One of our employees at Krya has a 3 year old daughter. One day when the child was playing outside her home, she wandered off from her street and got lost in the neighbourhood. It took the parents atleast 2 – 3 hours to find the child, and finally someone who knew and identified the child dropped her back home.
The experience severely frightened the child. Over the next two weeks she became very clingy and afraid, lost her appetite, and kept waking up at night telling her mother that she could see a ghost outside her window. The worried parents took her to the hospital and atleast 3 doctors. All of them examined the child and pronounced her fit as a fiddle. They asked the parents to tempt the child to eat by giving her favourite junk food and closed the case.
2 weeks later, my employee broke down at Krya and narrated the whole experience to us. By this time, the child had become weak and listless and stopped talking to anyone around her. She appeared semi conscious most of the time. And when food was kept around her or force fed, she would vomit it out. Her weight dropped from 16 Kg to 8 Kg in this 2 week period.
The effect of fear and mental stress in Children as per Ayurveda:
Fear and mental stress of children is something that Ayurveda is very detailed about and warns parents to guard against. Ayurveda is particularly cautious in protecting and caring for young children and infants (upto the age of seven). Every Acharya in their treatise warns parents to ensure that children are not exposed to strangers, scary toys, inclement and scary weather (howling wind, lightning and thunder storms), are not tossed up in the air or exposed to sudden movements.
Parents are also asked to take extreme care when exposing children to stories, books, plays or TV shows. Great care is also to be taken to ensure children are not taken around at night time, in very high buildings, in lonely roads, etc where they can be frightened.
The emphasis on warmth and safety is so high that nursery design and window direction is a very detailed subject. In addition, children’s rooms are always mopped with special Rakshoghna herbs.
When children are exposed to sudden shocks, their normal excretory functions can suddenly stop leading to urine retention which can become painful. They can go into a state of listlessness or semi consciousness as we saw in our employee’s child, and refuse to eat food. The body tends to drop weight very quickly and become extremely weak as well.
Rakshoghna herbs in Ayurveda:
Rakhshas means demons. In naming certain herbs as Rakshoghna, we can see many layers in the meaning: to protect, to keep “Rakhsasa” or scary things away or drive fear away, and to also drive away invisible objects or microbes. Hence Rakshoghna herbs are used extensively by Ayurveda around children. These herbs are used to swab the floors or nurseries, wash children’s bed linen, and are strewn around in herb pouches so that their fragrance permeates the air.
Vacha, which we are writing about today, in Krya’s Herb Thursday series is a famous Rakshoghna herb.
How Vacha helped the young child:
For our employee’s child, 2 – 3 applications of Vacha on her stomach, an amulet of Vacha on her wrist, and Vacha strewn around her pillow, got her smiling and accepting small amounts of food. This combined with special prayers in the nearby temple and mosque, with copious applications of warm sambrani incense around the home got her laughing and talking. A mere one week later, little S strolled in to office to meet me, back to her chipper and naughty self.
Vacha (Vasambu) with the Latin name Acorus calamus is one of the most important herbs we use at Krya. Vacha is a potent growth inhibitor of gram negative bacteria. It is an intestinal relaxant, is a hypotensive herb (relaxes blood pressure), is antispasmodic in action on seized muscles and organs. The origin of Vacha is attributed to Europe. However, it has been known since ancient times in India and has been referred to right from the time of Charaka and is mentioned in all the Nighantus (Ayurvedic herb encyclopaedias).
Vacha in Classical Ayurveda:
Classical texts describe Vacha as having “lekhaniya” (scraping action, therefore useful in bringing down excess fat), Sanjnasthapana (group of herbs that help restore consciousness), and Sheeta prashamana (group of herbs that give warmth to the body and relieve the sense of coldness).
Vacha has Panchana (digestion promoting and toxin expelling) action, promotes digestive strength, and is Medhya in its action (improves brain power), Vak prada (improves voice). It is also a Jantuhara (anti microbial) herb, is Shoolahara (relieves abdominal colic), and Adhamanahara (relieves bloating and gas in the abdomen) and is useful in psychological imbalances and disorders.
Because Vacha has Katu (pungent) and tikta (bitter) rasa with Ushna veerya (hot action), it helps balance both Kapha and Vata dosha.
Common uses for Vacha:
Vacha is a famous anti microbial and insect repellent herb. One of the best uses for Vacha is to use it in grains to repel insects. It is also a very good herb to be used to repel crawling insects like cockroaches and mosquitoes and head lice.
Because of its anti spasmodic property, colic relieving, warmth giving and gas reducing properties, Vacha is very useful in reliving griping pains and colic. It can also be used to relieve menstrual cramps. It should not be used when abdominal pain is due to diarrhoea as this is a Pitta condition for which Vacha which is high in heat is unsuitable.
Vacha is a very important part of the Medhya drugs prescribed in Ayurveda to be administered orally to infants. It is commonly given along with honey or breast milk along with other Medhya herbs like Swarna bhasma (gold bhasma), Brahmi, etc and is administered in small drops on the tongue of the baby from the 7th or 11th day of the baby’s birth. The texts say that children given this mixture of herbs have very high intelligence and intuitive and grasping capacity. The exact dosage is decided by the Vaidya after seeing the baby’s weight.
Vacha is also effectively used in Ayurvedic medicines to improve memory power, grasping power and in neuro-degenerative disorders. So it has application in epilepsy, autism, speech disorders and neuro degenerative disorders we see in geriatric conditions as well.
Vacha is also a very important herb to relieve fear and provide warmth to the body. It is therefore used as an amulet around an infant’s wrist so its fragrance can stimulate the brain growth and calm the infant. We have seen its effect in many cases of fear induced fever and chills. Vacha is able to quickly calm the brain, and relieve fear within minutes of external application, bringing balance.
Caution to be followed when using Vacha:
Vacha is a highly effective and potent herb, even when used externally. Before using it on children or yourself, kindly check with an experienced herbalist or a Vaidya for doses.
If you use too much Vacha it can severely increase warmth in the body and stimulate the intestinal system enough to give diarrhoea. Please use extremely carefully and after finding out the right dosage.
Vacha should not be used internally in certain conditions like pregnancy, high fever due to high pitta, etc.
Vacha at Krya:
At Krya, we use Vacha across most of our formulations. Our wash off products for the skin (like our face and body washes and our masks) are made from edible grains and lentils. Our biggest challenge is insect infestation because many of our skin care products are edible. So we use Vacha across the board for its insecticidal and anti microbial properties. (This is also why we insist that our products be stored in clean dry conditions and used quickly. Bugs love our goodies!)
Vacha is also used prominently in the Krya Anti lice range of products. Vacha goes into the Anti lice hairwash, Anti lice hair mask and the Anti lice hair oil. Consumers love how effective all these 3 products are, and the Krya Anti lice range is recommended across the board by parents who are looking for a safe, non-toxic , yet effective anti lice solution for their children.
Vacha also goes into the Krya ubtans for Men, Women , children, baby girls and baby boys. Warmth is required to balance the body post abhyanga, so Vacha is used in the Post oiling ubtans to help relieve the body of tiredness, balance all 3 doshas and retain warmth. The use of Vacha also relaxes the brain and calms it down leading to a feeling of balance and harmony.
To sum up:
So there you have it: that’s a brief glimpse into the properties of Acorus calamus / Vacha which goes into Krya’s skin care and Anti Lice products. As we have said before, Ayurvedic herbs are potent and strong, and must always be tailor made using the right anupana to suit your constitution.
Do not attempt to self medicate. This is even more true of Vacha, so I repeat my warning once again: DO NOT SELF MEDICATE EITHER INTERNALLY OR EXTERNALLY WITH VACHA.
If you feel internal consumption of Vacha could help you or your child, please meet an Ayurvedic Vaidya who can diagnose your/ your child’s condition and prescribe Vacha in the right dose and right format for you.
We do herb related posts at Krya to give you a glimpse into just how potent, powerful and good for us the plants used in Ayurveda are. We hope you found this post inspiring and useful. Do leave your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you would like us to write about a specific herb next Thursday, do leave that in your comments as well.