Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Curd – Let this food be your Medicine

दध्युष्णं दीपनं स्निग्धं कषायानुरसं गुरु
पाके अम्लं ग्राहि पित्तास्रशोथमेदः कफ़प्रदम्
मूत्रकृच्छ्रे प्रतिश्याये शीतगे विषमज्वरे
अतीसारे अरुचौ कार्श्ये शस्यते बलशुक्रकृत
                                          भाव प्रकाश
Curd is prepared by fermentation of milk with bacterial cultures consisting of a mixture of Streptococcus subsp. thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus (Ref. W. J. Lee & J. A. Lucey).
Due to its medicinal properties, curd or yogurt is widely used across the globe, and also becomes an essential part of the diet. Ayurveda, an opulent traditional culture through the time immortal evaluates everything through the scientific eye and establishes the principles of healthy living for generations to come. Indigenous pharmacopeia is very rich and references are found in form of Nighantu (Indian Materia Medica). Bhav Prakash Nighantu explains properties of the curd in detail and also throws light upon medicinal value of it. It is essential to understand that food remains an essential therapy in traditional medicine of India. Achrya Charak says, all the diseases are an outcome of poor absorption capacity of the system. Bringing out the properties of curd and its uses from the traditional books in view of facts and to remove the myths related to the consumption of the curd.
Properties of curd
It is hot in potency. Curd, due to fermentation process possesses hot potency. It is by virtue of change in chemical structure of the milk due to bacterial action. As it is evident that no chemical reaction can occur without the presence of heat, milk which is potentially cold by nature attains pitta property by virtue of the transformation of the chemical structure. Achrya Bhav Prakash says, curd helps in stimulating digestive fire. As per the basic principle of Ayurveda, sour taste is composed of fire and earth. The presence of fire in sour taste stimulates digestive fire, thus curd.
Curd is unctuous in nature and contains astringent sub taste. It is heavy to digest; having said that means that it should be consumed in small quantities in order to maintain a healthy digestive fire.
The final metabolic taste of the curd is sour (amla) as per Bhav Prakash which means it should have a tendency to increase Pitta due to high fire quotient. It has a tendency to create congestion and also binding in nature, this particular effect of the curd is seen in cases of diarrhea where in it helps to bind the stool. Due to its properties of being heavy and unctuous, curd tends to increase fat and may also result in water retention. This is why it is avoided in cases of diseases of kapha origin, specially obesity, cellulite and rheumatoid arthritis. Due to its hot potency and sour metabolic taste, curd tends to vitiate pitta and creates imbalance in blood metabolism resulting in certain skin diseases. Probably, that is the reason why Ayurvedic texts suggest avoiding curds in leukoderma and psoriasis kind of disorders of the skin.
It is specially recommended in Dysuria – a condition with painful micturition. One needs to understand that it specially refers to the condition associated with urinary tract infections or similar to that. In these conditions, ayurveda recommends a specific type of curd which is not fully formed and tasteless; it is called as Mandak (मन्दं दुग्धवत् अव्यक्त रसं). It is diuretic in nature and helps in cleansing of the bladder and urethra. It may result in epigastric burning if consumed in excess.
Curd is also recommended in common cold condition. In common cold after 3 days or so only curd should be advised. Due to its properties of increasing kapha, curd increases per nasal discharge, so once the cold is chronic and nasal discharge is scanty and creating congestion in the nostrils, curd consumption increases the discharge and works as a mucolytic agent. In these conditions completely formed curd having sweet taste should be prescribed.
As per Bhav Prakash, use of curd is beneficial in Visham Jwara (Pyrexia of unknown origin). It is equally beneficial in cases of aversion to food and indigestion. It works well in cases of altered bowel habits and also helps to maintain normal colonic flora being rich in probiotic bacteria. Ayurveda recommends it to those suffering from loss of weight and malnutrition. It induces strength and helps in spermatogenesis (production of sperms).
Rules of consumption
Ayurveda recommends that one should adhere to the rules of food consumption. It is essential to understand that due to complex chemical structures of certain consumables body requires optimum assimilation capacity.
न नक्तं दधि भुञ्जीत...
                                                      च. सू. ७/६१
As per Agnivesha in Charak Samhita one should never consume curd at night. Due to fermentation process curd by nature becomes very heavy to digest. It requires a good amount of metabolic activity in order to be digested thoroughly. Also, at the end of digestion curd increases Kapha and creates congestion in the channels which leads to poor lymphatic drainage. During the day when body is physically active it is easier to manage such congestion but at night when metabolic activity naturally slows down it may result in morning stiffness and water retention, thus leading to poor metabolic absorption (indigestion at cellular level). This is one another reason why curd has been contraindicated for people suffering with Rheumatoid arthritis or chronic indigestion. In order to maintain an optimum health one should never consume curd at night. Although, few other classical author believe that one can consume curd at night mixing it with other foods, but a critical analysis of the previous statement seems more appropriate and one should avoid consuming curd at night in all circumstances. It may generate generalized stiffness, weight gain, edema, puffiness of eyes, heaviness of the head etc.
Furthermore, permutations along with mode of consumption of curd with other foods have been mentioned by Ayurvedic texts as following.
When curd is consumed with ghee, it increases Kapha and pacifies Vata. It could be advised in cases where patient is having chronic cough with scanty mucous which is creating congestion. In such cases curd mixed with ghee would work as a mucolytic agent by virtue of increasing the quantity of Kapha helping in clearing the channels. But this combination may result in indigestion, so it should not be practiced continuously and used for curative values only.
Curd mixed with sugar is very effective in cases of gastritis. In people suffering with burning sensation of the stomach, sugar works as a catalyst to curd and generates cooling effect in curd thus relieving gastric burning. It is recommended to those suffering peptic ulcers and also effective in ulcerative colitis. Diabetic people should be careful using sugar and consume it with mint leaves (Pudina) instead, if required. Curd with sugar is also recommended to those suffering excessive thirst.
Curd, when it is consumed with green lentil clear soup (Mudga Yusha), pacifies vata and maintains pitta equilibrium. It can be used in Pain Abdomen associated with gaseous distention or bloating.
It becomes tastier to eat and produces minimum undue effects when consumed with Honey. And, when consumed with Indian Goose Berry (Amla), curd pacifies Pitta and relieves various skin problems generated by vitiated blood. It is a very good combination in those suffering skin sensitivities due to sun exposure like sun burn, rashes, boils and so on. Curd can also be consumed adding salt into it.
Winter (Hemant), Late winter (Shishir), and Monsoon/ Rainy (Varsha) are the best seasons to consume curd, while in Autumn (Sharad), Summer (Greeshma), and Spring (Vasant) either it should be consumed in moderation or completely avoided in order to maintain an optimum digestive fire.
Ayurvedic wisdom says,
अहाराचार चेष्टासु सुखार्थी प्रेत्य चेह च I परम् प्रयत्नमातिष्ठेद बुद्धिमान् हितसेवने I
                                                                                                   च. सू. ७/ ६०
The one, who seeks best in this life and salvation later, should constantly and continuously engage him/ herself in healthier practices of food and social conduct.

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