There is no rule in Ayurveda that says you can’t drink! According to the Yogi Amrit Desai, people become addicted to drugs or alcohol as a means of escaping imbalances and pain caused by stress or tension. The mind receives a signal from the alcohol that it is being helped, but it is just exacerbating imbalances and not promoting self love.
The Charaka Samhita is an Ancient Ayurvedic text, dating back to 400-200 BCE. There is a chapter in the text that warns us that alcohol is a toxin. There are strict rules as to what clothing, where, when, why and how much alcohol should be consumed for it to be considered a nectar and health agent. In Vedic times, alcohol was made from ingredients like flowers, leaves, cereals, fruits, roots and more. Arishtas are herbal infused wines, which were taken when someone had an affliction. Served in moderation (4-6 teaspoons after a meal), this had healthy effects on community members.
Understanding Alcohol To understand alcohol, we have to understand blood vessels, which are directly influenced by our emotional states. In anger, they dilate and increase blood flow; in fear they constrict and decrease blood flow. So, in anger someones body temperature will be hotter, and in fear someones body temperature will be colder. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, increasing bloodflow and relaxing muscles. Anything you put into your body that dilates blood vessels is addictive to our brain chemistry. The next morning, blood vessels are constricted and the brain receives insufficient oxygen and prana(life force), hence the hangover feeling of drowsiness.
Your Constitution & Alcohol If you have low Ojas (life vitality), and/or low Agni (digestive fire) – alcohol is not recommended for you. Those with a predominantly Vata dosha should be careful around gaseous types of alcohol, such as beer. For a Vata individual, or anyone suffering from dehydration or dryness, white wine or fruit beer is better. Consuming beer without proper hydration and care creates rapid fluid loss in the body. Pitta dominant people, as well as anyone experiencing inflammation and/or high acidity levels should be mindful when drinking red wine. White wines are less Pitta aggravating, but liquors aggravate Pitta to a large extent. People with a Kapha dominant constitution can consume beer and wine in small amounts. Red wine creates more hunger when consumed in excess, and a meda dhatus (fatty tissue) disorder can arise over time. Alcohol diminishes Ojas, and a strong and balanced digestive fire is needed for it to be properly digested by both the body and mind.
Alcohol Abuse Long term alcohol abuse damages all organs and severely affects brain function. There are two main branches of disorders commonly associated with alcohol abuse in Ayurveda, which are Rakta Dhatu (blood) disorders and Meda Dhatu (fat tissue) disorders.
Rakta Dhatu disorders can be triggered by hot, spicy food, alcohol abuse, excess sour, oily and salty foods. Rakta disorders can also be caused by emotional factors, such as anger, envy, hatred and aggressiveness. Rakta Dhatus is the red blood cells, and blood vessels. It is a bridge for the body’s internal and external environments that transports nutrients to body tissues. When rakta is increased, it causes a Pitta imbalance and is then called rakta vruddhi. Pitta-like symptoms develop, which looks like bleeding from any natural opening and/or inflammatory conditions. Infections, hemorrhoids and canker sores are indications of increased Pitta. A person could also develop permanent blood vessels on their nose, which coincides with Meda Dhatu disorders.
Meda Dhatu refers to fatty tissue. This includes adipose tissue, phospholipids, steroids like cholesterol and other lipids. Fat contains vast amounts of energy for us to use- if it is processed and stored correctly at appropriate amounts. Alcoholics can overeat, and this makes them hold on to excess fat. Excess consumption of alcohol can create fatty deposits in the liver – since alcohol is converted to sugar. Abuse of alcohol leads to obesity since sugar holds the elements of Earth and Water, creating a Kapha imbalance. The excess Earth and Water molecules are unprocessed and remain stagnant in the adipose tissue – resulting in fat. Meda disorders can also be caused by sedentary lifestyle, unresolved emotions, and over satiation of tastes like sugar, salty, sweet.
Alcohol Alternatives Ayurveda always treats the whole person, not just the “problem”. Consistent yoga practice can help people experience less stress – which is a main reason for consistent alcohol abuse. If you’re a person who regularly comes home at the end of the day and cracks open a beer, or has a glass or wine – consider doing some yoga first. Listen to how you feel afterwards.
Meditation is an excellent tool for people who are recovering from alcohol addiction, because it calms the mind and makes it easier to manage triggers. Meditation is a practice of connecting and drawing awareness to our Higher self, which alcohol shrouds from us. Uncovering the immense beauty of who we are, and experiencing the pure joy of life is what were missing when we turn to alcohol for support.
There are standard herbs you can take for dealing with depression and can improve cognitive function, which are effects of alcoholism. Herbs that are adaptogens literally “adapt” to your body’s level of stress, promoting homeostasis (balance). Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, and an excellent herb for managing stress while promoting Sattvic energy (purity, wholesomeness). An herb integral in promoting liver health is tulsi, or referred to as “holy basil”. This herb protects organs and tissues against chemical and physical stress of alcohol, and holds anti depressant and antimicrobial properties.
A seasonal diet according to your constitution combined with the willpower to reduce or remove alcohol from your life will enable more room for self love and better lifestyle choices. Consistency and patience are necessary to begin this process.
A Brighter Future In Ayurveda, the root cause of disease can be attributed to not listening to yourself. If you have noticed yourself drinking when stressed, bored or sad – this is a time for you to sit with yourself in meditation and untangle those root causes. Ayurveda is all about getting back to your true self, the way you were born perfectly under the stars! Over time, the way we were born changes and is shaped by the world around us, and some of us use alcohol to “deal with life”. This is okay, and the first step to change that is awareness. Chemical effects of alcohol suppress thoughts, feelings and emotions that are needed for proper mental digestion. Be patient with yourself. When your mind has quieted, then you will be able to listen to yourself, and have the energy to give yourself what you need. Ayurveda is all about experiencing self awareness, attuning to your digestive fire and being in touch with the season and your diet.
Resources: Yoga Health Coach easyayurveda.com mapi.com Ayur-Shipli NCBI & NCBI Alchoholrehab.com Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles by Dr. Vasant Lad Recipe from mapi.com Photo by revac film’s & photography Photo by Chris F from Pexels