What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is considered a chronic mental disease that causes addiction to a toxic substance having far reaching negative health consequences. It produces pleasant effects in smaller amounts but is dangerous when consumed in higher quantities. Alcohol slows down parts of the brain, making your thought process foggy and loosening your inhibitions. Compulsive and excessive drinking can lead to liver, brain and nerve damage, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, impotence, infertility, breast and throat cancer, and premature aging.
Alcoholics are either “alcohol dependent” or “alcohol abusers” and sometimes both. Alcohol dependent people desire to stop but aren’t able to and suffer from withdrawal syndrome when they try quitting. They manage to handle their social responsibilities and generally stay within limits, masking their addiction from friends and family. People with alcohol abuse generally lose their sense of responsibility towards family and society leading to broken relationships, career and family. They need, not just medical help, but counseling and immense support from family and friends to fight this dreaded disease.
The Ayurvedic Perspective on Alcoholism:
Charaka Samhita, considered to be one of the most authoritative, comprehensive, and ancient (5000 years old ) Ayurvedic scriptures, mentions about alcohol both as a tonic and a dangerous toxin.
The section, dedicated to Alcohol consumption, in the Charaka Samhita defines alcohol as a toxin. In case someone still wishes to consume, overlooking the health hazards, it provides in great detail strict guidelines one needs to adopt to limit its negative impact on the body.
The ayurvedic texts declare that a medicine properly used becomes nectar and improperly used becomes poison.
The strictures in the text adhere to the core Ayurvedic principle, to avoid taking a toxin if you have not prepared your body for it. Being mentally and physically adept, eating seasonal food, types of container the alcohol should be served in, when and what food to be taken with it, appropriate manner of consumption, time and place etc. are some of the wise pointers in this broad minded scripture. The Charaka Samhita strictly demands that one understands their own body constitution (your prakriti – Vata, Pitta and Kapha) as the precautionary rules and strictures vary as per specific constitutions.
Alcohol – The Opposite of Ojas
The Sanskrit word Ojas meaning “vigor,” is the body’s most pure and subtle essence that’s extracted from food that has been completely digested. Ojas circulates throughout the bodily tissues and heart, sustaining the physical self, bringing clarity to the mind and balancing the emotions.
Alcohol has light, hot, sharp, subtle, sour, all pervading, swift, rough, expansive, and drying qualities that are exactly opposite of ojas. Alcohol is absorbed quickly into our blood and permeates to all parts and reaches the heart in no time, affecting the ten qualities of the Ojas. Alcohol has a direct effect on the Saattva (purity of the mind) causing agitation or intoxication, the opposite of bliss, calmness and health that Ojas provides.
Stay in control:
In moderation and with self control, alcohol can promote healthy digestion, stress relief, respiratory benefits and sound sleep. Alcohol has been subscribed as a co-drink with certain Ayurvedic medicines like Trayodashang Guggul and Kankayan Vati butunder a seasoned Ayurvedic practitioner.
If you are a non-alcoholic DO NOT start drinking alcohol thinking of the health benefits. It is for those who are already accustomed to alcohol, and have self control to. There are plenty other ways and means to get the above-said health benefits. Even regular alcoholics should take a break from alcohol for weeks or months to allow the body to recover its balance and health.
Arishtas- The Alternative
As an alternative try Arishtas or herbalized wines that are part of Ayurveda treatment for preventive as well as curative purposes. They are generally delicious and when taken appropriately under guidance of a qualified and knowledgeable Ayurvedic practitioner provide great health benefits.
Don’t Drink and Drive.