Geriatrics in Ayurveda

Do you ever imagine yourself old? The very thought of you with a frail, hunched, wrinkled body, toothless mouth, uncontrollable bladder, & bowels makes you cringe. No wonder this is why most of us wish for an early dignified death rather than a long dependent life.

But is this the only way to escape from the plight of old age? Thankfully, the answer is no. Ayurveda has a complete branch of Geriatrics i.e. Jara Cikitsa to address the issues of old age.

Ayurvedic geriatrics has numerous ways to overcome the old-age related medical, psychological, & social problems. The objective of Ayurvedic geriatrics is necessarily a longer life with fewer ailments & painless death.

But lesser is known about this venerable branch of Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic concept of aging

It is a universal truth that every living thing undergo changes before it is worn out completely. Under the influence of time, this continuous cycle of changes keeps going on. These changes are what we call aging.

Ayurveda says aging is an unavoidable effect of time. Our life span constitutes of soul, body, senses, & mind. With time doshas of body alter, which leads to degeneration of body tissues, irregularities in senses, and weakening of the mind.

Vata dosha increases abnormally while pitta is irregular & kapha dosha depletes while body tissues are in a deprived state. This imbalance in bodily functioning weakens immunity & mental strength.

These degenerative processes ultimately result in the decline of life-span along with multiple disorders.

What to do to stop aging?

Prevention is the first objective of Ayurveda. So, it mainly focuses on preventive methods to slow down the aging process. Getting old is inevitable; however, aging disorders could be prevented by various means in Ayurvedic geriatrics.

These preventive measures are specially designed for the target group, i.e., 40 plus age group, where signs & symptoms of old age start to set in. So, what is the Ayurvedic approach for maintaining one’s physique & health?

Preventive lifestyle practices

Our lifestyle has become entirely mechanical, and by adopting some simple Ayurvedic lifestyle practices, we can prevent old age disorders to a large extent.

Be an early bird

Start your morning soon. Waking up early is essential for a healthy mind & body’s biological cycle. Ayurveda recommends waking up between 4:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Nasya

Nasya, i.e., instilling medicated oils in the nose, maintains the health of your eyes, nose, & ears. Nasya prevents greying & falling of hair, slows down the decay of nervous tissues; thus, keeping your brain sharp & healthy.

Taila gandusha

Gargling with medicated fluids maintains your oral health, prevents falling of teeth, hair loss, greying of hair.

Oil massage

Daily oil massage of the body, especially of head, ears, & feet, prevents loss of strength & old age disorders. It cures dryness of body due to increased vata, wards of hair loss, greying of hair, & strengthens sense organs.

Exercise

Daily exercise has shown to improve the overall health of older people. It improves bone density, muscle strength, flexibility, mental strength, immunity, & increases longevity by 4.5 years.

Meditation, yoga, swimming, jogging, walking, cycling release endorphins which reduce anxiety and enhance happiness. It is studied that those who meditate regularly for more than five years stay 12 years younger from a biological perspective.

Ayurvedic Diet

Ayurveda encourages having six rasa (tastes), i.e., sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, & astringent in your diet. Include milk, ghee, oil, meat soup, buttermilk, rice, old grains, green vegetables, seasonal fruits in the right proportions.

Avoid dry, processed, junk foods, newly harvested grains, and excess intake of sugar, spices, salt, & alkali foods.

Rasayana therapy

Rasayana is like a blessing to combat age-related diseases. This therapy destroys age-related diseases and slows down the aging process. Rasayana drugs, i.e., immuno-enhancers, ensure proper supply & nourishment to the whole body through clearing various bodily channels

Rasayana therapy enables the aged to lead full & active lives, strengthens sensory organs, keeps the memory intact, maintains youthfulness, luster, complexion, clear voice, and minimizes dependence on others.

When to use Rasayana?

To invigorate the body tissues and mind, Rasayana is used when body strength is at its peak, i.e., in rainy season & winter season. Months of August, September, October, November, December, & January are the best time of the year to apply Rasayana therapy.

Start using Rasayana from the age of 30 or 40.

How to use Rasayana?

Rasayana therapy works best only if body channels are clear of the toxins. Therefore, for desired results, mild cleansing procedures (Pancakarma) are a must before starting this therapy.

Which Rasayana to use?

The physician selects Rasayana drugs as per the person’s age, body type, body strength, & body compatibility.

Rasayana as per utility is of three kinds:

  1. For specific diseases – this kind of Rasayana drug is used only in cases of some severe diseases.

E.g. Brahmi ghee, Satapaka vaca ghee, Chyavanprasha, Aindri Rasayana, Pippali Rasayana, Garlic

  1. To improve memory, intelligence, sensory, & motor functions – Amalaki Rasayana, haritakyadi Rasayana, Brahmi Rasayana, swetavalguja, vaca Rasayana, chyavanprasha, gotu kola, licorice, tinospora, & English speedwheel
  2. For health promotion– Such Rasayana can be used daily. E.g., Triphala, Shilajit, lac resin, raisins, dates, Guggulu gum, milk, ghee, Indian gooseberry, beechwood fruit, country mallow, sesame oil, naturally cold water

Curative geriatric therapy

Apart from prevention, cure is another objective of Ayurveda. Since geriatric patients are delicate & naturally weak, Ayurveda emphasizes that anything to do with the elderly is a matter of urgency.

The treatment plan for an older person is similar to that of a child. Mildly potent herbs are prescribed in a suitable & low dose as per the person’s metabolism state. Even Pancakarma procedures are given in a mild form.

Arthritis, forgetfulness, persistent back pain, poor vision, indigestion, breathlessness are the most typical complaints of older people. For this, Ayurvedic management includes the use of vata pacifying drugs, digestive stimulants, tissue nourishing drugs, supportive & rehabilitative therapies.

Final thoughts

It is an undeniable fact that older people are more afraid of a sick life with a disability than death. Ayurveda, with its broad-spectrum medicines & no adverse effects, is an ideal way to tackle problems of aging.

Ayurvedic preventive & treatment modalities are based on nature’s laws and have proven to have the edge over the conventional approach in case of chronic & stubborn diseases in old. Rasayana therapy is an integral part of Ayurvedic geriatrics, which can be applied to “add life to years.”

Healthy lifestyle practices, like practicing yoga, following Ayurvedic dietary plan along with Rasayana application, should be adopted by every individual to ensure a healthy aging painfree life.

Rachna is an Ayurveda doctor in the making. She is an avid reader and book lover. She is currently learning to heal people with the magic of Ayurveda. She is a rational person and believes in simple living & high thinking.