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We wrote about premature greying last week and how Ayurveda classifies premature greying. As we saw last week, Ayurveda is quite definitive, precise and holistic about exactly why premature greying occurs.
Premature greying is seen as a consequence of unchecked, aggravated Pitta dosha. In addition, repressing or not dealing with extreme anger and extreme grief (krodha and shokha) is also said to cause premature greying.
The connection between the Mind and body according to Ayurveda
All traditional medicine is able to see the connections between our emotions and the state of our health. In Ayurveda, every dosha is responsible for a certain kind of emotional trait. When this dosha goes out of balance (either too high or too low), Ayurveda is able to predict the corresponding emotional state. Similarly emotional states can also affect the doshas causing an imbalance.
Vata dosha and depression
Excess vata can cause fear and depression. Fear is very correctly connected to Vata dosha which is the dosha of mobility. All of us are programmed to react to adverse situations by either expressing “fright” or “flight” – both these responses are governed by Vata dosha which gives us the capacity to move swiftly and also helps us “get afraid”. In the same way, when we are afraid or depressed, our vata dosha can aggravate as this is the physical manifestation of our emotional state.
Aggravated vata dosha gives us dryness all over the body as dryness is the key quality of vata dosha. So your may find that your skin and hair are perpetually dry and flaky no matter how much moisturiser you may use. Vata also governs the organs of mobility and creativity so aggravated vata may manifest as a difficulty in falling asleep or aches and pains in your joints.
Pitta dosha and anger
Grief and anger are states governed by Pitta dosha. So when we constantly react with anger or grief to our external circumstances, we are overusing Pitta dosha. Similarly, if we physically aggravate Pitta dosha by overeating spicy, sour or salty food, we tend to respond much faster in anger than in patience.
Aggravated pitta dosha increases fire all over our body. So you may find your skin and hair feeling dry as though you have been standing in hot midday sun for a long time. The hair turns grey, goes find and starts to thin and bald. The skin develops red, inflammatory conditions like prickly heat, sensitivity, rashes and acne.
Kapha dosha – weight gain and ennui
Kapha dosha in its normal, un-aggravated state is an important and strength giving dosha. It gives our mind and body “sthiram” or steadiness, and helps us cultivate the qualities of patience, gentleness, forbearance and generosity. When kapha dosha is in excess, in the physical level it can contribute to a feeling of sloth, lack of energy and ennui. When we over indulge in kapha aggravating foods like sweet and oily foods, and sweet and cold foods, we put on excess weight. In this situation we find ourselves in a vicious cycle where we are unwilling or lack the energy to do something about this excess weight. This excess weight is bought on by unchecked kapha based eating which in turn aggravates kapha dosha in the body which contributes to the mental state of sloth and ennui.
In other times we may be in a mental state of sloth. We may have ennui in general and let ourselves or our surroundings go and not care to make a change. In this state, we are harnessing unchecked kapha dosha. In the mental state we may find ourselves quickly adding on physical weight or developing conditions like hypo thyroidism, PCOD, etc. We may also find that we are drawn to kapha aggravating foods when we are in this mental state!
Aggravated kapha dosha increases thickness, paleness and coldness all over the body. It also promotes unnecessary growth. You may find that the skin is cold to touch, lacks healthy complexion. You may also develop excess growth based skin and hair conditions like psoriasis and oily dandruff. The body may feel heavy, cold, thick and tired all the time.
Tackling aggravated dosha conditions
We have spoken a little about what happens to our moods, mind and body whenever one or more of our doshas are imbalanced. In Ayurveda, opposites bring moderation and balance to the body. So when pitta is aggravated, or vata is aggravated, we attempt to pull the body back to a state of balance by eating the opposite of the dosha that is imbalanced.
We also practice external applications, use products and follow therapies that aim to reduce the dosha that is in excess. By using this principle of opposites, we bring the body back to balance.
What does Pitta dosha control in the body?
Normal (prakrta) Pitta dosha helps nourish the body by performing the function of digestion and helping separate nutrients and nourishing parts of the food from waste products. Pitta dosha also produces heat and warmth through the body. It stimulates desire, produces hunger and thirst. The pitta dosha also determines the colour and complexion of our skin, and is responsible for our intellect, understanding, courage and our decisiveness and ability to get things done.
What aggravates Pitta dosha?
We discussed 6 reasons why Pitta dosha aggravates in detail last week. These reasons are as follows:
- Having a pitta prakriti and aggravating our dosha by choosing pitta aggravating foods and practices
- Over exposure to the Sun
- Undergoing agni increasing treatments
- Eating Pitta aggravating food
- Not oiling the hair and scalp regularly
- High stress that is not addressed or dealt with properly
Any or all of these reasons can give you classic signs of Pitta dosha going out of balance like premature greying, acidity, GERD, Ulcers, frequent stomach upsets, adult acne and high skin sensitivity, cracked heels and palms and fine, thinning hair.
We will now see what we can do to bring this aggravated Pitta to balance.
Will bringing my aggravated Pitta dosha turn my grey hair black?
Ayurveda tells us that we cannot reverse the colour of hair that is already grey or white. However, hair, skin and all the cells of our body are constantly renewing themselves. By bringing Pitta dosha back to balance, we can slow down the process of greying and delay this process of aging.
This means that instead of growing more and more grey / white hair, there is a good chance you can grow new black hair when you bring Pitta dosha back to balance.
7 Pitta reducing foods, habits and practices to follow:
Any dosha balancing regimen has to start by reducing or eliminating the foods, habits and practices that caused the aggravation in the first place. So as we explained in our earlier posts on pitta dosha and what aggravates it, we start by reducing or eliminating salty, spicy and sour food, over exposure to heat, situations that put us in grief or anger, and we learn to control our stress.
- Eat bitters
Bitter foods and bitter herbs help cool down Pitta dosha. Bitters are also used as medicines that involve pacifying or balancing pitta based diseases like jaundice which is seen in Ayurveda as a disease of aggravated Pitta.
Bitter vegetables like bitter gourd, bitter greens like methi and palak and all native greens, and bitter spices like methi seeds, coriander seeds all help cool down excess Pitta. Preparations like Neem leaf chutney are also culturally eaten around the beginning of summer to herald the beginning of the traditional New Year. This is again an excellent practice to help cleanse the body and to tackle the build up of excess pitta in the start of the season.
Similarly, bitter herbs are excellent for topical use on skin, scalp and hair in aggravated Pitta like conditions. Krya extensively uses bitter herbs like Nimba (Neem), Vacha (Sweet flag), Kalmegh (Maha Nimba), Kushta, etc in skin and hair formulations.
- Eat and apply Amla
There are several pitta pacifying herbs and fruits in Ayurvedic lore. However, in our set of recommendations, we have made it a point to separately mention the Amla (Indian gooseberry). This is because it is an extremely powerful rasayana (youth giving) herb, is very powerful in its pitta pacifying nature and is also an excellent culinary and external application herb.
Amla is also called the “Dhatri phala” or the fruit which acts as a nurse, because it is so medicinally valuable and powerful. It is one of the hoariest herbs in Ayurveda and finds use in formulations spanning diseases and medical conditions.
In cooking, the Amla is a very valuable herb. Although it has a sour taste at first in the mouth, it is the only fruit which has all the 6 tastes (rasas) inside it, according to Ayurveda (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter, spicy). It is very sweet and soothing on digestion and therefore helps build the dhatus and is regenerative in its action.
We have mentioned how sour taste aggravates Pitta dosha. Using Amla as the souring agent in your food vastly improves the nutritional quality of your food and also reduces the Pitta component of your food. You can use it in its fresh form , as a juice or a paste and even as a dried power to add sour taste to your food instead of conventional and pitta aggravating souring agents like tamarind, mango, lemon juice, tomatoes, etc.
Fresh amla is nutritionally more powerful than dried amla. If using dried amla, make sure you use it within 6 – 9 months of drying. Choose a trusted source for this. Do not buy dried Amla powder – if possible buy dried amla pieces and powder just before use as this helps retain its nutritional qualities.
Amla is the only heat stable source of Vitamin C. This means that you can boil it and use it in strongly boiled dishes like typical Indian cuisine without any worry of losing its nutritional properties. Amla is better eaten as a food than drunk as a tea or eaten as a supplement. When eaten as a food, it helps us assimilate the nutrients of the rest of our food as well.
Amla is also an excellent anti aging herb. We use it extensively in Krya’s Moisture plus range of face washes, face masks and face oils meant for dry or aging skin. We also use Amla extensively in our Hair products, both oils and washes and powders.
- Eat desi Cow ghee regularly
One of the very best ways to bring aggravated Pitta and vata dosha under control is to eat high quality, grass fed and hormone free, desi (native) cow ghee.
Cow ghee occupies a very special place in Ayurveda and there are literally hundreds of ways it is used in Ayurveda. Cow ghee is considered tridoshic in Ayurveda and there is extensive literature on how this cow ghee should be sourced, how the cow and her calf must be treated, right down to different ways of making this ghee.
Most people across various medical conditions can benefit eating Cow ghee. As can all of us with small dosha imbalances and no major health issues.
There was a time in the western world when Cow ghee was universally panned as being bad for the heart and for the arteries. The western world has now reversed its stand. Grass fed cow ghee is one of the very high, in demand fats. Western medicine and nutritionists are now saying what Ayurveda has been saying all along – that limited small quantities of good quality cow ghee is very good for the body, and the arteries and the heart. And consumption of cow ghee does not clog the arteries – using oils like palm oil, dalda and vanaspati does.
Unfortunately this is yet to hit India. So in India, we routinely have consumers asking us how we can recommend ghee when it may lead to weight gain.
Nothing can be further from the truth. We will do a separate post on the properties of cow ghee. But for now, if you are experiencing pitta aggravation, eating 2 – 3 teaspoons of ghee per day along with your food can rapidly bring down your pitta aggravation. You will find that your skin texture improves within 2 months of regular ghee consumption and a reduction in your pitta aggravation.
Cow ghee is important at almost every stage as per Ayurveda. Children need regular cow ghee as this is the stage of brain development and the fat in cow ghee helps proper brain and dhatu development. Old people need cow ghee to help lubricate their joints and bring down inflammatory conditions.
Young adults need cow ghee to help cope with mental stress and prepare their body for fertility. People in their 30s- 50s need cow ghee as this is naturally the time of increased pitta. Cow ghee consumption helps balance this aggravated pitta.
Remember: Eat only freshly melted liquid cow ghee and not solid. This helps control kapha and mucous production which could increase if you eat un-melted cow ghee. Go for high quality cow ghee: by this we mean ghee that is churned using the proper Ayurvedic technique, sourced from free range, grass fed indigenous cows that are treated well.
Also remember: We are talking about Desi Cow ghee here and not Desi Buffalo Ghee. Buffalo Ghee has entirely different properties and is not recommended for universal consumption.
Ayurveda is very conscious of the karmic effect of foods. If you source dairy or produce from poorly treated, inhumane conditions or pesticide sprayed areas, the pranic quality of that food is also poor. Ensure your dairy is sourced from humane, well treated, well reared and well raised cows where the calves are treated well too.
- Treat Agni well and eat on time. Eat only when you are hungry.
In Hindu mythology, Agni is given the status of a God. Lord Agni is always given offerings of food, ghee and herbs, as he is always hungry and looking for food.
You may remember your Mahabharata with reference to Lord Agni. Arjuna and Krishna burned the Khandava forest to build the capital city of Indraprastha. They offered the entire Khandava forest to Lord Agni and he consumed every single tree and living being in the forest to satiate his hunger. Pleased after his meal, he blessed both Arjuna and Lord Krishna.
Just like in Mythology, the Agni in your body is always hungry. When Agni increases, as when Pitta dosha is aggravated, the hunger in your body increases even more. This is why excess hunger is also a sign of dosha imbalance in Ayurveda. Appetite, like everything else, has to be balanced and normal.
We have talked about what the right meal times are in previous posts. Meal times should follow the course of the Sun to maximise digestive ability and nutrient absorption.
It is important to feed the Agni in your body on time and in correct quantity so that he is properly satiated. Skipping meals, eating at varying timings and not eating the right quantity can all aggravate Agni and therefore Pitta dosha.
Similarly, eating when Agni is not ready is also a sure fire (pun intended) path to disease. It is far better to skip a meal when you are not hungry than to eat on schedule even though you have no hunger. This builds toxins, ama and diseases and blockages in the body.
Remember: Starving the Agni in your body, means that it will eat your body / tissues inside instead. This is the cause for diseases like Ulcers. Ensure you eat steadily on time. Similarly eating when you are not hungry will increase toxins and slow down nutrient absorption. So respect your body’s Agni.
- Take proper pitta balancing precautions whenever you are exposed to heat , light or the Sun is increased
We spoke about how overexposure to sun and heat and light treatments can increase the Agni in your body. Ensure that when this exposure is inevitable you take sensible Agni reducing precautions.
When exposed to the Sun, do not strain your Agni by over exercising, eating heavy food, working late or doing an abhyanga. Do not eat immediately after sun exposure or a heat based treatment. Take a cooling down period of 30 – 45 minutes where you sit indoors and drink normal temperature or warm water.
Once your body has been accustomed to the indoors and has a chance to naturally cool down, you can then take a shower and use Agni reducing herbs and pastes to further cool down your body. Do not bathe, eat cold foods or drink cold drinks immediately after sun exposure.
If the nature of your work requires constant sun exposure, ensure your diet is low in pitta aggravating foods and that you eat cow ghee and add the pitta reducing foods and regimens we have mentioned in this post and earlier.
- Use Agni reducing external applications like hair oil, skin oil and herbal Kajal (Anjana)
We spoke yesterday about how the eyes are an important seat of Pitta dosha and how the heat generated in the eyes and brain has to be reduced on the spot. The use of herbal Kajal (anjana) and herbal hair oil is well documented in Ayurveda for the same.
Herbal Kajal generally used eye soothing herbs like daru haridra, ghee, castor oil, Bhringaraj, etc to remove excess pitta and to remove the dirt encrusted in the eyes through tears. This helps keep the eyes in good working order. Apart from use of Anjana, Ayurveda advises balanced use of the eyes.
Cleaning the eyes with clean cold water, first thing on waking up and – 3 times during the day also helps flush our impurities and keeps down excess pitta.
Remember: do not use your smart phone, e-reader, laptop within the first 2 hours after you wake up and in the last 2 hours before sleep. This prevents shock to the eyes, allows rest and allows the eye muscles to slowly unwind and repair themselves.
Using a good herbal hair oil frequently, helps calm the brain and dissipate excess heat from the head. This also incidentally keeps the hair strands in good health, repairs cuticular damage and maintains the hair strands in good elasticity, strength, and gloss. It also helps promote hair growth.
For cooling the head, we recommend late evening oiling of the scalp using small quantities of hair oil. About ¼ – ½ teaspoon of hair oil should be warmed in the palm and used to gently massage the scalp alone. This amount of hair oil is usually well absorbed by the scalp. With regular use you should notice good, peaceful sleep and freshness in the morning as a sign that this practice is working well for you.
Besides night oiling, Ayurveda also recommends copious hair and scalp oiling just before a hairwash. This also helps dissipate heat and helps coat the hair strands and protect them well and keep then in good health. Depending upon your level of familiarity with this, you can leave your hair oil for upto an hour or two before hairwash.
Remember: Please do not strain yourself by leaving hair oil on overnight or for several hours if you are not used to it. This will do you more harm than help you. Always accustom your body gradually to any practice. We advise leaving hair oil on for no more than 15 minutes to start with. This duration can be increased every 3 weeks after (6- 7 usage occasions) by 10 minutes. This duration should be gradually increased until you can leave hair oil for 45 minutes – 1 hour on your head before washing off.
- Develop practices and strategies to deal with stress, grief and anger
We have many bizarre and new strategies in place in the modern world to help us cope with our emotions. Sometime back, I read with concern about a chain of outlets in Japan that were designed to help Japanese executives cope with anger.
Japan is a society where anger and many private emotions were not easily expressed in workplaces, out of respect for hierarchy and seniority. This has been documented as leading to a lot of frustration, stress and rage in modern Japan. The Japanese chain I mentioned, offered a service where you could rent the outlet for an hour, and then express your anger by breaking all the china and bric a brac especially left for you to give you the satisfaction of expressing your rage!
Ayurveda tells us not to express anger but to cool it down or prevent its build up. Grief on the other hand has to be let out, expressed and shared.
There are many practices in Yoga and Pranayama and Bhakti Yoga that help us deal with our emotions. For Anger and grief, Ayurveda explains that we should adopt breath control and practice Pranayama. We are also encouraged to express and write down our grief. If we are spiritual, we are asked to practice Bhakti yoga and surrender to the divine presence.
We are also asked to regulate our daily schedule so we are able to rein in dosha excesses that may be cropping up because of improper hours or diets.
Whatever be your strategy, if you have unexpressed grief and unresolved rage, this is a sure path to dis-ease (and grey hair). Work on it.
To sum up: 7 ways of balancing Pitta aggravation in your body:
Ayurveda believes that opposites bring about balance. In this post we looked at 7 ways to rein in excess Pitta and bring balance to the body. These are:
- Eat bitters
- Eat Amla
- Eat cow ghee
- Treat Agni well and eat on time. Eat only when hungry.
- Take proper pitta balancing precautions whenever your exposure to heat , light or the Sun is increased
- Regularly use Agni reducing external applications like hair oil, skin oil and herbal Kajal (Anjana)
- Develop practices and strategies to deal with stress, grief and anger
We have successfully used these techniques in our lives, for our employees and with many of our consumers to help them with aggravated Pitta dosha, especially in the skin and hair. Remember if your hair is greying much earlier than it should, or you are constantly breaking out, you have much greater control on your body than you think you do. When we address the cause behind these symptoms, we pull the body back to a state of balance and work on the core issue.
We hope this post resonated with you and you were able to get a sense of how deep, holistic and interconnected the science of Ayurveda is. Do write to us with your questions, reflections ad if you would like us to write about a particular subject you are seeking answers or insights to.