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Obesity is a condition characterised by accumulation of excessive weight or fat in the body, especially on the belly, under the chin, thighs and/or the buttock area. Obesity is not a serious condition in itself, but can lead to a decreased life span and is a risk factor for other health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer. A BMI (body mass index) of 28.6 or more in females and 30 in males is indicative of obesity.

Ayurveda treats obesity or sthaulya with a holistic approach. Several Ayurvedic herbs like shilajatu (asphaltum), haritaki (chebulic myrobalan) and musta (nut grass) are useful in treating obesity. Ruksha-ushna (herbs having dry and warm qualities) basti (enema) is an effective detoxifying and weight management technique used in Ayurveda where the herbs are warmed up and given as purgatives to eliminate the unctuous material in the body. Certain yoga asanas and poses like cobra, fish, camel and cow poses are helpful for reducing excessive fat and toning muscles.

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

Sthaulya is the ayurvedic term used to denote excessive weight gain or flabbiness in the body. As per Ayurveda, sthaulya or obesity is caused due to an imbalance in tridoshas (three doshas), malas (waste products), agni (fire), and strotasas (circulatory channels). Ayurvedic texts state that sthaulya is a medoroga (disease of the meda dhatu that includes the fat content of the body), which causes problems in fat and tissue metabolism. This imbalance between system functions induces certain changes in tissues, which ultimately leads to weight gain.

Ayurveda views weight gain as a cyclical process. An imbalance in the factors mentioned above leads to making wrong choices in lifestyle and diet that weaken the digestive fire. This further leads to an increase in toxin levels, blockages in the communicating strotasas and disruption in the tissue formation process. This cycle leads to an imbalance in the kapha dosha, vata energy and the meda dhatu. Ayurveda describes various herbs and medications to address the core issues of eliminating ama (toxins) from the body, improving eating habits, strengthening the digestive system and reducing stress levels.

  • Basti
    • According to Acharya Charaka, basti can be used as half or even complete treatment of a disease. This method removes the excess vata in body and is thus primarily used to treat diseases in which vata is the predominant dosha. The method of basti includes the administration of herbs and herbal tonics in an enema form to clean the entire length of colon.
    • Along with mucus, basti draws out the toxins and wastes from the body. It removes excess vata and helps improve digestive function.
    • The herbs used to perform basti in obese people are haritaki, amalaki (Indian gooseberry), musta, guduchi (heart-leaved moonseed), and vibhitaki (belleric myrobalan). These herbs are heated before administration in the form of enema.
    • Lekhana basti aims at reducing body fat by its scraping properties. In this procedure, body is emaciated by drying up excess malas, doshas, and dhatus, thus making it a beneficial option for people with obesity. The herbs and medicines used in this process clarify tissue cells and clear the unbalanced materials out of the system. Asthapana basti is also one of the Ayurvedic formulations that are used in people with obesity. This includes herbs like shilajatu, hingu (asafoetida), haritaki and amalaki. Herbs that are used in lekhana basti have katu (spicy-tasting), tikta (bitter-tasting), ruksha (rough) and tikshna (incisive) gunas (qualities). This therapy is an effective alternative for bariatric surgery.
  • Udvartana (powder massage)
    • Ayurvedic doctors recommend udvartana for the treatment of many diseases including obesity. This method burns fat, reduces kapha, increases strength and the health of skin. It also increases stability in the extremities of the body. Hence, it is an excellent therapy for correcting posture problems.
    • Udvartana procedure is helpful in people with sthaulya as it calms down aggravated kapha, removes foetid odour and controls the process of excessive perspiration.
  • Vamana (medical emesis)
    • Vamana is done on a regular basis to eliminate mucus from naadis (channels) and ama from the body, especially from the stomach and chest. This method provides relief from lung disorders like tuberculosis and asthma, skin conditions like psoriasis, and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
    • Vamana is also used to heal conditions such as epilepsy, piles, stiff neck, abscesses and obesity.
    • Two types of herbs are used for vamana – herbs that induce emesis, such as liquorice and salt water, and herbs that enhance the action of the emesis-inducing herbs, such as neem and amalaki.
  • Virechana (purgation)
    • Virechana is one of the main panchakarma (five therapies) treatments. In this procedure, herbs like aloe, rhubarb and senna are used to induce purgation to reduce excess pitta in the body and clean gall bladder and liver. This process helps treat toxic blood conditions and other diseases like dysentery, boils, food poisoning, old fevers, kidney stones, obesity and constipation.
    • In people with obesity, about 100 mL of triphala kwatha along with approximately 40 mL of eranda oil (castor oil) is one of the most common medicines used for virechana.
  • Rasayanas
    • Rasayana medications aim at increasing longevity and rejuvenating the body, thereby regenerating body tissues and cells. As obesity increases the degenerative changes in the body, these rejuvenating herbs and tonics make an excellent remedy for weight management.
    •  Rasayana herbs differ in their actions on different doshas, and some of these herbs are divided into three categories:
      • Vermifuges (act against intestinal worms but do not kill them),
      • Vermicides (destroy intestinal worms) and
      • Vulneraries (this class includes all the herbs with emollient, astringent and demulcent properties.)
    • The herbs used as rasayanas in patients with obesity are amalaki, haritaki, vidanga (false black pepper), shilajatu. These are either used alone or in combination with other herbs for reducing body weight. 

Ayurvedic Herbs for Obesity

  • Shilajatu
    • Shilajatu is known to provide rejuvenating and immunity-boosting effects in all the three doshas. Along with being a rejuvenative, shilajatu is also mentioned as a vata tonic and aphrodisiac in Ayurvedic books.
    • It mainly works on kidneys but it also helps in treating jaundice, menstrual disorders, gallstones, asthma, broken bones, sexual debility, piles, oedema and obesity.
    • Shilajatu is available in various forms such as powder and milk decoction. 
  • Katuki (kutki)
    • Katuki has anti-microbial, anti-cancer, anti-ulcer and anti-bacterial properties. It plays a significant role in protecting the liver, heart and nephrons of the kidneys and helps prevent any mutational changes in the body. Katuki is useful in treating many conditions including fever, malaria, liver disorders, asthma, snake bites and obesity.
  • Haritaki
    • Haritaki is known as a tonic, laxative (regulates bowel movements), expectorant (reduces phlegm), astringent (constricts tissues) and a rejuvenating herb in Ayurveda. It acts on the respiratory, digestive, female reproductive and excretory systems.
    • Haritaki is used in treating various diseases like piles, ulcerated gums, liver disorders, abdominal distention, asthma, sore throat, oedema, itching, and obesity. It is also used externally to heal burns and scalds in people with vata dosha.
    • Haritaki is available in the form of gargle, decoction, paste and powder.
  • Vidanga
    • Vidanga is known to have good krimighna (worm-destroying) properties. It is effective in eliminating intestinal worms. The fruit of this plant induces dryness in the body. It tastes slightly bitter and is easily digested. The potent form of this plant generates heat in the body.
    • Vidanga pacifies kapha and vata doshas. It also shows anti-toxic properties. This herb is used in treating many conditions including constipation, obesity, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and flatulence.
    • You can take vidanga churna before meals with lukewarm water or as per your physician’s directions.
  • Musta
    • Musta has anti-rheumatic, astringent, anti-fungal, aphrodisiac (improves libido), demulcent (relieves inflammation) and anti-parasitic properties. It acts on the circulatory, female reproductive and digestive systems.
    • Musta is useful in treating many conditions including convulsions, breast tumour, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, bloody stools, loss of appetite, cold and palpitations. It also synchronises the function of pancreas, liver and spleen.
    • Musta is available in decoction and powder forms. You can take musta churna before meals with lukewarm water or as per your physician’s directions.

Ayurvedic Medicines for Obesity

  • Triphala
    • Triphala is a herbal formulation that contains amalaki, vibhitaki, and haritaki fruits in equal parts.​
    • Triphala is one of the most frequently used medicines in Ayurveda. It is known to have antioxidant, immunity-boosting, liver-protecting, and cholesterol-lowering properties. Triphala also helps reduce tumours and improves liver function.
    • It is useful in treating many conditions such as cramps, obesity, systemic sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea and vomiting. It also provides relief from nausea, constipation and bloating.
    • You can take triphala churna before meals with lukewarm water or as per your physician’s directions. Triphala is also available in a tablet form in combination with guggulu (Indian-bdellium tree).
  • Abhayarishta
    • Abhayarishta is a herbal formulation that includes a fermented mixture of vidanga, haritaki, draksha (grape) and other ingredients.
    • This medicine clears constipation, treats agni mandya (reduced digestive fire) and removes ama from the body. As it enhances the metabolic processes, it helps burn off excess fat and promotes better management of obesity.
    • You can take abhayarishta with water as per your physician’s directions.
  • Medhohara guggulu
    • Medhohara guggulu is a herbal combination of amalaki, chitraka (leadwort), shunthi (dried ginger), vibhitaki, vidanga, haritaki, musta, and maricha (black pepper).
    • Medhohara guggulu removes excess meda from the body and helps improve sweat production, thus causing weight loss. It also reduces excess fat and provides nourishment to the bones.
    • You can take medhohara guggulu with warm water or as per your physician’s directions.

As treatments vary based on numerous factors and an individual’s prakriti (constitution), consult a qualified Ayurvedic doctor for the appropriate medications and treatments for your specific complaints.

Do’s

  • Eat healthy and fresh foods at regular time intervals.
  • Take a high fibre and low-fat diet.
  • Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Perform physical exercises moderately and regularly.
  • Keep your brain active to sharpen your mental skills.
  • Maintain a strong will and motivation to lose weight.

Don’ts

  • Do not sleep during the day.
  • Do not consume milk products and other foods which are sweet, unctuous and heavy.
  • Do not consume preserved, fried and canned foods.
  • Do not overeat.
  • Do not follow a lethargic routine.
  • Do not take too much physical and mental rest.

In a clinical study, Lekhana basti treatment was given to 10 patients with obesity. Significant improvements were reported in the circumference of the mid-thigh, chest, mid-arm as well as the abdomen. The effects obtained by therapy were seen more in terms of inches lost than the loss of body weight. Udvartana using triphala churna and providing oral medications along with lekhana basti proved more effective in obesity management.

In another study including 60 obese people, medhohara guggulu showed significant results in reducing weight and other symptoms of obesity. It also reduced BMI.

Most ayurvedic treatments are safe when taken under the supervision of a doctor. However, they are not devoid of side effects when taken improperly. Here are some of the side effects of the abovementioned treatments and medicines.

Vamana should not be used in pregnant women and in people who have a vata induced with obesity. It is not suggested for elderly and emaciated people, people having difficulty in emesis and those with chest pain, fatigue, weak digestive fire, thrush, piles, constipation and any gastrointestinal disorders. People who have frequent sex, or study and exercise too much should not undergo vamana.

Musta should not be used in people with constipation and excess vata levels.

Obesity is a common health condition that occurs due to lack of exercise, an improper lifestyle and unhealthy dietary habits. The Ayurvedic approach to treating obesity aims at bringing a balance between the body and mind through healthy eating habits and other lifestyle changes. Since the use of conventional obesity medications may have some adverse effects, Ayurvedic medicines and herbs are a safer and effective option for obesity treatment.

Dr. Ajai Singh Chauhan

Dr. Ajai Singh Chauhan

आयुर्वेदा

Dr. Jyoti Kumbar

Dr. Jyoti Kumbar

आयुर्वेदा

Dr. Bibin M. V.

Dr. Bibin M. V.

आयुर्वेदा

और पढ़ें ...

References

  1. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences. [Internet]
  2. Jeyashanthy Murugakumar. An Ayurvedic approach to Obesity. [internet]
  3. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Ayurvedic Standard Treatment Guidelines. [Internet]
  4. Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha. The Ayurveda Encyclopedia. The Authoritative Guide to Ayurvedic Medicine; [Internet]
  5. Arun Gupta et al. Lekhana Bati: An Alternate For Bariatric Surgery. International Journal of Ayurveda and Allied Sciences. [Internet]
  6. Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha. The Ayurveda Encyclopedia. The Authoritative Guide to Ayurvedic Medicine; [Internet]
  7. Maria Masood et al. Picrorhiza kurroa: An ethnopharmacologically important plant species of Himalayan region. Pure Appl. Biol., 4(3): 407-417, September- 2015;
  8. Wisdom Library; Vidanga, aka: Viḍaṅga; 5 Definition(s). [Internet]
  9. Jim English. Modern Health Benefits of an Ancient Healing Compound. Triphala; April 26, 2013
  10. Harshitha Kumari et al. Medohara and Lekhaniya dravyas (anti-obesity and hypolipidemic drugs) in Ayurvedic classics: A critical review. Ayu. 2013 Jan-Mar; 34(1): 11–16. PMID: 24049399