Stress: Ayurvedic Explanation, Treatment, Medicines

Stress: Ayurvedic Explanation, Treatment, Medicines

Dr. Shilpa Ramdas BAMS, MD

Ayurveda explains stress as a mental disorder caused due to imbalance of mind related Doshas – Rajas and Tamas. But any disease, including mental disorders will also have involvement of physical doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Dosha involved in stress

Main dosha involved are Vata and pitta dosha
Excessive physical stress disturbs the Vata dosha
Psychological stress factors like udvega (anxiety) and soka (grief) also contribute to the imbalance of the Vata dosha.
Pitta dosha is predominantly affected by emotions like krodha (anger), santapa etc.

Diseases that can cause mental stress

As per Ayurveda, Udvega is one common term used to describe stress.
In many instances, Acharya Charaka has mentioned stress as a causative factor for physical diseases, including Diarrhea(IBS), Diabetes etc.

jwara (fever) (Charaka Samhita Nidana Sthana 2/19),
Atisara (Diarrhea) – (Charaka Samhita Chikitsa sthana 19)
Sosa (Emaciation) (Charaka Samhita Nidana Sthana. 6/1).
Madhumeha (diabetes) (Charaka Samhita Nidana Sthana. 4/36)

Causes for mental disorders

As per Ayurveada; Pranjaparadha is considered as one of the basic causes for the diseases.
Read more about Prajnaparadha


Stress avoidance has been mentioned by Caraka who states that in order to protect one’s life one should always avoid over-exerting himself.
Lack of co-ordination between Dhi, Druti and Smriti leads to disturbance in mano doshas and leads to mental diseases.

The basic line of treatment include
Daivavyapasraya (Divine Therapy)
Yuktivyapasraya  – Medicines and dietary regimens
Satvavachaya chikitsa –  Psychotherapy (codes of conduct). 

Daivavyapasraya (Divine Therapy)
It is one among Trivida Chikitsa mentioned in Ayurveda.
It includes believing in divine powers and measures taken to please God.

तत्र दैवव्यपाश्रयं- मन्त्रौषधि मणि मङ्गल बल्युपहार होम नियम प्रायश्चित्तोपवास स्वस्त्ययन प्रणिपातगमनादि
Charaka Sutrasthana 11/45
Bali (Sacrifices),
Mangala (Recitation of auspicious Mantras),
Homa (offering oblations to the fire),
Wearing talismans containing anti-toxic herbs,
Observance of truthfulness,
Maintenance of good conduct,
Recourse of knowledge,
Offering prayer to the Gods, cows, Brahmins and by the application of perfected Mantras and medicines.
etc. are mentioned for the treatment of various mental disorders like Unmada(insanity) Apasmara (Epilepsy) etc.

Yuktivyapasraya chikitsa
Yukti means –  reasoning,
Vyapasraya means relying upon,
and Chikitsa means treatment.
Thus, Yukti Vyapasraya Chikitsa is the therapeutic intervention based on the patient’s constitution (prakriti), imbalance of doshas, stage of the disease, and other relevant considerations. This includes dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, detoxification procedures (like Panchakarma), etc.

Achara Rasayana
The concept of Achara Rasayana in Charaka Samhita chikitsa sthana 1 st chapter.
It plays an important role in both etiology as well as treatment of mental diseases. Achara Rasayana outlines an ideal framework for socio-behavioral conduct, guiding individuals toward a desirable
lifestyle through specified guidelines and practices.

सत्यवादिनमक्रोधं निवृत्तं मद्यमैधुनम्
अहिंसकमनायासं प्रशान्तं प्रियवादिनम्
जपाशौचपरं धीरं दाननित्यं …………….
It emphasizes on advocating non-violence, self-control, and a stress-free routine, as highlighted in the Charaka Samhita (Chikitsa sthana . 1/4/30-35).

Medhya dravyas
Brahmi – Bacopa monnieri
Vacha – Acorus calamus
Sankhupushpi – Convolvulus pluricaulis
Aswagandha – Withania somnifera
Guduchi – Tinospora cordifolia
Yashtimadhu – Glycyrrhiza glabra
Jatamansi – Nardostachys jatamansi
Sarpagandha – Rauvolfia serpentina

Panchakarma Procedures
Shiro Abhyanga
Shirodhara – Takradhara
Shiropichu with vatahara dravyas

Useful formulations
Brahmi ghrita
Kalyana ghrita
Sarasvata ghrita
Aswagandha ghrita
Kalyanaka Kashayam,
Manasamitra Vatakam,
Kushmanda Rasayanam,
Mahanarayana Tailam,

Satvavachaya chikitsa

सत्वावजयः पुनः अहितेभ्यो अर्थेभ्योः मनोनिग्रहः ॥ (Charaka samhita)
– Synonym of mind
Avachaya means – win over – Hence it can be explained as a technique of winning of satva over rajas and tamas.
Sattvavajaya Chikitsa is the main treatment for mental disorders. It is a non-pharmacological
approach similar to psychotherapy.

In Ashtanga Hridaya Text book
धीधैर्यात्मादि विज्ञानं मनोदोषौषधं परं   ।
Dhi – Enhancing intellectual capacity enables the patient to differentiate between positive and negative thoughts.
Dhairya – Refers to courage and resilience.
Atmadi Vijnyana – Understanding one’s orientation in terms of time, location, and identity.

याति ब्रह्म यया नित्यमजरं शान्तमव्ययम् |
विद्या सिद्धिर्मतिर्मेधा प्रज्ञा ज्ञानं च सा मता||१९|| (Charaka samhita sarirasthana)

The ultimate wisdom, also known as
vidhya is the intellectual knowledge obtained through the textual knowledge
Siddhi –Capability, strength and weakness and emotional skill of the patient is coming under this category.
Mati –Analyzing the fact, why the diseases get manifested, and arriving at a solution
Medha – Means Intelligence. judgement may not be proper if there ia any issues with medha.
Pranja – Total knowledge/ realization that we are gained
Vinjana – knowledge

Proper knowledge and decision-making are crucial for preserving mental well-being.

Satvavajaya Chikitsa focuses on redirecting the mind away from negative behaviors and aims to balance the patient’s intellect (dhi), determination (dhrti), and memory (smrti) to maintain the equilibrium  of doshas, and addressing the underlying pranjaparadha.

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