Management of Sprigtime VATA

With the blowing winds of the current season, it is wise to keep a finger on the pulse of how this element effects us internally. VATA, the Ayurvedic indication for the element air, is basically cold, dry, light and mobile in qualities. Therefore, it is treated by a therapy which is warming, moistening, and promotes weight. Such therapy should also calm hyperactivity. Tastes that decrease Vata are sweet, sour, salty; they are all moistening and nutritive in action.

However, many pungent herbs can also decrease Vata. In fact, a majority of pungent herbs may be used in this way, including some of the strongest anti-Vata herbs. Pungent taste only aggravates Vata when used in excess.

In this regard, we must distinguish between two general different kinds of Vata derangement. These can be referred to as “Vata-caused deficiency” (deficient Vata) and “obstructive-Vata.Vata-caused deficiency (Dhatu-kshaya) refers to the depletion of tissue through Vata’s drying and lightening action. Most cases of emaciation, dehydration and deficiency of vital fluids are this kind of Vata problem. “Obstructive-vata” refers to Vata derangement caused by blockage of the channels (margavarodha) by accumulated Vata, which may also gather with it Ama, Kapha or Pitta. This includes such diseases as arthritis and rheumatism as well as many digestive problems of abdominal distention, gas and constipation. Such accumulated Vata may result in obesity or what is called “anabolic Vata.

Vata-caused deficiency is treated with a tonic therapy of mainly sweet and nutritive herbs and foods. In obstructed Vata we must remove the obstruction and in this a tonic therapy does not work. A tonic therapy would only feed the obstruction and increase the stagnation of Vata causing more pain and discomfort. Hence we use pungent herbs to clear out the obstruction and so alleviate Vata.

Pungent taste has a stimulating effect on Vata and can thereby help move and dispel accumulated and stagnant Vata. This, in the short term, reduces Vata; but in the long term, after the blockage in the movement of Vata is removed, it will tend to increase Vata.

In the weak or variable digestion characteristic of Vata-constitution, pungent herbs are also helpful. As the strongest herbs for promoting Agni (fire) and destroying toxins, they counter high-Vata indigestion and poor assimilation.

In terms of western herbology the following herbs and therapies can be used to alleviate Vata: diaphoretics of a warming nature can be used to dispel Vata related colds and flues (it is wind that carries the cold into the body). Diaphoretics are also helpful in moistening the skin in the various skin dryness problems that can through Vata. These must be used with moderation to not dry Vata out further through too much sweating. They are used mainly for obstructed Vata. Many possess antirheumatic properties and are useful in arthritis (Ama Vata).

Carminative herbs, herbs that dispel gas from the gastrointestinal tract, are used mainly for obstructed Vata. Nervine and antispasmodic herbs, herbs that help relieve muscle tension, stop spasms and nervous tremors, are also therapeutic for obstructed Vata.

Laxative and purgative therapies are used to dispel the constipation that so often goes with a Vata condition. They are used mainly for obstructed Vata, but they can greatly aggravate Vata if overused. Laxatives which are moistening and increase bulk, like flaxseed or psyllium seeds, are better for deficient Vata. Strong purgatives, such as rhubarb or senna, may be necessary on a temporary basis in dealing with obstructed Vata. But they must be used with care.

Stimulant therapies that promote digestion, appetite and the neutralization of Ama are helpful in Vata conditions. In obstructed Vata they remove blockages of Ama and Kapha. In deficient Vata they promote the appetite and digestion to help rebuild the body.

Deficient Vata is treated using tonic, nutritive and rejuvenative herbal therapy and diet. Bitter tonics of western herbology, as they possess the same attributes of Vata, are contraindicated. Sweet demulscent and emollient herbs like licorice, slippery elm, and comfrey root are the closest to tonic, nutritive herbs in the Ayurvedic sense.

Ayurveda considers enema therapy (basti) to be the strongest therapy for eliminating excess Vata from the body and thereby getting to the root of all Vata disorders. In this treatement, various medicated herbal and oil enemas are prepared under knowledgable administration.

Ayurvedic formulas to reduce Vata often contain salt, particularly rock salt, which is lighter than sea salt, and a very good digestive stimulant for Vata-types.

Bold words are herbs available in Remedy Herb Shop:

Psyllium Seeds by Nature’s Sunshine/  $20.50 for 100 caps

Rhubarb in Neutralizing Cordial by Herb Pharm / $13.00 for 1 oz.

Licorice by Nature’s Sunshine / $15.85 for 100 caps

Slippery Elm by Nature’s Sunshine /  $17.25 for 100 caps

or as Thayer’s Slippery Elm lozenges for $6.00

this blog is an excerpt from The Yoga of Herbs by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad