Anxiety and insomnia are common maladies of today’s society. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million Americans experience some type of anxiety disorder. Of these 40 million people, only one-third receive treatment. As a result many people have symptoms of worry, self-consciousness, feelings of panic and fear; physical symptoms such as feeling sick to your stomach, heart pounding, and muscle tension. Another common symptom is insomnia (ADAA). Insomnia itself is a chronic diagnosis and up to 35% of adults have had brief symptoms of insomnia (Heffron, 2014). Symptoms of insomnia include: fatigue, inability to focus, poor memory, mood disturbance, daytime sleepiness, low energy (Heffron, 2014). Many people miss work due to the effects of insomnia. Heffron (2014) reports an estimated $63 billion dollars a year is lost due to poor work performance and missed days due to insomnia. As stated earlier only one-third of people seek treatment for these disorders. Many people do not realize they have an illness that has effective treatments. Others fear their family and friend may criticize them if they seek help(American Psychiatric Society).
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.) Understanding the facts. Retrieved
January 31, 2015, from http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety
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Douillard, J. (n.d.) Healing anxiety and depression: An ayurvedic perspective. Retrieved
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Halpern, M. (2011). Healing your life: Lessons on the path of ayurveda. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.
Heffron, T. (2014, March 10). Insomnia awareness day: Facts and stats. Retrieved from: www.sleepeducation.com/news/2014/03/10/insomnia-awareness-day-facts-and-stats
Hope-Murray, A. (2013). Ayurveda for dummies. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons
Murthy, S. (1978). Vagbhata on medicinal uses of gems. Geological Survey of India.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (n.d.) Ayurvedic medicine: An introduction. Retrieved January 31, 2015, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/intoduction.htm
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Ninivaggi, F. (2010). A comprehensive guide to traditional indian medicine for the west. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Shutes, J. (2014). Staying Healthy through the seasons with aromatherapy and ayurvedic principles. National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. Boulder: NAHA.
Due to this fear of being criticized, many people look outside of traditional western medicine for treatment. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) up to 40 percent of Americans have looked to complementary medicine either in combination or in place of allopathic medicine. One form of complementary medicine is Ayurvedic medicine.
In 2007 the National Health Interview Survey found more than 200,000 American adults had used Ayurveda the previous year (NIHb).
According to Shutes (2014), Ayurveda is defined as “the science of life”. It is the oldest complete medical system in the world. Ayurveda looks at the whole person and develops a treatment plan based on wholesome foods, herbs, meditation, Yoga, mantras, aromatherapy, color therapy, music, and a healthy lifestyle. In Ayurveda there are three states of energy, known as gunas, which determine a person’s constitution. The gunas are known as:
· Sattwa: This is a state of balance which results in purity, truth, creativity, happiness, and knowledge. Sattwa people are calm, spiritually minded, intelligent and health conscious.
· Rajas: Rajas is kinetic energy that results in activity. A rajas person is ambitious, driven, egotistical, and perfectionist.
· Tamas: This is when nothing happens and rest occurs. Tamasic people are found to lazy, bad humored, and attached to others (Hope-Murray, 2013).
The gunas form the five elements that compose the building blocks of the material world. The five elements are: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements come together to create three constitutional principles called the ‘doshas’. The doshas are known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata= Air + Space
Pitta= Fire + Water
Kapha = Earth+ Water
Each person has varying degrees of each doshas. This unique dosha balance is referred to as our ‘prakriti’ or constitution. When our dosha is imbalanced is it referred to as ‘vikriti’. In Ayurveda when the dosha is imbalanced the treatment involves the opposite qualities of the imbalanced dosha (Shutes, 2014).
According to Ninivaggi (2010), a stressful life event may contribute to an imbalanced dosha. The appropriate treatments would be different for each individual based on their prakriti. For the purposes of this paper, the prakriti in reference will be pitta.
Pitta arises from the elements fire and water. The water serves to protect the bodily
tissues from the potentially damaging aspects of fire. Pitta qualities are hot, intense, light, greasy, sharp, expansive, and fluid (Shutes, 2014). Examples of psychological triggers for a pitta include: anger, aggression, competition, irritability, dominating behaviors, narcissism, violence, and (Ninivaggi, 2010). When a pitta is imbalanced the skin can become inflamed, the person may experience hot flashes and excessive sweating. Physical symptoms would include: constipation, insomnia, heartburn, bleeding gums, canker sores, and mouth ulcers. Emotional issues would manifest as anger, irritability, judgment, impatience, jealousy, and rage (Shutes, 2014). Pitta doshas can fall asleep rapidly but often wake up between 12 and 2 a.m. They tend to be hot and sweat at night. Dreams often involve wars and conflict (Hope-Murray, 2013).
Pitta Ayurveda Interventions
A pitta should retire between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Herbal treatments would consist of ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, ½ teaspoon of jiggery, and ghee in a cup of warm milk. This should be consumed an hour before bed. Coconut oil massaged into the bottom of the feet is also recommended (Hope-Murray, 2013). A mantra could be “Be cool and relax”. As stated previously, the core Ayurvedic qualities of a pitta include: hot, light, and greasy/oily (Shutes, 2014). To balance the excess pitta, qualities of cool, heavy and dry are needed. Essential oils that would be appropriate include: German chamomile, lavender, patchouli, vetiver, rose, sweet orange, mandarin, and sandalwood. Cooling base oils include: coconut or sunflower oil (Shutes, 2014). A few drop of the essential could be added to the based oil to be used as massage oil; or an aromatherapy spritzer could be made using distilled water and several drops of the essential oil. A person may want to diffuse lavender at night to promote sleep. Also of interest in balancing the dosha is the use of gemstones. In Ayurveda, gemstones have great healing qualities and are miracles of nature. According to Murthy (1978), aquamarine can cure fever, vomiting, indigestion and improve the strength of the body. The use of this gemstone can bring pitta into harmony and homeostasis. The blue color of the gem is balancing for a pitta. It cools the mind, decreases anger, and counters inflammation (Halpern, 2011). Moderate exercise is appropriate and Hot Yoga should be avoided. Dietary choices should consist of cooling, non-spicy, sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Excess of oil, salt, fried and spicy foods should be avoided (Shutes, 2014). A pitta should eat three times per day. Some examples of pitta balancing foods include: white rice, cottage cheese, soy milk, ghee, apples, lettuce, coconut, chicken, turkey, trout, tofu, and peppermint. The overall goal of lifestyle choices is to bring in cooling, heavy, and dry qualities (Halpern, 2011).
It is important to understand our own constitution for our happiness and well-being. When we do not understand our constitution we will fall into poor health disease. Ayurveda is a science that contains a well-developed science of individual types. It helps a person understand individual variations and idiosyncrasies. According to Ayurveda, a person becomes anxious when the essential Self is lost (Douillard). The body becomes exhausted. The mind becomes anxious because the body and mind require energy to calm them, stabilize moods and maintain sleep. At our core individuals are healthy, whole, and happy by nature. When our unique prakriti becomes unbalanced it is important to re-engage in habits and practices that bring balance to the mind, body, and spirit. This paper discussed a routine that would assist a pitta prakriti when experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.
Pat White MSN PMh NP-BC
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