The digestive strength is depleted during fever, as per Ayurveda. Based on this simple principle, Ayurveda recommends lifestyle and diet for fever. The following advice will help you gain strength and to bring the body temperature to normal levels.
Table of Contents
Fever in Ayurveda
Of all the disease chapters, explained in Ayurveda, probably the fever chapter will be the largest in most of the text books. Fever is featured with a condition called as ‘Ama’ – a state of indigestion. Here, the food is not digested properly and there is depleted nourishment. Sweat channels are blocked, with increased temperature in the body.
As per Ayurveda, fever is called Jwara. It is divided into to the following stages –
1. Navajwara – Fever of recent origin – within first week.
2. Madhyama Jwara – Fever which is few days old.
3. Purana Jwara – Fever older than a week time / chronic fever.
By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Nava Jwara means newly manifested fever. We can also consider acute fevers which have just manifest. Master Charaka has mentioned 9 things which are contraindicated during acute phase of fever. This is a general rule immaterial of what type of fever one has. Nava = new, Jwara = fever
Things to avoid in fever of recent origin –
Snana – taking bath – leads to worsening of associated cold and infection
Virechana procedure – The digestive power is already weak. Hence this should be avoided.
Surata – Sexual activity – it will increase the weakness and increase temperature.
Kashaya – food and medicine with astringent taste – this leads to obstruction of body channels and worsening of fever.
Vyayama – exercise – leads to further loss of strength.
Divaswapna – day sleeping. It can weaken digestion further. Only if the patient is too weak to go through the day, he can sleep. Otherwise, try to avoid sleeping during the day.
Anjana – applying collyrium to eyes
Dugdha taking milk.
Ghruta – use of ghee in diet.
When there is Ama condition, taking ghee and milk both increase Ama and indigestion.
Vaidala – Bengal gram, lentils
Amisha – non veg food
Takra – buttermilk (with fat)
Sura – alcoholic beverages
Swadu – sweet substances
Guru – Foods that are heavy to digest. Avoid excess intake of food. The total digestion and metabolism are hampered. The body will not be able to digest excess foods.
Drava – excessive liquid intake
Pravata – exposure to wind
Bhramana – walking / roaming
Rosha – anger
Avoid excess roaming in wind. This can increase Vata Dosha.
During fever of recent origin, light and easily digestible food should be consumed in very less quantity. Kashayam (herbal decoctions) should not be used and person should take rest. Use of ginger, garlic and pepper is recommended.
Contra indications in Nava Jwara
Master Charaka has mentioned these contraindications immediately after the explanation of ‘nirama jwara lakshanas’ i.e. signs and symptoms of fever not associated ama and just before explaining the importance of langhana i.e. lightening therapies with special reference to fasting which marks the beginning explanation of treatment principles of fever in Charaka Chikitsa Sthana, Chapter 3 – Jwara Chikitsa Adhyaya – chapter dealing with treatment of fevers. Therefore, the contraindications for acute fevers are explained before the commencement of treatment principles and treatment of fever.
Read – Charaka – Jwara Chikitsa 3rd Chapter
Why has Master Charaka explained the contraindications for nava jwara before the treatment principles?
We get to see a pattern in the explanation of treatment in the section dealing with treatment of diseases i.e. chikitsa sthana. Usually the pattern is that the general treatment principles are explained at first and then the treatment of types or doshic subtypes of the disease. This is followed by detailing of Panchakarma treatments, the recipes and formulations and diet, and then the indications and contraindications for the disease. Here it looks like Master Charaka has broken the usual pattern in the very first context of his treatise wherein he has handled treatment of disease. We need to see that Jwara Chikitsa is the first official chapter dedicated towards treatment of disease in Charaka Chikitsa Sthana, the first 2 chapters of this section being ‘Rasayana’ and ‘Vajikarana’ which are both preventive and curative therapies.
Read – Charaka Chikitsasthana 1.1 Abhaya Amalakeeya Rasayana
Then why did Master Charaka break the pattern?
Master Chakrapani, commentator of Charaka Samhita tells that though aushadha i.e. medicines and treatment should come first and kriyakrama i.e. restrictions, does and don’ts come later, since these restrictions and contraindications are very significant, they are explained before the treatment.
Master Gangadhara, commentator of Charaka Samhita further tells that the rule ‘sankshepatah kriya yogo nidana parivarjanam’ can be applied in this instance. This means ‘the easiest form of treatment is to keep away the causative factors of the disease’. This is almost closer in meaning to ‘prevention is better than cure’. Most of the activities mentioned in the list of contraindications are also the causes or triggers of fever and hence shall be avoided.
Read – Jwara Pravritti – The Initial Manifestation
Points to observe
By this pattern of Master Charaka, we learn that –
- Many times, the restrictions and contraindications are very important, as equal to or more than the treatment process, therapies and medicines
- Contraindications and restrictions when properly followed would contribute towards quicker healing and cure of the concerned disease
- They are also part and parcel of the treatment process
- They help in prevention of disease and prevents in recurrences
- Prevention is half the cure and this is achieved by keeping away the things and activities which are contraindicated
- The contraindications mentioned in this context may also be causes or triggers in case of fever
Read – Role Of Fasting In The Treatment Of Fever – Langhana In Jwara
To sum up
The concept of contraindications – things and activities which are harmful for the disease, some of which might be causes and some triggers is not only applicable for jwara but also for all the diseases. Master Charaka has shown it once, in the explanation of treatment of fever, wherein he emphasizes the importance of keeping away the contraindications and triggers, which is equally important just like the treatment of the disease. Master Charaka wanted to stress that ‘the treatments and formulations for all diseases shall be described as per the context but the physician should remember that the wrong things need to be kept away and the same shall be advised to the patients from the point of view of better recovery and comprehensive cure’. This is the reason he has put it in front of and before the explanation of langhana and other treatments of jwara.
Contraindications in Nava Jwara
Below mentioned are the 9 contraindications mentioned by Master Charaka which need to be stressed upon by the physicians to those in the earlier phase of fever.
1. Divasvapna – sleeping during the day time
Sleeping during day time would increase kapha and ama in the body. This would further deteriorate the digestive fire. Deterioration of digestive fire is the main event explained in the pathogenesis of fever. Day sleep would trigger these events and worsen the course of fever. This would also further contaminate the rasa tissue. Rasa tissue and the channels transporting the same are contaminated in the pathogenesis of fever and day sleep would worsen the same.
Read – Day Sleep – Sleeping In The Day: Rules, Benefits, Contra Indications
2. Snana – taking bath
Taking bath during acute fevers may immediately put the doshas into a state of imbalance, worsen the fever and imbalance the process of metabolism. Therefore one should avoid taking bath while having cute fever.
3. Abhyanga – herbal oil massages
Oil in nature is equivalent to ama. Application of oil and conducting massage might trigger and aggravate the ama further. This will further lead to blocks in the rasa carrying channels. In fever, the agni is displaced from gut to periphery i.e. the gut fire or digestion capacity of the individual will be depleted along with rise in temperature in the periphery. Massage might cause heaviness of the body and increase pain, temperature and other symptoms of fever. So, oil massage is contraindicated in acute fevers.
Read – Understanding Agni: Concept, Definition, Functions, Types
4. Anna – means food
One should not take food in acute fevers. As already said, the digestive capacity is very less in the condition of fever. The stomach is weak and will not be having enough strength to digest food. Already ama is formed in the stomach. Further if more food is provided to the stomach it would become too heavy for the stomach as it cannot digest the provided food. This will lead to indigestion and formation of more ama and excreta. This will also worsen the fever. Therefore food is contraindicated in fevers. This is the reason why langhana i.e. therapeutic starvation / fasting have been advised as the initial treatment approach in dealing with acute or newly manifest fevers.
Master Chakrapani clarifies that ‘anna’ here means ‘guru annam’ i.e. foods which are heavy and hard to digest shall be kept away. This also means that light-to-digest foods like gruels etc shall be used, but there are also rules for using the same.
Read – Importance Of Diet (Pathya) For Specific Diseases
5. Maithuna – sexual intercourse
Since in acute phase of fever the digestion is impaired, there is depletion of digestive fire and capacity, there is formation of ama – the digestive system will not have strength to convert the food into nutritive juices. This will lead to inadequate and improper formation of tissues, including semen. Semen is the last tissue to be formed in the chronology of tissue formation, as per Ayurveda scheme of tissue formation. Indulgence in sexual activities when there is inadequate formation of semen will lead to further depletion of semen and retrograde pressure on the precursor tissues to form semen and this feedback mechanism of demand for formation of more tissues and hence more semen would fall hard on the digestive system which will not be in a position to compensate for the loss. In conditions of fever the person will also not have strength and libido so as to get indulged in sex. So he should not be pushing himself into the sexual act during fever.
Read – Decrease Of Tissues – Dhatu Kshaya – Reasoning, Symptoms
6. Krodha – anger
Krodhat pittam. It is said that anger is the other form of fire. Anger is an emotion which tends to increase pitta, which is an abode of fire component to greater proportions. Since anger increases pitta and pitta would eventually worsen the picture of fever, anger needs to be avoided during fever. This also calls for the person to maintain the mental balance during fever. The mind tends to get afflicted by fevers and there may be high end emotions including anger, but the person needs to have a check and balance on it.
Read – Anger: Relation With Body Types, Ways To Control Anger
7. Pravata – exposure to breeze coming from East direction
Excessive exposure to breeze at any time is not good for health, especially so, when one is suffering from fever. It is possible that the winds blowing from different directions have different impact on us when we get exposed to them. Here the master is speaking about the Eastern winds, which have the capacity to trigger dosha aggravation to highest level. This can further imbalance the doshas in those suffering from fever.
8. Vyayama – exercise
Enhancing the digestion capacity is one of the benefits of properly done exercise. But exercise too should be done in balance, neither too much, nor too less. But here we are speaking about the impact of excessive exercise on those suffering from fever. There is raised discomfort (temperature) at the level of body, senses and mind in conditions of fever and in this condition getting indulged in too much exercise would worsen the fever. Excessive exercise would also aggravate vata and we know that vata is yogavahi in nature and can disturb fever caused by other doshas. It can anyways worsen the vata type of fevers also.
Read – Exercise Timing, Benefits, Side Effects, Ayurvedic Management
9. Kashaya – consumption of things which are rich in astringent taste
Kashaya here means astringent taste and those foods which are predominantly astringent in taste. They shall be avoided by those suffering from acute fevers. The master is not speaking about the kashaya recipe mentioned amongst the kashaya kalpanas i.e. the herbal decoctions. Use of herbal decoctions in fever is also conditional. Even among the herbal decoctions, those which are predominantly prepared from astringent tasting herbs should not be used in acute fevers. If astringent taste is used in these fevers, it will cause constipation / blockage of doshas and will cause vishama jwara i.e. irregular fevers.
Fever which is few days old – Activities and diet to follow –
One year old rice – easy to digest, provides nourishment and strength
Brinjal, Moringa leaves and fruit, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, radish, Flattened rice (Poha), green gram, red lentil (masoor dal), Chickpea (chana), horse gram, kidney bean (moth), raisins, pomegranate.
Activities and Diet recommended for chronic fever –
Panchakarma procedure like Vamana (vomiting therapy), Virechana (purgation therapy)
Anjana – Collyrium
Nasya – nasal instillation of drops
Dhumapana – herbal smoking
Abhyanga – massage
Cow milk, goat milk, ghee, Haritaki fruit, castor oil, sandalwood paste application,
Exposure to moon rays at night.
Things to follow during fever
Rice water –
One year old rice is added with 14 parts of water and is boiled for a few minutes. The watery part is decanted and given to the patient to drink, whenever he is hungry. It can also be mixed with ginger paste and salt.
The same combination of rice and water is boiled and solid portion is given for the patient to eat along with ginger paste.
It is light for digestion, improves appetite, balances the body tissues, increases body strength thus beneficial in fever.
25 grams of green gram is added with 450 ml of water (1:18), boiled and more solid, less liquid dish is prepared.
It gives more strength to body, light for digestion and soothes the throat.
Tulsi leaf – 1 – 2 leaves, 3 – 4 times a day is very beneficial in fever.
Dry grapes : It is nutritive and tonic, useful in debility, pain.
Pomegranate : Good for heart, appetizer and digestive.
Radish : Appetizer, hot in potency, digestive.
Green leafy vegetables : Light in digestion, relieves constipation.
Boiled water / hot water: Relieves thirst, brings down the body temperature and improves digestion strength.
Things to avoid during fever
Activities and diet to avoid during any type of fever –
Wearing red cloth, red flowers.
Taking wrong food combinations
Hot and heavy-to-digest food, sour foods, betel leaf, water melon and such other foods that cause moistening and obstruction of body channels.
Take less food. This helps in easy digestion and absorption of nutrients.
In Taruna Jwara – fever of recent origin, Ayurveda says that Kashaya rasa – astringent tasting substances such as betel nut should be avoided.
Some people confuse it with kashaya – the decoction (herbal teas) but this is a wrong translation. Herbal teas are fine to take in fever of recent origin.
Rest, diet rich with vitamin E and C, eggs, barley water, ginger, garlic are recommended.
Alcohol, smoking, junk food, butter, ghee, fried foods, soft drinks, excess sweets should be avoided.
This article is partially contributed by Dr. Madhulika Priya, PG scholar, SDMCA, Hassan, Karnataka.