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The Concept of Aging in Ayurveda


Ayurveda divides human life into—childhood (up to the age 16 years); youth and middle age [from 16 to 60 years (Charaka) or 70 years (Sushruta) and exhibits progressively the traits of growth (vivardhamana, 16–20 years of age), youth (youvana, 20–30 years), maturity (sampoornata, 30–40 years), deterioration (parihani, 40 years onwards) which gradually sets in up to 60 years]; old age, wherein after 60–70 years the body elements, sense organs, strength, etc. begin to decay.

Charaka has described twak (skin) in six layers, he has named the first two as udakadhara (bahyatwak) and asrikdhara and has not named the remaining four layers. Sushruta has described the same in seven layers viz. avabhasini, lohita, shweta, tamra, vedini, rohini and mamsadhara. Avabhasini, the outermost layer, reflects the complexion and the quality of the Rasa Dhatu (nutrient fluid, the first of the seven tissues of the body). It also acts as a mirror as it indicates whether the physiology as a whole is balanced or imbalanced, and whether there is inner health or disorder; it also reflects the aura of the individual.

Mamsadhara, the innermost layer is the platform for the skin’s stability and firmness. When this layer is in balance, the skin looks young and supple. A skin product that has a vayasthapana (antiaging) effect nourishes this layer to help retard the aging process. According to Ayurveda, a number of factors determine skin health and youthfulness, and these include proper moisture balance (Kapha in balance), effective functioning of the metabolic mechanisms that coordinate all the various chemical and hormonal reactions of the skin (Pitta in balance), and efficient circulation of blood and nutrients to the different layers of the skin (Vata in balance). The health of the following three types of body tissue (Dhatus) are especially reflected in the skin: nutritional fluid (Rasa), blood (Rakta) and muscle (Mamsa). To be effective, an antiaging application has to provide support to all of these areas.

Rejuvenation Therapy : Ayurveda describes several processes to address control and prevention of aging. Antiaging treatment includes two types of therapies Urjaskara (promotive) and Vyadhihara (curative). Pancha Karma is one of the popular rejuvenation and detoxification process that consists of three stages including Purva Karma (pre-treatment), Pradhana Karma (primary treatment) and Pashchat Karma (post-treatment). Snehana (oleation) and Swedana (sudation) are the two Purva Karma procedures. The four Pradhan Karma include Vamana (medical emesis), Virechana (purgation), Nasya (nasal administration), Basti (enema). A school of thought from Sushruta also considers Raktamokshana (bloodletting) as one of the Pancha Karma to complete the penta. Pashchat Karma (post-treatment) mainly deals with Ahar (diet) regimens, Vihar (exercise) and use of healthpromoting Rasayana and other medicines.

There have been few studies indicating physiological benefits to Panchakarma. Ayurveda describes various rejuvenative therapies with help of special class of medicinal preparations called Rasayana that are believed to rebuild the body, mind, prevent degeneration and postpone aging or rather reverse the aging process. Charaka has described two methods of rejuvenation, the first method—intramural (kutipraveshika) required the subject to remain inside a chamber in isolation and the second method which was less rigorous and was carried out in open air—extramural (vatatapika). The intramural method is suitable for healthy, self-controlled, wise, strong and affluent persons whereas extramural method is advisable for others.

In intramural method, a special cottage is constructed on an auspicious land facing east or north, it is safe and supplied with all the necessary articles for treatment and the procedure is started on an auspicious day. In extramural therapy, its basically the use of various medicinal plant formulations. According to Ayurveda, the practice of yoga, which is a disciplined science of life, is a very important, natural, preventive measure to ensure good health.