causative factor for the skin conditions.
When it comes to skin conditions, maintaining personal hygiene is of utmost importance. Regular bathing, keeping the affected area clean and dry, and using clean clothing and bedding are also important.
Ayurvedic experts recommend an active lifestyle including some simple exercises and healthy sleeping habits (sleeping early and waking up early). They also recommend, that prolonged exposure to air-conditioning and untimely eating habits be avoided.
Role of yoga and meditation
People with chronic skin conditions often experience social anxiety and peer pressure due to the chronicity of their condition. Some skin conditions are linked to stress and anxiety. Dr Anjankar opines that the purpose of yoga and pranayama is to relieve stress and anxiety.
According to ayurveda, every change in season comes with its own set of health concerns. Ayurvedic physicians recommend guidelines for every new season to maintain optimal health. “Therapeutic purgation during the autumn season in specific, helps prevent the occurrence and triggering of skin health conditions,” says Dr Shruthi.
Read more about winter skin regime through Ayurveda here
Follow up matters
During the follow-up, ayurvedic physicians recommend skin rejuvenating medicines to maintain healthy skin.
As skin conditions are often chronic in nature, people need to maintain a follow-up with their treatment. Dr Shruthi says that lack of follow-up is one of the major reasons for not getting expected results.
Studies back efficacy
Although there are a decent number of beneficiaries, the clinical trials in this area involve small sample sizes and these studies are conducted in academic setups. A review paper evaluated 95 published papers on psoriasis and ayurvedic management. The authors conclude: oral medicines when combined with detox therapies (panchakarma) are more efficacious and herbal formulations improve the quality of life of people with psoriasis. They also found that ayurvedic therapies are clinically safe and had no adverse reactions during the treatment period among any of the screened studies.
Ayurvedic treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms of skin conditions, but more importantly aims at removing the toxins accumulated in the body. To ensure long-term benefits, ayurvedic physicians recommend dietary and lifestyle modifications that prevent the relapse of the condition.