This article is written by Dr. MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD (Ayu).
Age old Ayurveda explains a disease by name Shleepada, which is correlated with Elephantiasis. In Sanskrit, ‘Shlee’ means Elephant and ‘Pada’ refers to foot. A diseased condition where the foot appears like the ‘foot of elephant’ is termed as ‘Shleepada’. Hence, we find a rationality in co-relation of disease elephantiasis in parallel to Shleepada disorder. Some consider – ‘Shilavat pada’ iti ‘Shleepadam’ which means the condition where affected foot resembles stone (shila). As in Elephantiasis, these features are commonly found, it is also apt to consider as ‘Shleepada’ only.
Table of Contents
Causes according to Ayurveda
Causes for elephantiasis as per Ayurveda:
1. Kapha predominant food and habits (kaphaja ahara vihara)
2. Heavy food intake (guru ahara)
3. Older water/stagnant water (puranodaka)
4. Cold water intake (sheetala jala pana)
5. Residing in the area where stagnant water is nearby (puranodaka bhuyishta desha) etc
Origin of disease
Origin of the disease- Elephantiasis:
Due to the above said reasons, all the three doshas are aggravated, predominantly Kapha Dosha. The Doshas are lodged in the inguinal region first and then gradually move downwards the feet. Due to lodging of Doshas in the leg, stony swellings resembling the foot of elephant are caused. Often the condition may result even in nose, ears, eyes, genitalia and lips, according to the area of lodgement of doshas, which can be correlated with various types of Filariasis. Elephantiasis is a type of Filariasis.
Most commonly fever is associated in this condition.
Type of Sheelapada
(reference: Madhava Nidana – Parishishta)
1. Vataja Sleelapada
Here, swelling will be black, dry, associated with severe pain, scaly eruption and fever without specific reason.
वातजं कृष्णरूक्षं च स्फुरितं तीव्रवेदनम् ।
अनिमित्तरुजं तस्य बहुशो ज्वर एव च ॥
2. Pittaja Shlipad
The swelling is yellow with burning sensation,acute fever and soft to touch.
पित्तजं पीत संकाशं दाहज्वरमुत मृदु ।
3. Kaphaja Shleepad
In this condition, the affected foot appears unctuous, pale or white in colour, heavy and stable.
श्लैष्मिकं स्निग्धवर्णं च श्वेतं पाण्डुं गुरु स्थिरम् ।
If the foot appears like an ant hill or like the thorny projection, advanced/ extended or more than a year’s chronicity are incurable. Also, the patients who are indulging or continuing the cold food and regimen are always at maximum risk of this disease. The condition where excess oozing, wide spread swelling, presenting with multiple features and severe itching are prone to meet the critical condition.
Ayurveda management of Elephantiasis:
The general line of treatment of Shleepada is explained as below:
लंघनं आलेपनं स्वेद: रेचनं रक्तसेचनै: ।
प्राय: श्लेष्महरै: उष्णै: शीपदं समुपाचरेत् ॥
It means, the condition of elephantiasis should be treated by-
1. Fasting / cleansing (langhana)
2. External anti kapha – paste application (Kaphahara lepa)
3. Sudation (swedana)
4. Purgation (rechana)
5. Blood letting (rakta mokshana)
6. Anti kapha oral remedies (kaphahara oushadha) and
7. Warm medication (ushnopachara)
Based on Dosha imbalance
In vata elephantiasis, oleation (snehana), fomentation (swedana) with poultice and venepuncture –siravyadha 4 angula (3 inch) above the ankle joint are recommended.
In Pitta dominance, along with oleation, mild fomentation, venesection- siravyadha is advised below the ankle joint.
In kapha imbalance, venesection- siravyadha is performed in between the toe and second toe. Also, strong penetrative decoctions are advised by adding sweet substances as additives in this particular condition.
Single herbs in Shlipada
Single herbs recommended in Shlipada :
Shakhotaka – Streblus asper Lour.
Haridra – Turmeric – Curcuma longa Linn.
Pippali – Long pepper – Piper longum Linn.
Chriabilva – Holoptelea integrifolia Planch.
Karanja – Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre.
Bakuchi – Psoralia corylifolia Linn.
Shigru – Moringa – Moringa oleifera Lam.
Moolaka – Radish – Raphanus sativus Linn.
Vidanga – Embelia ribes Burm. F.
Daruharidra – Tree turmeric – Berberis aristata Dc.
Ayurvedic medicines recommended in Elephantiasis:
Nonganadi Eranda Tailam
Shleepada gajakesari rasa
Medicines for Shlipada from Sahasra yoga Textbook
Karambha Sakhodadi Tailam
Older jowar (Sorghum bicolor)
Tortoise flesh- soup
Older red rice
According to Yogaratnakara:
Old & rice which is harvested in sixty days, barley, horse gram, garlic, pointed gourd, brinjol, drumstick, bitter gourd, spreading hogweed, malabar spinach, castor oil, cow urine, substances which are pungent, bitter and carminative in nature etc.
Unwholesome diet and habits in Elephantiasis:
Milk and milk products
Flesh of aquatic animals
Kapha alleviating food
According to Yogaratnakara:
Food prepared from flour, milk products, jaggery, meat of animals living in desert like land, sweet and sour substances, climbing hills, water from Sindhu river and rivers originated from Vindhya mountains, slimy substances, heavy to digest foods, food that cause obstruction in the channel of circulation etc.
Dear readers, now-a-days every one knows that Filaria or Elephantiasis is caused by a parasite nematode-Wuchereria bancrofti, which are transmitted through the Culex mosquitoes. Based upon the involvement and degree of affliction, lymphangitis or chyluria may also result.
Even though these patho-physiological terms were not known long back, classical Ayurveda explains ‘Shleepada’ with similar causative factors, clinical features and patho-physiology. Though successful treatments are not found in modern medicine, when the disease is worsened, Ayurveda supports the patients with its multiform drug approach. Alternative system of medicine in association with allopathic medicine is proved to be successful in effective management of the illness.
Traditional remedy by Dr Ajayan Sadanandan:
“നൊങ്ങണസ്യ രസേ സിദ്ധം പാഠാ കർക്കടക കൽക്കമായ്
എണ്ണ വെന്ത് കുടിപ്പിച്ചാലില്ലാതെ പോം പെരുമ്പദം” ” (Sahasrayogam)
Chayaparpadaka swarasa along with padha karkatak kalka prepared taila taking internally will get rid shlepada.
Chayaparpadika – Hedyotis herbacea
Synonym : Oldenlandia herbacea