The fire at Indian Point Nuclear Power station, close to New York City, as well as the recent forest fire raging in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, serves to remind us that we are living in a nuclear age of invisible hazards--and need to protect ourselves accordingly. Assurances that 'the fire presents no danger to the public' have a hollow ring to those of us who live near current or former nuclear facilities. After decades of living near Rocky Flats former nuclear weapons plant (now wildlife refuge), I am only too used to bland reassurances from the DOE and the nuclear industry. Ionizing radiation damages DNA--and the effects of exposure may show up decades later.
How could Ayurveda possibly help us with radioprotection? Aren't we facing a uniquely modern hazard? As it turns out, we have an excellent array of radioprotective herbs within the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia--and even in your spice cabinet. Radiation damages DNA both directly and also though the formation of free radicals that create oxidative stress--something the de-aging herbs of Ayurveda are intended to tackle.
Radioprotection can occur through several mechanisms:
Suppressing the formation of free radicals
Detoxifying free radicals
Helping our cells protect themselves (for science buffs, we're talking about superoxide dismutase, glutathione etc)
Enhancing DNA repair
Delaying cell division
All of these are typical pharmacological actions of many herbs and antioxidants.
You won't get much radioprotection from a standard American diet! But fruits and vegetables offer vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene and antioxidant phytochemicals such as flavonoids, while legumes are a great source of folic acid. So a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes provides ongoing protection.
Protection in your spice cabinet:
Turmeric provides you with curcumins that that help reduce radiation-induced carcinogenesis, as well as preventing free radical oxidative damage.
Ginger also has powerful radioprotective actions including increasing glutathione, reducing lipid peroxidation and scavenging of various free radicals.
Garlic helps protect the nervous system and the eye from radiation damage.
Mint protects the blood, bone marrow and nervous system from radiation sickness and prevents damage to chromosomes. Drinking large amounts of mint tea before or after exposure could, according to animal studies, be helpful even in major radiation exposure.
Protection with common Ayurvedic home remedies:
Tulsi tea is a popular beverage. And as well as all its other amazing actions, it protects against radiation-induced chromosome damage, lipid peroxidation and reduction in glutathione concentration. So drink plenty of tulsi tea for all the benefits if offers.
Chyavanprash is a delicious rejuvenative jam enjoyed by people of all ages. Its main ingredient is Amla fruit, which protects against radiation damage by supporting superoxide dismutase and glutathione. Chyavanprash also contains many other radioprotective adjuvant herbs such as pippali.
Triphala is not only an important colon cleanser and general rejuvenative, it also has been found in animal studies to be a very good radioprotective formulation, due to its ability to reduce oxidative damage.
Brahmi tea (centella asiatica) not only calms your mind, it's also very radioprotective. Better still, enjoy tulsi-brahmi tea if you have a concern about ionizing radiation.
Pippali or long pepper is a famed Ayurvedic herb that is often taken alongside your formula or in the form of a medicated milk or medicated ghee.
Other important radioprotective herbs include guduchi, bhumyamlaki, pau d'arco and its relatives (known in India as rohitaka and in Mexico as tronadora), bael fruit, and amaranth leaf (a popular Mexican vegetable). Ask your Ayurvedic practitioner to create you a personalized radioprotective formula. Or, for Alandi Ayurveda patients, our Healthy Cell tincture is extremely radioprotective.
We can't avoid living in a world with increased background radiation. And some of us are especially at risk due to proximity to current or former nuclear facilities. By making use of our herbal allies, we can help reduce the negative impacts of ionizing radiation.
Herbal Radiomodulators: Applications in Medicine, Homeland Defence and Space by Rajesh Arora
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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