Managing vitiligo with Ayurveda

Vitiligo, otherwise called ‘Leucoderma’ is a common skin disorder, especially prevalent in Southern India. Leucoderma is a Latin term, which literally means “white skin”. Failure to manifest or sustain melanin in the skin leads to this condition. Vitiligo is a non infectious disorder which starts with a small white or pale colored patch and enlarges into larger patch in course of time.

The exact cause for this condition is still unknown. Generally, it is believed that it’s an autoimmune condition where the white blood cells instead of protecting the pigment cells, destroy it which in turn leads to this pale or white patch. Excessive exposure to chemicals also leads to this condition.

Medical statistics have shown that though this condition is common across the world, the instances are higher in India and can affect children and adults alike.

Vitiligo and Ayurveda
Vitiligo is not a new condition. Ayurveda texts explain the pathogenesis, treatment, diet etc in detail. According to Ayurveda any injury, burn, ulcer, etc (to skin) if not treated properly leads this condition. Ayurveda terms this condition as ‘White Leprosy’ – Swithra Roga.

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Ayurveda adds the following are the primary causes for Vitiligo
a. Improper hygiene
b. Inappropriate food combinations
c. Junk foods and drinks
d. Excessive exposure to insecticide, pesticide, erosive chemicals
e. History of jaundice, Sannipata type of fever (Typhoid)
f. Misuse of Ayurveda detoxification therapies
g. Suppression of natural urges
h. Excessive physical exercise in hotter climate, exposure to heat
i. Intake of cold items after exposing to heat, physical exertion
j. Stress and trauma
k. Intake of fatty, spicy foods and drinks during indigestion
l. Psychological qualities like untruthfulness, ungratefulness, insulting the preceptors, sinful acts, past life deeds
m. Incompatible foods and drinks
n. Ayurveda do agree that this condition can also have hereditary factors

Symptoms
a. Excessive or absence of perspiration
b. Discoloration of patches on the skin
c. Horripilation, itching, pricking pain, physical exhaustion, mental fatigue etc

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Ayurveda detoxification for Vitiligo
Ayurveda adopts three kinds of therapy for Vitiligo depends on the condition, age, etc.
a. Pacification therapy – with Herbal, Mineral or herbo-mineral medications.
b. Detoxification therapies – Since this disease itself is because of vitiated Pitta dosha, Ayurveda recommends two-fold purification therapies like purgation and bloodletting therapy (Leech therapy)
c. External Application: Smaller and non/slow spreading patches are usually treated with herbal powder or oil applications. Ayurveda also recommends this type of treatment for children below the age of 7.

Ayurvedic texts mention about many single and compound herbal combinations for Vitiligo. Interestingly, these medicational formulae are very well validated by modern scientific researches. For example, a 60 ml liquid extract of Acacia catechu bark is advised every morning by Ayurveda texts for Leucoderma and Vitiligo. This particular practice is very well documented by modern scientific research.

One herb that is useful in treating leucoderma and vitiligo is Bakuchi/Vakuchi (Psorolia corolifolia) – it is used as internal medication, external application, etc. It is used to prepare soaps, external applications, internal medications by both Ayurveda and modern pharmaceutical companies worldwide. Modern scientific research agrees that this herbal application acts on melanoblastic cells and successfully stimulates it.

Ayurveda Panchakarma for vitiligo
Ayurveda recommends its fivefold detoxification therapies for the complete cure for vitiligo.
a. Therapeutic vomiting: Vamana is a medicated emesis therapy which removes Kapha toxins collected in the body and the respiratory tract. This is given to people with high Kapha imbalance. Daily treatment involves loosening and mobilizing the toxins in an effort to finally eliminate them.
b. Therapeutic purgation: Virechana is medicated purgation therapy which removes Pitta toxins from the body that are accumulated in the liver and gall bladder; it completely cleanses the gastro-intestinal tract. It is a safe procedure without side effects.
c. Therapeutic enema therapy: Basti (Enema) is considered the mother of all Panchakarma treatments since it cleanses the accumulated toxins from all the 3 doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha, through the colon. Basti is also highly beneficial as a rejuvenating treatment. Medicated oil or ghee and an herbal decoction is given as enema to clean the colon and increase muscle tone. This procedure is usually applied for 8 to 30 days, based on the medical condition of a person
d. Therapeutic Nasal Drops: Nasya involves administration of medicated oil through the nose to cleanse accumulated Kapha toxins from the head and neck region. Based on the medical condition of a person, it can be given up to 30 days.
e. Therapeutic bloodletting therapy: Rakta mokshana is a procedure used to cleanse the blood and is advised only in very rare conditions. It is not advisable during general Panchakarma.

Home remedies for vitiligo
1. Take 5 teaspoons of turmeric powder and mix in 250 ml of mustard oil and apply on the white patches of skin, twice a day, usually advised for a period of 12-15 months.

2. Application of sweet basil leaves extract with lemon juice, advised for 5-6 months.

3. Most of the traditional Indian practitioners advise the patient to drink water kept overnight in a copper vessel

4. Tamarind seeds and Psorolia seeds (Bakuchi Seeds) are soaked in the water used to wash rice for 7 days. Then, this is ground into a paste and applied on the patches to give immediate results. This is a very effective method, however for some people it resulted in burning sensation and boils.

5. Fresh ginger juice with Bakuchi powder mix – Obese persons with spots on highly muscular areas

6. Application of radish (white) seeds with vinegar is widely practiced in Calcutta.

7. Many parts of Kerala advise Bakuchi seed powder with coconut oil to be used for external application

8. Some specialised practitioners in Kerala advise the following as diet for 40 days with external application – 600 gm raw cucumber and 3 betel leaves three times a day and food made from bitter gourd.

9. Ginger juice with red clay is used for external application in Karnataka

Conclusion
Vitiligo is like a cold; it can affect any one at any point in life. Western medicine helps in reduction of symptoms but, usually ends up in complications. On the other hand, Ayurveda medicines and therapies help resolve the condition swiftly and permanently.

Source: Dr K Gowthaman, Medical Director, rVita (rVita Ayurveda Centers)

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