The whole range of colours and shapes, the interplay of light and dark – our eyes perceive all of that. The fact that 70 to 80 percent of all our perception is transmitted through the eyes, shows how important they are. It’s no wonder that our sense of sight is of great importance both in conventional medicine and in Ayurveda. This is also reflected in the assignment of doshas and subdoshas. Each of the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) is divided into five subdoshas. While normally each subdosha is responsible for several functions in the body, in pitta dosha we find a particular subdosha which is assigned exclusively to the eyes. There are also other subdoshas that additionally influence the function of the eyes.
Eye problems from an ayurvedic point of view
Just as with other health issues, eye problems are an expression of an imbalance of the three doshas that need to be harmonised.
We spoke with Ms. Stephania Lorenz, M.D., who is an eye specialist, a trained Maharishi Ayurveda doctor and a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ayurveda [German Ayurveda Society].
Dr. Lorenz states: “Ayurveda describes precise processes according to which eye issues are typically manifested”.
Our eyes as a reflection of the body and soul
Anyone who has looked into the glassy eyes of a feverish child or the bright eyes of a happy person knows that the eyes can tell us a lot about a person and their well-being. In conventional medicine, too, looking in the eyes is used to gather information about illnesses, even those that go far beyond the eyes.
What’s fascinating is how precisely eye problems were differentiated in traditional ayurvedic scriptures 3,500 years ago – without using the technical devices that eye doctors have access to today. The Sushruta Samhita alone identifies 64 different eye diseases and the Vaghbata Samhita even 94.
Treatment of the eyes in Maharishi Ayurveda
As customary in Ayurveda, the treatment of the eye diseases is never directed solely at the diseased organ. It is rather a matter of improving the dosha balance overall, which, besides the eyes, benefits a person’s entire health. Based on the results of ayurvedic diagnostics, the typical spectrum of ayurvedic approaches is used.
Furthermore, the ancient Vedic scriptures suggest the following, specifically for eye health:
- Caution when sunbathing
- Avoiding overworking the eyes
- No rapid temperature changes from hot to cold
- No staring at a specific spot for a long period of time
- Good night’s sleep, not sleeping during the day
Other Vedic treatments for the eyes are described in the Shalakya Tantra and the Netra Chikitsa:
- Treatments with medicinal oils or ghee
- Linen bags
- Nasal reflexology
- Panchakarma for inner cleansing
- Ayurvedic kohl
Moreover, kohl as a treatment for the eyes is found not only in Indian but also in the Arabic tradition of Egypt.
In Ayurveda, a particularly important healing plant for the eyes is the amla fruit (amalaki), which vitalises the eyes. The amla berry regulates pitta. Since the eyes are connected to pitta, besides amalaki, other pitta-balancing means such as spice mixes are suggested to help the eyes.
From an ayurvedic point of view, a good eyecare method is ghee. In Ayurveda, it is used as an eye wash for dry eyes. Dr. Lorenz suggests to her patients with dry eyes to put one drop of warmed ghee in their eyes before going to bed. The excellent effects of this self-treatment on the eye were validated by Prof. O Schmut in a study from the University of Graz (S. Mathew, E. Kettler-Schmut, O. Schmut (2008)).
For eyes that are prone to inflammation, Dr. Lorenz suggests using rose or triphala water during the day (see below).
According to the holistic understanding of Ayurveda, the described treatments never have an effect only on the eye but always on the entire person. Conversely, everything that helps the overall dosha balance in the body also benefits the eyes. Typical ayurvedic recommendations accordingly also apply for eye diseases. Dr. Lorenz puts particular emphasis on the value of yoga asanas and “Pranayama”, the yoga breathing exercises (in particular alternate nostril breathing) to balance the doshas.
Ayurvedic morning ritual for all senses
The ayurvedic morning routine is of great importance in the context of self-care. Tuned to the five senses, for Dr. Lorenz this means:
- Waking up early
- Drinking warm water
- Oral hygiene
- Cleaning the nose
- Cleaning and taking care of the eyes (put cotton wads soaked with rose water on the eyes and splash cold water on your face in the mornings (with your eyes closed)).
- Taking care of the ears with sesame oil
- Bathing (if necessary with previous Abhyanga)
Combining conventional medicine and Maharishi Ayurveda, Dr. Lorenz is well equipped to holistically strengthen people with eye problems and to help them improve their view of things in every respect.
We thank Dr. Lorenz for her expert support with this article!