Modern medicine has delineated several types of anemia: iron-deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia, sickle-cell anemia, and hypoproteinemic anemia (lack of protein in the blood), as well as certain vitamindeficiency anemias, such as B-12 and folic acid-deficiency anemia.
Certain bleeding disorders, such as profuse menstrual bleeding, bleeding hemorrhoids, or bleeding gums, can lead to anemia because of blood loss. Whenever modern medicine deals with the problem of anemia, it considers all these etiological factors. Ayurveda looks at anemia quite differently. Ayurvedic classification of anemia falls under three basic doshic conditions: vata type, pitta type, and kapha type. It doesn’t matter whether a person has iron deficiency
or folic acid deficiency; what is important is how the anemia is
expressing itself through a particular individual. As it turns out, there is also a correspondence between the Ayurvedic
interpretation and the understanding according to modern medicine.
TYPES OF ANEMIA
• In vata-type anemia, the person looks thin, with dry, rough, scaly skin, and has cracking of the joints. He or she looks emaciated and pale, may suffer from breathlessness and constipation, and may pass tarry black stool.
• In pitta-type anemia, the eyes are slightly yellowish, the person may get high-colored urine, and the stools are dark brown or have a slightly yellowish tinge. There may be nausea or pain in the liver and/or spleen area. Dizziness or vertigo may be experienced, and the person may become easily irritated by light.
• In kapha-type anemia, there is often swelling (edema), and the person’s skin feels cold and clammy and looks shiny. Because of the edema, the skin gets stretched so much that you can often see the reflection of the window on it.
By careful observation one can tell whether the anemia is vata, pitta, or kapha type. By treating that dosha, one treats the root cause and can alleviate the anemia.
FOR VATA-TYPE ANEMIA. For vata anemia, Ayurveda suggests taking tikta ghrita, which is bitter ghee (see appendix 2). One teaspoon of tikta ghrita 5 to 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner will help to improve the blood volume.
• One can also use a mixture of kaishore guggulu 2 parts
abrak bhasma ⅛ part ashwagandha 5 parts dashamoola 5 parts Take ½ teaspoon of this mixture 3 times a day with warm milk to help correct vata-type anemia.
• A specific formula is given in Vedic literature for a cleansing,
detoxifying herbal remedy for vata-type anemia. It is called gandharva haritaki, which is haritaki powder roasted in castor oil in an iron pan.
Place 1 tablespoon castor oil in an iron pan and heat on the stove; when the oil is warm enough, sauté 1 ounce of the herb haritaki. The haritaki will become thick and will turn slightly brown. (You have to stir it.)
Take ½ teaspoon of gandharva haritaki at bedtime, washed down with warm water. Take it for 2 months or until the blood returns to normal.
NOTE: This mixture may cause loose stools; if this happens, reduce your dosage until comfortable.
FOR PITTA-TYPE ANEMIA. For pitta anemia, Ayurveda suggests shatavari ghee.
(The shatavari and the ghee are cooked together. Directions for preparing
herbalized and medicated ghees and oils appear in appendix 2.) Take 1 teaspoon of shatavari ghee 3 times a day, before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
• One can also use this herbal formula:
Shatavari 5 parts
Brahmi 3 parts
Neem 2 parts
Loha bhasma ⅛ part
Mix these herbs, and take ½ teaspoon of the mixture 3 times a
day with 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel. This combination will be quite effective in treating pitta-type anemia.
FOR KAPHA-TYPE ANEMIA. Where there is swelling, use:
Punarnava 5 parts
Gokshura 3 parts
Kutki 2 parts
Take ½ teaspoon of this herbal mixture twice a day with a few
sips of warm water. Or you can mix it with a little honey and
then wash it down with water.
FOR ALL TYPES OF ANEMIA
EAT IRON-RICH FOODS. Iron is a good blood builder, so foods rich in iron, such as beets, carrots, grapes, raisins, and currants, are used in the Ayurvedic treatment of most anemias. Figs, dates, and date sugar are also good sources of iron. Pomegranate juice and cranberry juice can be used as
blood builders, as can a combination of beet and carrot juice. (Add a pinch of cumin to your carrot/beet juice for maximum effect.)
Chlorophyll is also a good source of iron, and many times Ayurveda does suggest using chlorophyll, generally in the form of spinach, chard, and other fresh green vegetables.
YOGURT AND TURMERIC. Eat a cup of plain yogurt with up to 1 teaspoon turmeric on an empty stomach, morning and afternoon. Do not eat this after sunset. If kapha is unbalanced, eat this at noon only.
BLUE-GREEN ALGAE. Blue-green algae can also be effectively used, but primarily for pitta anemia. Because it is a rich source of prana, it is not good for vata individuals, as it will make them quite hyper. Kapha types may also find it beneficial.
COPPER WATER. Vata and kapha individuals may find copper water effective. Fill a genuine copper glass or cup with water and let it stand overnight, then drink it in the morning,
DIET AND LIFESTYLE CHOICES. These choices should follow the general guidelines (diet, exercise, and so on) for each doshic constitutional type. For vata problems, follow the anti-vata guidelines; for pitta anemia follow the pitta-soothing diet and other guidelines; and for kapha-type anemia,
follow the kapha-reducing guidelines. Correlation of Ayurvedic and Western Types of Anemia Clinical observation has shown that the various types of anemia classified by modern medicine can be correlated with the types of anemia delineated by Ayurveda. For example, pitta-type anemia has been associated with mononucleosis and hepatitis and may lead to
problems with the liver. Cobalamine (vitamin B-12)-deficiency
anemia is also associated with pitta. Kapha-type anemia may lead to hypo-proteinemic anemia and swelling, while vata-type anemia may be associated with iron deficiency and folic acid–deficiency anemia. By treating the vata–pitta–kapha types of anemia, Ayurveda can at the same time treat the types of anemia categorized by modern medicine.