Integrative medicine is considered a treatment where healthcare practitioners combine conventional treatments with holistic ones. In this process, they use various methods to achieve their goal. In the case of skin care, physicians and vaidyas resort to nutritional supplements, acupuncture and Ayurveda, in which they use plant-derived medicines. The principle here is that synergistic combinations can deliver better results than any stand-alone therapy. Here, Dr. Arya Krishna, helps us understand how integrated treatment can be used for treating skin problems.
Initially, we shall try to understand the following in detail:-
- Reason for consumer needs leaning towards herbal cosmetics
- What is Integrative dermatology?
- Introduction to Vibrational Cosmetics
Reason for the high demand for herbal cosmetics in medicine and skincare
The word ‘herbal’ suggest something that is natural and harmless against synthetic chemicals that may otherwise prove to be harmful and toxic to the skin.
Though herbs may not provide an instant cure to skin problems, yet their demand seems to be increasing rapidly due to their skin- friendly nature sans side effects. Instead of the traditional synthetic products, herbal cosmetics use different plant parts and plant extracts like Aloe-Vera Gel and Coconut Oil.
Another important fact is that today people are more familiar with terms like ‘Vegan’ and ‘cruelty- free’. This means that such products are not tested on animals thus they are animal-friendly and are purely made from plant or plant products. The skin absorbs whatever it meets, so by using natural and plant-based products we can avoid harming our body.
What does ‘Vegan’ mean in the cosmetic industry? For any cosmetic product to be Vegan, it must not contain any animal ingredient ,or should it contain any ingredient derived from animal, like honey, bees wax, yogurt, collagen etc.
Thus, herbal cosmetics along with beautiful skin, promote eco-awareness too. These are usually packaged in recycled materials making them environmental- friendly as well.
What is Integrative dermatology?
Integrative Dermatology is a relatively new term coined to describe a treatment therapy that combines Complementary Medicine with Dermatology in the treatment of dermatological conditions. It was first explored in Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, Chapter 241 – Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Dermatology, published in 2007.
Recently, I had a chance to work with Dr. Kavita Beri who is a visiting scientist in the Center for Dermal Research, New Jersey. According to her, the microbiome of the gut and skin is observed to have a strong connection through the host immune system, an evasion strategy used by several pathogens to avoid the innate immune system to hide within the cells of their host (also called intracellular pathogenesis). She also published a few research papers on the role of plant botanicals in cosmetics and their effect on the skin-gut-brain axis. One of her published works in Euro Cosmetics Magazine, discussed the scalp microbiome and in the Cosmetics Open Access Journal she explained the influence of the microbiome through the host immune system, connecting neuro-humoral pathways as well as innate and adaptive immunity of the host. She says that this axis is complex and needs to be unraveled further. An example of this can be seen in patients with psoriasis and the evidence that an altered gut microbial state can have a strong effect on the mental health of the individual. Certain conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema and the changes in skin and gut microbiome can have neuro-hormonal effects that alter the mental well-being too.
The Ayurveda perspective on gut-skin health is no different. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of healing, has implied on the importance of gut health more than 5000 years ago. In Ayurveda, the word Pitta originated from the Sanskrit root ‘tap-santaape’ meaning to heat, to burn or warm up. Pitta is thus described as Agni (fire) as its function resembles that of fire.
The functions of Pitta can be attributed to that of digestion, assimilation, thermos-genesis and metabolism.
Ancient Ayurveda scholars have also mentioned that though the doshas are omnipresent, each of them has a specific location in the body. In this case too, the location of Pitta is in between the navel and epigastrium.
The bhrajaka Pitta located in the skin provides natural luster to the skin. Ayurveda scholar Chakrapani Dutta has mentioned that the production of normal and abnormal temperature of the body as well as normal and abnormal color of the skin is due to bhrajaka Pitta. In short, health and ominous ill health are reflected on the skin. Health and healthy metabolism makes skin radiant, ill health makes it dull and dusky.
There is evidence that a plant-based diet is beneficial for gut-skin microbiome. Therefore, the integrative approach in skincare is gaining momentum these days.
Also, plant stem cells in cosmetics have become popular in topical formulations. Modern extraction methods have been used to obtain potent compounds from plant callous cells that have shown some anti-ageing benefits.
Today, Integrative Dermatology is well-accepted internationally with many new practices starting in many countries, such as the USA.
Let’s understand Vibrational Cosmetics
In today’s stressful modern world, more and more people are turning to nature to find healing. Called Vibrational Medicine or Vibrational Healing, this is actually is a centuries-old practice, performed in different traditions.
The concept of Prana, originating in the Vedas, ancient Indian texts, describes how the “life force” of nature animates all living things, and can be harnessed to heal the body based on ritualistic methods practiced by Ayurveda (Longevity of Life) and Siddha (Adept) medicines.
Certain vibrational methods use the sound vibration of sacred ritualistic chants to harmonize the energy in matter with its surroundings. Chanting mantras, for example, creates peace and energizes the mind-body, such as in Transcendental Meditation.
Ayurveda’s Influence on Vibrational Cosmetics
According to Ayurveda, there are three doshas (functional units of the body)- Vata, Pitta and Kapha. They destroy or maintain the body when vitiated or not, respectively.
These Doshas are constituted by Panchamahabhoota (five primordial elements) by which the entire perceptible universe is formed of, at a subtle, subatomic level. These five mahabhootas constitute the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom and the minerals. Thus, living or non-living, everything is made up of them. Though they cannot be seen, they can be inferred by structure and function of substances. Thus, the food we eat, our body, our excreta, our surroundings, all are constituted of five elements.
Ayurveda is based on this Pancha-Mahabhuta-Siddhanta, the understanding of objects of sense perception in terms of five qualities of objectivity, each one arising from a particular sense. This approach is inclusive of anything with a form and that which occupies space. The perspective can be extrapolated to all things that can be measured, either qualitatively or quantitatively. This is a unique feature of Ayurveda.
When a cosmetic product or medicine is prepared with herbs, we generally use the natural extracts or parts of it from flowers, leaves, fruits, bark, resins and roots. As per the wisdom of Ayurveda, all the parts of a plant are made of the Pancha-maha-bhoota or the energy from the five elements. The five elements are Prithvi (earth), Ap (water), Thejas (Sun), Vayu (air) and Akasha (Ether). These five elements can be considered as five vibrational modes as well. Those who understand Ayurveda deeply state that every material, whether animate or inanimate is medicinal.
The unique, effective, and long-lasting concept of beauty in Ayurveda has led to the emergence of Ayur-cosmaceuticals. The origin of Ayurvedic Cosmeceuticals dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The use of cosmetics was not only directed towards developing an attractive external appearance, but also towards achieving longevity with good health (Sanskrit – Aayush and Aarogyam). There is evidence of highly- advanced concepts of self-beautification, and a large array of cosmetics used by both men and women in ancient India. Many of these practices depend on the season (Rutus) and were subtly interwoven with daily routine (Dinacharya).The whole range of cosmetic usage and its practice as conceived by the ancient Indians was based on natural resources.
Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of chanting mantra for treating various diseases and this happens before the collection of herbal drugs. Shabda (sound) is the very basic form of energy, which is also ever existent as Akasha (ether). Mantra affects not only the manas (Psyche) and Aatma (soul) but also the five sense organs that are similarly involved in the process because these are the instruments through which waves of mantra reach the sole and the mind.
A study conducted by C.R Karnick has shown that ‘in plants from the stage of seedling to the maturity’ are affected by certain types of sound waves, especially Mantras. 16 Plants have shown positive response to these type of sound waves regarding their growth and efficacy in curing diseases.
Balancing the body’s frequency has tremendous health effects on the body. Practicing mindfulness, nature awareness and stillness help one to find the perfect balance.
Same is the case with using vibrational cosmetics. It means tuning your body to the earth’s rhythm and finding the inner purpose and following your heart.
So, what is so special about “Vibrational Cosmetics”, and how can it help us to achieve rejuvenation both within and outside. The concept of Vibrational Cosmetics is to integrate and approach the body as a whole in case of rejuvenation and not just on the surface of the skin. The logic is simple, our skin surface is composed of trillions of bacteria, just like our gut. It is called as the Surface Microbiome. This Microbiome connects to the gut and in turn communicates to our nervous system via a SKIN_GUT_BRAIN axis that is played out in the immune system of our body.
Thus, we are connected- MIND BODY and SKIN. So, for any rejuvenation treatment to be effective it must target all three organs- the gut, the brain and the skin.
Dr. Arya Krishna, BAMS
Ayurveda Consulting Physician & Educational Co-Ordinator
Subject Matter Expert
At Home with Ayurveda (UK)