From a Western perspective, meningitis is an infection that involves inflammation of membranes known as meninges which surround the brain and spinal cord. The role these membranes is to protect the delicate tissues they enclose. Inflammation comes about due to bacterial, viral or fungal infection, and puts the brain and spinal cord at risk.
Bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening and occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and travel to the spinal cord and the brain. Viral meningitis is usually less severe, and fungal meningitis is rare and mostly occurs in people whose immunity is very low.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, some know meningitis as “brain edema”, or swelling of the tissues around the brain. This condition may not have been common during ancient Vedic times. Nevertheless, the condition is thought to be caused by all three doshas—vata, pitta and kapha. And once infected, all three doshas often become deranged.
Infection and Symptoms
Meningitis can stem from a throat or sinus infection, the herpes simplex virus, or through new contact with pathogens through the environment or other people. If the body’s immunity or strength is low, the risk of infection is much greater.
Symptoms of meningitis may take hours or weeks to develop. In the event that the symptoms develop quickly, treatment should be immediately sought.
In adults, meningitis may mimic the flu. Other symptoms include: a stiff neck; sudden high fever; severe headache with nausea or vomiting; confusion; seizures; loss of appetite and thirst; and skin rashes.
In children, symptoms can include: constant crying; high-grade fever; irritability; excessive sleepiness; poor feeding; and stiffness in the body or neck.
The main risk factor for meningitis is age. Bacterial meningitis mostly occurs in those under the age of twenty, and in general in children younger than five.
In those with low immunity and pre-existing poor health, the risk is also greater.
During pregnancy, the disease can lead to miscarriage.
In Ayurveda, herbs are the primary treatment, and can be ingested or used as aromatherapy or in nasal oils, to help evacuate excess doshas from the head.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a pure bitter herb that is very effective to guard against and kill harmful strains of bacteria that can cause meningitis such as staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus pyogenes, cornebacterium, E. coli, and salmonella typhosa.
Tulsi (Holy Basil; (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is pungent and sweet also has excellent the anti-bacterial and anti-virus properties. Consume as a tea, or make a paste by combining the juice of tulsi with honey.
Brahmi (Gotu kola) is mildly bitter and has been used in Ayurveda since ancient times to provide strength to the mind and brain. It is tonic and has a calming, relaxing, clarifying and rejuvenating effect. It may help reduce seizures. It is suitable for all three doshas. You can combine Brahmi powder with honey and consume the paste.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is bitter, pungent and sweet in taste, and is an excellent all-round body tonic, especially for vata and kapha dosha. It can also be useful to maintain food strength and immunity, and manage fatigue and nerve pain.
Amla (Indian Gooseberry; Emblica officinalis) is sour and slightly bitter in taste. Use it as juice or powder.
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a sweet, pungent herb that has marvellous anti-bacterial properties and is very useful to gently reduce congestion and inflammation.
Other useful herbs include: Vacha (Acorus calamus), Pippali (Piper longum) and Punarnava (Boerhaavia Diffusa).
Trikatu contains three pungent herbs—dried ginger, black pepper and pippali. It is very useful to help remove congestion and stagnation and dry out wet tissues.
Kaishore Guggulu is a classical herbal formulation that contains herbs like maricha, pippali, haritaki, bibhitaki, amalaki, guggul, ginger, vidanga, Indian jalap, and red physic nut. These herbs combine to have great medicinal properties, in particular being effective in reducing tissue inflammation.
All herbal treatments should be supported by an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle.
Additional Nourishing Treatments
Soak almonds (badam) in cool water overnight. In the morning, pop them out of their skin and eat three. Grate them or chew them very well.
Shirodhara and Shirobasti are two Aurvedic treatments that nourish and rejuvenate the head. Warm, herb-infused oils are applied to the head and scalp. These may be used after acute inflammation.
Some Preventive Tips
Always wash your hands thoroughly.
Stay healthy and maintain the body’s immune system.
Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
Keywords: Meningitis; Ayurveda; health