"It is beneficial to remember that man being a creation of nature, will seek his source of sustenance from nature alone. Any deviation will tantamount to interference in the grand scheme."
I would like to believe that my grandmother has already assumed a beautiful life form somewhere. Nature has probably immortalized her kind soul in the firmament above as a shining star looking down upon her descendants with her protective vision. A child of nature herself, she spent her life with utmost reliance on nothing but agents and forces of nature for guidance and healing. She has left behind a legacy of traditional practices and inculcation of faith in nature's power for the entire family to follow. I have learnt so much from her, about the value of natural growth and healing that it's only befitting for the present purpose, that I share my learnings here. We often discussed Ayurveda as a potent alternative to modern day chemically synthesized products.
As long back as I can remember, the first time I heard her educating us was perhaps when I was in my fourth standard when she readily discouraged the popular perception that advertised health drinks had anything good to do with my growth. Worried by my relatively slow growth rate, my mother must have found the answer to her worries in the alluring TV commercial health / growth drinks. That too when men wearing doctor's apron sold them with tacit guarantee. Granny laughed off the idea and scribbled down the names of a couple of vegetables and fruits and handed out the note to my mother with instructions to ensure that I regularly ate those. She looked at me and lovingly advised me to remain actively indulged in sports at school. I grew alright. Later when my sister was born, granny took precautions. She was scathingly averse to administration of synthetic products of non natural origins, howsoever popular, to babies and children. Therefore she declared in no uncertain terms that no synthetic baby oil, lotion etc shall be used on her granddaughter. Alternatively, she ensured that she was massaged properly with warm oil and her bathing water was well cleansed with familiar looking herbs with soothing scent. Granny had her own people who brought her the required stock of herbs and shrubs from some far off place. Fortunately for my sister, ayurvedic tonics had gained prominence for their usefulness among children, by the time she was five. She thus had the benefit of ayurvedic warm oil massage during her infancy and the advantage of ayurvedic tonics to enhance her overall mental and physical development. One look at our adolescent photographs and the difference between our physique tells easily. It was pretty reassuring to know that when my cousin's daughter was born a few years back, grandma let her use Dabur Lal Ayurvedic Baby Massage Tail , even though she normally disapproves use of anything purchased from market, on babies. She had a good hard look at the bottle from all sides, strained her bespectacled eyes on the ingredients list, poured the contents on her palm and took a long deep smell of the oil and handed the bottle back to my cousin with a smile. Baby massage has considerable benefits for the infant. It calms the baby and ensures that he gets a sound sleep. Proper massaging of baby improves his digestive system and helps in the release of flatulence. A good oil massage helps babies to be more flexible and even increases the blood circulation in their bodies. No wonder massaging augments growth in babies.
Many years later when I got curious about the source of her knowledge and started hunting for some secret diary of my granny, I actually stumbled upon a journal which was full of tips and notings regarding a number of, what seemed like, ayurvedic and other natural sciences. It was in those pages that I found out that my sister was being given, during her infancy, something known as 'Abhyanga' massage oils during her early morning and evening massages. The herbs used for the massage were Country Mallow (Atibala) and Sesame (Tila) for protecting her delicate skin against topical infections. The soothing herbs which were being put in her bathing water were herbal extracts such as Banyan Tree (Vata) and Sandal (Chandana) that are full of fragrance and antimicrobial properties. There was a highlighted line in the same page where I discovered this information. It read that such massage also ensures proper growth in children. When I took the diary to my grandmother she closed the book and started speaking. From that day onwards we often discussed Ayurveda and the healing power of nature especially for babies and children.
There is a specific branch of Ayurveda, 'Kaumarbhritya', dedicated to diagnosis and treatment of diseases related to pregnancy, childbirth and pediatrics. It recommends specific diet, routine, nourishment and conduct for women before, during and after delivery. 'Kaumarbhritya' as a discipline of pediatrics incorporates infinitesimal details of various health disorder among children. It gives various natural and herbal remedies to the regular health ailments of a newly born baby. Furthermore it concerns itself with the proper method of nurturing and healthy upbringing of infants as well as purification and improvement of mothers' milk. Apart from this, it also prescribes the ideal diet for newly born babies upto sixteen years of age. Ayurveda recommends milk as a brilliant nourishment for “ojas” in children. (Ojas denotes the substance that connects the mind to the body and consciousness, it is a wholesome biochemical substance that nourishes all body tissues and has a direct influence on the nature and quality of physical, mental and emotional life.) There are many preparations in Ayurveda that work as antioxidants. Combination of honey and ginger is one of them. Raw organic honey helps to expectorate excess mucus and ginger juice maintains ‘Agni’ or so called digestive fire. A daily teaspoon of this combination can prevent common flu, cold, and allergies; one can also add a pinch of turmeric. The appropriate dose of fresh and green or wholesome foods is indispensable for children. Feeding children with nutritious meals is helpful for their healthy growth. Food such as vegetable soups, hot cereals, jams and kitchari provide nutrients that are easily digested. It is necessary to introduce small pinches of digestive spices such as fennel, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric and coriander to remove toxins from body. Every child is born with his own uniform percentage of Vayu, Pitta and Kapha. While vayu denotes wind and pitta signifies bile, kapha stands for phlegm. The key lies in maintaining equilibrium amongst these three elements.
Today when the market is flooded with medicines (allopathic) for all kinds of ailments, it should be the endeavour of parents, in my opinion, to ensure that their children are administered less and less allopathy. Ayurvedic products are a brilliant source of treatment, enrichment, nourishment and could perhaps be used as an efficient alternative for Allopathy, atleast in case of common ailments like common cold, flu, etc. in children. It is in the larger interest of children that they should be given nature based treatment. They have no side effects and are tested by generations preceding ours. I remember the elders of my family always advocated the use of ayurvedic products instead of chemical based or synthetic products. Instead of running to the nearby pharmacist at the first sneeze, parents should see if the body of their child heals itself naturally. As that would ensure stronger immunity.
Ayurveda, to my understanding is the sum total of nature. It is believed that since all the elements of the universe are assimilated in man, the answer to his difficulties must therefore emanate from nature itself. Unlike modern medicine, Ayurveda emphasizes on individual rather than on the disease. Its foundation is based on the maintenance in humans, of equilibrium, of what I have already referred to as the three doshas namely vayu, pitta and kapha. It is indeed interesting that Ayurveda does not stress on these doshas as much as it focuses on forces that cause these substances to be produced in the body. They are the consequence of the assimilation of the fundamental elements in the universe by our sensory organs. They exist in all individual constitutions, in characteristic combinations, endowing each with a unique feature. Ordinarily the human body maintains equilibrium in the functioning of these doshas. As per Ayurvedic belief even virulent germs cannot multiply and produce disease if this equilibrium is maintained in the body. Maintaining good health is as important, as per Ayurveda, as treating diseases.
It is often said that things assimilated by a child's body in his formative years will yield dividends likewise in the later days of his life. If this is true then I do not think it should be difficult to choose between chemical based synthetic products and nature based ayurvedic ones, when it comes to deciding which one to allow for our children's bodies. It is time we accepted that mere absence of disease is not health. As parents we should ensure that the mind and body of our babies are nurtured in their early days in such manner that they remain in excellent state throughout their life. It is my personal experience that Ayurveda is a convincing answer in that direction