This unique indian system says that the human body consists of 107 vital parts known as ‘marmas’ which are seats of prana or life force, and the heart is one of them. It is classified under the group of vital parts which, if injured seriously, can lead to death. The word ‘hridaya’ (heart) is derived from its two main functions, namely, receiving and giving. The heart is compared with the girder which supports a frame. It is the substratum of life. There are 13 natural urges which should not be suppressed under any circumstances. These are called vegas of the body. This includes urine, movement of bowels, tears, belching, semen, flatus, vomiting, sneezing, yawning, hunger, thirst, sleep and breathlessness caused by over-exertion. When a person constantly suppresses these bodily urges vayu is excited. This also happens in a person who is affected by mental tension, stress, hard physical labour. All these can lead to derangement of vayu and cause heart disease which is primarily Vataja in nature.
Food habits of an individual is an important cause of heart disease in ayurveda system. Constantly indulging in food articles which are rooksha (very dry), Ushna (heating in potency), noncongenial to the system, raw and uncooked can give rise to improper digestion. Consequently amam, an undigested residue, is produced and it gets lodged in various passages, channels in the body, and all this affects the heart. The first produced product of food which emerges after digestion is called rasa. It flows through the whole body and has its primary seat in the heart. Rasa successively transforms itself into blood and then into other body elements. It is the essence of assimilated food and is extremely thin from the heart which is its seat. Rasa traverses to the remotest parts of the body. The quintessence of rasa after its passage through the liver and the spleen and through the effect of the heat in the body gets transformed into blood.
Some of the characteristic qualities of blood are lightness, fluidity and mobility. It is important that rasa which emerges after the digestion of food does not carry with it undigested residues (amam). Any impairment in the process of digestion leads to amam being carried into the heart which is the seat of rasa. Amam vitiates all the three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) once it eters the heart. Rasa carrying amam loses its innate property of thinness.
Ayurveda, unlike modern medicine (which talks only about the quality and quantity of food), talks also about the power of digestion. This alone can ensure that no undigested residue is left behind. Digestive disorders should not be taken care by liberal administration of antacids A person with good digestive fire (jadaragni) can digest and assimilate heavy meals. Improper function of digestive fire leads to improper digestion and assimilation. This leads to corpulence or excessive emaciation which this leads to lot of diseases. Due to the vitiated rasa dathu (by above-mentioned factors), it deranges the doshas and deposits itself in the heart causing the characteristic pain in the organ. This is known as hridroga. There are five distinct types of heart diseases. Among these three are caused by the doshas, vata-pitta-and kapha; the fourth is due to the combined action. of all the three doshas and the fifth is due to the krimi or living organisms.
1. Vata type of heart diseases
- Pain/spasm in the heart region
- Wasting, mental confusion
2. Pitta type of heart diseases
- Burning sensation
- Pain in the heart
- Epileptic fits, perspiration
3. Kapha type of heart diseases
- Heaviness in chest
- Secretion of mucus
- Lack of appetite
4. Vata-Pitta-Kapha combined type of heart disease has symptoms of 1 + 2 + 3.
5. The heart disease caused by krimi (living organism) symptoms include:
- Aversion to food
- Emaciation of the body
- Pain/Itching sensation in heart
Vertigo is a common phenomenon in all the types of heart disease mentioned above.
Treatment includes identifying the dosha which is predominant in the heart disease; pacifying the doshas with drugs; the krimi type of heart disease is difficult to cure; antihelministics are used. Except vata type in all other cases milk products are prohibited for the patient. Rock salt, ginger, etc., are used in the treatment. In pitta type honey, dates, sugar, etc., are used in the treatment. In kapha type pepper is an important ingredient. Oiling, fomentation, enema purgation are given in heart diseases. Two important medicines used in the treatment of heart disease in ayurveda are
- Arjuna (botanical name Termanalia arjuna)
- Srnga (deer horn). Srnga is used in preparing heart tonic. It strengthens the body and cures cough, phlegm, hiccups, etc.
Since high blood pressure is related and determined by cardiac output and peripheral resistance of the arteries any treatment directed towards toning the heart and strengthening it aids in regulating to the blood pressure. Ayurveda declares that the source of health and ill health is the same, i.e., proper and improper functions of three main aspects of the body. These aspects are dosha, dhatu and mala.
- Doshas are vata, pitta, kapha.
- Dhatus are four body elements: Rasa, blood fat, bone, bone marrow, muscle and sukra (essence of reproduction).
- Malas- in number-sweat, faeces, urine.
Morbid interaction between dosha-dhatu-mala becomes the Source of disease. The doshas when aggravated soil the Srotas (pathways/ channels). This is a factor causing the disease.
There are 13 main channels (Srotas) in our body and one overall channel which is connected with the mind. The 13 channels consist of those concerning respiration, digestion, circulation (this is important in regulating BP), muscular system, fat, skeletal system, reproduction, excretion. The channel concerning the mind envelops the whole body and controls all other channels.
What happens when one takes to unsuitable food and regimen?
The individual is afflicted by amam, a toxic product of one’s own system which gets entry into the channels of dhatus.
In ayurveda all diseases are termed by a special name, amaya. Amaya of the heart means a disease condition of heart. The spot at which the amam gets hold of becomes the first location for morbid interaction of any disease. This can happen in the heart, liver, kidney, brain, blood, muscles. The main cause of amam is weak power of digestion. Amam is the root cause of all diseases.
From all this discussions on ayurveda, it is a theory of pathogenics of disease we can very well understand the origin it gives for high blood pressure and the treatment it suggests. Since our discussion was very general we can conclude that hypertension again is regarded as a ailment arising from amam, the root cause of diseases. Treatment includes the three main modalities:
- Treatment of poor digestion which should vitalise the digestion, kindle the jadaragni.
- Accomplishment of the above will prevent the accumulation of amam.
- Setting right the imbalances of vata-kapha-pitta axis; identifying the type of heart disease; healing it with medicines (heart tonics), diet and other lifestyle modifications.