Life-giving water: an Ayurvedic View

Life depends upon water. Yet all too often we grab a glass of ice-water and gulp it down without a thought. Learn how to use water as both a beverage  and a medicine according to the teachings of Ayurveda.

Sanskrit: Āpa, Jala, Pāniya

Ayurvedic Diet_ Water

Hindi: Pāni, jala

The ancient Ayurvedic text Sushruta Samhita places water into two categories: atmospheric water and water that has fallen upon the surface of the earth.

Atmospheric water consists of rain, hail, dew and snow, of which rainwater is the best. Atmospheric water has no taste. It is a life-giving nectar and is the most wholesome form of water for the body.

Actions of pure rainwater include:

·      Enlivening

·      Invigorating

·      Cooling

·      Antipyretic

·      Anti-hypnotic

It conquers vertigo, drowsiness and fainting fits.

Once water lands on the earth, it may acquire the taste of its receptacle, be that a river, a pond, a cistern, a fountain, an artesian spring etc. However, the taste represents contamination, so it is preferable to drink pure water that has no specific taste. In this context, note that contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, amoeba, giardia and other water-borne diseases do not affect the taste of water. We obviously do not want to drink water that has an abnormal taste, since contamination is evident, but unfortunately water that tastes and appears pure could still be contaminated with pathogens or chemical pollutants.

Testing water for purity is not a new idea; Sushrut Samhita recommends putting rainwater in a silver bowl with lightly cooked long grain rice and letting it sit for an hour. Wholesome water will have no affect on the appearance of the rice, whereas water subjected to environmental pollution will cause the rice to become discoloured or slimy. Pure rainwater that is not polluted is known as Gangetic water. Again, this test might be excellent for detecting polluted rainwater such as acid rain. However, it might not reveal the presence of radioactive contaminants in the rainwater, or other forms of pollution unknown in Sushrut’s day.

Today we typically use rain barrels to collect rainwater. However, in ancient times, rainwater was collected by means of a piece of white linen, a technique you could try.  The linen is hung up outdoors with a stone in the centre to dip it so the water drips into a clean vessel placed beneath.  In ancient times, rooftop catchment was also used, since ancient Indian rain gutters, made of burn clay bricks, would not contaminate the water. Once lead became the main rain gutter material, it was another story. Today’s gutters are often made of aluminium, so if you appreciate the toxicity of aluminium, you would not want to use rooftop catchment for bathing or drinking purposes. For Colorado readers, note that rainwater catchment using rain barrels was illegal until May 2016. Now you can legally harvest rainwater!

Sushrut recommends storing your water in a vessel made of gold, silver or earthenware. For reasons of cost, we typically use earthenware or glass.

A number of methods of water purification were of use in ancient times and would certainly improve the vibrational frequency of the water, while some methods, including cloth filtration and use of kataka seeds and sphagnum moss might indeed remove or kill certain pathogens. However, it is advisable to use these methods after purifying your water with a standard technology such as boiling or reverse osmosis. Ancient water purification techniques are seven in number:

·      Kataka seeds,  Strychnos potatorum, , can be ground and used as a coagulant to purify water.

·      Place gems such as gomed (hessonite garnet) in the water.

·      Place lotus roots in the water.

·      Filter water through linen.

·      Place mosses in the water, especially sphagnum moss, which contains iodine.

·      Place a pearl in the water

·      Place a crystal in the water.

Some key points about water consumption from Sushruta with the author’s updates in parentheses:

·      Perfuming water with rosewater or khus is beneficial (although not in cold weather).

·      Drink water from a gold, silver, copper or earthenware goblet or from a quartz or bronze steel bowl (but nowadays water glasses are fine).

·      Do not drink or bathe in contaminated water. It could cause hepatitis, skin diseases, digestive disorders or other serious conditions (including typhoid, intestinal parasites and liver fluke disease to name but a few).

·      Water is best drunk at room temperature. In hot weather water is pleasant if it is cooler than the temperature in a warm room, which can be accomplished by keeping the water in an earthenware pitcher in a corner of the room, where evaporative cooling keeps the water at a pleasant temperature.

·      To render water as nectar-like as rainwater, restore its natural vibrational frequency by solarising and lunarising the water by keeping a sun tea jar of water on a windowsill.

·      Well water increases appetite but may increase pitta also.

·      Artesian water has a sweet taste, is antacid and calms pitta.

·      Cool water(a little below room temperature, not ice-cold) is good for pitta, hot weather, burning sensations, hangover, fatigue, vertigo and vomiting.

·      Do not use cool water if you have catarrh, laryngitis, rheumatism, bloating or in the early stages of a fever

·      Do not drink cold water after an oily or fatty drink.

·      Warm water calms vata and kapha. It aids weight loss, is appetising, diuretic and breaks fever. It is good in cough and breathlessness. Indeed, warm water can be used at all times.

·      To make special medicinal water: boil water down to a quarter of its original volume and then cool it. This is an excellent remedy, which adds more of the light property of agni (fire) to water. It may be safely used by anyone.

·      Kettle water left overnight may become acidic and kapha increasing. (Empty and refill your kettle in the morning).

·      Boiled and cooled water is good for hangover, alcoholic gastritis, pitta diseases and diseases of all three doshas.

Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is an Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.

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