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Epilepsy is known as apasmara in Ayurveda. It is a nervous system disorder characterised by seizures, abnormal body movements, frothing from the mouth, blacking out of vision, temporary loss of memory and distortion in mental abilities. The underlying cause of epilepsy is vitiation of the tridoshas, in which vata is the predominant factor. Prompt diagnosis can help to decide a treatment modality suitable for your condition. Purva karma (preparatory treatments) of snehana (oleation) and swedana (sudation) is followed by the main panchakarma (five therapies), which include vamana (medical emesis), basti (enema), nasya (nasal insufflation) and virechana (purgation). These remove the vitiated doshas and make the body ready for further medication. Herbs that have medhya rasayana (brain tonic and rejuvenating) properties are of immense help in treating epilepsy. The commonly used herbs for the treatment of epilepsy include brahmi (water hyssop), ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), shatavari (hundred roots), jatamansi (musk root) and shankhapushpi (aloe weed). Compound formulations of these herbs are highly effective in controlling the condition. For effective treatment, it is best to have a prompt diagnosis, regular treatment and follow-up with an Ayurvedic practitioner. Most ayurvedic treatment modalities for epilepsy are clinically proven to be safe and efficacious.

  1. Ayurvedic view of epilepsy
  2. Ayurvedic treatment for epilepsy
  3. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines for epilepsy
  4. Dietary and lifestyle changes for epilepsy patient as per ayurveda
  5. How effective are ayurvedic medicines and treatments for epilepsy
  6. Side effects and risks of ayurvedic medicine and treatments for epilepsy
  7. Takeaway
Doctors for Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a nervous system disorder, also known as apasmara in Ayurveda. The disease is characterised by abnormal movements of the body, seizures, vomiting in the form of froth, and distortion of memory, intellect and other mental abilities. According to Ayurveda, apasmara develops as a result of an imbalance in one of the three doshas or all three doshas at a time. This generally occurs due to the consumption of contaminated food or incompatible food, drinking alcohol or psychological factors such as grief, anger or fear. It may also occur if you have negative tendencies of the doshas of the mind, rajas (attributes the mind with dynamism, activity, passion, etc.) and tamas (attributes the mind with imbalance, disorder, anxiety, etc.). Apasmara is divided into four main types depending on the vitiated dosha:

  • Vataja: This is characterised by frequent fits that result in unconsciousness. The individual regains consciousness in a short interval. The dominant factor in this type of epilepsy is vata. Other symptoms include bulging eyes, crying, frothing from the mouth, reddish or brown discolouration of the nails, twisted fingers, trembling, and excessive heaviness and rigidness of the head and neck. Before losing consciousness, the individual may have visions of coarse and rough objects.
  • Pittaja: Pitta is the dominant dosha in this type of epilepsy. The individual may regain consciousness at short intervals. There is scratching of the ground, and the nails and skin appear greenish, yellowish or coppery. The individual may have visions of bloody, burning, or agitated images before losing consciousness.
  • Kaphaja: In kaphaja apasmara, kapha is the vitiated dosha. The individual may experience prolonged fits with delayed recovery. The nails and skin turn white. There is dribbling of saliva and distortion of activities. Before losing consciousness, the individual may have visions of oily, heavy objects.
  • Sannipataja: It happens due to the vitiation of all three doshas; hence, mixed symptoms are seen. This type of epilepsy is difficult to cure.

Epilepsy can be cured and controlled by Ayurvedic therapies, which mainly aim at shodhana (purification) and shamana (pacification) based on the vitiated doshas. Shodhana is done using virechana, vamana, basti and nasya. Shamana is done using deepana (hunger-increasing medicines), pachana (digestives), snehana, swedana and dhara (pouring warm medicated liquid on the body). Herbs with medhya rasayana properties can help in controlling epilepsy symptoms. Commonly used herbs are brahmi, ashwagandha, yashtimadhu (mulethi), shatavari and vacha (calamus). They are taken alone or as polyherbal formulations in the form of a kwatha (decoction), churna (powder), ghrita (clarified butter), or vati (tablet).

  • Snehana
    • For epilepsy, narayana taila and bala taila (medicated oils) are commonly used for external massage of the body for 15 to 35 minutes.
    • Panchagavya ghrita and brahmi ghrita are given for internal oleation.
    • Snehana enhances the removal of vata from the body and also improves the quality of sleep.
    • You should avoid anger, anxiety, sleeping during the day, sexual activity, physical work and exposure to cold and hot weather after the treatment.
  • Swedana
    • Swedana  is performed after snehana and is generally done in an insulated wooden cabinet with steam from a decoction of herbs for 30-45 minutes.
    • It liquefies all the toxic materials and releases them through sweat.
    • Generally, a dashamoola (10 roots) decoction is used for swedana in case of epilepsy.
    • Monitoring of blood pressure and pulse rate is necessary during the treatment.
  • Nasya
    • In this treatment, herbal powders and medicated oils are given through the nostrils. The herbs are chosen on the basis of the severity of the condition.
    • Nasya directly acts on the brain as nose is the pathway to the brain.
    • Vacha powder, anu taila, and panchendriya taila are among the medicines suggested for a nasya in epilepsy.
  • Vamana
    • Emesis for epilepsy is done to cleanse the body of the vitiated doshas.
    • For vamana karma, the medication is given with honey or rock salt as a vehicle.
    • Kaphaja and pittaja apasmara can be cured by vamana karma.
    • Proper monitoring of the patient is necessary to avoid excess loss of water from the body.
    • Strong emetics cannot be given in an acute epilepsy attack.
    • Vamana is contraindicated in pregnant women and in patients with cardiac complications and hypertension. It should not be given to elderly patients and small children.
  • Virechana
    • Purgation is another purification process done mainly in case of pittaja epilepsy.
    • The purgative formulation is selected depending upon the condition of the patient. Trivrit (Indian jalap) avaleha (semisolid preparation) is used for virechana in epilepsy.
    • It helps in cleansing the doshas from the body.
    • Virechana karma done after proper internal oleation is shown to be efficacious in improving disease symptoms.
    • Virechana is contraindicated if you are weak or have chest problems and anorectal injury.
  • Basti
    • Vataja apasmara is generally treated by basti karma as it removes the vitiated vata dosha from the body.
    • Yapana basti is a type of basti suggested for epilepsy treatment as it has rasayana effect.
    • It is contraindicated during pregnancy, menstruation or in the presence of anal inflammation.
  • Shirodhara
    • Shirodhara involves a slow uniform dripping of a liquid on the head.
    • It is a type of shamana (pacification) therapy which uses medicated oils and ghrita.
    • Commonly used shirodhara formulations for epilepsy are brahmi ghrita, which contains brahmi, vacha, shankhapushpi and ghrita. Kushmanda ghrita is also used for epilepsy and contains the juice of kushmanda (wax gourd) and the paste of yashtimadhu.

Ayurvedic herbs for epilepsy

  • Brahmi
    • The entire plant of brahmi is used in circulatory and nervous system disorders.
    • It is taken in the form of a decoction or mixed with ghrita or oil.
    • Given as an oral formulation, brahmi causes shamana and potentiates the action of shodhana therapy. It also enhances memory.
    • Brahmi shows an excellent effect on epilepsy by reducing the frequency, duration and severity of the attack.
    • Brahmi can cause a headache when given in large doses.
  • Shankhapushpi
    • It is one of the main Ayurvedic nervine medicines (soothes nerves).
    • The entire plant is used for therapeutic purposes, generally in the form of a juice, decoction, paste and powder.
    • Shankhapushpi helps relieve most of the symptoms of epilepsy such as memory loss, nervousness and insanity.
    • It produces calmness, peace, sound sleep and relieves anxiety and tension by restoring the balance of tridoshas.
  • Shatavari
    • The roots of shatavari are used in the treatment of epilepsy either as granules or a decoction in oil.
    • Shatavari pacifies pitta, kapha and vata doshas. It also controls the convulsive movements which are mainly dominated by vata dosha.
    • The granules of shatavari are advised to be taken with milk. Shatavari decoction in oil is used in nasya karma for epilepsy patients.
    • It also removes tamas, the blocking of the mind.
  • Vacha
    • Rhizomes of this herb are used in the treatment of nervous system disorders.
    • It is a memory enhancer, brain rejuvenator and improves blood circulation in the brain.
    • Vacha powder is given with oil in nasya karma or by oral route as a churna. It is also a constituent of many Ayurvedic formulations.
    • It may increase congestion if not properly balanced with pungent herbs like ginger.

Ayurvedic medicines for epilepsy

  • Panchagavya ghrita
    • This preparation contains gau shakrud rasa (cow dung juice), gau dadhi (cow milk curd), gau kshira (cow milk), gomutra (cow urine), and cow ghrita. The preparation is orally administered.
    • It exhibits rasayana, medhya and smrutikara (memory-enhancing) properties.
    • It offers protection against convulsions and decreases the duration and frequency of the epileptic episodes.
    • It is safe and can be given as a long-term treatment.
  • Kushmanda ghrita
    • Kushmanda ghrita is prepared from kushmanda, yashtimadhu and ghrita.
    • This formulation has medhya rasayana properties and improves mental functions.
    • It is useful when given for snehapana (internal oleation).
    • The preparation helps an individual with epilepsy by reducing restlessness and anxiety.
  • Mamsyadi kwatha
    • Mamsyadi kwatha is a decoction made from ashwagandha, jatamansi and ajowan (caraway).
    • It is generally given orally on an empty stomach.
    • It relieves stress and anxiety, thus helping in the treatment of epilepsy.
    • Jatamansi calms the mind and ajowan corrects the tamas and rajas doshas of the mind.
    • Ashwagandha also has medhya properties.
    • This preparation is safe and efficacious.
  • Saraswata churna
    • It is a polyherbal preparation containing the dried roots of kushtha (costus) and ashwagandha; powdered lavana (rock salt); dried fruits of ajowan, jeeraka (cumin), krishna jeeraka (black cumin), pippali (long pepper), and maricha (black pepper); dried rhizomes of shunthi (dried ginger) and vacha (calamus); and dried whole plant of patha (velvet leaf). All these ingredients are infused with the properties of the fresh juice of brahmi.
    • All the ingredients have medhya rasayana effect and are effective in the treatment of epilepsy.
    • This preparation helps control seizures, calm the mind, and relieve stress and anxiety.

Do’s

  • Consume wheat and old shali rice.
  • Eat mudga (green gram), black gram, milk and ghrita.
  • Ensure that you get adequate sleep.
  • Keep the mind peaceful with yoga and meditation.

Don’ts

  • Do not consume vata-increasing foods such as chillies, potato and kalaya (yellow pea).
  • Avoid the consumption of stale food.
  • Do not eat viruddha anna (incompatible food) such as fish and milk in one meal.
  • Do not consume alcohol. (Read more: Effects of alcohol on the body)
  • Avoid anxiety and stress.
  • Do not suppress any natural urges such as bowel or bladder movements.
  • Avoid adventurous activities like going in deep water, standing on a cliff or going near fireplaces.

Ayurvedic treatment for epilepsy is not only safe and efficacious but also cost-effective. The aim of the treatment is shamana, shodhana and using herbs and formulations with medhya rasayana properties.

In a study was carried out in 60 paediatric patients (4-14 years of age) to test the efficiency and safety of panchagavya ghrita in epilepsy. Thirty children were given panchagavya ghrita, and the other 30 were given a conventional medicine. They were examined regularly for frequency and duration of convulsions, loss of memory and blacking out of vision. Panchagavya ghrita is said to pacify the vitiated vata dosha, which produces problems in the brain and leads to epilepsy. The results of the study showed that it controls the frequency and duration of convulsions without any side effects.

In another research study, a 17-year-old patient suffering from seizures, was given snehana, swedana, virechana, and nasya as panchakarma, along with the administration of mamsyadi kwatha. Assessment of symptoms was done for 2 months and follow-up was done after one more month. Panchakarma along with the herbal formulation showed improvement in the patient. The duration and frequency of the epileptic episodes decreased andhe overall quality of life also improved. There were no noted side effects of the treatment.

The treatment modalities for epilepsy, which include panchakarma and Ayurvedic formulations are safe and efficacious. They are also cost-effective as compared to conventional medicine. When taken in exact doses and for the exact duration, as advised by your Ayurvedic practitioner, they provide relief from symptoms, effectively treat the condition. However, some of the medicines like brahmi may produce a headache when taken in excess. Panchakarma therapies must be done in the presence of an Ayurvedic practitioner, and continuous monitoring is necessary.

Epilepsy or apasmara can be triggered by the vitiation of doshas, which occurs due to improper food habits, drinking alcohol and psychological factors such as fear, anger, grief and shock. Ayurvedic treatment can control epilepsy symptoms and cure the disease. Virechana, basti, nasya, vamana and shirodhara are the commonly used treatments for epilepsy. Medicinal herbs like brahmi, shatavari, jatamansi and shankhapushpi are highly effective and safe for epilepsy treatment. Regular medication and prompt follow-up with your Ayurvedic practitioner can help in curing the disease. Strict adherence to healthy food habits, regular yoga and meditation can help in preventing recurrence.

Dr. Gurpreet Virmani

Dr. Gurpreet Virmani

Ayurveda
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Shradha Chaubey

Dr. Shradha Chaubey

Ayurveda
4 Years of Experience

Dr. Sunil Kilaniya

Dr. Sunil Kilaniya

Ayurveda
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Tanushri Yeole

Dr. Tanushri Yeole

Ayurveda

References

  1. Ministry of Ayush. [Internet]. Government of India. Ayurvedic Standard Treatment Guidelines.
  2. Swami Sadashiva Tirtha. The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia. Sat Yuga Press, 2007. 657 pages.
  3. Lakshmi C. Mishra. Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies. C.R.C Press.
  4. Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences. [Internet]. National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage. Handbook of Domestic Medicine and Common Ayurvedic Medicine.
  5. Rajdip Rao et al. [link]. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal, 4(12)2016.
  6. Sharmitesh R Trpiathi et al. Efficacy of Shatavari taila nasya and Brahmi ghrita in the management of Apasmara. J.Pharm Sci Innov, 2017; 5(6):181-184.
  7. Parul Agarwa et al. An update on Ayurvedic herb Convolvulus pluricaulis Choisy. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014 Mar; 4(3): 245–252.
  8. Rajani Chandre et al,. Clinical evaluation of Kushmanda Ghrita in the management of depressive illness. Ayu. 2011 Apr-Jun; 32(2): 230–233.
  9. Neha G Tank. [link]. International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine, 2015, 6(1), 33-43.
  10. Rahul Kaushik et al. Studying the pharmacological basis of an antiepileptic ayurvedic formulation - Sarasvata churna. International Journal of Green Pharmacy, 2017; 11(2): 62-64.
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