Ayurveda adopts a comprehensive approach to treat obesity. Ayurveda explains about a combination of Panchakarma treatments, few simple Ayurvedic medicines, home remedies, and a very easy to follow lifestyle adjustments to lose weight quickly.
Table of Contents
Obesity in Ayurveda
Understanding obesity in Ayurvedic terms:
There are seven body tissues. –
Rasa Dhatu – nutritive part of the digested food
Rakta Dhatu – blood
Mamsa Dhatu – muscle
Meda Dhatu – fat
Asthi Dhatu – bone
Majja Dhatu – bone marrow
Shukra Dhatu – reproductive system, semen, sperm and ovum.
As per Ayurveda, the food nourishes Rasa dhatu. and Rasa, in turn, nourishes Rakta (blood), which nourishes muscle and so on. Or, in other terms, a part of the prior Dhatu gets converted into the next Dhatu.
In Obesity, there is a problem at the level of Meda (fat), nourishing Asthi (bone). This nutrition shift is hampered, because of which more and more of fat tissue gets produced, but it is not being converted further into Asthi (bone), Majja (bone marrow) and Shukra (reproductive system). There is a block in the transition of nutrition from Meda to Asthi.
Another thing that happens in obesity is the excess fat causes an increase in digestive fire. So, the person has a very good appetite, he eats more, the digestion process takes places till the level of Medo dhatu (fat) but it is hampered there, so, more and more fat gets produced, without nourishing further Dhatus hence person keeps on putting on weight.
The last contributing factor in obesity is impaired Vata Dosha. Just as air / wind causes an increase of fire, Vata – resides in the stomach and maintains digestive fire (Agni). In obesity, there is an increase of Vata Dosha, which further causes an increase of digestive strength.
The fat tissue and Kapha Dosha are inter-connected. Increase of fat tissue implies there is an increase of Kapha Dosha.
Ayurveda explains the pathology of obesity as –
1. Increase of Agni – digestive strength, leading to an increase of appetite and food intake.
2. Hampered conversion of Medo dhatu to Asthi dhatu, leading to increased production of Medo Dhatu.
3. Imbalance / Vitiation of Vata Dosha – leading to increased digestive strength
4. Increase of Kapha Dosha, which is caused by excess sweets, fried food, excess rest etc.
Why some obese people fail to lose weight despite exercise and diet control?
In many obese people, when they require energy, their energy is derived from the glycogen (stored glucose) in muscles rather than burning fat to get energy. This makes the fat to remain in the tissues.
So, how to make them burn the fat to create energy in them? Reduce the carbohydrate and sugar intake.
Yoga and Pranayama for stress.
Powder Massage – Udvartana – helps to stimulate, activate and mobilize fat tissues
Ayurvedic panchakarma procedures like Vamana – Useful to expel the morbid fat out of the body, in the form of imbalanced Kapha.
Herbs like Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Triphala, Guggulu, Lodhra, Turmeric, Amla, Shilajit
Spicy medicine such as Trikatu – Ginger, black pepper and long pepper – That help to stimulate the fat metabolism.
Medicines such as Navaka Guggulu, Ayaskrity etc
Causes for obesity
Excess intake of food –If you are continuously taking high amounts of food, it leads to increase of Agni – digestive fire because, the body needs a way to digest increased food quantity, but because there is a blockage in Medo dhatu, more and more fat tissue is produced, leading to weight gain.
Excess intake of heavy to digest, sweet foods, Coolant and oily foods – Because there is increased digestive strength, if you are taking light-to-digest food, it will be digested fast and you start feeling hungry again. Hence, the person tends to eat heavy-to-digest foods and sweet foods, fried foods and coolants, which directly increase fat tissue.
Lack of physical exercise, day sleeping: Physical exercise is a way to allow the conversion of fat into bone tissue (Medo dhatu – Asthi Dhatu). Lack of exercise and lethargic behavior like day sleeping leads to an increase in fat tissue.
Lack of mental stress, increased happiness:
Worrying is one of the best way to burn calories. If you are happy and stress-free, you tend to eat more and rest more.
Heredity – some people have it in their genes.
Vata and Kapha Dosha balance: All the food and diet activities that balance down Vata and Kapha Dosha should be taken up. Read more about how to balance Kapha Vata Dosha
A few ways to balance Kapha – Vata Dosha are –
Having a cup of water, mixed with honey, as the first step in the morning.
Increased consumption of barley, which helps to take care of digestion strength, yet, not contribute to body calories.
Avoiding foods that are hard to-digest and cold, sleeping at day time, etc.
Ayurvedic cure – Decoction enema with strong herbs that are hot in nature is administered. Decoction enema, also called as Kashaya basti is a type of Panchakarma treatment, which helps to balance Vata and also useful in the correction of fat tissue conversion into bone tissue (medo dhatu – asthi dhatu)
Dry Powder massage – Also called as Rooksha Udvartana – powder massage with herbs having dry quality – usually, ingredients like horse gram, jujube, Black gram, Devadaru, Rasna, etc are used for this purpose. The purpose of the powder massage is to burn down the fat deposited underneath the skin, especially in tummy, thighs and buttock areas.
Buttermilk, fermented with spices – fermented buttermilk acts as a catalyst to bring in the transformation of fat tissue.
Administration of honey – a teaspoon of honey along with a cup of water.
Do Spices Help in Treating Obesity?
Specific herbs to treat obesity:
1. Vidanga (Embelia ribes Burm f.), Nagara (ginger), Yavaksara (Kshara prepared from Barley), Loha Bhasma with honey and powder of Yava – barley and Amla.
2. Intake of Guduchi (Tinspora cordifolia), Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Triphala (Haritaki (Terminalia chebula Linn.), Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica Roxb.) and Amalaka (Emblica officinalis Gaertn.) – Triphala and Guduchi are very useful to burn fat and to correct the fat – bone tissue transition.
3. Administration of honey along with decoction of Bilva panchamula (roots of Bael, Oroxylum indicum, Gmelina arborea, Stereospermum suaveolens and Clerodendrum phlomidis)
4. Shilajit (asphaltum)
5. Administration of the juice of Agnimantha (Clerodendrum phlomidis Linn. f.)
6. Alcoholic preparations that help to reduce fat, muscle and Kapha may be used as after-food-drinks. – Such as Ayaskriti, Lohasavam etc
Recommended diet and lifestyle
Here are a few Simple rules to lose weight quickly.
1. Regular exercise schedule – It can be as simple as walking, jogging, cycling etc. just for half an hour per day. Morning or evening. If you do it in the morning, you will feel less tired. You have to do it till you have few sweat droplets on forehead, chest and thighs. Click here to read more about Benefits of gym
2. Drink half a glass of water just before food, it will reduce the appetite a little bit. Do not drink more than half a glass of water.
3. Eating slowly, it decreases hunger. Eat till the time you still are feeling hungry.
4. Include Barley (Hordeum vulgare) in your diet. Make barley flour, add water and a pinch of salt, and make it a bolus. Then roll it into flat circle shaped cakes, (very thin) and heat it on a pan. This is called Chapati in India, usually made of Wheat, but to lose weight quickly, it can be made from barley and eaten. The taste will be the same, but it is more beneficial to lose weight quickly.
5. Avoid sweets, sweet tasting drinks and food articles, wherever you can. Tea, Coffee, cakes, bakery sweets, aerated drinks, colas, avoid these good-for-nothing things. If coffee and tea are a regular in your diet then, have them, but with very little sugar.
6. Replace curds with buttermilk.
7. If you really want sweets, eat fruits. Grapes, Apple, banana, whatever you wish to, but again in a limited quantity, not adding any sugar to it.
8. Avoid all types of oily food stuffs and junk foods.
9. Eat at regular time schedules. Try to fix a time-table and try fixing to that as much as you can.
10. Drink plenty of water through out the day. It helps in flushing out toxins.
11. Small meals at frequent intervals is better than big meals 2 or 3 times a day.
12. Drink a spoonful of honey and lemon juice, on empty stomach. Then drink a glass of warm water.
13. Keep a workbook with you and write down about the steps that you took to lose weight, on a weekly basis. Do this on every Sunday. Do not worry if you had not achieved any good milestone that week. But just keep on writing.
14. Get enough sleep – Lack of restful sleep lowers your energy throughout the day. You need good sleep so that you can extract maximum benefits out of your exercise / Yoga schedule.
Pathya apathya – Yogaratnakara
Wholesome herbs, diet and habits
Old rice, geen gram, horse gram, millets like uddalaka & kodrava, scraping type of enema therapy etc.
Unwholesome herbs, diet and habits
Sternous work, grief, sexual intercourse, travelling, honey, being awake at night, barley etc.
Following a low carbohydrate and high fat diet is found more useful in controlling obesity is very useful in treating obesity and associated complications such as diabetes – Dr Sarah Hallberg D.O., M.S.
When would you need weight loss supplements?
When you are at the risk of developing heart complications.
When you struggle with following the above rules, You may consider taking weight loss supplements.
Ayurveda says –
Vyayama nityo jeernaashee yavagodhuma bhojanaha |
Santarpana Krutaihi Doshaihi Sthoulyam muktwa vimuchyate ||
Daily regular exercise, eating only after the previous food has got completely digested, and regular intake of Barley and wheat in diet, are sure shot ways to curb obesity.
Wake up before 6 am to fight obesity
Oil massage for obesity
Question: Can Oil massage help in weight loss?
The purpose of oil massage is to boost the strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.
Hence, massage is essentially a nourishing therapy, because oil, with its heaviness and unctuousness qualities, is a nourishing agent. So, oil massage by itself cannot make you to lose weight.
For this reason, usually, herbal powder massage, called Udvartana is used in obesity treatment. Herbal massage powders such as Kola Kulathadi Churna being Rooksha – dry and Laghu – light, carry qualities opposite to those of obesity. So powder massage is useful for weight loss.
But oil massage can indirectly help in obesity management. Let me explain.
If you do massage regularly, your bones, muscles and joints will be very strong. If you take the advantage of this and do regular exercise, then you would lose weight. Hence indirectly oil massage is very helpful.
If you do oil massage regularly, the fat deposited in the abdomen, buttocks and such other areas will be mobilized. This will help in quickening fat loss, if you exercise.
Even in Panchakarma therapy, where the morbid matter and toxins are expelled out of the body, oil massage is done in the early stages. Here, oil massage helps to mobilize morbid matter from different organs to gastro intestinal tract, which are then expelled by Vamana – vomiting therapy or Virechana – purgation treatment.
So, in all these ways, oil massage is indirectly, but immensely helpful in losing weight.
Massage oils for burning fat
Sesame oil with Salt – Master Charaka has explained sesame oil as Karshana – it helps person to lose fat tissue, upon internal and external use. But in obesity, you need a little more heat in the oil to burn the rigid fat deposits. Sesame oil itself is hot. But adding a teaspoon of sesame oil to a 200 ml of sesame oil and heating it on mild fire for a few minutes, makes the oil more fat burning. Read related: Sesame and Sesame Oil Benefits
Which oil is good for massage for obesity?
Oil massage can be an effective tool to liquefy and mobilize fat but keep in mind that oil massage alone might not be useful to cure obesity.
While explaining about oral medicines for obesity, lot of spices and hot potency herbs are mentioned, such as Trikatu (a combination of ginger, black pepper, long pepper), Guggulu etc.
Read related: Trikatu benefits, side effects
Even for external application, the oil should have these qualities. Hence, hot potency oils are best suited as base. It rules out coconut oil, which is a coolant.
So, we have sesame oil and mustard oil.
Mustard oil can be used for oil massage but some people may find it extremely hot and may end up having burning sensation and skin diseases. It does not mean that mustard oil cannot be used on skin at all. It is in fact used as base for an oil for eczema, allergic dermatitis, tinea, called Marichadi taila. In that case, it is only applied on the patches of skin where there are lesions.
In obesity, the oil massage is done on a larger skin area of abdomen and buttocks, thighs, arms etc., hence not recommended.
Now we are left with sesame oil. It is the default oil for massage and oral consumption. Master Vagbhata in Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 3/56 explains
स्थूलानां कर्शनाय च । sthūlānāṃ karśanāya ca |
Meaning, for obesity treatment, sesame oil is useful to decrease weight in obese people.
So, the sesame oil is ready as base oil.
Read more about sesame oil benefits
Salts are known for melting and decongesting nature. They are hot in potency and are ideal contender for combination with sesame oil.
So, if you are preparing a massage oil for obesity, then 100 ml of sesame oil can be mixed with 10 – 15 grams of rock salt or table salt and 100 ml of water. Boil till the water evaporates. You can use this oil for massage over areas of body where there is fat collection, leave the oil on the body for 30 minutes and then wash off with lukewarm water and soap.
Saindhavadi Taila – This oil contains rock salt, along with other heat producing, anti inflammatory herbs such as ginger, cumin, long pepper etc. It is primarily used on stiff joints to loosen up. But it also loosens the fat deposits and helps you to lose weight.
Mahanarayana taila – An all-season, all-purpose massage oil. Helps you to get rid of joint and muscle pains, shortens the recovery time after a joint injury and puts you back on your daily schedule of exercises.
Bala Ashwagandhadi taila – This is effective when you need extra strength in your muscles, bones and joints to accelerate your weight loss by dedicating more time in exercise. This oil is useful to improve the strength and bulk of muscles.
Keep in mind that after oil massage, some form of sweating treatment is necessary. Ayurveda recommends exercise after oil massage. Exercise itself makes you sweat. But you need to be careful about slippery hands and legs.
Having a hot water shower, steam therapy, sauna, hot water pack on the fat deposits, hot poultice etc are other options for sweating.
Home Remedies to burn fat
Classical home remedies for obesity – Medoroga :
- Triphala Kashaya with Honey
- Boiled and cooled water mixed with honey
- Hot gruel of rice taken regularly
- Guduchi Churna (powder of Tinospora cordifolia) + Musta Churna (Powder of Cyperus rotundus)
- Triphala churna
- Takrarishta (fermented medicated buttermilk)
Ayurvedic medicines used for the treatment of obesity:
Medohara Vidangadi Lauham
Formulations From Sahasra Yoga Text Book
Varadi vs. Varanadi Kashayam for Obesity
Can Varadi and Varanadi Kwatham (Kashayam) be taken together for treating obesity?
Dr JV Hebbar:
Varadi and Varanadi kwathams are two unique Ayurvedic medicines for burning fat and to treat obesity. These two are in decoction / herbal tea format.
Varadi kashayam contains
Triphala – a combination of 3 fruits, which is used for opening up body channels and to reduce obesity.
Turmeric – a very good antioxidant
Asana – Also called Vijaysar, used extensively to treat obesity, leucoderma abscess and bleeding disorders.
Chitraka – Leadwort. It is hot in nature and helps in burning the fat and corrects metabolism.
Loha – Iron calx – It is used extensively to open up channels and to burn fat.
According to the treatise Sahasrayogam –
द्विरदस्थूलदेहोऽपि पिबेत मासात् कृशोभवेत् ।
dviradasthūladeho’pi pibeta māsāt kṛśobhavet |
That means if a person consumes Varadi Kashaya for a month, he will become lean and lose fat by that period.
Read more about Varadi Kashayam – uses, side effects etc
It is a more complex herbal tea with 16 ingredients. These 17 herbs are explained as a group of herbs by Acharya Vagbhata. Usually, when a group of herbs is explained, it can be designed into many different medicinal forms such as herbal tea, ghee, powder etc.
Its main ingredients are –
Varuna – useful to reduce water retention and to burn fat
Chitraka and Bhallataka (Marking nut) – Useful to burn fat and open up body channels. Both these herbs are very hot
Haritaki, Bilva, Brihati, Agnimantha – useful in reducing inflammation and to heal wounds, aches and pains.
Moringa – a very good antioxidant.
Varanadi is indicated in –
vāraṇādi kaphaṃ medo mandagnitvaṃ niyacchati |
That means Varanadi Kashayam is useful in curing –
Kapha disorders, medo disorders or diseases pertaining to fat tissue, low digestion strength etc. As medoroga is mentioned here, it can be used in weight management.
Read more about Varanadi kashayam uses, dose, side effects etc.
So, both Varanadi and Varadi kashayam are very efficient and can be used for the treatment of obesity.
If both are used together,
Varadi contains Chitraka and Varanadi contains Chitraka and purified marking nut. So, this combination can increase hotness in the body and may cause burning sensation. It can also cause fatigue and heartburn.
Varadi has Triphala and Varanadi has Haritaki, so when used together, it can cause loose stools in some people.
Varadi is exclusively mentioned for obesity. So, if a patient has only obesity, I would use this.
Apart from obesity, Varanadi is also advised for the treatment of
Vatarakta – Gout, vascular disorders such as varicose veins
abdominal tumor, fibroids, pcos,
abscess and carbuncles.
If the patient has obesity but does not have any other complications, Varadi looks better.
If patient has anemia associated with obesity, Varadi is better.
But if the patient has obesity with PCOS, hypothyroidism, goiter, varicose veins, migraine, headache, abscesses, fistula, anal fissure, water retention, depleted urine output etc.
If two medicines have very similar ingredients, there is no special benefit in using both together, as the mode of action will be very similar.
In this case, Varadi and Varanadi contain very different sets of ingredients. Apart from Haritaki and Chitraka, there are no other common ingredients.
Because of this, the medicine can be used in a combination.
The next point is debatable. From a pharmaceutical standpoint, it is better to use two different medicine forms than using similar medicine forms.
Varadi and Varanadi are both herbal decoctions.
So, I would argue that probably any one of these kashayas with a tablet like Navaka Guggulu tablet or Ayaskriti (fermented liquid) would address the pathology of obesity from different angles and probably would give better results.
This does not mean that two kashayams cannot be prescribed for one particular disease.
Both can be used together but can cause severe burning sensation, heartburn and extreme tiredness. There are some chances of mild diarrhea.
Your Ayurvedic doctor would be the best judge.
How to stop overeating?
Q: I know I overeat. How to overcome this problem?
Dr JV Hebbar:
Abundance brings in a sense of comfort that leads to excesses of life, filled with worldly attractions and an insatiable hunger to have more.
How to know you are overeating?
Feeling heaviness all the time
Feeling heaviness of stomach
Considerably increased volume of feces
You have forgotten the last time you really felt hunger before eating.
You eat because it is the time to eat. You do not wait for hunger to fully manifest (a golden Ayurveda rule).
Weight is increasing week after week.
Feeling heavy, tired, fatigued, lack of interest in work.
Feeling sleepy all the time, despite a good night’s sleep.
Frequent burping with the smell of previously taken food, all throughout the day.
How to overcome?
If you are into cheese and processed foods, their size will be less but the calories will be very high. This problem also exists with meat. Consider adding more fiber rich foods, nuts, cereals and pulses. These will be bulky, so you feel like eating a lot, without adding more calories to your diet. Especially fiber-rich diet makes the stomach full very quickly. bran, cauliflower, cabbage, berries, green leafy vegetables, Celery, squash, Banana, beans, mushroom oranges. Wait till hunger fully manifests and then only eat. Sometimes we get false hunger. This could be due to our mind tricking ourselves to get into the comfort of eating. So, when hunger pang strikes, wait for half an hour. If hunger goes away, it was not the true hunger signal. If it worsens, time to load up.
If you are bound to eat thrice a day, then consider decreasing the breakfast or lunch quantity. Or just have a salad.
Drink a lot of water. This is not a good advice for a fit and healthy person. But this can help to lower hunger in an obese person habituated to overeating.
Maintain a gap of 2 hours between dinner and sleep.
Make a rule that you will not refill the plate with a second dose of food. Whatever the food that is there in the first serving, that is it.
Ultimately it is a mind and tummy game. You need to be patient and practice it gradually for several months, before getting it right.
Self discipline, self observation, self restraint, fasting once or twice a month, meditation, spiritual orientation in life, Yoga, Pranayama, practicing minimalism – all these contribute to your efforts of eating less.
Burning stubborn fat in thighs, arms
In an obese person, burning stubborn fat from thighs and arms can be difficult.
Here are a few ways to solve this issue.
1. Regular arm and thigh exercise helps to strengthen the muscles and eventually get rid of the fat
2. Warm oil massage over the arms and thighs help to mobilize the fat. Sesame oil and mustard oils are suitable warm oils for this. But mustard oil can be highly burning. Hence, sesame oil is better. Common salt or rock salt, in oil medium helps to liquefy the fat faster. Hence, take 100 ml of sesame oil, add 10 grams of table salt / rock salt to it. Heat it for 5-10 minutes in a mild fire. Apply this oil over the arms and thighs regularly.
3. Powder massage helps to destabilize the sticky fat. For this fine powder of green gram, horse gram powder or gram flour can be used. Or, Ayurvedic ubtan powder, Kolakulathadi churna or Kottamchukkadi churnam (powder) can be used.
So, daily, dedicate at least 10 minutes for exercising arms and thighs.
30 minutes before bath, apply salt mixed sesame oil. It will be ideal to warm the oil slightly before application.
Then after 25 minutes after oil application, gently do the powder massage over the arms and thighs. Do not apply high pressure. But be a little quicker while massaging so as to generate some heat.
Follow it up with a warm water bath.