(WellnessNova.com) - My friend developed painful boils on her legs a few days after her visit to the hospital to see her gynecologist. She had been living in Africa with her husband who was working on behalf of UNICEF to build stable homes for orphaned kids. Since skin infections are common in third world countries, she took some penicillin and hoped that she would heal.
However, the infection spread to other parts of her body. Her skin was soon covered with painful pus-filled boils. A doctor in Africa diagnosed her as having Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. He prescribed a drug called linezolid and convinced her that she would be cured. He told her that MRSA could be found in hospitals even in developed countries.
She took the antibiotic and her skin healed. However, a few days later the infection recurred. She was prescribed the same antibiotic and she recovered briefly before the infection resurfaced. Since my friend was 13 weeks pregnant, she decided to return to her country, hoping, that clean surroundings would help. However, she was now a carrier of MRSA bacteria and her immune system was no longer functioning at peak performance level. Thus, the infection kept recurring.
Initial Struggles With MRSA
During the course of three months, she consulted several infectious diseases specialists in the hope of finding a cure. She would undergo treatment and would be fine for a few days before the bacteria would strike again. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus had colonized in her nose, throat, armpits and genitalia. Decolonization therapy to eradicate MRSA from the her body did not yield the desired results. She was told to wash her hands thoroughly several times a day and use an antibacterial hand sanitizer to cleanse her hands. Her allopathic doctor prescribed a topical ointment which was to be applied to the colonized sites. Since MRSA is resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics, drugs like methicillin, dicloxacillin, oxacillin and nafcillin were ineffective.
Initially her doctor recommended draining the abscesses on her arms and legs to prevent the infection from spreading. However, surgical treatment did not work and her physician decided to prescribe dalfopristin and later quinupristin. These antibiotics are category B drugs according to the Food and Drug Administration; thus, they are not contraindicated in pregnancy. He was against her taking linezolid, even though the doctor in Africa had prescribed it, because the drug had been assigned to category C by the Food and Drug Administration; thus, risk to the fetus could not be ruled out. Since she was pregnant, she could not be given a strong category D drug like tigecycline.
Unaffordable Allopathic Treatment
Pregnancy had lowered her immunity to ensure that her body would not reject the fetus. Fighting MRSA infection with lowered immunity proved to be a daunting task. Stronger drugs that would have cured her instantly could not be prescribed due to advanced pregnancy. Repeated recurrence of the infection made her feel disheartened. Her doctor gave her an immunoglobulin test to measure the level of antibodies in her blood. The results, as suspected by the doctor, were not not favorable. Her immune system was not making enough antibodies, and that was the reason for repeated infection.
He told her that she would have to take immunoglobulin injections once she delivered her baby to help boost her immunity. The minimum cost of immunoglobulin therapy, which involved taking 4 injections, was $25,000. She was informed that immunoglobulins provided only short-term protection, and it was possible for her to get infected again after the effect of the injections wore off.
Since it was not known whether the injections could harm the unborn baby, he advised her against going for immunoglobulin therapy during the course of pregnancy.
My friend was now 6 months pregnant and down in the dumps. She cursed her ill-fated trip to Africa and wished she had stayed home instead of following her husband into wilderness. Since immunoglobulin injections were out of the question, finding an affordable way of boosting her immunity was her only option; moreover, she could not afford to expose her unborn child to any more infection or antibiotics.
She decided to explore alternative medicine on the behest of her husband. He had sent her a paper clipping that discussed the ways in which Ayurveda could strengthen the immune system. She was skeptical about the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatment since the system of alternative medicine was ancient and had originated in an underdeveloped country several centuries ago. My companion wondered how Ayurveda could help her when allopathy itself offered very few solutions.
The fact that she had little money to spare on immunoglobulin injections was the driving force behind her decision to opt for Ayurvedic treatment. Finding an Ayurvedic practitioner, however, was not an easy task. After several hours on the internet, she found an Ayurvedic doctor of some repute in a remote part of town. She hesitated to make an appointment because the neighborhood where he practiced was somewhat rundown. After much thought, my friend decided to meet with him. She arrived in his office the following day feeling somewhat apprehensive.
Ayurvedic Course of Treatment
The doctor was bespectacled and had a long beard. He was a portly man who was in the habit of clearing his throat several times before talking. He pulled up his overstuffed chair close to her and leaned over so that he could hear her clearly.
She narrated her long drawn battle with MRSA and told him that her immune system was unable to produce enough antibodies. He smiled at her and said that one of the basic principles of Ayurveda was to strengthen the immune system by using herbs because without a healthy immune system none of the medicines, whether Ayurvedic or allopathic, would yield the desired results.
The doctor prescribed a nutritive jam called chyawanprash and told her that the cooked mixture of sugar, honey, clarified butter, and herbs would not only taste delicious but would also increase her immunity manifold. He said that the jam was prepared in accordance with the instructions given in the ancient Ayurvedic text called Charaka Samhita.
The first documented formula for this delicious preparation was recorded as early as 1000 BC. He rose and walked up to a wooden cabinet from where he took an unmarked bottle. He opened it, dipped a large spoon into the bottle, scooped out the dark-colored jam and offered it to her. She hesitated before tasting it gingerly. To her surprise, it tasted rather good. She licked the spoon clean. He smiled and told her that she would have to consume a spoonful of the jam thrice a day. Since stuff that tastes delightful is usually not good for health, she wondered whether the chyawanprash would indeed help. She asked the doctor about the composition of the jam. He listed the ingredients and talked about their health benefits in detail.
Composition of Chyawanprash
The ingredients that makeup chyawanprash are as follows:
Embilica officinalis, Piper longum, Pterocarpus marsupium, Pistacia integerrima, Bambusa bambos, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Pueraria tuberosa, Elettaria cardamomum, Phaseolus trilobus, Clarified butter, Aegle marmelos, Sesamum indicum oil, Boerhavia diffusa, Curcuma zedoaria, Inula racemosa, Termenalia chebula, Premna integrifolia, Stereospermum suaveolens, Oroxylum indicum, Gmelina arborea, Uraria picta, Solanum indicum, Desmodium gangeticum, Solanum xanthocarpum, Sida cordifolia, Teramnus labialis, Phyllanthus niruri, Leptadenia reticulata, Tinospora cordifolia, Cyperus rotundus, Nymphaea stellata, Adhatoda vasica, Withania somnifera, Vitis vinifera, Syzyglum aromaticum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Cinnamomum tamala and Mesua ferrea.
Medicinal Properties of the Ingredients
The doctor talked in detail about the health benefits of the herbs that constitute chyawanprash.
Embilica officinalis is high in antioxidants and very rich in vitamin C and tannin compounds. It promotes longevity, enhances vitality and aids in cognition. Vitamin C provides protection against a deficient immune system. The herb’s antioxidant properties inhibit the production of free radicals that lead to cell damage.
Pterocarpus marsupium is an antioxidant whose gum resin helps to regenerate beta cells in the pancreas. Degeneration of beta cells causes diabetes. My friend had become diabetic during pregnancy. Her beta cells healed as a result of the tree’s gum resin.
Piper longum is used to treat vitamin B1 deficiency. Vitamin B1 helps the body convert food to glucose. It is needed for healthy skin, liver, eyes, hair, and good brain function. It is also necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Studies have shown that vitamin B1 can strengthen the immune system and help the body withstand stress.
Bambusa bambos is rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and pantothenic acid. The B vitamins, especially vitamin B6, is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Pantothenic acid is a must for good metabolic function.
Pueraria tuberosa is a galactagogue that strengthens the body, gives a boost to immunity, and slows down aging process. It is also used to treat skin infections.
Glycyrrhiza glabra retards the growth of bacteria and boosts the immune system by increasing the levels of interferon, which is a chemical that fights viruses. The herb contains antioxidants and phytoestrogens. Since it is sweet, it is used to mask the unpleasant taste of bitter medicinal herbs.
Elettaria cardamomum promotes digestion and relieves morning sickness in pregnant women. It is flavorful and is used to make the chyawanprash tasty.
Sesamum indicum oil contains vitamins A, B, and E. It has antibacterial properties and is a good antioxidant. It contains phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. It aids the proper functioning of the immune system. It also heals and moisturizes the skin.
Clarified butter is loaded with vitamins A, D, E and K and is used in all Ayurvedic preparations. Vitamin A promotes a healthy immune system. Vitamin D protects the body against multiple diseases. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, while vitamin K furthers longevity.
Aegle marmelos leaves can be used to extract essential oils that have antibacterial properties and also inhibit the incubation of fungal spores. Ethanolic extracts that can be derived from the roots have antimicrobial properties.
Premna integrifolia is a herb that has antibacterial properties. It contains tannin compounds that inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and yeast. It acts directly on the infected area and slows down and kills the growth of microbes.
Oroxylum indicum conatins chrysin and baicalein, which are flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Stereospermum suaveolens’s bark can be used to derive ethanolic extracts that have hepatoprotective and antioxidant properties.
Gmelina arborea is an analgesic and is used to relieve pain due to inflammation because the herb has anti-inflammatory properties.
Desmodium gangeticum is an analgesic that contains flavonoids and alkaloids.
Uraria picta contains alkaloids, amino acids, and fatty acids. Amino acids are used by the body to make proteins, which are the building blocks of life. Fatty acids are necessary for the healthy development of the cell membrane. They are a must for proper immune and inflammatory response and support healthy skin.
Solanum indicum is effective in curing abscess. It is rich in alkaloids, glucoalkaloids, and contains steroids.
Solanum xanthocarpum contains sterols that are known to boost immunity. Sterols protect the body from infections. The herb also contains alkaloids, glucoalkaloids, and steroids.
Tribulus terrrestris has flavonoids, saponins, glycosides, alkaloids, and lignin amides. Saponins are often included in vaccines because they help to boost immune function and help the body fight off infection. The herb increases physical strength, endurance and vitality.
Asparagine, beta-sitosterol, and alkaloids can be found in Sida cordifolia. Beta-sitosterol is a powerful antioxidant that promotes healing, reduces inflammation, and strengthens the immune system. It helps the body heal at a rapid pace. Asparagine is an amino acid that plays a vita role in the biosynthesis of glycoproteins.
Phaseolus trilobus contains epifridelinol, fridelin, and sterols that support the immune system.
Teramnus labialis has amino acids, bergenin, and calcium. Bergenin is known to be effective in tackling immunodeficiency syndrome. The herb has antimicrobial and astringent properties, and aids the contraction of tissues to protect the skin from bleeding and abrasions.
Pistacia integerrima contains resins, tannins, and volatile oils. It is a very effective immune booster and has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties.
Phyllanthus niruri is an anthelmintic and analgesic herb. It is rich in coumarins, flavonoids and alkaloids.
Leptadenia reticulata contains beta amyrin acetate, cetyl alcohol, and beta-sitosterol. Cetyl alcohol is used to soothe skin irritation and rashes. Beta amyrin acetate works to heal tissue damage. The benefits of beta-sitosterol for the immune system are well-documented.
Inula racemosa has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is used to protect antioxidants in the body and improve their functioning.
Termenalia chebula helps to balance the three Ayurvedic doshas, viz. pitta, vata, and kapha. An imbalance of doshas in the body can cause ailments. The herb is effective in tackling acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Tinospora cordifolia enhances the ability of phagocytic immune system cells. These cells are called macrophages and their function is to engulf and destroy pathogens and apoptotic cells.
Curcuma zedoaria contains alkaloids, ash, and borneol and is used to reduce pain and inflammation. Borneol acts as a stress reliever and promotes harmony and relaxation.
Cyperus rotundus is not only an analgesic and a galactagogue, but also acts as an immunity booster. It is used to cure a wide array of skin diseases.
Boerhavia diffusa is an antioxidant that enhances immunity and has analgesic and anti-aging properties. It is used to treat abscess and hard-to-cure diseases like cancer. It contains alkaloids, amino acids, and beta-sitosterol.
Nymphaea stellata is a medicinal plant whose flowers can be used to derive a steroid called nymphayol. The plant has anti-inflammatory properties. Some of its chemical constituents are as follows: alkaloids, monoterpenes, sesquiterpene lactones, diterpenes, triterpenes, acyl phloroglucides, and steroids.
Adhatoda vasica is a blood purifier. The stem, bark, flowers, roots, and leaves of the plant have medicinal uses. A poultice of the leaves is often used on wounds because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Dioscorea bulbifera contains anthocyanins, auroxanthin, and beta-sitosterol glucoside. It is an antioxidant and a pain reliever, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is even used to treat serious diseases, like cancer.
Asparagus racemosus contains asparagine, alkaloids, and amino acids. The benefits of these compounds have been discussed earlier.
Withania somnifera is a stress reliever and is known to promote rejuvenation and longevity. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000 years for its healing properties.
Vitis vinifera is a detoxicant that has anti-aging and antibacterial effects. It is also a known immunity booster. It contains amino acids, arabinose, and beta-sitosterol glucoside. Arabinose helps the body store glucose for an extended period and slowly release energy over time.
Syzygium aromaticum is an antibiotic that has analgesic, anesthetic, antiviral, and antioxidant benefits. Beta carotene, beta pinene, and beta-sitosterol are some of the nutrients present in the herb.
Cinnamomum zeylanicum or true cinnamon contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde, which is responsible for its powerful medicinal benefits. It helps fight bacterial and fungal infections, is a wonderful antioxidant, and also has anti-aging properties. The spice was considered a gift fit for kings in the days of yore.
Cinnamomum tamala has nutrients like alpha pinene, alpha terpiniol, and beta pinene. Alpha pinene has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Mesua ferrea contains alpha amyrin, beta amyrin, and beta-sitosterol. A mixture of alpha and beta amyrin has antinociception benefits. It is helpful in reducing sensitivity to visceral pain. The benefits of beta-sitosterol have been discussed earlier.
Ayurvedic Diet and Pills as Supplementary Treatment
My friend’s Ayurvedic doctor recommended a diet that boosts immunity. He encouraged her to avoid meat and processed food and asked her to eat fresh juicy fruits, like pears, sweet pineapple, plums, peaches, mangoes, pomegranates, and apples. Fresh leafy vegetables, like spinach and Swiss chard were to to be consumed in ample quantities. Whole grains such as quinoa, amaranthus, and barley were to be cooked and consumed along with legumes and vegetables which were to be spiced moderately with traditional Ayurvedic spices. He told her to eat timely meals and avoid eating very late at night.
My friend was in the habit of snacking around 11 p.m. and found it hard to kick the habit. The doctor told her that food that is consumed late at night results in the accumulation of toxins in the system. He advised her to eat a heavy lunch and a light dinner preferably before 8:30 in the evening.
A pill was prescribed to eliminate toxins that weaken the immune system. It contained Ocimum tenuiflorum, Azadirachta indica, Centella asiatica, Embelia ribes, Convolvulus tricolor (syn. C. minor), ginger, long pepper, mica, and coral. The pill was to be taken along with the prescribed dose of chywanprash. He convinced her that she would no longer need immunoglobulin therapy. She left his office, hoping, his words would ring true.
A Miraculous Recovery
My friend followed the dietary regimen recommended by the practitioner and consumed spoonfuls of the herbal jam along with the prescribed pill. A few days after her visit to the doctor, she experienced another outbreak of MRSA and decided to abandon the treatment for good.
However, the Ayurvedic physician convinced her that the medicines would work slowly and systematically to boost her immunity. He told her that unlike allopathy, she could not expect instant results. The treatment would resolve her problem in a year’s time. She would have to be patient and follow his instructions to the letter.
Three months later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. On the advice of her Ayurvedic practitioner, she delivered at home. He recommended home birth because he believed that her immune system was still weak and she had a high chance of contracting MRSA again from the hospital. Although initially shocked by his suggestion, she eventually agreed and hired a competent mid-wife to aid with childbirth. Ayurvedic medicines helped her recover from a difficult delivery and herbal galactagogues ensured that she had plenty of milk to feed her baby.
A year of medication helped boost her immune system and revitalize her body. To her happiness, she was now in the pink of health and experienced no further outbreaks of MRSA. It has been 7 years since my friend recovered from the infectious disease that wrecked havoc in her life. She has not had to contend with any maladies during these last 7 years. She now swears by Ayurveda and recommends the system of medicine to people who cannot afford expensive allopathic treatment and want a permanent medical solution rather than stop-gap arrangements.