The Art of Drinking Water in Ayurveda
Water in Ayurveda :
Different synonyms for water are used by the brilliant scholars of Ayurveda representing either the properties of the water or importance of the water in human life. Jeevanam is a synonym for water which means life. Life could not exist on this planet without water. For an Ayurveda physician water is not only an essential nutrient but is one among the five basic elements essential for the creation of this universe. It is Jalamahabhoot i.e water element. According to Charaka liquid, unctuous, cold, soft, sticky & sweet taste are the attributes of the substances predominated by water. Moistening, unctuous, binding, oozing, softening and exhilarating are the effects of watery edible substances on the human body. Taste is also an attribute of jalamahabhoot. According to Charaka water is the basis of taste. Water is basically tasteless but as soon as it falls from the sky gets endowed with the properties of the five elements, or comes in contact with other substances & taste appears in water.
Classification of Water:
Charaka while describing the various types of water mentioned that, entire water is only one which falls down as rain from the sky, that while falling or having fallen down depend on place and time. He further says that water while falling down from sky & coming in contact with the moon the air & the sun which follows time, gets impregnated with the properties of cold, hot, unctuous, non unctuous etc. & so on, as it rests on the ground.
Soil & The Water :
According to Charaka the pure rain water has by nature six qualities namely cold, pure, wholesome, palatable, clean & light. But when water falls on earth its properties change according to the soil on which it has fallen. In white soil it becomes astringent, in pale it becomes bitter, in brown alkaline, in usara i.e red saline, in hilly area pungent, & in black soil it becomes sweet. The water from rain, hailstone and snow is tasteless.
The Season & The Water :
According to Charaka-
(1) The fresh rain water of the rainy season is heavy, cases blockage to the channels & sweet. That of autumn is thin, light, and which does not block the channels in the body.
(2) In early winter water is unctuous, aphrodisiac, strength promoting & heavy.
(3) In later winter it is light and alleviates kapha & vata.
(4) The water of spring season is astringent, sweet & rough.
(5) In summer it is non-blocking for channels.
The River & The Water :
Charakacharya has described the properties of water from different rivers. It’s a a huge ecological observation. It shows the wisdom & the extent of eco-friendly nature of oriental thinking. The river originates from Himalayas , constantly used by the sages having water that is obstructed, agitated & beaten is wholesome & virtuous, says Charaka. (According to modern science the water agitated & beaten by the big stones in the bed of the river contains more oxygen). Those originating from Himalaya, carrying stones & sand have clean water which is like nectar. This rivers flowing towards west have clean water & are wholesome while those joining the eastern sea are mostly mild flowing & do not have clean water.
The water which falls from the sky is called as Aindrya Jala. It is the principal drinking water. Best water is slightly astringent, sweet, thin, non slimy, light, non rough & does not block the channels of the body says Charaka.
Jala Mahaboot & Human Body :
While describing the predominance of Mahabhoota in human body in Charak Samhita Charakacharya cleared stated that, “ the liquid, mobile, dull, unctuous, soft & slimy, plasma, blood, fat, kapha, pitta, urine, sweat etc. along with the taste & gustatory sense are predominantly made up to Jala Mahabhoota. These are the watery ingredients of the body.
Udakavaha Srotas :
Strotas are defined as transporting passages of dhatus undergoing transformation. For udakavaha srotas, the origin is palate & pancreas. The symptoms of their affliction are dryness of tongue, palate, lips, throat, pancreas & excessive thirst. The signs mentioned above are the early signs of dehydration irrespective of the cause. It is clear from the description mentioned above that the udakavaha strotas is ment for maintaining the water balance of the body.
*Rules for water intake:
Water should not be taken before food as it diminishes the digestive fire in the stomach & hampers digestion.
Water with food (advised in cases of regular stones in the excretory system) causes weight gain & postpones digestion.
Water after food hampers digestion & aggravates kapha, because of which one feels drowsy.
Cold water taken in normal & cold climates causes constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, & weight gain. It should always be taken in hot temperatures.
Hot / lukewarm water is good for digestion, alleviates vata & kapha & is fat cutting. Thus should be used in obesity. This should be avoided in hot temperatures & pitta diseases.
An ideal time for drinking water after meals is at least half an hour after you have had food.
In absolute opposition to what is being said by Western Ayurveda, water should not be drank first thing in the AM. It does not do anything healthy in Ayurveda, in fact it does just the opposite. From the nightime, the shrotas or channels are closed. A building of kapha happens during this time. In the Am, there is excessive aap mahabhuta, water, in form of kleda. By drinking, you actually stop the processing of this excessive water. None of the texts state to drink water in the morning. It does not stimulate apana because it would first need to go thru stimulating prana, udana, and samana before getting to apana and that will take much to long.
Drinking a glass of luke-warm water does not help flush out all toxins accumulated overnight in the body. That is a completely Western concept and is not Ayurveda. Proof of how Ayurveda would never do this is found in the chapter on Grahani.
Water of a certain source (like a well) is not to be taken before the water of another source (like a tank), already taken in, has not been digested. In the same manner boiled (and cooled) water is not to be taken before the cold water already taken remains undigested in the stomach. Even if the boiled (and cooled) water is digested, cold water is not to be taken before the next meal. Cold water is also not to be taken in before the boiled and hot water already drunk remains undigested. After proper digestion of boiled and hot water one can drink cold waters.
Drinking of water in excess even when one is thirsty causes the vitiation of pitta and sleshma (kapha), particularly in case of fever patients. This increases aama, thirst, sleep, drowsiness, adhmana (dropsy), feeling of heaviness of the body, cough, agni sada (weakness of digestive fire), hrllasa (nausea), praseka (watering of the mouth), shvasa (dyspnoea) and pinasa (nasal catarrh). Boiled water, being of madhura vipaka (sweet post digestive) and shitavirya (cold potency) is to be taken in very limited quantity.
Incase, of indigestion of ama and vishthabdha type, water is to be drunk, even when one is not feeling thirsty, to the extent that the food material in the stomach is softened.
Since water is antagonistic to fire, a person suffering from mandagni (low gastric fire) should avoid drinking all types of Water (e. g. cold, or boiled and hot or boiled and cooled). Similarly persons suffering from the following diseases are also prohibited; abhishyanda (an eye disease), pliha (enlargement of spleen), vidradhi (abscess), gulma (abdominal tumour), pandu (anaemia), udara (any morbid abdominal affection), atisara (diarrhoea), arsha (piles), grahani (dysentery), shosha (emaciation or consumption) and sopha (swelling). If these patients are unable to withstand without drinking water, they are advised to drink in small quantities, water medicated by herbs selected for the particular diseases.
Water which is boiled and reduced to one-fourth, one-third or half, according to the heaviness or lightness imparted in it due to the region and season and which is devoid of froth, scum and is properly boiled and is also clean is wholesome.
Thirst is an urge to drink water. Water is so vital for all our body processes that thirst compels us to drink long before we get dehydrated i.e. dangerously low level of water in the body. Charakacharya, in his topic dealing with urge specifically mentioned that the urge of thirst should not be held. Suppression of thirst gives rise to dryness of throat & mouth, deafness, fatigue, depression & cardiac pain. For which cold & gratifying drinks are recommended. It becomes easy to control the complications when thirst itself is alleviated. Hence one should overcome thirst before it leads to other disorders. Excessive thirst due to loss of fluid dries up the patient & kills him instantly. Hence one should take rain water mixed with honey. The ground water which is astringent in post digestive fate, thin, light, cold, fragrant, of good taste & non blocking of channels should be considered as rain water.
Water In Disease :
Charaka recommends naturally cold water in different conditions of thirst, burning sensation, fainting, giddiness, exhaustion, poisoning & bleeding disorders naturally. In hiccups, difficulty in breathing, acute fever, coryza, after intake of ghee, disease of chest & throat, kapha & vata disorders, unctuosness in the body & just after evacuation, hot water is wholesome. Intake of too much water is not wholesome in case of anemia, ascites, coryza, diabetes, tumor, poor digestion, diarrhea & spleen enlargement. However, if the desire is an intolerable one should drink water added with sugar & honey or some other suitable & favorite preparation.
Water In Fever :
In condition of thirst during fever, hot water should be given. Thirst caused by wine & pitta (excessive heat ), cold water boiled in small quantity is advisable. Both the above types of water are appetizers, digestive, antipyretic, channel cleansing, strength promoting, producing relish and are wholesome. Water boiled with musta, parapatak, usira, chandana, udichya & shunthi (names of herbs) self cooled, should be administered to alleviate thirst & fever.
Water In Benign Tumor
The patients of benign tumor should use water boiled with laghu panchamoola (group of herbs).
Water in Diabetes
A person suffering from Diabetes should drink water processed with the drug of salasardai group (group of herbs) or kusa or honey water / triphala water / juice of triphala which helps in controlling the sugar & keeping the body free from post- diabetic complications.
Water In Anaemia & Jaundice
For those suffering from Anaemia water boiled with herbs of laghupanchamula & for those suffering from Jaundice, the grape juice & the juice of amalaki is recommended.
Water in Panchakarma :
In virechana karma, (Purgation) after taking purgative drugs if there is constipation & the impurities are discharged in little quantity & with delay, the patient should drink hot water. By this tympanitis, thirst, vomiting & constipation are pacified. In Charaka, it is stated that “hot water digests the undigested unctuous substances, breaks kapha & carminates mind. Hence hot water should be given in emesis, purgation in herbal water & oil enema for pacification of vata & kapha.
Water Preparation :
Water prepared with different substances are mentioned in Charak samhita.
1) Shadangapaneeya (water with six herbs) in obesity, Water boiled with musta, parapatak, ushir, chandan, udichya & sunti is called as Shadangapaneeya. Shadangapaneeya is indicated in all types of fever & benign tumor. It is fat cutting & very useful in obesity.
2) Trinapanchamool water.
This is indicated in excessive thirst. The water boiled with Trinapanchamool & mixed with sugar candy is called as Trunapanchamool Jala.
3) Water in excessive thirst
In excessive thirst the water boiled with tender leaves of matalunga, vetas, roots of kush, kasha & yashtimadhu is advised. This water is then filtered & allowed to cool for the use. Water prepared with Laghu panchamoola, Bruhat Panchamoola, Dashamoola are also some other examples of the water prepared useful in different disease conditions.
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