Ayurveda for Skin Conditions
Allopathic medical treatments for skin conditions can fall short of desired goals. Many people with skin conditions have tried various courses of treatment, only to find that one works for a while and then doesn’t or, worse yet, a treatment makes the condition flare up. People who are in these situations, or who want to explore an alternative medical treatment, may wish to consider Ayurveda for help with their skin conditions.
Ayurveda and the medical establishment increasingly agree on one potential cause of many ailments, including skin conditions: stress. Countless medical studies have indicated that an excess of stress can lead to poor health. The fundamental principle of Ayurveda involves adopting an overall healthy and balanced lifestyle that minimizes stress. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that Ayurveda is a much more effective way to treat skin conditions than conventional medicine because unlike traditional physicians, Ayurvedic medicine practitioners attempt to treat what they believe is the source of most illness, including skin conditions—a lack of balance.
What Causes Skin Conditions?
Skin conditions can be one of the most socially debilitating health issues. Unlike many other health issues, skin conditions are clearly visible to other people, so people with skin conditions can experience associated social effects, such as lack of confidence or even depression.
People seeking medical treatment for skin conditions can become frustrated. For some conditions, such as eczema—a term that refers to several conditions involving red, dry, itchy, and inflamed skin—there is no known cause. Other skin conditions can include a number of potential causes, including hormonal imbalances, fluctuations in the immune system and even a person’s genetic predisposition. For example, a person with naturally oily skin is likely to have issues with acne.
Why use Ayurveda for Skin Conditions?
Common medical treatments include using topical chemicals, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications and other over-the-counter or prescription drugs. But for some conditions, such as psoriasis—scaly patches of thickened, red skin—there is no cure, and the condition can return in cycles.
Ayurvedic medicine takes a different approach. According to Ayurveda, the majority of physical illnesses, including skin conditions, are caused by profound imbalances in a person’s life, mainly due to poor lifestyle choices. One potential cause of skin conditions is stress. Unfortunately, in the modern world, people are bombarded by stressful circumstances on a daily basis. Anyone who has ever experienced an acne breakout during a stressful time can relate to the idea of stress helping contribute to skin conditions.
Types of Ayurvedic Treatment
All Ayurvedic treatments share one goal—restoring balance. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that, based on unique energy profiles, most people are predisposed to experiencing imbalance in one or two “doshas,” or regions of the body. In fact, the first step to exploring an appropriate Ayurvedic course of treatment is to determine which of a person’s doshas are out of balance.
One way is to seek out a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner. On the first visit, this therapist will take a detailed medical history to try to determine which doshas are out of balance. This history can include performing standard medical tests such as checking your pulse and performing a physical exam, as well as asking you questions about your lifestyle and environment. For people suffering from skin conditions, the practitioner will pay special attention to the skin, which Ayurveda followers believe is one of the key indicators for determining which doshas are out of balance.
Regardless of how the dosha imbalance is identified, the treatment method after this is remarkably straightforward. Modern Ayurveda practitioners believe that they can target specific therapies to treat specific dosha imbalances, specific skin conditions, or both.
There are more than 20 types of Ayurvedic treatments. These include herbs, nutritional changes, healing oils, massage therapy, meditation and breathing exercises, yoga and other forms of exercise, as well as inducing a person to sweat, move his or her bowels, or even vomit to cleanse the body of toxins.
Which Ayurvedic Medicine Therapies Help Skin Conditions?
It can be difficult for an individual to determine specific therapies for skin conditions since, by its very nature, Ayurvedic medicine involves a customized approach to healing. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that they must first identify which of a person’s doshas are out of balance before suggesting treatment methods. Also, Ayurvedic treatment in general calls for achieving balance through better nutrition, exercise, reducing stress and developing healthy sleep habits.
That said, there are some specific treatments that many recognize as effective treatments for skin conditions. For starters, regardless of the skin condition, Ayurvedic practitioners suggest staying hydrated. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that water helps to naturally stabilize dry or oily skin. Drinking enough water also helps prevent the loss of moisture through the skin, which helps to promote overall wellness.
Ayurveda also recommends adhering to a daily regimen for proper skin care, including the use of a natural soap and the use of natural skin moisturizers. This is true whether a person has naturally dry skin or suffers from a more serious condition such as psoriasis. The key is to make sure that the moisturizer is, in fact, natural, containing only substances such as aloe vera—a natural antibiotic that many believe is particularly helpful in the treatment of many skin conditions. Unfortunately, many commercially available moisturizers contain preservatives and other chemicals, and do not fully absorb into the skin, instead remaining on the surface and sometimes clogging pores as a result.
In addition to proper hydration and skin care, Ayurvedic medicine has identified three natural supplements that appear to help treat a wide range of skin conditions—neem, haemafine syrup and khadir. All three of these are widely prescribed to treat acne, psoriasis, and eczema, although many believe they can be used to treat any skin condition. The tree stem, root, and bark of neem, a large evergreen tree, have antibacterial properties. It is used in supplement form to treat skin conditions. In addition, many Ayurvedic soaps contain neem extract. Haemafine syrup is a natural solution made up of more than a dozen herbs. It is used as a remedy for all types of skin diseases through its natural blood purification properties. Khadir, also known as the acacia catechu herb, is another natural blood purifier used to treat skin conditions.
Besides supplements, some Ayurvedic sources also suggest that a person with a skin condition receive an abhyanga, a traditional Ayurvedic massage that uses herbalized oils to draw toxins out through the skin.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is widely believed to be one of the oldest healing sciences. It has been practiced in India for more than 5,000 years, and some say it originated as early as 10,000 years ago. The word itself is derived from two Sanskrit words, “ayus” (life) and “veda” (wisdom). This literal translation, “life wisdom,” speaks volumes about the difference between Ayurveda and other treatments, including other alternative medical therapies. Those familiar with alternative medicine may recognize some of the most common Ayurvedic treatment methods—yoga, meditation and herbal supplements, to name just a few.
Where Ayurveda differs is in its approach. Unlike other treatment methods, Ayurveda is a comprehensive, holistic system that uses a variety of therapies in an attempt to bring about fundamental change in a person’s lifestyle. The basic principle of Ayurveda is to prevent illness by maintaining physical, mental and spiritual balance, and to treat illness by restoring this balance. By living in complete harmony with one’s body, a person can realize inner peace and better understand his or her place in the world and the universe.
Ayurveda states that each person is unique, exhibiting a distinct energy pattern that is a combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics. These energies manifest themselves within three doshas, or regions within the body. The three doshas and their perceived locations are vata (colon), pitta (small intestine), and kapha (stomach). It is no coincidence that all doshas are believed to be located in areas associated with digestion. In an age where many foods contain biologically altered substances, such as trans fats and artificial sweeteners, it is easy to adopt a diet that Ayurvedic practitioners would say goes against the body’s natural harmony. Although Ayurvedic treatments vary, many place an emphasis on nutrition as a key to healing.
Is Ayurveda Safe?
Ayurvedic practitioners argue that their treatments have fewer side effects than prescription drugs and other traditional medical therapies, since Ayurveda is a completely natural approach. However, certain treatments, such as herbal supplements, should be taken with caution, since they can interact with other medications or even produce side effects such as rises in blood pressure. So as with any new medical treatment, consult your doctor prior to beginning any Ayurvedic therapies. This is especially true for people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, or for women who are pregnant.
Additional ResourcesThe August Ayurveda website offers a helpful article that addresses ways to use Ayurveda for general skin care, including using various treatment methods for acne and other skin conditions.
The Ayurvedic Center’s website offers several helpful links, including an online test you can take to determine your personal Ayurvedic type, which can be helpful in determining treatments you might want to try.
AyurvedicCure’s website offers helpful information about Ayurvedic treatments and gives visitors the opportunity to search for the appropriate treatment by condition.
The AyurvedicMedicines.com website features a portal dedicated entirely to skin conditions. Users can search by condition type for more treatment options. The site even offers home remedies for each condition.
The National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine’s website offers links to Ayurvedic information, current research, suggested products, and even seminars, workshops and other educational events.