Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both inflammatory bowel diseases which can be painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications. Common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool, ulcers, reduced appetite and weight loss, and fistula or abscess. Heredity and an abnormal immune system are believed to be the common causes of these conditions. Risk factors for these conditions are: an age from 20 to 30, white race, a family history, urban place of residence, and a history of smoking or of having used Isotretinoin. The difference between the two diseases is that ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum in continuous stretches; whereas Crohn’s disease occurs in patches anywhere in the digestive tract, and often spreads deep into the layers of the tissues.
Since the system of Ayurveda classifies most diseases predominantly based on the symptoms, it categorizes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in the disease called ‘Pravaahika’, and hence these two conditions have been clubbed here together for a common overview of their Ayurvedic treatment. Treatment is aimed at correcting the basic pathology of the diseases, controlling symptoms, preventing or reducing complications and boosting the immune system of the body.
Treatment for the main symptoms includes medicines like Kutaj-Ghan-Vati, Kutaj-Parpati, Panchamrut-Parpati, Bilva-Avaleha, Sanjeevani-Vati, Bhallatak-Parpati, Jatiphaladi-Churna, Bol-Parpati and Bol-Baddha-Ras. Herbal medicines useful in these conditions are: Vishwa (Zinziber officinalis), Ativisha (Aconitum heterophyllum), Bilva (Aegle marmelos), Udumbar (Ficus glomerata), Hing (Ferula narthex), Kutaj (Holarrhina antidysentrica), Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Naagkeshar (Messua ferrea) and Bhallatak (Semicarpus anacardium).
In order to prevent bleeding, medicines like Praval-Bhasma, Naagkeshar, Sphatik-Bhasma and Laxa (Purified wax) are used. Castor oil has been given prime importance in the treatment of these conditions; and therefore, products containing this medicine such as Gandharva-Haritaki and Sinhnaad-Guggulu are used along with other medicines. Refractory patients who do not respond satisfactorily are given a course of a special medicated enema known as ‘Pichha-Basti’ which consists of milk, boiled with medicines like Moch-Ras (Salmalia malabarica).
In order to reduce the intestinal inflammation and prevent complications like abscess and fistula, medicines like Kamdudha-Ras, Chandrakala-Ras, Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Saariva (Hemidesmus indicus), Patol (Tricosanthe dioica) and Haridra (Curcuma longa) are used in high doses for prolonged periods. Medicines like Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) and Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis) are used to reduce stress. Suvarna-Parpati, Suvarna-Malini-Vasant and Panchamrut-Parpati are used to boost the immune system of the body and also to reduce the inflammation in the intestines.
It is important to note that adequate life style changes need to be made to adjust to these chronic conditions. Appropriate modifications are required in the diet, and adequate relaxation techniques need to be adopted. Butter-milk and pomegranate juice are specially recommended in both these conditions. Because of the potential for serious complications, all such patients should maintain a long term follow-up with a Gastroenterologist.