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Ayurvedic Marma Therapy for Today's Health Needs

An Introduction to Transdermal Herbal Rasayanas


Ayurveda: Basics | History & Principles | Daily Routine | Doshas | Dietary Guidelines | Six Tastes

Transdermal healing--healing through the medium of the skin--has been extensively described in many ancient ayurvedic texts. Because I come from a 5000-year-old lineage of ayurvedic dermatologists, transdermal ayurvedic healing has held a special fascination for me ever since I entered the field as an ayurvedic intern, studying with my father and gaining from him our ancestral knowledge of ayurvedic dermatology. Today, with the development of a completely new line of ayurvedic transdermal supplements-rasayanas that restore balance to mind and body when applied to the skin--I feel a sense of deep satisfaction. This line is the culmination of more than two decades of experience formulating ayurvedic products and fine-tuning the processes of ayurvedic herbal extraction to take advantage of the development of technology while maintaining the purity of the teachings laid down in the ancient texts.

My first exposure to the marvels of ayurvedic transdermal healing came when, as a teenager, I was interning with my father in India. An ayurvedic herbal paste was applied to the skin of a person suffering the first stage of leprosy. The paste caused a reaction to occur on the skin only in those areas where leprosy was present, as a prelude to restoring balance in those areas. My father explained to me that if a healer knew that a specific herb, processed in a specific medium, in specific ways detailed in the texts, was applied on a specific area of the body at a specific time (as, for example, at daybreak to take advantage of the sun's rays during the day to enhance absorption), then he could fully take advantage of that herb's transdermal healing ability. During the internship with my father, I came to understand the nature of many major ayurvedic herbs in terms of their transdermal absorption quotient. I also learned how to preserve and protect the innate healing intelligence of each herb through the choice of processing medium and process, and how to activate the ability of the herb to be transdermally absorbed. This then was my initial training in transdermal ayurveda.

Later in my career, I spent many years in the United Kingdom and then in the United States, and I had the good fortune of interacting with dermatologists practicing modern dermatology. These meetings enriched my knowledge of the skin as a medium for maintaining the health of the entire physiology, and convinced me of the need to develop a line of completely natural healing supplements that would restore balance to the physiology through the medium of the skin.

Why Transdermal Formulations?

When we ingest an herb, its result will be impacted if:
  1. The digestive system is not functioning at peak efficiency--if it cannot metabolize the herb properly,
  2. The digestive system is efficient but the liver is sluggish or overloaded with toxins,
  3. The individual consumes alcohol on a regular basis,
  4. The person is taking medication or other supplements
All of these factors "interfere" with the herb's intelligence and you may not feel any benefit from taking it. Transdermal materials bypass the digestive system and go straight to the different parts of the body via the rakta dhatu or blood, so the benefit they impart is not diminished by a slow digestion or a liver that is suffering from a toxic overload.

How Transderma Rasayanas Work

From the ayurvedic perspective, there are three subdoshas--psychophysiological principles--that regulate skin health and appearance. Vyana Vata governs circulation in the skin and modulates the sense of touch. Bhrajaka Pitta governs skin temperature and the biochemical processes that occur in the skin. Shleshaka Kapha regulates moisture levels and lubrication. When these three subdoshas are in balance, the skin enjoys perfect health.

Apart from these subdoshas, there is also an agni--a fire--that resides in the skin. Just like we have the Pachaka Agni or digestive fire in the stomach to help metabolize the foods that we ingest, there is a Bhrajaka Agni in the skin that metabolizes whatever is applied on the skin. Unfortunately, many ayurvedic healers do not recognize or completely understand the fine difference between the Bhrajaka Pitta subdosha and the Bhrajaka agni. Pachaka Pitta in the stomach area is the subdosha that governs digestion, but it is not the flame itself, it is the underlying source of the flame. Packaka Agni is the related flame that "cooks" the food. Similarly, Bhrajaka Agni in the skin cooks the food applied on the skin, while Bhrajaka Pitta is the source of the flame. Understanding this difference is mandatory for developing proper ayurvedic protocols to heal through the medium of the skin.

Another difference to be noted between the metabolizing that occurs when healing herbs are ingested and when they are transdermally applied is the method of "cooking" in the stomach versus the surface of the skin. The cooking that occurs in the stomach can be compared to slow-cooking lentils in a covered pot, for example. The word Pachaka is related to the word paak-slow or covered cooking. The word Bhrajaka is related to bhranjan, which literally translates to "frying." When we apply something to the skin, the surface of the skin becomes the wok and Bhrajaka Pitta supplies the flame--Bhrajaka Agni--that then "fries" the "food" for quick absorption into the bloodstream.

In order for the absorption to occur properly, there are certain qualities the transdermal material needs to have. Principal among these are:
  1. The material should be 100% natural, and alive with the intelligence of nature. If processed with chemicals or mixed with artificial preservatives or fragrances or otherwise compromised, the healing effect will be compromised.
  2. The material should be of a molecular size and weight that are appropriate for good, fast absorption. The formula should have some yogavahi material--herbs, spices or aromas that help carry the benefits of the formula to the different parts of the body.
  3. The material should be pleasant or palatable, so that the environment for absorption is created. If the material is repellant, the physiology will not wholeheartedly absorb it.
Provided these ancient standards for purity and potency are carefully adhered to, transdermal rasayanas offer an exciting new method to deliver the healing benefits of ayurvedic herbs to the physiology, to help the individual lead a life of balance in accord with the laws of Nature.

Note: This material is educational, and is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or mitigate any disease. If you have a medical condition, please see your physician.
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