Stroke is a medical emergency which results when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off or greatly reduced. An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, occurring about 80 – 85 % of the time, and is due to a blood vessel in the brain getting blocked because of cholesterol deposits called atherosclerosis, or because of blood clots called emboli. A hemorrhagic stroke, resulting from a ruptured blood vessel in the brain, while not so commonly seen, is definitely more serious.
Depending upon what part of the brain and how much of the brain tissue is affected, stroke can cause symptoms like weakness or paralysis of the limbs, paralysis of the muscles of the face, difficulty in speaking, coordination problems, dizziness, vision problems, sudden headache, and loss of consciousness. This can result in monoplegia (paralysis of one limb), hemiplegia (paralysis of upper and lower limb in one side of the body), and paraplegia (paralysis of lower limbs).
Stroke is known in Ayurveda as “Pakshaghaat”. Ayurveda has mentioned facial paralysis as a separate disease entity called “Ardita”. Acute stroke is a full-fledged medical emergency where immediate hospitalization and specialized medical care of the patient can be life saving and can minimize permanent disability. After a patient is discharged from hospital, it is imperative to start Ayurvedic treatment at the earliest possible, to get maximum benefit.
The ancient Ayurvedic texts mention mild purgation as a special form of treatment for stroke. This treatment modality is, surprisingly, not recommended in Ayurveda for any other neurological condition resulting from a disturbed “Vata” dosha. It is believed that this treatment helps to reverse the pathology in stroke, by normalizing the “Prana Vayu” (which regulates the functions of the brain) and bringing about normal functioning of the blood vessels, muscles and tendons. Castor oil, and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), treated with castor oil, are recommended for this purpose.
Massage of the entire body using medicated oils, followed by steam fomentation, is considered an important part of the treatment for stroke. Bala (Sida cordifolia) oil and Narayan (Asparagus racemosus) oil are commonly used for massage, while a decoction of Nirgundi( Vitex negundo), Dashmool (Ten roots), or Erandmool (Root of Ricinus communis) is used for medicated steam fomentation.
“Basti” or medicated enema is also a unique part of Ayurvedic treatment for stroke. Both the “Niruh” and “Anuvaasan” types of enemas are used in an alternating fashion. Dashmool decoction is usually recommended for Niruh Basti, and Til oil (Oil of Sesame) is recommended for Anuvaasan Basti.
Medicated nasal drops are used to stimulate and bring about early recovery of the special sense organs. This therapy is known as “Nasya”. Anu Tel (oil), Shadbindu Tel, Panchendriya Vardhan Tel and medicated ghee are used for this purpose.
Traditional Ayurvedic formulations used in the treatment of stroke are: Yograj Guggulu, Mahayograj Guggulu, Vata Vidhvansa Ras, Tapyadi Loha, Sameerpannag Ras, Vata Gajankusha Ras, Ekangveer Ras and Bruhat Vata Chintamani. Herbal medicines useful in this condition are: Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina), Rasna (Pluchea lanceolata), Dashmool, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Bala, Maash (Phaseolus mungo) and Nirgundi.
Results with treatment depend upon the amount of permanent damage resulting from stroke, the time of commencement of treatment, the presence of other complications like high blood pressure and diabetes, and the overall physical and mental conditioning of the patient.