The name Psoriasis seemingly emerged from the Greek word ‘Psora’ meaning ‘itch’. The aetiology of Psoriasis is unknown.Various investigators have suggested many theories to explain the origin of the disease. The theories of nervous origin have been given the best substantiation. According to this theory, psoriasis is caused by the disturbances in the functions of the nervous system. It is very well known that psoriasis or its relapses sometimes develop after psychic traumas or mental stress.
Psoriasis is one of the more serious skin diseases. Incidence of Psoriasis is on the rise in the recent times. It is not a contagious or an infectious disease but a life style induced disease. Psoriatic patients suffer from systemic disorders in which the immune system sends faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle process of the skin. Once the disease in triggered, the skin cells pile up on the surface of the body faster than normal. Normally, skin renews itself in about 30 days. It takes 30 days for the new skin cells to work its way up from the innermost layer of skin to the surface. In psoriatic condition, these cells reach the top in just about 3 days. The result is raised areas of skin called plaques. After the cells reach the surface, they die like normal cells, but there are so many of them that the raised patches turn white with dead cells peeling off.
There is much more emotional than physical suffering by the patient and he/she is forced to withdraw from most of his/her social activities due to the physically unappealing appearance on the skin. Ignorance and inadequate information about the disease lead to social abandoning of the patient in his/her social circles.
Generally the disease appears as a papulation – eruption of small circumscribed solid elevation of the skin in ones and twos. They may be discrete or confluent and silvery scales will appear on the papulations. The lesions usually occur at first on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower limbs and later spread all over the body. Psoriasis patients are likely to develop psoriatic arthritis which gives joint discomfort, swelling, stiffness or throbbing. Psoriasis usually goes through cycles of relapses and remissions. In Ayurveda, Psoriasis is termed as ‘Sidhmam’. Though there are many types of Psoriasis, the two recognized as the most common and widespread are: –
1. Dry, circumscribed papulations with very prominent silvery scales.
2. Moist and/or suppurating papulations with scales.
As per Ayurvedic science, type 1 is the result of the combined effect of ‘Vata’ and ‘Kapha’ doshas of the body and type 2 is the result of combination of ‘Vata’ and ‘Pitta’ doshas of the body.
Human skin, though simple, is a complex system comprising protective, circulatory, sensory, lubricatory and thermo-regulatory components. Psoriasis is a condition of the skin related to the imbalance of the blood chemistry (Rakthadooshyam). Climate, food habits, anxiety, depression, heredity, etc in singly or in different combinations are considered to be the causative factors of Psoriasis. Incompatible life styles, which could initiate the disease, among others, are: –
a) Exposure to extreme climatic and weather conditions.
b) Alternate exposure to cold (air conditioned) and natural environment.
c) Drinking of very cold water/beverages when the body is warm.
d) Faulty food and drink habits.
e) Heavy physical activities on a full stomach.
f) Mental stress & strain, job pressures, anxiety, depression, effects of psychic trauma etc.
The above conditions affect the physiological homeostasis (balance of functions of the internal organs) and upset one’s temperature regulatory mechanisms. An area of the brain called Hypothalamus controls a person’s body temperature. In persons with Psoriasis, it has been observed that the temperature regulatory mechanism of the Hypothalamus is upset. Mentally stressful conditions of the patient contribute very largely to this higher body temperature and the mental trauma experienced by him/her due to the disease aggravates it further. After treatment the body temperature has been observed to revert back to normalcy.
The food constituents in excess that could trigger the onset of the disease are:
a) Hot, salty, spicy, acidic food.
b) Freshly harvested grains and sesame seeds in particular.
c) Milk and milk products, particularly yogurt and buttermilk.
d) Fish, honey, jaggery .
Ayurveda provides a promising treatment for the disease. A very important part in the treatment of psoriasis is played, in addition to general therapy, by a proper regimen and elimination of harmful factors from the patient’s working and living conditions. The patient’s regimen must provide for at least 7-8 hours of daily sleep, vitamin-rich food and regular outdoor hours (not less than 1 ½ to 2 hours a day). The patient should be very thoroughly examined and in cases of internal or nervous diseases, should be given corresponding treatment. It is very important to safeguard the patient against any nervous shock. The patient should avoid allergy causing food and should take sufficient quantity of water. Any soap or shampoo should not be applied over the lesions.
Traditional Ayurveda treatment for psoraisis comprise of
a) Purification of blood.
b) Rejuvenation of the complex systems of the skin, the nervous system in particular.
c) Temperature regulation of the body.
d) Strengthening of the body immunization system, and
e) Psychological stabilization.
Panchakarma chikitsa (Panchakarma treatment which encompasses five distinct treatment procedures) is the best course of treatment. Of the five ingredients of Panchakarma treatment, three are used to treat Psoriasis. They are: –
1) Snehapanam (consuming medicines with ghee as its base)
2) Vamanam (taking medicines that induce vomiting)
3) Virechanam (taking medicines that act as purgatives)
The treatment purifies the entire system and stabilizes the metabolism of the patient. The body immune system is built up through intake of specially prepared herbal potions.
Other procedures used to stimulate the body functionary systems and stabilize the mental and psychological condition of the patient are: –
a) Application of medicated oil on the head.
b) Applying medicated pack on the head.
c) Dhara (pouring medicated fluid/other liquids on the head in slow unbroken stream for a specified time).
d) Therapeutic Yoga, Meditation, Reiki and Pranic healing sessions.
Hence with some Herbal medications and the above procedures and continues guidence of a chikitsak, gives an effective and consistent mechanism to the patients to fight back Psoraisis.
Latest modern treatment for Psoriasis includes immune suppressing drugs, injection of steroids etc to suppress the skin conditions. The long term use of such drugs however has their own resultant complications . Thus I would like to assure Psoriasis-affected persons that a controlled, balanced, nutritious diet, stress free living and a well thought out Ayurveda treatment supported by Yoga and meditation will be the path to freedom from Psoriasis.
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