Thursday, October 3, 2013

Grapes – A food for your Blood

Blood is a liquid connective tissue which has three general functions- transportation, regulation, and protection. It has two major components: 1) blood plasma which is watery liquid that contains water, protein and other solutes like electrolytes, gases etc. and 2) formed elements – Platelets, WBCs, and RBCs.

Platelets occupy less than 1% of the formed elements. Platelets break off from the megakaryocytes in red bone marrow and then enter the blood circulation. In between 150,000 to 400,000 platelets are present in each µL of blood (Tortora). Platelets help to stop blood loss by forming platelet plug and have a short life span, between 5 to 9 days, while dead platelets are removed by spleen and liver.

Platelets essentially contribute towards the immunity of the body by periodical repair of the blood vessels and saving blood loss. Number of platelets becomes essential marker in cases of sever immune attack by extrinsic or intrinsic factors. In cases of Dengue, which is caused by Aedes aegypti there is a constant lapse in number of platelets which may result in internal hemorrhage resulting in potential life risk. Restoration of platelets can be achieved by incorporating dietary changes alone and Ayurveda can contribute essentially in saving lives. Routine consumables can be used judiciously in order to achieve medicinal effect and Ayurvedic life style is all about using food as a medicine.

Food, which help in nourishing our blood is described below with references of its properties and uses mentioned in traditional system of healing – Ayurveda.

द्राक्षा (Grapes)

द्राक्षा पक्वा सरा शीता चक्षुष्या बृहणि गुरुः I grapes

स्वादुपाकरसा स्वर्या तुवरा सृष्टमूत्रविट II

कोष्ठमारुत्कृद वृष्या कफपुष्टिरुचिप्रदा I

हन्ति तृष्णाज्वरश्वासवातवातास्रकामलाः II

कृछ्र अस्रपित्त संमोह दाह शोष मदात्ययान I

आमा स्वल्पगुणा गुर्वी सैवाम्ला रक्तपित्तकृत II

वृष्या स्याद् गोस्तनी द्राक्षा गुर्वी च कफपित्तनुत् I 

                                                             भाव प्रकाश/ फल वर्ग/ ११२- १३

Latin name – Vitis vinifera Linn.

Family – Vitaceae

Bhav Prakash says ripened grapes are naturally laxatives and cold in potency. It increases eye sight, heavy to digest and increases muscle mass in the body. Due to being naturally laxative and cold in potency it helps in removal of excessive pitta from the circulation.

Pitta, when increases by virtue of its hot and liquid qualities results in vidah (sensorial discomfort) which is commonly seen in Dengue fever, like burning of eyes, excessive thirst, aversion to food, itching of the skin and so on. Ayurveda suggests in order pacifying a specific dosha and its qualities, properties which are opposite to the nature of the vitiated dosha should be incorporated. Pitta shares a symbiotic relationship with metabolic factor blood, thus results in multiple disorders related to circulatory system. It is important to find out a drug which should have laxative effect (as it is a default treatment for Pitta) and also possesses cooling effect. Interestingly, Grape contains both the qualities and becomes an obvious choice of medicine where in blood is vitiated due to increase of Pitta.

Grapes, when completely formed are sweet in taste and clears voice. It can be effectively given to those suffering from hoarse voice. It also contains slight astringent taste and increases out flow of urine and stool. It creates bloating of abdomen. Grapes increase male sexual strength but may increase kapha. It induces strength in the body and enhances taste.

It removes excessive thirst. It is highly recommended to those who constantly complain of dry mouth. In such cases dry grapes (raisins) soaked overnight seems to be more appropriate. Ripened grapes which are sweet in taste should be given in fever as it reduces Vidaha which is integral symptom in Fever. Grapes especially are very effective in Asthma. As per Ayurveda, asthma can lead to degeneration of metabolic factors (Dhatu) and deterioration of metabolic factors can lead to various disorders related to malnutrition. In asthma, people generally suffer from anemia especially iron deficient. This is due to poor digestive capacity that metabolic factors cannot absorb heavy minerals from the food. It reduces the oxygen binding and further results in breathlessness on exertion and other symptoms. In such cases iron loading cannot be very good decision due to poor digestive state and in many cases it has been resulted in diarrhea. Grapes become a drug of choice in this case and Ayurveda specially recommend. It removes excess loading of pitta from the circulation being naturally purgative. It also nourishes Rakta Dhatu (Blood), induces strength and increases oxygen binding capacity of the blood cells thus helps in Asthma.

As per Bhav Prakash, seasoned grapes help to treat Arthritis. It is due to the chemical composition of the grapes. It is a rich source of all essential minerals and vitamins which are helpful in bone regeneration. It is a natural source of potassium (185 mg), calcium (11 mg), zinc (0.05 mg), phosphorus (13 mg), vitamin C (10.8 mg), B1 (0.092 mg), B2 (0.057 mg), B6 (0.110 mg), and E (0.700mg) per 100 grams(http://www.botanical-online.com/uvasangles.htm). These all are essential components of healthy bones and tissues. In early changes of osteoarthritis grapes could be used as a natural remedy (diabetic people should use soaked raisins). It is also recommended to those suffering from Gouty Arthritis and Jaundice. It is due to the principle of Pitta detoxification as per Ayurveda. Grapes are naturally diuretic (promotes urination), thus they are helpful in dysuria (painful and burning urination).

In Ayurveda, grapes are essentially recommended in Raktapitta which is generally compared to epistaxis (nasal bleed). It is important to understand that when Ayurveda discusses Raktapitta, it is not about one single disease but a syndrome with various representations which is essentially caused by vitiated Pitta (Fire) and Rakta (Blood). As mentioned before about symbiosis of Pitta and Rakta, whenever pitta gets vitiated especially due to the increase of its hot and liquid properties it results in increase of the blood volume. This increased heat has its own effect on the physiology of rakta (blood) and may result in destruction of essential components of the blood, especially those which help in continuous arterial repair – platelets. This is how raktapitta manifests as per Ayurveda. Due to the increased blood volume and thinning of the arterial walls because of vitiated Pitta especially in the areas where arteries/ capillaries are naturally weak sudden bleeding occurs due to any external/ internal factors like stress, strenuous exercise etc. When it bleeds per nasal it is called Urdhvag Raktapitta (epistaxis), while it per anal bleeding is called as Adhog Raktapitta. When it starts to bleed per cutaneous (through skin) it is named as Tiryak Raktapitta. Per cutaneous bleeds are seen in multiple conditions and generally arise from drastic loss of blood platelets. In dengue also when platelets see a sharp decline red blue rashes are seen on the skin. Grapes, not only removes excess pitta from the blood but also help in bone marrow rejuvenation due to its natural properties and increases platelet count when used as a medicine. It is a useful herbal medicine in all types of Raktapitta. It could be recommended in early stages of Dengue/ Yellow fever to avoid further complications of the deadly viral fever. It is advisable to have 10 – 15 number of fresh ripened grapes especially black grapes three times a day to have medicinal effect of the same. It may generate lose stools which is normal and part of the treatment only. Grapes are also recommended to those suffering from Delirium, burning sensations and mal nutrition. Ayurveda says that soaked raisin is a very effective remedy for post alcohol toxicity and chronic alcoholism.

This article intends to spread awareness about medicinal use of indigenous herbs and common foods available around us. One should use these remedies as medicine only and avoid repetitive, continuous, and excessive use of the same substance because,

योगादपि विषं तीक्ष्णं उत्तमं भेषजं भवेत् !

भेषजं चापि दुर्युक्तं तीक्ष्णं संपद्यते विषं !! च. सू. १/ १२७

With a judicious planning deadly poison could be used as an effective medicine, while a misuse of a lifesaving drug results in a deadly poison.

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