By Yogi Baba Prem Th.D Yogacharya, Vedavisharada, CYI, C.va, C.ay
Please note that this article is not intended to diagnose or prescribe treatment. It is based only on a theory pertaining to the ancient science of Ayurveda. Before attempting anything in this article consult with your physician. This article is for educational purposes only.
If we look back in time, humanity has had different attitudes toward tans. 500 years ago, the lack of a tan was a sign of beauty. It separated the classes. The wealthy enjoyed the prestige associated with not having a tan. Whereas those that had a tan clearly demonstrated that they were in the fields, laborers, they suffered the indignity of a tan. Times have changed however; and modern humanity values the tan as an indication of beauty, wealth, success etc. In medieval times lack of exposure to the sun caused a variety of diseases including deficiency of vitamin D. Modern day society suffers from the different problem, skin cancer. In the United Sates alone several thousands cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. This number may be higher in countries such as Australia, where much work is underway to reduce exposure to the sun. With a depleting ozone layer, the occurrence of skin cancer could increase greatly. Sunscreens are important to wear to help reduce the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays. So individuals should consult with their doctor regarding the proper type of sunscreen to wear and wear one when outdoors. While sunscreens do offer some protection, what does Ayurveda offer to possibly help with this problem?
Ayurveda does offer an interesting theory regarding the health of the skin. Each dosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha—these are body types-used in Ayurveda to classify individuals) has 5 sub-doshas. One of the Sub doshas for Pitta is called Brajaka pitta. This sub-dosha of pitta resides in the skin. According to Ayurveda, when we experience a sunburn, we have experienced the UV rays aggravating brajaka pitta, this sub-dosha is the subtle energy underneath the skin. The result is a pitta type aggravation indicated by red, in severe cases blistered, tender skin. Aggressive types of skin cancer would usually are associated with pitta and brajaka pitta in particular. Sunscreens work to reduce the absorption of the pitta aggravating rays. Ayurveda might suggest adding one more tool to our arsenal for the maintenance of healthy skin, aloe vera.
I discovered the effects of aloe vera while experiencing a sunburn myself. I observed that using aloe vera gel, 5 times a day would cause my sunburn to heal faster and significantly reduced peeling and dry skin. On occasion, I have observed that red skin would disappear over night if caught in time. I have tried this on several occasions with remarkable success. According to Ayurveda, aloe vera reduces pitta. This is one of the reasons that aloe vera has been used traditionally as a tonic for the liver, blood, and digestion. Aloe vera is classified as a rejuvenative by Ayurveda; due to its bitter qualities it can have some reducing effects. It’s cooling properties help to reduce the heat and irritation of sunburned skin (high pitta).
It is my theory that using aloe vera on the skin regularly could help to reduce the aggravation of brajaka pitta and, in theory be one of many factors to help to reduce the risk of skin cancer. If this theory is correct, people of many lifestyles should use this plant. This could help individuals such as construction workers, lawn and maintenance workers, any of millions of people that spend time outdoors. Please note that Aloe vera is contra-indicated for pregnancy and for certain types of vaginal disorders. It should also be noted that this article is referring to external application of aloe vera gel only. The ingestion of aloe products is beyond the scope of this article.
Applying a small amount of aloe vera several times a day during the hottest months could help reduce the aggravation of brajaka pitta. Of course there are other Ayurvedic factors that need to be considered, it is recommended to consult with your local Ayurvedic practitioner also. If this theory is correct, the application of Aloe vera could be beneficial even in the absence of sunburns. If fact it would be desirable to use aloe without the presence of a sunburn to soothe brajaka pitta and the skin after exposure to the sun. Please note: if blistering is present, consult with your doctor before applying aloe vera.
Obviously the best way to avoid skin cancer is to limit your exposure to the sun, especially during the times from 10am-4pm. The sun is quite strong during these times. From an Ayurvedic standpoint each person needs exposure to sunlight, 15-30 minutes per day is often recommended. Pitta body types should hold more to this schedule. Vata and Kapha body types can usually spend a little more time in the sun providing they follow the proper sun safety guidelines. Wearing hats and long sleeved clothing can also be help. The brim of the hat should be a dark color. This reduces the reflection of light back into the face. Use caution with products with bergamot in them. Bergamot, in the past, has often been used to enhance tanning, but in some cases it can make the skin photosensitive. This can increase damage to the skin.
Fortunately Aloe Vera gel is cheap and easy to acquire. You can even grow your own planets. When purchasing aloe vera try to purchase the highest quality and highest purity possible. I always purchase aloe vera that is 99% + pure aloe vera gel. Often a small amount of coloring and preservative is added. For more suggestions of care of the skin visit with your dermatologist.
Much research is needed to verify the benefits of aloe vera, but the concept is strong in Ayurvedic physiology. Here we clearly see an example of basic Ayurveda philosophy applied to a common modern day problem. Many western doctors, herbalist, and production companies praise the benefits of aloe vera. It has even become a common ingredient in many commercial products; especially those for the skin.—end
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