June 1, 2016

By Virender Sodhi, MD (Ayurved), NMD & Priya Walia, MS (Ayurveda), NMD

Eye, Ear, & Nose Health

“Swasthyavrit: Circle of Health”

In continuation of this series on “Swasthyavrit,” we are going to take a look at what the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda has to offer for the other sense organs: eyes, ears, and nose.

Ayurveda & the Eyes

The eyes are likened to “the window to the soul,” not only a source for sight. While they constantly absorb, process, and filter visual stimuli at every second, the eyes are indicative of the health of particular organs, which is known as Ayurvedic iridology.

Ayurveda recognizes the eyes as being governed by the pitta dosha/energy, particularly the subtype alochak pitta. Pitta is correlated to the fire element. Alochak pitta is responsible for vision, both physically and spiritually as it is also connected to the third eye, in between the eyebrows. Information from the eyes is processed through the nervous system, known as majja dhatu, and provides a route to treat and maintain the health of the nervous system.

Caring for the Eyes

Yearly eye check-ups by an optometrist and or an ophthalmologist is important, while daily care of the eyes promote longevity and optimal functioning. Ayurveda offers daily routines for the eyes:

Cool wash:

Every morning and evening, splashing the eyes with cool water helps to reset and refresh the eyes.

Eye exercises:

To give the eyes a chance to reset throughout the day, move the eyes in all 4 directions (up, down, left, and right) and in a circular motion (clockwise and counterclockwise) 3-5 times. This can be done upon waking and before bed.

Palming:

This is another way to allow the eyes to rest when overexerted.

Rub the palms together for a few seconds and gently place them over the eyes, look at the sky or morning sun for 30 seconds. Then again palm the eyes until it became pitch dark. Repeat this for 5-10 minutes every day.

Eye Drops:

Rose water eye drops:

Rose provides a rich source of flavonoids, vitamins (A, C, E, D, B3), anti-oxidants, fructose, citric acid, malic acid, zinc and tannins. Its cooling nature is especially helpful for burning, irritated, swollen and inflamed eyes.

Apply 2-3 drops into each eye and keep the eyes closed for 10-15 minutes.

Trifal eye drops:

Trifal, a renowned Ayurvedic herbal formulation made of three fruits Emblica officinalis (amla), Terminalia belerica (bhibitaki), Terminalia chebula (haritaki) has many uses for overall promotion of health and longevity for the body. For the eyes, triphal is helpful in conditions such as: cataracts, glaucoma, myopia and hypermetropia, styes (hordeolum), and weak eyesight.[1,2,3]

Place 2-3 drops into each eye and keep the eyes closed for 10 minutes. This can be done twice a day.

Netra Basti:

Ayurveda’s main treatment for the eyes involves having the eyes submerged in oil for an extended period of time on a daily basis for a consecutive number of days. This treatment can be done for general prevention and maintenance of eye functioning, nervous system functioning, relaxation and diseases of the eyes.

A dough of whole wheat flour or urad daal (black gram beans) is made into the shape of a doughnut large enough to go around the eye. Seal it to the skin with using wet fingers and applying gentle pressure to make it leak proof. The individual lays on his/her back with the head rotated to one side so that the eye that will be treated is facing upwards. With the eye closed, lukewarm ghee (clarified butter), castor oil or other medicated oils are poured into the center of the dough, filling the eye. Once the eyes and eyelashes are completely submerged in the oil, the eye is then opened and kept open for 40 minutes. The eyes should be blinked occasionally. This is especially beneficial for soothing the nervous system and aiding any eye conditions, such as: dry eyes, eyestrain, glaucoma, cataracts, ptosis, detached retina, optical refractive error, Bell’s palsy, and facial paralysis.

Alternatively, one can apply 1-2 drops oil (ghee, castor oil, etc.) in each eye before bed.

Ayurveda & the Ears

The ears are responsible for receiving sound and equilibrium and are prone to becoming dry and clogged as they remain open to the outer world. Ayurveda offers techniques to aide in daily rejuvenation as well as treatment of certain ear conditions, such as: excess earwax, dry and itchy ears, inflammatory conditions, tinnitus, hearing loss, lockjaw/TMJ, and neck and shoulder pain. This treatment is known as karna puurana, or oil drops in the ears.

Caring for the Ears

Karna puurana:

For children:

Apply a 3-5 drops of warm oil (sesame oil, ghee, or olive oil) in each ear. Gently massage from the ear down the jawline, to the neck, and from behind the ear to the prominent circular bone known as the mastoid process. Lay on one side for 15-20 minutes before switching over to the next side. A cotton ball can be placed just over the ear canal opening to avoid oil dropping onto the pillow.

For adults:

Fill the entire ear canal with warm oil (sesame oil, ghee, or olive oil). Gently massage ear down the jawline, to the neck, and from behind the ear to the prominent circular bone known as the mastoid process. Lay on one side for 15-20 minutes before switching over to the next side. A cotton ball can be placed just over the ear canal opening to avoid oil dropping onto the pillow.

Herbal additions:

Garlic has longstanding use in Ayurveda for the ears due to its antibacterial, immune supporting, and pain soothing properties. It is helpful when there is excess or hardened earwax, tinnitus, and earache.[4,5] To do this, boil 1 ounce of oil on low heat with 1 clove of garlic until it turns brown. Let the oil cool, then strain the oil with a cheesecloth. Once cooled, it can be put into the ears and held overnight with a cotton ball over the ear canal opening to avoid oil dropping onto the pillow.

* A note of caution: Karna puurana is not to be done in acute bacterial infections.

Ayurveda & the Nose

Providing the main connection to the brain and respiratory system, the nose plays an essential role in sustaining life. If we don’t breathe for 1 minute, we are considered lifeless. If we don’t breathe optimally, we inhibit proper oxygenation of not only the lungs, but also every organ and cell in the body. The nose also provides connection to the outside environment and the nervous system, providing the special function of smell. Ayurveda refers to the nose as a passage to allow for Prana, or life force, to flow freely in and out of the body. The Prana channel is responsible for oxygen flow to the body, oxygen and CO2 exchange, helps to rekindle digestive fire- agni, maintains body temperature, and encourages blood flow. Below are ways to enhance the sense of smell and maintain optimal functioning of the nose.

Caring for the Nose

Neti pot:

Known as a nasal rinse, the neti pot has long use in Ayurveda for cleansing the nasal passageways. Further benefits include: supporting the respiratory system, relieving dry nostrils and sinuses, removes excess mucus, rinses dust, pollen, and other particles that may enter the nostrils, help promote healthy nasal passages and lighten pressure in the head.

Mix ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized table salt into 1 cup of previously boiled water. Pour the solution into the neti pot.

Stand over a sink or while in the shower, bend the head forward, place the spout of the neti pot in one nostril and tip the head to the opposite side. As the saline water enters the nostril it will exit out through the opposite nostril. Gently blow the nose to remove excess liquid and mucus prior to going to the other nostril.

Repeat the same step for the other nostril.

Saline spray:

When the nostrils are too congested and the neti pot is not successful, or when you need to clean out the nostrils during the day, a simple saline spray can be used. After spraying each nostril, be sure to gently blow the nose to help clean the nostrils out.

Rejuvenation and Support

Benefits of Nasya include:

Entrance for prana, the life force, the breath, remove excess bodily fluids in the sinus, throat, nose or head, nourish and cleanse, improve quality of voice, strengthen vision, and promote mental clarity, and relieve stress.

This can be done with oil alone or with an herbal oil infusion. Oils used include: sesame oil, olive oil, or ghee (clarified butter). Common herbs include: Boswellia serrata, rose extract, Eucalyptus globulus, Bacopa monnieri, and Scutellaria.

Once the nasal passages have been cleaned, place 2-3 drops of the oil into each nostril while laying on your back and head tilted upwards. Placing a pillow beneath the neck may provide more comfort. Take a couple sniffles to help allow the oil to coat and penetrate the nasal membranes.

Conclusion:

As such taking care of each sense organ not only provides support for its immediate purpose, but promotes the health of other associated body systems. According to Ayurveda, disease is called Pragya-apradh, or mistake of the intellect. By supporting our five senses, as they constantly receive and transmit information, we are able to ward off diseases to support the inherent intellect and promote optimal health of the human body.

In continuing with the “Circle of Health,” our next topic will discuss the promotion and maintenance of healthy digestion and elimination.

References

  • [1] J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2010 Oct;1(4):280-6. Doi:10.41003/0975-9476.74425. Evaluation of anticataract potential of Triphala in selenite-induced cataract: In vitro and in vivo studies. Gupta SK, Kalaiselvan V, Srivastava S, Agrawal SS, Saxena R. PMID: 21731375
  • [2] P. Sripathi and R. Tarpanam, “Boon to Drusti Lopa (refractive errors),” Proc. Seminar on Research in Ayurveda and Siddha, New Delhi, CCRAS, March 1995.
  • [3] U.V. Sudrik, “Management of Anjananamika in amavastha with Swedena and Sookshma Triphala,” Med. Aromat. Plant Abs., 1995, 18(5):514.
  • [4] Sarrell EM, Mandelberg A, Cohen HA. Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155:796-799.
  • [5] Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics. 2003;111:E574-E579.