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MENTAL HEALTH AND ILLNESS: AN AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE

Authors:
MENTAL HEALTH AND ILLNESS: AN AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE
Amit Kumar Rai1, Deepshikha2
1Medical Officer, Ch. Brahm Prakash Ayurved Charak Sansthan, Khera Dabar,
New Delhi, India
2Assistant Professor, Dept. of Kaumarbhritya, Uttarakhand Ayurved University Campus,
Gurukul Kangri, Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India
INTRODUCTION
Ayurveda is essentially a science of
life, health and cure based on the eternal
laws of nature. According to Ayurveda,
individual life entity or ‘ayu is four di-
mensional comprising of physical, mental,
sensorial and spiritual attributes. Ayurveda
describes health as a state of physical,
mental, social and spiritual equilibrium.
Thus, Ayurveda is not only limited to body
or physical entity but also gives compre-
hensive knowledge about mental, spiritual
and social health.
The human being is the combination of
mind, soul and body. In fact, these three
entity are like a tripod and the world is
sustained by their combination.[1] The hu-
man being is provided not only with a set
of sensorial apparatus, the gyanendriya,
but with a highly dynamic manas or mind.
According to Ayurveda the mind is highly
active and derives its consciousness from
the soul or ‘atma’.
The three gunas namely satva, rajas and
tamas are considered as three dimensions
of manas. The satva is the state of pure
mind with absolute balance when both the
extreme qualities of mind namely rajas
and tamas cease or merge. The rajas rep-
resent activity and dynamism while the
tamas denotes inertia and darkness. It is
believed that all mental illnesses are be-
cause of the disorders of rajas and tamas.
Satva is never the cause of illness. This is
the reason why rajas and tamas are also
called manas doshas. When there is proper
coordination between these three factors,
mental health is perfect. When the person
becomes ignorant of what he does i.e.
pragyaparadha, it may lead to psychologi-
cal imbalance and ultimately mental ill-
ness.
Ayurveda describes three broad categories
of mental personality or prakriti having
predominance of satva, rajas and tamas
Review Article International Ayurvedic Medical Journal ISSN:2320 5091
ABSTRACT
One in four people in world experience mental or neurological disorder at some point
of life. Ayurveda being a holistic science of life incorporates mental and spiritual equilibrium
as an important component of health. A review of Ayurvedic classics reveal that psychiatry
finds prominent place even in the ancient classical practice of ayurveda. Practice of sadvritta,
achara rasayan, yama and niyam comprise strong preventive tools. Management of mental
disorders in ayurveda is multidimensional comprising of Daivavyapasrya chikitsa, Yuk-
tivyapasrya chikitsa including external therapies like Shirodhara, Shirobasti, Shiroabhyanga,
Shirolepa, nasya, anjana, psychotherapy, drugs, dietetics, yoga and appropriate lifestyle.
Keywords: Psychiatry in ayurveda, Manas roga, Mental health in Ayurveda.
Amit Kumar Rai & Deepshikha: Mental Health And Illness: An Ayurvedic Perspective
235
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respectively. These three categories are
further subdivided into sixteen mental
traits. These sixteen personality traits are
characterised with unique features which
may also predispose specific mental dis-
eases.
MENTAL HEALTH AND STAMINA
Mental health is a state of mental, sensori-
al, intellectual and spiritual well being.
Due to genetic reasons or due to general
upbringing, different persons display dif-
ferent level of mental strength or stamina.
Mental stamina can be classified into ava-
ra, madhyama and pravara.[2] Pravara is
the best of all three, as a person of this na-
ture tolerates and adjusts to pain or odd
situation well. They have the will power to
withstand any difficulty. Individuals who
belong to avara category cannot tolerate
traumatic situations. They have poor toler-
ance and adjustment. Madhyam is the in
between condition in which the person eas-
ily adjusts when assured about.
MENTAL HYGIENE
Sadvritta and Achara rasayana along with
restrainment of mansika dharniya vega are
the practices described for the promotion
of mental health in Charak Samhita.
Sadvritta[3] are the rules of good con-
duct which if observed can help in
achieving healthy state i.e. state of bio-
logical balance along with sensorial,
mental and spiritual wellbeing. So, it
can be said that the rules of sadvritta
introduced are for personal, mental,
ethical and social good conduct. Prac-
tice of sadvritta helps in prevailing sat-
va guna over rajas and tamas thereby
leading to good mental health. Sadvrit-
ta helps in appropriating the influence
of environmental factors and continu-
ous interaction of mind and body with
each other. It is similar to yama and ni-
yama described under Astang Yoga.
Besides sadvritta, an equally compre-
hensive description of mental hygiene
practices as Achara rasayana[4] is there
in chikitsa sthana of Charak samhita.
The practice of conducts described as
Achara rasayana provides all benefits
of rasayana like improved nutritional
status, longevity, immunity, mental
health and power.
Acharya Charak also describe the dif-
ferent kind of vicious mental urges in
the form of dharniya vega[5] such as
lobha, shoka, bhaya, krodha, ahamka-
ra, irshya, raga etc. These urges must
be restrained in the interest of personal
and social health as they lead to various
mental conflicts causing mental ill
health of the individual alongside its
untoward impact on family and society.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS IN-
VOLVED IN MENTAL ILLNESS
Eight psychological factors as described in
Charak Samhita Nidana Sthana[6] are con-
sidered to be centrally affected in all psy-
chiatric disorders in varying degrees. They
are:
Mana (emotion, mood, affect)
Buddhi (thought and decision)
Sangya-gyana (orientation)
Smriti (memory and learning)
Bhakti (desire)
Sheel (habits)
Chesta (psychomotor function)
Achara (conduct and behaviour)
This clearly indicates that the description
of psychopathology in Ayurveda is in a
very systematic manner in terms of these
eight factors.
MENTAL ILLNESS
Ayurveda describes asatmendriyartha
samyoga, pragyaparadha and parinama or
kala as three fundamental aetiological fac-
tors of mental diseases. These factors
cause vitiation of both sharirika and ma-
Amit Kumar Rai & Deepshikha: Mental Health And Illness: An Ayurvedic Perspective
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nas dosha followed by infliction of manas
(psyche). The mental illness is generally
characterised by a wide range of pattern of
altered behaviour with certain associated
symptoms and signs.
A wide range of psychiatric conditions
have been described in classical Ayurvedic
texts. These descriptions include the aeti-
opathogenesis as well as behavioural alter-
ations present in different psychiatric dis-
eases along with their classifications. The
common psychiatric diseases described in
Ayurveda are unmada (psychosis),
apasmara (convulsive disorders),
atattvabhinivesa (obsessive disorder), apa-
tantraka (hysteria), chittodvega (anxiety
disorders), manovasada (depression), ma-
da (alcoholism & drug abuse), murccha
and sanyasa (conditions associated with
altered consciousness). Unmada is the
prominent psychiatric illness described in
ayurvedic classical texts which correlates
broadly with psychosis. A separate catego-
ry of unmada roga described by Acharya
Charak as agantuja unmada and by
Acharya Sushruta as bhutonmada may be
the description of different forms of psy-
chiatric syndromes or sets of behavioural
alterations named symbolically after the
name of different grahas (paranormal fac-
tors) because of the similarity with their
mythological descriptions. The important
psychiatric conditions described in Ayur-
vedic classical texts may be classified as
follows:
Psychiatric illness caused by involve-
ment of both sharira as well as manas
dosha such as unmada, apasmara,
atattvabhinivesa, apatantraka, bhrama,
mada-murccha-sanyasa etc.
Psychiatric syndromes named symboli-
cally after the name of different grahas
like Agantuja unmada or bhutonmada.
Psychological conditions caused purely
by manasa doshas i.e. rajas and tamas.
viz. kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha
(greed), moha (delusion), shoka (grief),
chinta (anxiety), irsya (jealousy), mada
(euphoria), udvega (neurosis), bhaya
(fear) etc. [7]
Psychosomatic diseases where the
cause of disease is manasika (mental)
and manifestation is sharirika (somat-
ic) like shokatisara etc.
Personality disorders: There are sixteen
manasa prakriti which represent six-
teen types of behavioural traits. When
such behaviour trait override the range
of normalcy, it may be considered as
personality disorders warranting psy-
chiatric care.[8]
PSYCHIATRIC EXAMINATION
The clinical examination in Ayurveda has
two aspects viz. rogi-pariksha and roga-
pariksha. The rogi-pariksha is done by
dasavidha pariksa[9] which includes pra-
kriti (constitution), vikriti (morbidity),
sara (quality of tissues), samhanana
(built), pramana (anthropometry), satmya
(adaptability), satva (mental stamina),
ahara shakti (digestive power), vyayama
shakti (physical strength) and vaya (age).
Physical examination of the patient also
include astavidha pariksha viz. nadi
(pulse), mutra (urine), mala (stool), jihva
(tongue), shabda (voice), sparsa (skin),
drik (eye) and akriti (facies). Systemic ex-
amination is done by sadanga pariksa i.e.
examination of head-neck, trunk and the
four limbs along with 13 srotas or chan-
nels distributed over the sadanga. The sro-
tas examination must also include the ex-
amination of manovaha srtoas in case of
psychiatric conditions. Clinical examina-
tion also includes prasna pariksa or inter-
rogation with the patient. In psychiatric
examination, the physician pays special
attention to the environment of the patient,
his hereditary and genetic background, his
original personality make up (in terms of
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tridosa and triguna), his mental stamina
(pravara, madhyama, avara) and his life
style followed by the alterations in the
above mentioned eight psychological fac-
tors.[10]
AYURVEDIC MANAGEMENT
The management of a mental illness in
Ayurveda is done through three broad
spectrum of treatment namely Dai-
vavyapasraya chikitsa (divine therapy),
Yuktivyapasraya chikitsa (biological ther-
apy) and Satvavajaya (psychotherapy).
Daivavyapasraya chikitsa[11] is primar-
ily indicated for prevention and treat-
ment of mental illness like agantuja
unmada. It includes the use of mantra,
japa, prayer, other religious activities,
wearing of precious stones etc. This
treatment is carried out in consideration
of the astrological factors, grahas and
nakshatras. These measures not only
have psychological effect, but also may
have influence on higher physics and
consciousness.
Yuktivyapasraya chikitsa[12] is the ra-
tional therapeutic approach which con-
sists of two major components com-
plementing each other viz. Samso-
dhana (purification) and Samsamana
(palliation). The patient is subjected to
biopurificatory therapy like snehana,
vamana, virechana, basti, nasya in or-
der to cleanse the channels of the body.
It is followed by palliative treatment
with the help of ausadhi (drugs), anna
(dietetics) and vihara (exercise and ap-
propriate life style). Yuktivyapasraya
chikitsa is given to bring about equilib-
rium of doshas and dhatus with resto-
ration of memory, intelligence, con-
sciousness and orientation.
External therapies like Shirodhara,
Shirobasti, Shiroabhyanga, Shirolepa
etc. are also found to be effective in
psychiatric illness. Sometimes strong
nasya and anjana etc. may also be re-
quired to administer if not much im-
provement is seen in the disturbed psy-
che of patient.
The drugs used in the treatment are
mostly ghrita preparations like kal-
yanaka ghrita, mahakalayanaka ghrita,
mahapaisachika ghrita, panchgavya
ghrita, purana ghrita, etc. along with
medhya drugs or medhya rasayana like
brahmi, vacha, jatamansi, shankha-
puspi etc. in the form of svarasa or
churna. The medhya drugs are believed
to act as brain tonics, adaptogens and
anxiolytics affording a better mental
health leading in turn to alleviation of
the behavioural alterations. The vajika-
rana drugs like kapikacchu, ashwa-
gandha and similar others are also
found to be effective in the treatment of
various mental illnesses. Herbomineral
preparations like Smritisagar rasa,
Chaturbhuja rasa, Unmadagajankusa
rasa, bhutabhairav rasa etc. are also
indicated in the management of psychi-
atric disorders. Saraswatarista,
Ashwagandharista and Mansyadi kwa-
tha may also be advised along with
these medicines.
Ayurvedic psychotherapy popularly
known as satvavajaya[13] refers to psy-
chological and psychodynamic meth-
ods to divert the psyche of an individu-
al towards wholesome objects. This
helps in the restoration of normal state
of various psychological factors like in-
telligence, memory etc. It is practised
incorporating the principles of assur-
ance therapy (asvasana) along with re-
placement of emotions like anger by
composure, greed by content, igno-
rance by knowledge, jealousy by affec-
tion etc.
Psychoshock therapy is required in pa-
tients of disturbed psyche characterized
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by stupor, marked psychomotor retar-
dation, depressive delusions or halluci-
nations, or lifethreatening physical
exhaustion associated with mania
where desired improvement is not seen
with the above mentioned treatment
modalities. It works on the principle of
inducing physical and mental shock
and fear thereby changing the disturbed
psyche and thought process of the pa-
tient.[14] But it is not advised in agantu-
ja unmada condition.
Surgical intervention like Rak-
tamokshana[15] is also prescribed for
psychiatric illness like unmada, aps-
mara in ayurvedic texts.
Satvic diet consisting of fresh
fruits,vegetables, milk, ghrita etc. are
advised to prevent mental illness.
Spicy, salty fried food, fermented food,
frozen food, meat, alcohol should be
avoided. Intake of viruddha ahara (diet
in which wrong ingredients are mixed
together) can also lead to mental illness
by causing aggravation of doshas.
The patient should avoid the aetiologi-
cal factors causing mental illness like
negative emotions. A change in place
and environment can bring about posi-
tive changes in cases of disturbed psy-
che. The patient should be in the com-
pany of supportive people who infuse
positive energy to the patient’s sur-
roundings.
CONCLUSION
The contemporary Ayurvedic psychiatry in
terms of conceptual and literary under-
standing consists of clinical conditions
where the disease and its treatment is
based on fundamental principles of Ayur-
veda as in case of unmada, apasmara etc.
as well as psychiatric problems like
bhutonmada where the disease and its
treatment is based on paranormal factors
like the doctrine of karma, graha, bhuta
etc. Thus psychiatry finds prominent place
even in the ancient classical practice of
ayurvedic medicine. The entire Ayurvedic
management is more health oriented than
disease oriented. Thus there is a big scope
of utilising ayurvedic approach and thera-
peutics as an adjunct to the disease orient-
ed therapy of modern psychiatry to afford
a full treatment.
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www.iamj.in IAMJ: Volume 4; Issue 02; February - 2016
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CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Dr. AMIT KUMAR RAI
Medical Officer, Ch. Brahm Prakash
Ayurved Charak Sansthan, Khera Dabar,
New Delhi, India.
Email: dr.amitrai1983@gmail.com
Source of support: Nil
Conflict of interest: None Declared
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Chaturvedi Gorakhnath edited Charak Samhita of Agnivesha, Revised by Charak and Dridhabala, Part II
  • Shastri Kashinath
Shastri Kashinath, Chaturvedi Gorakhnath edited Charak Samhita of Agnivesha, Revised by Charak and Dridhabala, Part II, Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, Varanasi, Reprint., 2004;
The Holistic Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine
  • R H Singh
Singh R.H. The Holistic Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine. Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan. Delhi. Reprint Edition 2003; Chapter 13: P-198.
  • Chaturvedi Shastri Kashinath
  • Gorakh
Shastri Kashinath, Chaturvedi Gorakhnath edited Charak Samhita of Agnivesha, Revised by Charak and DriIAMJ: Volume 4; Issue 02; February-2016
  • Chaturvedi Shastri Kashinath
  • Gorakh
Shastri Kashinath, Chaturvedi Gorakhnath edited Charak Samhita of Agnivesha, Revised by Charak and Dri-IAMJ: Volume 4; Issue 02; February -2016