Ayurveda Q & A PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dr. Sarita Shresta   

Dr. Sarita Shresta
Dr. Sarita Shresta

Ayurveda has been practiced in the US for only about 30 years, yet it is one of the systems of medicine native to India and is thousands of years old. Readers are invited to submit questions for “Ayurveda Q & A” to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Q: I am pregnant and am having trouble figuring out which herbs are safe to take during pregnancy, as there is a great deal of conflicting information. Do you have any advice?

A: Ayurveda classically recommend, as much as possible, no herbs during the first three months, as this is a time of organ growth and development in the baby. If herbs must be used, some possible choices include licorice, asparagus, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and different species of lotus.

Women may not even know they are pregnant during the first three months. But the baby is there and very committed to survive. Often the body is adapting, even without the mother’s knowledge. Right after symptoms of pregnancy are noted, if a woman is taking any herbs, then as a precaution, she can stop them.

It is important to remember the Ayurvedic principle of using the right amount of a substance, at the right time. Too much of a substance, too little or misuse of a substance can all be possible causes of disease. Even a good thing can be misused or overused; just because something is good, that doesn’t mean that it is always good or a lot of it is even better. Taking as much of something as you can is a wrong concept. We can apply this concept to the use of herbal teas while pregnant. Often, herbal teas can be made so they are not so strong. A weak, mild or very mild herbal tea may be okay, while a strong one may be too much or inappropriate in a stronger concentration; dosage of an herb is important, even when we’re talking about tea. The question is how much, make it very light. Using one teaspoon of herb in one cup of water becomes a very concentrated tea.

After the three months, for example, chamomile is generally okay, as it helps a person sleep well. How much of the herb is being used? Chamomile has a relaxing effect on the body and too much may relax the uterus, so have no more than two cups of chamomile tea a day. Chamomile stimulates melatonin, and like a dark moon, it has some heavy kapha (water and earth elements) energy. Too much can create depression. Gingko biloba also has a relaxing effect and can be used, but with caution.

Teas to Favor in Pregnancy Include:

  • Lemongrass
  • Cinnamon
  • Echinacea
  • Ginger
  • Lemon and ginger water
  • Passionflower in mild doses
  • Cardamom (Use only small amounts, as large quantities of the small green pods can have an abortifacient effect.)
  • Peppermint (Light, not strong; if it is very strong, the sharpness of peppermint can provoke vata.)
  • Licorice tea is considered to be protective of pregnancy and one to two cups can even be used in the first three months of pregnancy. Licorice contains a progesterone precursor.

Cautionary Herbs

  • Tulsi, while a lovely medicinal plant, is considered to be an anti-fertility herb, especially in men.
  • Neem also has been used to reduce sex drive and fertility, especially for men but for women also. Using neem oil externally
    has the same effect, but less so.
  • Hibiscus is astringent and is often used for its contraceptive qualities, especially by women. The mode of action is not known, so use lightly if at all during pregnancy. If possible, avoid.
  • Hing is strongly related to vata (air/ether elements) which governs the nervous system. The diminishment of vata when taking hing can interfere with the development of nerve tissue. Avoid this during the first three months, but later in pregnancy, very small amounts can be used in food.
  • Limit these herbs and foods during pregnancy: ajwain (Trachyspermum copticum), aloe vera, chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica) and hing (asafoetida or Ferula asafoetida), radish, papaya and pineapple.

This is not a comprehensive list of foods or herbs to favor or avoid during pregnancy. Please consult with your healthcare provider regarding your specific situation.

Q: Recently I had the opportunity to have a private Ayurvedic consultation. The assessment was vata (air and space elements) mind and pitta (fire element) body. She told me that ghee would be good for me. At the time, I did not ask “Why is it good for me?” After purchasing it and adding it to my diet, I do like it. Why is ghee good? What instructions would you provide to make it at home?

A: Ghee is pitta-pacifying. Ghee is very rich in fat. The brain is a mass of fat and needs oil to be nourished. Ghee is easily absorbed and with the theory of like things promoting other like things, ghee is good for the mind and brain and pacifies both vata and pitta.

To make ghee, start with unsalted, organic butter and simmer or cook it until it becomes orange-yellow, starts smelling like popcorn and making crackling sounds. When all of the different components of the ghee have separated, the water, the foam and the milk solids, then you can strain it into a dry glass jar.

When kept in an airtight container, safe from light and damp, without any molecules of water added to the ghee, it can remain good for months. Old ghee, even one hundred year old ghee is considered to be very good medicine in Ayurveda, as the ghee loses some of its heaviness over time. But oils can become rancid, if not stored properly.

One tablespoon of ghee can be taken each day in addition to food. Generally, the maximum amount I recommend, if someone has a lot of the vata dosha or their vata dosha is out of balance, is two tablespoons a day. For more detailed instructions on ghee making and information about ghee and ghee alternatives, check out this month's Yogi Food.

Q: When I was monitored recently for high blood pressure, blood tests showed that I have hepatitis C, even though I don’t currently have any symptoms. Is there anything I can do?

A: Hepatitis C is transmitted in a variety of ways; it is carried in the blood and affects the liver. Bitter herbs, which are pitta-pacifying, and blood cleansing herbs, are important in addressing hepatitis. Some valuable bitter herbs include manjistha (Rubia cordifolia), bark of rhododendron, neem (Azadirachta indica), bhumyamalaki (Phyllanthus niruri), Malabar nut or Adhatoda vasica, which is a blood cleanser, and chirayata (Swertia chirata), also called tikta, a word that means bitter.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical care. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before using any Ayurvedic remedies, consult with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner or healthcare provider. It is important to rule out serious conditions when appropriate. This article represents the opinion and recommendation of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine.

Dr. Sarita Shresta BAMS, MD (Ayurveda) has taught and consulted for twenty years in government institutes, hospitals, and international clinics and has presented at many international conferences. Dr. Shresta has received awards and special recognition as the first woman Ayurvedic physician and obstetrics-gynecology specialist in Nepal. She is the founder-director of Devi Ma Kunja Hospital in Sidapole, Nepal. Proceeds from her programs support this hospital which provides traditional Ayurvedic care to all according to their means: saritashrestha.org.

Dr. Shresta will be teaching throughout the U.S. (including at Mount Madonna Center in Northern California and at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda in Boulder, Colorado) this summer. View her entire schedule online at: saritashrestha.org.


Ayurveda Resources

Nourishing Oils

Banyan Botanicals: banyanbotanicals.com. For a 15% discount off of Banyan Botanicals orders through June 30, use the following coupon code: LAYD41

TriHealth: trihealthayurveda.com.

Sarada Ayurvedic Remedies: saradausa.com.

Floracopeia: floracopeia.com.

Chandika Products for healthy skin – real rose, brahmi and sandalwood soaps: chandika.com.

Nutrition

High potency liquid nourishing multi-vitamin and multimineral supplements which include kelp, Himalayan crystals and micronutrients that are specifically designed to support health and achieve homeostasis. Formulas for pets, people, plants and soil: ambayagold.com

Detoxification supplements, superfoods and Klamath algae by HealthForce Nutritionals: healthforce.com.

Yoga for Fertility

Brenda Strong – Strong Yoga 4 FertilityTM classes, workshops, DVD series as well as Yoga for Partners and Yoga for Pregnancy:
yoga4fertility.com.


 
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