“I believe that for every illness or ailment known to man, that God has a plant out here that will heal it. We just need to keep discovering the properties for natural healing.”
― Vannoy Gentles Fite
In today’s lifestyle, mental health issues have become really common; anxiety has become a part of all our daily lives. However, due to lack of awareness about the right symptoms, people suffer in silence and also, because of a stigma attached to mental illnesses – it keeps you away from taking help.
Being a practicing psychologist, I am aware that there is a huge gap in mental health services especially in the small cities and towns of India. “There is an acute shortage of psychiatrists in India with 3 Psychiatrists per million populations which is 18 times lesser than the commonwealth nations’ norm of 56 psychiatrists per million people.” On top of that, there are not many therapists found. As we can see that the gap between demand and supply is huge, most often psychiatrists prescribe the medications to the client, without giving them enough time to understand their case.
Shekhar, a 35 yr old man, and has a complaint of feeling anxious. Lately, he has lost complete focus from his work and doubts everything he does. He also experienced breathlessness and dizziness. He went to see a general physician who referred Shekhar to a psychiatrist. After meeting the psychiatrist, Shekhar felt relieved at finding more about this problem and the possible causes of the symptoms, but after a few weeks, he was concerned about the allopathic medications prescribed by the psychiatrist, because he was sleeping a lot now and felt drowsy all the time. He felt that his anxiety returned if he missed even one dose of medication, and he started to feel dependent on them.
Like Shekhar, there are many people who do not know that Ayurveda, being an ancient science of medicine has various methods of curing a mental illness. Allopathic medicines treat specific symptoms of an illness with quick results, while Ayurveda works on the principle that all disorders (whether physical or mental) appear when there is an imbalance of body components/factors – such as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Effective treatment, practitioners believe, lies only in the holistic approach. It is this approach that leads psychiatrists to believe that Ayurveda may hold the possibilities of a complementary, if not an alternative treatment, for mental health issues.
What do other mental health professionals have to say about Ayurvedic Medicines?
Most mental health professionals believe that the synthetic drugs that are being used to treat brain disorders at present take long periods of treatment and also, sometimes have unimaginable side-effects and unmanageable repercussions. According to WHO, in every four people, one person suffers from mental disorders while the country lags far behind the world for treatments and spending in the hospitals for the mental cure.
1-2% Indians suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, 5% of the population has been diagnosed with common mental disorders like depression, anxiety, convulsion, etc.
Mental illness is no more restricted to “insanity and allied conditions of mental derangement” but also it now includes the emotional disorders. According to ISD-10, any emotional factor when it crosses the state of normalcy and affects the people around them directly can show the symptoms of mental disorder.
Most professionals believe that it is high time that we look back to the ancient Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine wherein a number of plants have been described for specific uses for a range of mental disorders, including a migraine, epilepsy, convulsion, hysteria, paralysis, memory loss (Alzheimer’s), insomnia, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, insanity, depression, etc.
What does research have to say?
Balkrishna A and Misra LN (2017), Patanjali Research Foundation, studied that 5000 years ago, any physical or mental ailment was cured through the combination of ayurvedic herbs for mental health (ranging from herbs to perennial trees with varied plant parts, ranging from whole plant, roots, stem, bark, leaves, flowers, fruits to seeds) such as Brahmi, Jatamansi, Shankhpushpi and a few others. Ayurvedic prescriptions usually contain a single identity of plant or a mixture of plant materials have used against such disorders.
Research has shown that the chemical structure of the major compounds from these plants, used in Ayurveda for mental illness, are usually straight chain fatty acids, terpenoids, steroids, flavonoids, alkaloids, peptides, etc. It has been attempted to review the current situation of mental disorder in the society with respect to its effective solution described in the Ayurveda and problem of side effects in synthetic medicines. It is important that we go back to our ground roots, with the increasing stressors seen in our daily lives, and low maintained mental health-care setup, things can go haywire eventually.