Friday 29 August 2014

Treating Ataxia the Ayurvedic way

Allopathy or the modern system of medicine labels it calls it  degenerative and often fatal disorder. It says there is no known effective treatment  for this condition. However, Ayurveda, which is perhaps the oldest system of medicine has a cure and today many doctors and hospitals are prescribing Ayurvedic cure for Spinocerebellar ataxia or SCA) as it is called.
SCA is called a progressive, degenerative  and genetic disorder which is neurodegenerative in nature. Allopathy says there is no known cure and that it can affect anybody of any age as it is caused by a gene.
Surprisingly, people are just not aware that they carry the ataxia gene until they have children who begin to show signs of having it. More than 60 different types of SCA have been identified.
SCA disorder leads to lack of coordinated walk or gait, poor coordination of the limbs and even eye movement. The disorder makes patients with SCA move their hands rather frequently and intentionally. We can also see clumsy motion of a body as there is lack of proper muscle movement.
Ataxia is thus a symptom, not a disease. It is a specific term coined for poor coordination of movement and most people suffering from ataxia walk in a  uncoordinated and unsteady manner.
Ataxia is known to affect coordination of fingers, hands, arms, speech
(dysarthria) and eye movements (nystagmus).  
Axtaxia generally results from damage to or shrinkage of the cerebellum and it is this part of the brain that controls coordination of movement. The disorder can be acquired or inherited as it is hereditary.
Thus we see that Spinocerebellar Ataxia is an illness that occurs when parts of the nervous system that control movement are either damaged or cease to function.
Some of the symptoms include lack of sleep or uncoordinated sleeping,  tremors, stiffness, depression and even spasticity. Almost all of these and many other symptoms can be easily treated by medication.
Therapeutic measures combined with regular and intensive rehabilitation regimen can help such a patient to carry out daily chores themselves such as brushing the teeth or making and drinking water and coffee.
Ayurvedic medicines like Bruhat-Vat-Chintamani, Ekang-Veer-Ras, Tapyadi-Loh, Kaishor-Guggulu, Vat-Gajankush-Ras and Maha-Vat-Vidhvans-Ras are generally used for gait instability, tremors and even loss of movement.
A variety of herbal medicines like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Haridra (Curcuma longa), Naagbala (Grewia hirsuta), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Yashtimadhuk (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Mandukparni (Centella asiatica) and these are known to improve the blood supply to brain cells and help in regeneration of the cells.
Besides, medicines such as Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis) and Vacha (Acorus calamus) are used to improve memory and intellect.  Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), Jayphal (Myristica fragrans), Khurasani ova (Hyoscyamus niger) and Tagar (Valeriana wallichii) are prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. To improve neuro-muscular coordination, Ayurveda uses Rasna (Pluchea lanceolata), Agnitundi-Vati, Maha-Rasnadi-Guggulu, ishtinduk-Vati, Bhallatakasav, Trayodashang-Guggulu, Nirgundi (Vitex negundo), Kuchla (Strychnos nuxvomica) and Bhallatak (Semicarpus anacardium).
Panchakarma treatment is prescribed for regaining body strength. Regular massage and medication helps alleviate many of the symptoms.
Ayurveda and the Chinese system of medicine has a cure for this disorder. The Chinese system involves replanting stem cells and this research has been successfully carried out in St. Micheal’s Hospital, Shangai, China.
In India, Ayurveda addresses the core of SCA. It tries to alleviate the many symptoms that come with the disorder. It helps a SCA patient undertake and complete his daily chores.
Ayurveda can treat both hereditary and acquired ataxia. However, a majority of the ataxias are hereditary and they are classified by chromosomal location and pattern of inheritance.The more common inherited ataxias are Friedreich’s ataxia and Machado-Joseph.
Ataxia can also be acquired from vitamin deficiency, tumors, stroke, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism, peripheral neuropathy and metabolic disorders.
Allopathy says there is no cure for the hereditary ataxias. However, ataxia caused by a metabolic disorder or vitamin deficiency can be treated with medications and controlled diet. Regular physical therapy can strengthen muscles.
Ayurveda terms ataxias as Pandu roga. It says the reason for the disorder is  due to deficiency in liver function which depletes the Dhatu in the blood which in turn cause all these symptoms. Ayurvedic treatment starts with avoiding  fried food, artificial food, green/red chillies, tomatoe, lemon, tamarind, potato and curd.
The treatment options for improving the balance in degenerative cerebellar ataxias are very few. Ayurvedic texts have described diverse treatment regimens for this disease.
Ayurvedic treatment starts with treatment of Shirobasti (therapeutic retention of medicament over the scalp) in male patients and Shirodhara (pouring of a steady stream of medicament on the forehead) in female patients with Dhanvantaram taila (medicated oil).
This is followed by by Abhyanga  or methodical massage with Dhanvantaram taila and Bhashpa sweda, which is also known as steam bath.
Apart from these two methods, Ayurveda also prescribes Abhyantara aushadha or oral medicine of Maharasnadi kashayam, Dhanvantaram capsules and Ashwagandha.
Studies have shown that this treatment did not have any side effect and there was improvement in walking and other motor movement.
In Japan, doctors have reported improvement in a case of  familial spinocerebellar ataxia 6 with typical symptoms when the patient was treated with a mixture of 18 medicinal herbs (modified Zhengan Xifeng Tang). This treatment was based on the guidelines of traditional Chinese medicine. All  the symptoms showed improvement.
A word of caution and warning though. No treatment should be undertaken on its own. Consult your family doctor first and then turn to an expert Ayurvedic expert. Even messaging correctly should be learnt from an expert.  

Thursday 28 August 2014

Ayurvedic treatment for stroke

Readers, some of them from abroad India, have written seeking  more information on Ayurvedic treatment of or for paralysis or stroke. A few readers have asked if there is an alternative for the travel to Chitoor they have to undertake to take Ayurvedic treatment at the hands of a well-known Ayurvedic practitioner.
One of the reader wanted to know if the Ayurvedic treatment is effective for brain swelling.
The swelling of the brain is called edema and it can be due to a variety of cause-from stroke or paralysis to head injury, bump on the head and even bacterial infection.
Brain swelling, if not treated initially and quickly, can lead to life threatening problems and even death. The skull around the brain is so tightly woven around the organ that it generally prevents injuries. However, when the brain begins to swell, the skull has to be cut off or part of the skull removed.
 Brain swelling is also known as elevated intracranial pressure or cerebral edema. When the swelling increases pressure inside the skull, it comes to be known as intracranial pressure, or ICP. This pressure has to be immediately reduced as it can prevent blood from flowing to the brain. It can also effectively stop other fluids from leaving the brain, leading to permanent damage to the cells or even the death of the cells. .
Ischemic strokes is regarded as the most common type of stroke and this is caused by a blood clot or blockage in or near the brain. The stops the flow of blood and oxygen into the brain and once this occurs, the brain begins to die. It is at this juncture that doctors decide to remove a part of the skull to lessen the pressure on the brain. This is called decompressive craniectomy.
Craniectomy is often resorted to in patients who have experienced a very severe brain injury involving bleeding around the brain or excessive swelling of the brain. Craniectomy, therefore, is  performed as a life saving measure.
As patients who undergo craniectomy were brought to hospitals in critical  condition, they will require a fairly long time to recover and recoup.This may take from a few months too even years.
The best manner to hasten the recovery is by going in for a comprehensive and thorough rehabilitation programme. This will be primarily aimed at regaining as much brain function as possible. By the way, replacement of the bone or skull removed during craniectomy will be undertaken months after the original injury or paralysis occurred.
Surgeons of Johns Hopkins in the United States have reported they have devised a safer method to replace the bone removed from the skull after craniectomy.
The new procedure is detailed in the US journal, Neurosurgery. The study covered 50 patients and only one of them required bone removal as he developed a deep infection.
One of the earliest systems of medicine in the world is Ayurveda. This system has a set of procedures outlined for treatment of stroke or paralysis. In Ayurveda, a stroke is called Pakshaaghaata and Ayurvedic texts say it is caused by blockage of Vaata movement.
Ayurveda uses a variety of  drugs such as Ekaanga veera ras, Vaata Gajaankush ras and Vata Chintamani ras which is also called as Brihat Vatchintamani Ras to treat strokes. As the Vatchintamani Ras contains a fairly large dosage of metals, it should only be taken under strict medical supervision. This is in tablet form and should be used only after consulting doctors.
The Ekaanga veera ras too is in tablet form and it contains heavy metals. The Gajaankush too is a tablet with heavy metal content. It is generally used for treating neuro-muscular problems. Apart from these tablets, Ayurvedic treatment also includes application of medicated oil , nasal drops  and even a special type of enema called basti or basti karma, which is one of the main procedures of the panchakarma treatment.
Palsineuron tablets has also been found effective in treating stroke.
Regular massage in Ayurvedic method is called abhyangana chikitsa. This not only ensures that the patient gets adequate exercise, but also works to free the passive movement of muscles and joints.
Gunja taila is also used in Ayurveda as an external application in paralysis. Dashmoolaarishta is another Ayurvedic input for toning up the nervous system Ayurvedic practitioners generally prescribe Maha Narayana taila for external massage. Recent research has shown that turmeric can be used an effective tool against paralysis.
Some of the herbal medicines or items that can act as a cure for strokes are garlic, carrot,  ginger, turmeric, spinach, pigweed, willow, pineapple, English pea, green tea and  ginkgo biloba, a herb commonly found in Europe and extensively used there.
Conventional Ayurvedic medications generally used for stroke also include Yograj Guggulu, Mahayograj Guggulu, Tapyadi Loha and Sameerpannag Ras.
The Chinese too have a native method for dealing with stroke. It is called Ren Shen Zai Zao Wan.
Whatever the system of medicine, always consult an expert and in cases of stroke or paralysis, never go in for self medication. Consult your family doctor first and then go to a recognized Ayurvedic practitioner. Please remember many of the allopathic drugs that are already being prescribed contain ayurvedic formulations.

What we would suggest for people suffering from stroke, paralysis or brain damage is that the patients should be given intensive rehabilitation therapy. Apart from this, regular massage and exercises can help a stroke patient become more mobile.   

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Not a single crime in 107 years

Over the last few months, India has witnessed a rather disturbing increase in the number of criminal incidents. Be it eve teasing, rape, molestation or other crimes against women, there seems to be no end to these incidents.
A somnolent police force and an equally insensitive Government  coupled with a lethargic executive have not helped matters. Though the judiciary is severely overburdened, it has taken upon itself the task of  putting some accountability among the powers that be.
The judiciary is trying to show the way that the executive has to follow but there seems to be little or no positive reaction. The people too seem to feel that the Government be best left to itself.
Even as  the society in India is searching for ways and means to combat the rise in crimes, a village in Chattisgarh, which is one of the most heavily Naxal infested State in the country, is showing the way.
This village has never witnessed any crime for more than a century and surely this must be a event that is fit enough to be entered in the all the record books.  
The village is in Korba district and it has never witnessed any crime case for last 107 years. The name of the village is Fuljar and it is located 60 kilometres from Korba  which is generally labelled as the power hub of Chattisgarh.
Though Fuljhar comes under Urda police station limits,  the police there have absolutely no record, either oral or written, about incidents of theft, loot, quarrel, assault or any other crime.
This is not to say that there is no machinery or institution to maintain law and order in the village. The villagers say that the Choupal plays the role of a police station where they register their grievances before the  Panch (a team of chosen village people). The Panch hears the complaints and resolves them then and there.
This appears to be no easy task as Fuljar has a population of nearly 2,000 people. What makes the Choupal work is the trust and faith the villager shave in the indigenous system. Since the Choupal serves as a police station, no complaints go beyond it.
Compare this zero crime rate with the 35658 incidents of cognizable offences registered by Jharkhand in 2011. This statistic is by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which maintains a data base of all crimes and accidents in India.
No wonder the villager was declared the best by the Chief Minister Raman Singh a few years ago. Is it not time for  other villages to follow suit. Trust the local system and ensure that it works, whether it deals with law and order or any other issue.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

The sands of time

There has been much debate on the sands that covered Talakad, the once magnificent capital of the mighty Gangas who ruled over several areas of what is today known as South Karnataka.
Talakad or Talakadu is today a small town on the left bank of the Cauvery, 45 kilometres from Mysore, 29 kms from T. Narsipura and just a few kilometers away from Somanathapura.
A few decades ago, Talakad was home to more than 30 temples, most of which are now buried in sand. A few temples have been excavated and retaining walls built to keep away the sand away.
The sands to this famous temple town are brought by the Cauvery, which flows just across the town. The sands, over centuries, have acquired mystical proportions and thousands of tourists and pilgrims visiting Talakad are told a fascinating tale of why and how the town came to be buried under sand.
Though the origin of Talakad is lost in the maze of antiquity, it is an undeniable fact that it gained prominence only after the Gangas (the Western Gangas, 350-1100 AD) made it their capital. Madhava, the first ruler of the Gangas, proclaimed Talakad as his capital in 350 AD.
The Gangas were initially feudatories of the Chalukyas and then the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta or Malkhed.  They were overpowered by the Cholas during the 11th century and  Talakadu was renamed as Rajapura. In 1117, the Hoysala Emperor, Vishnuvardhana, seized Talakad from the Cholas and assumed the title of Talakadugonda. He is said to have ground Talakad to dust and killed scores of people. In commemoration of this achievement, he built the Keerthinarayana temple at Talakad.
Today, most of the temples are submerged in sand. Many of the stone pillars  of these temples lie scattered across Talakad which today is better known for the Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheeshwara and Mallikarjuna temples which together is called the pancha linga temples.
A fair is held every 12 years for these five temples of Shiva and this is called Pancha Linga darshana, which was last held in 2005.
Apart from these five temples, historians and archaeologists aver that there are several other temples buried under sand. While scholars and historians are debating how so much sand came to Talakad and how they could bury an  entire city, geologists and scientists say it was an ecological incident or rather accident that left Talakad battling the sands of time.
Localites, guides and others claim that the sands are a result of a curse. This fascinating tale of sands covering temples and burying a town is closely linked to the Wodeyars of Mysore.
As we all know, Raja Wodeyar defeated Sriranga Raya, the Viceroy of Srirangapatna, which was a province under the Vijayanagar dynasty. Sriranga is supposed to have left Srirangapatna and gone towards Malangi, a small village on the opposite banks of Talakad.
Raja Wodeyar was desirous of getting hold of the jewels of Alamelammaa, the second wife of  Sriranga Raya, alo known as Tirumala. Hearing of this, Alamelamma went towards Malangi. She was hotly perused by Raja Wodeyar. When Raja Wodeyar was on the verge of taking her captive, an angry Alemelamma cursed the King thus: (ತಲಕಾಡು ಮರಳಾಗಿ; ಮಾಲಿಂಗಿ ಮಡುವಾಗಿ, ಮೈಸೂರು ದೊರೆಗೆ ಮಕ್ಕಳಾಗದೆ ಹೋಗಲಿ!)
The English translation of the Kannada words mean: “Talakadu Maralagi, Malangi Maduvagi, Mysuru Dorege Makkalagadirali.”
The curse was the beginning of the end of Talakad which subsequently came to be buried under sand. While Malangi became a whirlpool, the Mysore Emperors did not have direct descendents and they had too adopt a son to carry on the lineage. 
Howsoever interesting and fascinating this tale of curse, there appears to be a more scientific and geological reason for the sands to bury Talakad and this can be traced to an event during the Vijayanagar period.
Talakad and all of Mysore and south Karnataka were once part of the famed Vijayanagar Empire. Bukka was the ruling Emperor of Vijayanagar. One of his many ministers was Madhava Mantri. 
Madhava Mantri was a Brahmin. He was as apt at debates as he was at war. Buka deputed him to conquer Goa from the Bahamanis. Madhava Mantri seized Goad and built the Gomanteshwar Temple.
Bukka then ordered Madhava Mantri to look after the Mysore province. Madhava Mantri then decided to build a dam across the Cauvery a little upstream Talakad. He did so as he wanted to divert the water for irrigation purposes.
The dam led to the river bank splitting into two. The swift south-westerly winds that blow across this region regularly began depositing sands at Talakad which lat directly in the path of the wind. Thus, we see that the fist incident of the sands blowing towards Talakad occurred sometime in 1336 and they continued for several decades.
In just a mater of sixty years, Talakad lay buried under sand and it came to be abandoned. Malangi, which is on the opposite bank came into prominence.
Centuries later, and this was sometime after 1610 when Raja Wodeyar defeated Sriranga Raya, the tale of the curse came to be told and today the curse is believed to be the reason for the Wodeyar Kings inability to produce a male heir.
While the dam will easily explain the sands, what scientific explanation can one give to the Wodeyar Emperor’s inability to produce a male heir. If a Wodeyar King has a son, the son will have to adopt a male as he will not be able to produce a son. This has continued for centuries after Raja Wodeyar.
Whatever the curse, Talakad is best explored for its temples that lie scattered across sands. The temples are worth a visit and each one of them is an architectural marvel. Apart from the Gangas, the Cholas and Hoysalas have also contributed to the temple construction. By the way, it was the Gangas that gave us the Gomateshwara statue in Shravaanabelogala.

The swirling Cauvery at Talakad makes for a great boat ride. The royal city of Mysore is a little more than a hour away. All in all, Talakad makes a great picnic spot.   

Monday 25 August 2014

The edict that "nailed" Ashoka

Scores of edicts belonging to the Mauryan period (322 BC-185 BC) of Indian history have been discovered in India and even in countries such as Pakistan, Afganisthan and Bangladesh.
The Mauryans ruled over large tracts of  undivided India and they were a force to reckon with in the ancient world. They reached the zenith of their power during the reign of Ashoka the Great (268 BC-232 BC).
One of the greatest emperors to rule, Ashoka was as much known for his non-violence (after the Kalinga war in present day Orissa which saw a bloodbath of unprecedented proportions) as he is for his strong and unequivocal advocacy of Buddhism, which he embraced after the Kalinga war.
Ashoka put up edicts in almost all provinces of his kingdom and today these edicts are found all over India and other countries. The edicts have been divided into major and minor edicts,  depending as they are on the content and context.
Karnataka is home to one major (Sannati) and nine minor edicts (Maski, Nittur, Udegolam, Gavimatha, Palkigundu, Brahmagiri, Jatinga-Rameshwara and Siddapur). However, of all these, there is one edict which is rather unique. It is the only one so far in India that names Devanampiya as Ashoka. This stone inscription is in Karnataka.
This unique inscription is in Maski town of Raichur district.  The district of Raichur is important epigraphically as it is home to several hundreds epigraphs beginning from Ashoka and extending upto the Muslim rulers of the Deccan.
The edicts are in a variety of languages like Sanskrit, Prakrit, Kannada, Arabic and Persian and belonging to almost all the dynasties that ruled over the Dekkan.
Three minor rock edicts of Ashoka have been discovered in Raichur district, with one at Maski in Lingasugur taluk and the other two near Koppal. The edicts prove that Karnataka also formed part of the Mauryan Empire and that it was governed by a Viceroy or Mahamatra of Ashoka.
The Maski Edict of Ashoka was discovered by Mr. W. R. C.Bedon, a Mining Engineer and gold prospector, in January 1915. However, the edict was not fully exposed and studied till July that year. This is the first edict which contains real name of  Devanam Piyadassi as Ashoka. It also spells the emperor’s name as De Va Na Pi Ya Sa A Sho K a Sa.
The edict is etched on a rock-face of Durgada-gudda, which is one of the many gneissic outcrops that dot Karnataka.
The Maski edict is important as it finally confirmed once for all that King Priya-darshi was none other than Ashoka. Subsequently, another minor rock edict in Gujarra village of Datia district of Madhya Pradesh also contained a similar text as that of Maski.
The Maski edict, which is engraved on a boulder, 9 feet by five feet, is in Prakit language and Brahmi script. The edict was found in a cave and today there are steps leading to it. It closely resembles the Rupnath and Sahasram inscriptions.
The first line contains the name-Devanampiyasa Ashoka. The follows a statement saying , “during the two years and half that I was a lay disciple. Then, the following sentence is erased. The edicts concludes with the engraving, “those who were formerly gods in Jambudweepa are now false.
The Maski edicts is dated sometime to 260 BC. The region of Maski was studied initially by Robert Bruce Foote in 1870 and again in 1888. However, it was in 1915 that Beadon discovered the edict. In 1935-37, the archaeological department of Hyderabad explored this region and in 1954 Amalananda Ghosh excavated this place on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India. But much before him, the Government Archaeologist, Rao Sahib H. Krishna Sastri, examined it after its discovery.
Thus we see that it is first from the Maski inscription of Karnataka that historians were able to connect King Devanampiyasi with Ashoka. The edicts also helped historians delineate the border of the Mauryan Empire. It also showed that Ashoka preferred to use Prakrit as the language and that he did not get the edicts inscribed in the local languages.

The edict also tells us that Ashoka was a steadfast and firm believer and follower of Buddhism. Unfortunately, as the edict is classified as minor,  people have tended to forget it.