Planetary Antidotes in Jyotish

Summary: Covering Remedial Measures or Planetary Antidotes (Upayes) in Jyotish. Detailed discussion of: Wearing gem stones associated with a particular planet: Chanting planetary related mantras: Performing specific acts of charity: Conducting Vedic rituals to balance planetary energies

Remedial Measures or Planetary Antidotes (Upayes) in Jyotish

Vedic astrology is essentially karmic in nature. It predicts the type and duration of both positive and negative returning karmas. It tells us what we are likely to experience in all areas of our lives and, most importantly, when these experiences are likely to occur. The great thing about Jyotish is that it comes from a tradition that believes suffering in life is unnecessary! So it is no surprise Jyotish offers a range of practical techniques to deflect, or at least greatly reduce, our returning negative karmas. These techniques are often referred to as ‘remedial measures’ or ‘planetary antidotes’ (Upayes).

A Vedic astrologer can identify imbalances in a person’s birth chart (based on the code read from the planetary positions at birth). The astrologer can then offer the individual practical strategies to ‘avert the danger that has not yet arisen’. So, they can actually prescribe a number of strategies to lessen the individual’s karmic burden. These strategies may not remove the karmas entirely, but they will certainly modify them.

These planetary remedies, or antidotes, are things that can balance out planets ‘negative energies’ and restore balance and harmony in our lives. They can also really enhance the energies from positive planets too – maximising positive returning karmas.

The antidotes to problematic planets that are prescribed by Jyotish generally fall into four categories:

These strategies are not based on superstition. They have withstood the long test of time from generation to generation. They work because the Vedic tradition sees everything in the universe as an interconnected whole. This Vedic model of reality is increasingly supported from the perspective of modern science. It is also reflected in the Vedic (and Buddhist) concept of ‘Indra’s Net’ [1].

There was a song by Joni Mitchell (released 1970) – the lyrics went: ‘We are stardust, we are golden’. Very true, as from the point of modern astrophysics we are actually mainly stardust! All the elements in our body (other than hydrogen), were forged in stellar furnaces billions of miles (and possibly billions of years) away. So we have a very real connection to the stars in that most of the stuff that makes us was made there. Many people report that wearing a quality Jyotish gemstone reminds them on a very deep level of this connection.

Although not specifically mentioned in the Jyotish texts, many astrologers also agree that performing spiritual practices can greatly modify returning karmas. In particular, mantra based Vedic meditation techniques have a big effect. When they examined the birth-charts of numerous long term meditators they found their actual life experiences much better than they would have otherwise predicted!

For those with a personal Guru, the ‘Grace of the Guru’ can remove major obstacles! Such individuals should consider themselves extremely fortunate!

 

Wearing Gem Stones as Planetary Antidotes

In Vedic astrology, each planet is associated with a particular gemstone. For example, the Sun is associated with ruby, Venus with diamond, Saturn with blue sapphire, etc.  If an auspicious planet in a birth chart needs strengthening (note: usually ‘strong’ = ‘good’ in Jyotish), then this can be facilitated by wearing the gemstone for that particular planet.

The key word in the above sentence is ‘auspicious’. Only auspicious planets can be strengthened by wearing the appropriate gemstone for the planet  (‘auspicious’ in this context means ‘functional benefic’). Other mitigating strategies (such as mantras) are needed if the planet is not auspicious. A number of modern books on Jyotish fail to make this vital point clear. A serious and misleading error!

Because many of the planets simultaneously rule two houses, the rules for determining whether a planet is ‘good’ or ‘not  good’ for a particular ascendant are a bit more complex. As the ascendant (in the Sidereal Zodiac) changes sign, the ‘functional benefic’ or ‘functional malefic’ nature of a planet also changes. This is dealt with in detail in a separate article. However, as a general rule (and Jyotish just loves ‘exceptions’ to rules) any planet ruling the first, or fifth, or ninth house is considered auspicious regardless of what other house it ‘owns’.

The table below shows the gems associated with each of the nine planets:

Gemstones associated with particular planets in Jyotish.Planet and Gemstone Associations in Jyotish

Note: In the above chart, ‘Gomed ‘ is also known as ‘Hessonite Garnet’, and ‘Cat’s Eye’ is also known as ‘Chrysoberyl’

It is worth noting that the weight and quality of the gemstone are also specified by Vedic Astrology – as are the metals in which it is set and even the fingers on which it is worn [2]. For remedial purposes precious stones should also be natural and not synthetic or man-made gems [3].

In order to be effective stones must touch the skin – this can be achieved with special settings for rings, or the stones can be set as a pendant.

I have heard some Jyotish experts saying that even the gold (must be 22 carat) that is in a chain or ring removes quite a bit (maybe up to 70%) of planetary negativity. Interesting, if this is correct!

The concept, of wearing a gemstone to balance planetary energies, is therefore much more finely tuned to an individual’s birth chart in Jyotish, than in the Western Astrological system. Western Astrology just uses the relatively simple concept of a ‘birthstone’ or gem appropriate to the ‘sun sign’ of a person – rather than the detailed analysis and remedial prescriptions of Vedic astrology.

There is a lot of detailed and quality information about Jyotish gems on the Astrological Gem website (Vedicplanet has no commercial links with this site).

 

Semi-Precious Equivalents

If we can’t afford a particular quality precious stone, then there are a few semi-precious equivalents. However, the general understanding is that semi-precious stones do not confer as much protection on the wearer as precious stones. In India, people sometimes wear the following semi-precious stones for Jyotish purposes:

    • Red Spinel for the Sun
    • Green Tourmaline for Mercury
    • Yellow Topaz (better than Citrine) or Yellow Citrine (Yellow Quartz) for Jupiter
    • White Sapphire (a good substitute for diamond) or Phenakite for Venus
    • Blue Spinel for Saturn

 

Wearing Gemstones Based on our Ascendant

If we know our ascendant (our ascending sign in the Sidereal zodiac) we can always safely wear the gemstone that is associated with the planet that rules or ‘owns’ our ascending sign. This will bring only positive results to our lives. This is something we can all do to reap the benefits.

Sign Ownership or Rulership by Planets in Jyotish

Wearing this gem will also give some help (but not as much as specifically targeted planetary relief) with any problems indicated in other areas of our chart by strengthening the ‘Lord of the Ascendant’ (planet that ‘owns’ or ‘rules’ our ascending sign). Strengthening the ascendant lord can only bring positive effects to an individual.  (Note: some astrologers say the only exception to this rule is for a Scorpio ascendant – where Mars simultaneously rules both the first and the sixth houses).

If we already have a Western style birth-chart giving our ascending sign in the Tropical Zodiac we can easily convert to Sidereal by subtracting the angle stated for the ‘Ayanamsha’ for our birth date. This is easier than it sounds [4]. We can then wear the appropriate gem stone.

An alternative to this is to use a free online service (based on the sidereal zodiac) for getting a gemstone recommendation. This link is the best I have seen and is driven by a very well respected piece of Jyotish software that produces great recommendations – only bettered by a very experienced Vedic Astrologer. But be aware that accurate birth-times are needed. If you do not have these try and generate two separate reports using your earliest and latest birth-time estimates. If the recommendations differ then seek out a professional astrologer.

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Chanting Planetary Related Mantras to Remove Negative Karma

While wearing gemstones for auspicious planets (i.e. auspicious for a particular ascendant) is good, wearing the gemstone associated with a ‘malefic’ planet (i.e. malefic for a particular ascendant) would not be good at all! In this case we can chant mantras to alleviate the negative effects of a weakened or badly afflicted malefic.

Mantras are always said or chanted in Sanskrit. This ‘upwardly manages’ the force of nature (the Devas). Specific mantras can be repeated to balance the negative energies associated with a particular planet. Mantras are like passwords that enable us to connect to the higher realms.  They are the vehicle that helps us transcend or ‘cross over’ to higher states of consciousness. A Jyotish astrologer can identify problematic malefic planets in a birth-chart and suggest mantras to remove their negativity.

At their most basic level, the planetary mantras can be fairly simple and follow the general pattern:

‘Om – [planets name in Sanskrit] – Namah’

These can be repeated daily 108 times (the number 108 is derived from the nine planets multiplied by the twelve astrological signs: 9 x 12 = 108) – usually done with a ‘mala’ or rosary. So, for example, the mantra for Venus would be ‘Om Shukraya Namah’. This  takes only a few minutes to do.

Basic Planetary Mantras to Chant

Some planets have multiple names, so the names given below are only one suggestion out of a number of possibilities – but they are all very effective.

Getting the correct pronunciation is very important! Typing the mantra in the list below into ‘YouTube Search’ usually works well (although this sometimes gives a slightly more complicated version of the mantra – for example by adding ‘Shri’ or a ‘seed mantra’ in front of the planet’s name; but the basic pronunciation remains the same).

Sun: ‘Om Suryaya Namah’

Moon: ‘Om Somaya Namah’

Mars: ‘Om Mangalaya Namah’

Mercury: ‘Om Budhaya Namah’

Jupiter:  ‘Om Brihaspataye Namah’

Venus: ‘Om Shukraya Namah’

Saturn: ‘Om Shanaye Namah’

Rahu: ‘Om Rahave Namah’

Ketu: ‘Om Ketave Namah’

A Jyotish astrologer would fine tune this process even more – by determining when in a person’s life the planet’s effects will be felt most and advising chanting during this time period (the Maha Dasha of the planet concerned). An analogy would be like putting on more clothes in the winter to protect us from the cold – we only need to do it for a limited period and not for life.

Mantra for Harmony between the Nine Planets

Another possibility is to chant a simple mantra that ‘takes care’ of the energies from all the nine planets and creates harmony between them. This will modify our returning karmas in a positive way. This is the great ‘Nav Graha’ mantra:

adityaaya cha somaaya mangalaaya budhaaya cha |

guru shukra shanibhyash cha raahave ketave namah ||

It is surprisingly easy to learn by repetition, and there is a good version and explanation on YouTube:   ‘Mantra to balance effects of the Nine Planets (Navagrahas); By Swami Purnachaitanya’

General Mantras for Removing Negativity and Suffering

Another option would be to chant something like:

‘Auṁ Namaḥ Śivāya’ (Om Namah  Shivaya)

This simple mantra is very powerful at removing negativity. There are lots of videos on YouTube giving the pronunciation of this mantra in chant format.

Even more powerful would be chanting the great Mrityunjaya mantra – but this takes a bit of learning.

Why are these mantras so powerful? It is said: ‘Shiva sits on top of all the planets’ [5] , which really means ‘That Shiva Consciousness’ (i.e. ‘Shiva Tattva’[6]) has the ability to overwrite the planetary influences that are shown in our birth-charts. Chanting Shiva mantras enlivens this in our awareness! Wow.

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Acts of Charity to  Balance Planetary Energies

Because the Vedic tradition sees the universe as an interconnected whole, then specific acts of charity help negate the karmas associated with a particular planet. Even if this is not true, it is still good to give away a small fraction of our income to ‘good causes’!  A living enlightened Vedic Saint  encourages everyone to do this – he says that giving a few percent of our income to the charity of our choice means there is less likelihood of disputes, court cases and associated problems in our lives.

Some remedies are very simple – just feeding the crows on a Saturday is said to relieve some of the karmic burdens we might experience due to a problematic Saturn in our birth-chart.

Different planets are linked to different days of the week, so it is best to carry out certain specific acts of charity on the appropriate day for each planet.

This may all seem just superstitious, but these practices have withstood the long test of time; generation after generation. The interconnectedness of all things is increasingly being considered from a scientific perspective too (see article:  Vedic Model of Reality from a Scientific Perspective), giving additional weight to the perceptions of the ancient enlightened sages.

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Conducting Vedic Rituals to Remove Negativity

 Since ancient times, Vedic rituals have been performed to upwardly manage the forces of nature. When certain Vedic ceremonies (called ‘yagnas’ or ‘yajnas’ or ‘yagyas’) were performed, rain came on time, crops grew well and there was abundance on the earth.

In a similar way, serious problems due to out of balance planetary energies in a person’s birth-chart, can be resolved using these rituals.  People might view this is as ‘worshipping the planets’ – but it is far more subtle and profound. This is actually ‘karmic engineering’! The procedures for conducting these ancient ceremonies were actually given to mankind by the Divine to ease suffering.

The yagnas have to be performed very precisely using appropriate Vedic mantras and they really do give ‘peace from the planets (grahas)’ or ‘Graha Shanti’. They are best performed by pundits with a high level of consciousness. They are most effective when done in an Ashram or Temple according to the ancient tradition with all the specified ingredients (these are not easy to obtain in the West). Even better when they are supervised by an enlightened Guru. The only organisation I can recommend for this (based on my first-hand experience of their pujas) is that founded by the living saint ‘Mata Amritanandamayi’

The rituals can specifically target the problems associated in a birth-chart due to a single planet. They enliven the forces of nature associated with that particular planetary energy and modify returning karmas. Or, if there are a number of planets causing problems, then all nine of the planets can be targeted simultaneously so that there is peace and harmony between them and their energies do not conflict.

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Footnotes

[1] ‘The Net of Indra is a profound and subtle metaphor for the structure of reality. Imagine a vast net; at each crossing point there is a jewel; each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels in the net, the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an image ad infinitum. The jewel in this metaphor stands for an individual being, or an individual consciousness, or a cell or an atom. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one jewel means a change, however slight, in every other jewel.’Stephen Mitchell, The Enlightened Mind, (HarperPerennial; Reprint edition: April 1993, ISBN -10: 0060923202)

[2] Jyotish is very precise about the metals in which a stone is set e.g. gold for ruby, silver for pearl etc. It is also very clear about the need for really high quality gems – preferably with no internal cracks or black spots (inclusions). In fact, the quality is often more important than the size of a stone for remedial purposes. For example, diamonds should be grade IF or VVS1, with colour grade H or better, with weight between 0.25 and 1.25 carat. These are expensive stones!

[3] Although synthetic gems are not suitable for Jyotish purposes, I have heard a world leading Ayurvedic doctor say they give 80% health benefits (compared with natural stones) for ayurvedic purposes. For Jyotish use there are also arguments about the benefits of heat treated stones compared with unheated ones. Certainly I believe it is better to completely avoid artificially irradiated stones.

[4] The difference in planetary positions between the zodiacs is now around 24 degrees. If our sun was, say 14 degrees in Virgo in Western Astrology, it will be at 14 – 24 = – 10 degrees Virgo in the Vedic system! So it will be 10 degrees before the start (or zero position) of Virgo. This simply means it has has moved backwards and changed sign into the position of 20 degrees in Leo in the Vedic system (as -10 + 30 = 20). However if our sun was at 28 degrees Virgo in the Tropical zodiacit will now be at 28 – 24 = 4 degrees Virgo in the sidereal zodiac. It has still moved backwards, but in this case it has not changed sign

[5] Quoted by By Swami Purnachaitanya’ of the Art of Living Foundation

[6] Quoted by the enlightened Vedic Master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “Shiva doesn’t have a body, he was never a person at all. To symbolize the unfathomable, the infinite divinity, and to make it comprehensible for young people, for children and others, they made a form. In fact, there is no form to Shiva.

Shiva is a principle (Tattva) from where everything has come, everything is sustained in it, and everything dissolves into it. Shiva is the space, it is the consciousness. There is no way that you can even step out of Shiva at any time because Shiva is the summum bonum of the whole creation. That is why Shiva’s body is depicted in blue because blue signifies the sky; the all-pervading infinity which has no limits, and no shape.

The consciousness which is bliss and innocence, the consciousness which is the bestower of dispassion – is Shiva. The whole world is moving in an auspicious rhythm of innocence and intelligence – that is Shiva. The permanent and eternal source of energy, the eternal state of being, the one and only one – is Shiva.”

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Additional Information on Vedic Astrology

‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Houses in Jyotish

Summary: Covering the Equal House concept in Jyotish, together with an analysis of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ houses, including topics on: Kendra, Trikona, Dusthana, and Upachaya houses.

The Equal House Concept

Jyotish divides the 360 degrees of the sky up into twelve equal sectors of 30 degrees width and this produces twelve equal width ‘Houses’. Jyotish always uses the Sidereal Zodiac.

Each house governs particular areas of life. Details about the main significations of each house are given in the article ‘The Twelve Houses’. Most chart interpretations are based on a house‑by‑house analysis.

In Jyotish, each of the twelve houses corresponds exactly with a particular sign. Therefore in Vedic Astrology a house cannot overlap between two signs.

Western Astrology usually starts the first house at the exact degree of the ascendant. Not so in Jyotish. In vedic Astrology the first house corresponds with the whole sign that contains the ascendant, irrespective of its exact positional degree[1].

So in Jyotish, if our exact ascendant position is located at say 1 degree Leo, or 29 degrees Leo, or anywhere in between, then the first house corresponds exactly with the whole 30 degrees of Leo: the second house will correspond exactly with the whole of the sign of Virgo: the third with Libra, etc. The house containing the ascendant is shown by a diagonal line on the birth-chart.

Equal House Diagram in Jyotish

The South Indian chart format (probably easiest for beginners) numbers houses in a clockwise direction from the sign containing the ascendant (which is shown by the diagonal line in Leo in the above diagram)

The signs always stay in the same boxes in all charts, so Pisces will always be in the top left hand corner.

Houses do not have exactly the same meaning in Jyotish as they do in the Western system.

Errors in birth-times can throw the system out completely when an ascendant is near a boundary between two houses – but there are ways around this [2].

 

‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Houses

The planet ruling a particular house changes as the ascendant changes.

For example, the planet ruling the 1st house is the Moon for a Cancer ascendant but the Sun for a Leo ascendant (see article on which planets rule which signs).

Irrespective of the zodiacal sign to which they correspond, good houses strengthen planets placed in them and ‘bad’ houses weaken them.

 

Trikona or Trinal Houses

According to Jyotish the 5th and 9th houses (‘Trinal’ or ‘Trikona’ houses) are very good indeed in that planets occupying these houses do well and are strengthened.

Therefore the good, natural characteristics of the planet occupying either the 5th or the 9th are strengthened and can deliver the full benefits associated with them

Any houses associated with the occupying planet are also greatly strengthened.

The rulers of the 5th and 9th houses carry with them a positive energy.They bring this to the house in which they are placed.

They also benefit (with this positive energy) any planet they are near to (conjunct), or which they aspect.

 

Kendras or Angular Houses

The Kendras (Angular houses) i.e. 1, 4, 7 and 10 are ‘good’ houses. Planets placed in them are strengthened. These houses themselves represent benign things.

A good house has two effects: it strengthens planets in it and all of their associations; its ruler carries a positive energy with it and benefits wherever it is placed.

 

Dusthanas or Negative Houses

Houses 6, 8, and 12 (Dusthanas) are ‘negative’ houses.

The houses themselves do not represent anything inherently evil but they are said to be negative because they seriously weaken planets placed in them. So, the good natural characteristic of the planets occupying them suffer.

In addition, the houses ruled by planets occupying the 6th, 8th, or 12th are also weakened and damaged, so that matters connected with them are also harmed.

The planets that rule the 6th, 8th, or 12th houses are also considered to carry with them a negative energy – this disturbs the house in which they are placed, or planets they are near to (conjunct), or which they aspect.

The 8th is the worst of the three!

Although they are considered negative we should be aware that a good sixth house means we overcome our ‘enemies’, a good eighth indicates a long life, and a good twelfth means we have little expenditure and loss (and are making good spiritual progress towards enlightenment).

 

Upachaya or Growing Houses

Houses 3, 6, and 10 and 11 have been declared Upachaya houses (‘growing houses’) where any problems indicated get better with time and where malefic planets eventually do some good. Therefore malefics are generally best placed either in their Own, or Exalted signs, or in Upachaya houses.

 

Planets Ruling Two Houses

If we look at the chart on sign ruler-ship (sign ownership), we see that only the Sun and Moon each rule a single house (Leo and cancer respectively).

Sign Ownership or Rulership by Planets in Jyotish

All the other planets rule two houses. So, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn, all rule two houses (because they each rule two signs).

Special rules govern these cases. The rules enable us to determine if the energy these planets carry with them, over and above their natural characteristics, is on balance, positive or negative.

This is quite a complex subject and will be dealt with in a separate article. Most books on Jyotish fail to deal with this subject clearly (if at all)!

If the overall balance from the above is positive we say the planet is a ‘ functional benefic’. If negative we say it is a ‘ functional malefic’. There are also degrees of  positivity and negativity too.

This topic is really important when an astrologer prescribes ‘remedial measures’ for a person. Functional benefic planets for a particular ascendant can be strengthened (note: ‘strong equals good’) with appropriate gemstones, but functional malefic one’s can’t. These then have to be ‘strengthened’ in other ways such as chanting planetary mantras, acts of charity, or special Vedic ceremonies such as Yagnas (Yagyas). But not by using gemstones.

Note: Neither Rahu or Ketu rule or own any houses.

Footnotes

[1] The ascendant is located in the sign of the zodiac that appears to be ‘rising’ on the Eastern horizon at the time of our birth. So, if we looked at the Eastern horizon at the time of our birth and saw it was at  20 degrees Capricorn, we would say we had a ‘Capricorn Ascendant’. The ascendant is shown by a diagonal line in the chart. Note: this is in the Sidereal Zodiac used by Jyotish – not the Tropical one used by Western Astrology.

[2] Very skilled and experienced Vedic Astrologers can ‘work backwards’ from life events to determine a person’s birth-time! This process is called ‘rectification of birth-time’.


Additional Resources for Students of Vedic Astrology

Boosting Immunity with Ayurveda – Overview

Summary: Ayurveda provides a range of simple, low cost strategies to help improve our immune system. With links to detailed resources on building better immunity through the Ayurvedic use of herbs and spices, lifestyle and diet choices, strengthening Ojas, detoxification programmes and the practice of meditation, yoga and pranayama.

Key strategies used by Ayurveda to help us build a strong immune system

Boosting Immunity with Ayurveda – Overview

In the West we have become used to ‘quick-fixes’ to solve our health problems. If we have a headache we take a pill to quickly get rid of it. If we have an infection we take antibiotics. Modern Western medical science offers quick-fix and convenient solutions to many common health problems. However, when a new viral or multiple-antibiotic resistant bacterial disease surfaces, Western medicine is left searching for a solution. Finding new antibiotics, or developing a vaccine, can take many years to test and effectively deploy. The good news is that the ancient science of Ayurveda offers simple, unique advice on how we can boost our immune system and therefore prevent many diseases – without any intervention from modern medicine.

Ayurveda is empowering too. Instead of waiting for ‘them’ to develop a new generation of antibiotics or vaccines, we can take steps today to start improving the strength of our immune system.

In the West we use many ‘battle’ analogies when it comes to tackling disease. For example, we often talk about ‘fighting off’ a disease, ‘doing battle’ with cancer, etc. Ayurveda does not see these descriptions as being helpful. Rather, it views health promoting strategies in terms of purification, and rebalancing of our natural systems. It uses the analogy of a field – if the field is well tended the seeds of disease cannot even germinate!

In order to understand the principles and origins of Ayurveda it is going to require a paradigm shift for those of us familiar with the Western allopathic medical system. Fortunately however, there is absolutely no need to understand any of it in order to experience the numerous extraordinary benefits!

Ayurveda – Much More Than Herbal Medicine

Many people view Ayurveda simply as a form of traditional herbal medicine. Ayurveda does indeed offer a range of herbal supplements – many of which can greatly improve our immune system. So, taking an Ayurvedic product rather than a pharmacological product has a certain appeal. In the correct dosage, Ayurvedic products have minimum side effects, maximum ‘side benefits’ and provide a quick, convenient and low cost way of boosting our immunity. Ayurvedic herbs can also help with simple detoxification strategies, further improving our resistance to disease.

However, Ayurveda offers a far greater range of techniques and advice for boosting our immunity than just using herbal products. If we can combine some of these strategies we can develop a ‘super effective’ immune system. Furthermore, Ayurveda does not see ‘health’ as just an absence of disease; it views it as a positive state of wellbeing resulting in feelings of joy and enthusiasm for life!

Ayurveda offers an integrated solution to building an exceptionally powerful immune system through a number of different approaches.

It recognises the combined value of meditation, use of herbs, improving digestion, strengthening Ojas, diet and lifestyle choices, detoxification regimes, together with yoga and pranayama to build a better immune system.

Any one of these different facets can be followed with positive results. Taken together they work synergistically to provide almost invincible immunity! However, in order to achieve this ‘super state of wellbeing’, we are going to have to follow some elements of an Ayurvedic lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

Ayurvedic Lifestyle and Diet

What exactly does an ‘Ayurvedic Lifestyle’ involve? Well, it certainly means being aware of the rhythms of nature, so it gives advice on daily and seasonal routines. This means we are ‘going with the flow’, rather than facing ‘an uphill struggle’ against nature. Being ‘in tune’ with nature results in better health, wellbeing and a stronger immune system. We don’t need to follow these guidelines obsessively, but just go in their general direction. Part of these daily routines also contain tips for getting better sleep.

Incorporating some elements of meditation, yoga and pranayama on a regular basis into our daily routines will also help us remove the ongoing stresses we accumulate from our modern world. This will further boost our immunity.

Ayurveda offers really practical advice on diet, such as tips for meal times, strenthening our digestive fire (Agni), etc. We will also need to follow (again not obsessively) an Ayurvedic diet tailored to our particular mind-body type (as categorised in the Vata-Pitta-Kapha system).

An Ayurvedic lifestyle implies we need to pay attention to the ‘three key pillars’ that support our well-being and health – Nutrition, Lifestyle and Sleep!

Feeling Great with Ayurveda – a Positive Spin-off to Good Immunity

So, using a range of Ayurvedic principles to boost our immune system is going to involve some effort and a willingness to make a few changes. However, if we use this ancient wisdom to improve our immune system there are many positive ‘spin offs’ in addition to a achieving a strong immune system! People who follow Ayurveda report experiencing a much greater ‘feel good factor’, more enthusiasm for life and a deep, unshakeable sense of well-being. The experience of pure joy also grows in our awareness – wow!

Even adopting a few Ayurvedic principles can help us begin our journey towards a strong immune system and a great ‘feel good’ factor. We don’t have to follow everything all at once, but we do need to make a start somewhere! Try any one of them for a couple of months and see how you feel.


Related Articles on Boosting Immunity – from Respected Websites

 

 

Ayurvedic Herbs to Boost Immunity

Summary: Ayurveda suggests a range of herbs, spices and herbal preparations that can significantly improve our immune system: Turmeric, black pepper, Amla, Chyawanprash, Amruth, Triphala etc.

If we have an ideal diet (ideal that is for our particular mind-body constitutional type e.g. Vata, Pitta or Kapha), very good digestion and an Ayurvedic lifestyle we will already have a strong immune system, be in very good general health and really don’t need supplements at all!

However, Ayurveda recognises that this ideal situation is not always possible and suggests herbs (or combinations of herbs called ‘Rasyanas’) that can help boost our immunity.

Ayurveda – a Holistic Approach

It is worth noting that in Ayurveda the main emphasis is on the prevention of disease. So we really need to address any immunity issues before we get ill. Prevention is also much simpler and much cheaper than cure!

In the West we have a tendency to analyse, synthesise and then ‘commercialise’! If any traditional medicine system appears to identify a beneficial herb, we first try to identify the ‘active ingredient’ present in the herb. Then we concentrate it in our capsules, or even try to synthesize the ingredient artificially, before selling it.

Ayurveda takes a more holistic approach. The Vedic viewpoint suggests that the whole universe, all the elements in it, all the plants and every living being are expressions of an all pervading field of intelligence and energy  Herbs are part of this field too and are simply used to realign our human physiology with that ‘field of intelligence’.  This corrects any ‘mistakes’ in the underlying ‘programming’ (inherent in the operation of our physiological systems) that gave rise to the disease in the first place. To use a modern analogy; Ayurveda sees the use of herbs more like a ‘software update or security-fix’ than a hardware repair job!

Ayurvedic Spices to Boost Immunity

Even readily available commonly used kitchen spices, such as ginger, turmeric and black pepper have many health promoting properties. These ‘kitchen spices’ can be really beneficial in improving our digestive abilities and also boosting our immunity.

Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been regarded as a potent antibiotic and anti-inflammatory in Ayurveda for thousands of years. It is usually taken as a teaspoon of turmeric powder stirred into hot milk. Very simple! Very cheap! Cooking with turmeric in the Indian style (i.e. herbs cooked first in ghee before adding to lentils or a curry) is also good.

If this is not practicable, then turmeric can be taken in capsule form, but be sure to include something like Lecithin (a phospholipid) with the turmeric. This greatly increases its bioavailability. Some people say that the addition of pepper [1] to turmeric increases its bioavailability. This is perfectly true, but the latest research suggests taking phospholipids, such as lecithin, with turmeric is even more effective than using pepper. Lecithin granules (from soya) can be obtained from most health food stores.

An American database of medical and physiological research now shows over 12,000 citations for turmeric alone. Recent research also points to its anti-viral properties. So, investigating turmeric further could be useful in our current pandemic situation!

Pepper and Ginger

What about other commonly available spices in our ‘kitchen pharmacy’? Well, both pepper and ginger are both used in Ayurvedic medicine. Although not directly having antibiotic properties, they are useful in that they stimulate the internal digestive fire or Agni which can then burn off toxins (Ama) and disease in the form of bacteria etc. Pepper itself is also useful when mixed with other herbs as it can increase their bioavailability. Ginger is often described as ‘the universal medicine’ in Ayurveda as it is so valuable for igniting the internal digestive fire (Agni) which then destroys toxins.

Pepper and ginger are so valuable that they form the basis of an Ayurvedic powder or churna called ‘Trikatu’. This powder is a mixture of dry ginger, black pepper and Indian long pepper – its use is covered more fully in the article on ‘improving digestion to boost immunity’.

Ayurvedic Herbs to Boost Immunity

Specialised Ayurvedic herbs have now become readily available in the West. Certain herbs and herbal formulations have strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Many have been shown to improve our immunity and the way our bodies respond to infection i.e. the immunomodulatory response. Some also improve our digestion – which in Ayurveda is also linked to our ability to ‘burn-off’ disease. The following section looks at a few of these Ayurvedic ‘super-herbs’.

Ayurvedic products containing the fruit of Amla are major boosters of our immune system! Amla is also known as: ‘Amalaki’ – ‘Amla Berry’ – ‘Emblic Myrobalan’ –  ‘Indian Gooseberry’ – Emblica officinalis Phyllanthus emblica.  There is a huge amount of positive research into the effectiveness of this herb!

Chyawanprash

A well-regarded preparation which contains Amla is called ‘Chyawanprash’ (pronounced Cha-van-prash). This has withstood the long test of time as the knowledge of how to prepare it has been around for thousands of years. Although its main ingredient is Amla, it contains a multitude of other herbs which work synergistically. Chyawanprash is readily available in the West and it is a ‘must have’ product for anyone wishing to strengthen their immune system in a natural way. It is also regarded as a great restorative. Another key benefit of Chyawanprash is that it boosts Ojas in our system. The higher the level of Ojas – the higher is our immunity.

Amla Rasayana

Other immune system strengthening products containing Amla are ‘Amla Rasyana’ or ‘Amalaki Rasyana’. A Rasayana is just a life-supporting mixture of herbs made to a specific formula. Like Chyawanprash these also contain other herbs which work synergistically to produce a super-effective Ayurvedic supplement. Both Chyawanprash and Amalaki Rasyana are available as a paste or ‘herbal jam’ so are real easy to take.

Once again, there is an increasing amount of research into the anti-ageing aspects (e.g. effects on telomerase activity in cells) of these Ayurvedic preparations. In the West we might say that these products boost our immunity because they are a great natural source of Vitamin C. Perfectly true, but as Chyawanprash is a mixture of many herbs, its healing and restorative properties are probably due to far more complex mechanisms than just its Vitamin C content!

Amruth  – ‘Giloy’ – ‘Guduchi’

Another herbal preparation of great benefit to our immune system contains Amruth (‘Giloy’ – ‘Guduchi’ – Tinospora cordifolia). It is one of the most valued of all Ayurvedic super-herbs! Amruth is acknowledged for its anti-inflammatory properties and its use in the treatment of fever and flu. It also improves the way our bodies respond to infection i.e. the immunomodulatory response. Amruth can be taken in capsule form. There is a growing body of scientific research into Amruth.

Triphala

Triphala is a mixture of three key Ayurvedic herbs. It is a superb supplement for getting rid of toxins in the colon and helping regular elimination. This in turn helps strengthen our immunity. Triphala also contains Amla; alongside Bibhitaki and Haritaki. This herbal product (available as tablets) is covered in more depth in the article on detoxification.

Other Ayurvedic Herbal Mixtures

Other potent, but less well known Ayurvedic ‘power’ herbal mixtures are: Tulsi Arka  (aka Tulasi Ark) – said to be anti-viral and an immune system booster, and the powder or churna Kabasura Kudineer – said to be good for the respiratory system. Arka type products are liquids made from a distillation  process. Kudineers are solutions we can make at home from a powder (a bit like herbal teas).

On a slightly more esoteric note, there is a new product linked to Ayurveda which a long term Sadhak (spiritual seeker) recently remarked is a bit like ‘Homeopathic Holy Water’! I am referring to the ‘Shakti Drops’ produced by Sri Sri Tattva Ayurvedic Products. The drops contain the essence of six key Ayurvedic super herbs. The stated dosage taken is very small – only five or six drops are needed in a glass of water.

Purchasing Ayurvedic Herbs

This site has no commercial links, so the advice given here is unbiased and based on the experiences of the author.

Fortunately, Ayurvedic herbs have become much easier to obtain over the past twenty years. In part this is due to the growing awareness of Ayurveda in the West and partly due to the online market place availability (e.g. Amazon and eBay).  There are now many good, quality suppliers.

When buying Ayurvedic herbal supplements I usually prefer to get products (particularly Rasayanas i.e. complex herbal mixtures) from suppliers involved in people’s spiritual development (these are often Ashram based). There are a number of these organisations around and, although often little known outside India, many are surprisingly large scale operations. This means they have access to the top Ayurvedic experts, have strict Quality Assurance procedures in place and have access to the best laboratories for testing their products. Many of them also support local farmers who grow and harvest the herbs to their specifications.

A number of suppliers, particularly ‘Health Food’ type shops, tend to fall into the Western mind-set trap of selling capsules incorporating just the ‘active ingredient’ (e.g. curcumin in turmeric). Another processing error is to produce smaller and lighter tablets with a ‘concentrate’ of the herb. If you really can’t find anything else then these are, in my opinion, ‘just about acceptable’ as alternatives – but they ignore many of the fundamental Ayurvedic principles relating to herbal preparations.

 A Few Recommended Suppliers

    • Maharishi Ayurvedic Products – relatively expensive, but high quality products available in USA, UK and Europe. Their website usually carries some Ayurvedic health tips too
    • Products from the Swami Ram Dev organisation. An extensive range of quality Ayurvedic products available in USA, UK and Europe under the ‘Patanjali’ brand.
    • Products from the Art of Living under the ‘Sri Sri Tattva’ brand (a large NGO founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) – another high quality supplier
    • Products from smaller (but good) suppliers which usually sell a small range of Ayurvedic herbs: Essential Ayurveda: Swansons : Planetary Herbals : Pukka

Footnotes

[1] The best pepper to increase bioavailability is actually Indian Long Pepper (Piper longum). This is not to be confused with the cheaper Indonesian Long Pepper (Piper retrofactum). It is different from the ordinary Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) too!


Other Key strategies used by Ayurveda to help us build a strong immune system

or, return to  Boosting Immunity with Ayurveda – an Overview article

Increasing Ojas to Improve Immunity

Summary: Examining the role of the subtle substance ‘Ojas’ in our immune system. In Ayurveda increased levels of Ojas correspond with higher levels of immunity. Practical advice on increasing Ojas.

Ojas plays a key role in maintaining a high level of immunity in the science of Ayurveda.

Ojas is described as a ‘subtle substance’. So subtle in fact that there is no direct equivalent of Ojas (pronounced ‘oh-jus’) in the Western medical model of human physiology [1]. We can however, think of Ojas as being like the sap in a tree. Although invisible, it pervades and nourishes all parts of the tree – the branches, the leaves, the flowers and the fruit. In Ayurveda Ojas is said to be the ‘concentrated essence’ of all the bodily tissues (the Ayurvedic ‘dhatus’). Some describe Ojas as the ‘essence of vitality’ – if our levels are low our health, energy and enthusiasm all suffer.

Ojas is actually created in our bodies through the proper digestion of food. Perfect digestion gives rise to lots of Ojas and a very strong immune system.  So, foods that are easy to digest tend to enable more Ojas to be produced – foods that are difficult to digest produce less.

A low level of Ojas leads to a weak immune system. A high level corresponds with a strong immune system. If the immune system is sufficiently strong, then Ayurveda suggests no bacterial or viral infection will ever be able to settle in our system. If we can raise our immune system to this higher level Ayurveda suggests that vaccination for protection against disease is then simply unnecessary!

How to Increase Ojas in Our System

Ojas and Diet

Fresh, home cooked foods generally strengthen Ojas.

Pre-prepared, tinned, frozen foods, and leftovers, etc., all deplete Ojas. Foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and fried food are difficult to digest and also lower Ojas. Smoking cigarettes (worse still, non-prescribed drugs) and alcohol all lower the body’s ability to produce Ojas.

In general, Sattvic foods increase Ojas and both Rajasic and Tamasic foods deplete it. Sattvic foods are generally light, freshly prepared, pure, easily digestible and eaten in moderately sized portions. Tamasic foods such as red meat and oily fried foods are heavy and dull and difficult to digest. Rajasic foods such as onion and garlic can bring drive and energy, but also stimulate strong desires and emotions.

Examples of Sattvic, Ojas enhancing foods are: locally grown in-season sweet fruits and vegetables, dairy produce (except hard cheeses), grains such as rice,  nuts (not peanuts), sweet tastes in general (not from refined sugars but natural sweetness from milk [2], unsalted butter and bread). A Sattvic diet is sometimes referred to as a ‘Yogic’ diet.

Certain specific foods such as sesame seeds (e.g. in Tahini), almonds, dates, raisins, ghee (clarified butter), raw (unheated) honey, boiled organic milk and organic plain yoghurt also increase Ojas.

We don’t have to be obsessive about diet, but generally favour the more Ojas producing and Sattvic foodstuffs. It’s perfectly ok to occasionally eat meat if that’s what you really want – as long as you are aware of the consequences (both health-wise and karma-wise)!

 Ojas – Other Factors

Ojas also gets depleted by negative emotions, such as excess anger, worry and fear. Meditation can help rectify this.

Over work and lots of travel also lower our levels of Ojas and consequently weaken our immune system. Travel also disturbs the Vata element in our bodies.

Ojas is said to be present in semen – so excessive sex can result in lowering of Ojas for a man. What is classified as ‘excessive’ depends on an individual’s VPK mind-body type – Kapha types can have more frequent sex than Vata types without any problems. This is not a moral judgement, but based on the principles of Ayurveda. If we have high levels of Ojas we may not be too concerned about this – but if we are showing symptoms of low Ojas then we should consider it carefully. Of course, in the yogic traditions there is the practice of tantric sex – where couples have sex but there is no ejaculation, thus maintaining a high level of Ojas.

Spiritual practices (such as yoga, meditation, bhajans (devotional singing), company of evolved souls, singing in church, etc.), being in nature, looking after animals, loving relationships and an Ayurvedic lifestyle all increase Ojas and boost our immunity.

Additional information on Ojas and how to boost it can be found on the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health website and the Svastha Ayurveda Blog – both contain informative articles and practical advice.

Footnotes

[1] There is also no equivalent of the Ayurvedic concept of Nadis (subtle energy channels) either – although Chinese medicine identifies something similar as ‘meridians’.

 [2] Milk is currently unfashionable among the health conscious, but Ayurveda loves it – provided it is first boiled (can try adding a couple of pinches of dry ginger powder to lighten it). Never take it direct from the fridge. Don’t drink it with meals either.


Other Key Ayurvedic  Strategies to Build a Strong Immune System

or, return to  Boosting Immunity with Ayurveda – Overview article