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Ayurveda for jaundice - everything you should know

Find out what Ayurveda has in store for the treatment of jaundice.

Written by Mita Majumdar |Updated : July 6, 2017 4:35 PM IST

Jaundice, or Kamala as it is known in Ayurveda, is a condition in which the skin, mucous membranes, and the white of the eyes become yellowish in colour. The yellowing is caused by very high levels of bilirubin, a bile pigment, in the blood.

Signs and symptoms of jaundice include

- Yellowish colour of the eyes, tongue, skin, and urine

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- Dull ache in the upper abdomen

- Extreme tiredness

- Low-grade fever

- Constipation

- Loss of libido

- Nausea, in some cases

How is jaundice caused?

When the red blood cells die during the daily process of their breakdown, haemoglobin is released. The haeme portion of the haemoglobin is converted to bilirubin, which is then transported to the liver for further metabolism and excretion. Jaundice happens when there is something wrong with this metabolism and excretion, causing bilirubin to build up in the body. This gives it the yellow colour.

Jaundice can be caused by various conditions involving the liver-- hepatitis, which is a viral infection, or, liver and pancreatic cancer, or, blocked bile ducts -- all of these can cause jaundice. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to cirrhosis, which again can cause jaundice. Even certain medicines such as acetaminophen, steroids, and birth control pills can harm the liver and cause jaundice.

In Ayurveda, jaundice is the result of Pitta Dosha (fire) disorder. Oily, spicy, and hot foods, alcohol and caffeine are known to aggravate the Pitta, which then causes blockage of ducts and the bile accumulates in the bloodstream causing the discolouration of eyes and skin.

Daytime sleeping, over exertion, anger, stress, and anxiety are other causative factors.

Ayurvedic treatment for jaundice

Ayurveda has a holistic approach to disease treatment. So, your Ayurvedic practitioner will prescribe a combination of medicines and /or supplements and ask you to take them for a specific period of time. You will get a list of do s and don ts and also advice regarding diet to be taken during the treatment.

In general, the following herbs, in combination or alone, are used in Ayurvedic medicines for treatment of jaundice.

Giloe or guduchi, [Tinospora cordifolia]

Guduchi is a herbaceous vine endemic to India, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. The stem of the plant is used for making a powder called guduchi satva.

A study published in the Indian Journal of Anaesthesia, revealed that in patients with obstructive jaundice, when guduchi 16 mg/kg/day was added to conventional treatment, it showed a reduction in the mortality rate from 61.5 percent to 25 percent in those who had procedures done to open blocked bile ducts and from 39 percent to 6.25 percent in those who did not do the procedure. Further, patients who were given guduchi had improved appetite and decreased nausea, and fewer patients developed blood poisoning. [1] Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine prescribe this herb to be taken in the form of powder mixed in hot water. Dosage is twice a day.

Kutki [Picrorhiza kurroa]

Kutki is a perennial herb that grows in the temperate regions of India. A compound called picroliv obtained from 3-4 year old roots and rhizomes of this herb is used mainly for the treatment of liver diseases including jaundice. Researchers found that picroliv has anti-cholestatic effect, that is, it can unblock the duct system so that bile does not accumulate in the bloodstream. [2] Powder of this herb should be mixed with hot water and taken twice a day.

Vasaka [Adhatoda vasica]

Vasaka is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, especially the foothills of Himalayas. Although, the plant is mainly used for treating bronchitis and lung disorders, it is also effective in treating jaundice when used in combination with other herbs as it can reduce the aggravation of pitta and discomfort due to jaundice. [3] Be careful when taking this herb with other drugs or supplements that exhibit expectorant or antispasmodic effects. The leaf of this plant is used for jaundice treatment. Two ounces of leaf juice should be taken internally along with bark of liquorice ground into powder and mixed with equal amount of sugar, followed by half teaspoon of honey.

Another way of administering vasaka is by combining fruits of myrobylan (bibhitaki), chebulic myrobylan (haritaki) and gooseberry (the combination of this three fruits is called Triphala), leaves of vasaka and guduchi, and bark of neem, in equal proportion, powdering them, and taking one teaspoon of this powder internally twice a day along with honey. [4]

Kumari Asav

Kumari asava is a combination of various spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and more than 20 ayurvedic herbs including triphala, and above mentioned herbs, mixed with jaggery and honey. Although the asava is very effective for leucorrhoea, it is also known to relieve obstruction of bile duct and improve the function of liver and gall bladder. Dosage: 2 6 teaspoons twice a day, or as directed by your medical practitioner.

Arogyavardhini Vati

Arogyavardhini Vati is again a poly-herbal formulation that is useful for liver conditions including jaundice, fatty liver syndrome, viral hepatitis, and alcoholic hepatitis. Apart from the various useful ayurvedic herbs, this Vati consists of metals including purified mercury and Sulphur, and ash of iron and copper. This has been a concern for many health professionals. However, researchers at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India, found that Arogyavardhini Vati does not have appreciable toxicological effects on brain, liver and kidney.[5] Dose: Moderate therapeutic dosage for adults is 250mg to 500mg twice a day. The maximum dosage is 1000mg thrice a day.

Following a strict diet regimen is important if you are taking ayurvedic medicines.

  • Sugarcane juice, fruit juice, and dry grapes should form an integral part of diet in jaundice patients. These foods increase elimination of bilirubin through urine. And that is the reason that you need to drink plenty of water as well.
  • Buttermilk is also beneficial for patients with jaundice. Actually many ayurvedic formulations are taken with buttermilk.
  • It is also important to include fruits and vegetables in the diet. Lemon, tomato, and radish are particularly useful in jaundice.
  • Avoid /quit

i. Hot, spicy, oily food

ii. Cakes, pastries, and chocolates

iii. Non-vegetarian food

iv. Alcohol

v. Smoking and tobacco chewing

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  1. Pradhan SL, Pradhan PS. Ayurvedic medicine and anaesthesia. Indian Journal of Anaesthesia. 2011;55(4):334-339. doi:10.4103/0019-5049.84832.
  1. Verma PC, et al. Pharmacology and Chemistry of a Potent Hepatoprotective Compound Picroliv Isolated from the Roots and Rhizomes of Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth. (Kutki). Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Volume 10, 6: 641-649, DOI: 10.2174/138920109789069314.
  1. Sampath Kumar K P, et al. Indian traditional herbs Adhatoda vasica and its Medicinal application. J Chem Pharm Res, 2010, 2(1): 240-245. 2010.
  1. Sankaranarayanan A S. Folklore medicines for jaundice from Coimbatore and Palghat district of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, India. Ancient Science of Life. Vol No. VII Nos. 3 & 4, January & April 1988, Pages 175 179.
  1. Kumar G, et al. Safety evaluation of an Ayurvedic medicine, Arogyavardhini vati on brain, liver and kidney in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Mar 6;140(1):151-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.01.004.

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