Ayurvedic Concept of skin
In Charaka Samhita, Twacha (the word Twacha means skin) is defined as that which covers the body from outside. Anatomically, Acharya Charaka has described 6 layers and the corresponding diseases of the skin. The outermost layer is the Udakadhara (containing watery substance or lymph). The second one holds the blood. The third layer is the seat of Sidhma (dermatitis) and Kilas Kushta (leucoderma). The fourth layer is the seat of Dadru Kushta (ringworm). The fifth layer produces Alaji (boil) and Vidradhi (abscess). The sixth and deepest layer is the origin of deep seated red and black colored boils and glands. Susrutha has described 7 layers of skin.
Other than anatomical description, Charaka has also described the natural texture of skin in Prakriti (constitution) and Sara Praikshana (examination of excellence of skin tissue).
In persons of Vata Prakriti, skin is dry, rough, and cold, with less sweating or without sweating and its color is black and smoky.
In pitta prakriti person, skin is hot, secretes more sweat and does not tolerate heat. Different color pigmentation is also present in this type of skin. Skin color is fair and yellowish to yellow.
In Kapha prakriti person the skin is unctuous, soft, cold and color is fair whitish and very pleasant to see.
Twak Sara Purusha Lakshana (Excellence of skin tissue in a person)
The skin is usually unctuous, smooth, soft, very pleasant and with luster over it.
Even though the skin condition and other description of a single prakriti are given in texts, in practice we always see a combination of two or three doshas in a single person. So in practice we label prakriti according to predominance of doshas as Vata Pitta ja or Vata Kapha ja, etc.
The Effect of Rasa or Taste on Skin
According to Charaka, the effect of food article on the body is predominantly due to its taste (Rasa). Hence general effect of different Rasa on the body is also mentioned along with the properties of individual food articles. The Rasa also directly affects the Doshas.
* Sweet taste in general increases the luster of the skin. It is beneficial for skin and hair.
* Sour taste has no direct effect on skin but if taken in excess can increase process of pus formation in the preexisting injury or eruption on the skin.
* Saline taste if taken in excess can increase cuts on the skin particularly in preexisting skin diseases. It accelerates the wrinkle formation on the skin and graying of hair as well as alopecia.
* Pungent taste reduces oiliness as well as itching of the skin but at the same time can create patches over the skin.
* Bitter taste in general is useful in all skin diseases. It reduces almost all secretions in the body.
* Astringent taste if taken in excess can produce tanning over the skin.
Diet as an Etiological factor in skin diseases
Virudhhahara or Dietetic incompatibility – This is a peculiar Ayurvedic concept related to diet interaction and is described in almost all Ayurvedic compendiums. In general along with some other diseases, dietetic incompatibility can produce skin eruptions, leucoderma and different types of dermatitis. The famous example of this is fish and milk. This combination if taken together will cause skin disorders over a period of time. Some other combinations like milk, honey, bamboo leaf and jujube fruit if taken together can adversely affect the luster and texture of skin.
Food items indicated and contra indicated in skin diseases
Food items good for skin health – Charaka has mentioned the use of easily digestible food and vegetables with pungent taste for skin disorders. The ghee prepared with marking nut, triphala and neem if used along with food is useful for skin disorders. Old grains, flesh of animals belonging to dry land and forest, green gram are good for skin disorders.
Food items to be avoided in skin disorders – Heavy diet, sour taste, curd, milk, flesh of animals belonging to marshy land, jaggery, and sesamum are contraindicated in all skin disorders.
From this we can conclude that almost every aspect of dietary advice to skin care and diseases are discussed in Charaka Samhita and on the basis of this we can rewrite the dietary regimen applicable in today’s life.
This article is written by Dr. Fiyonika Mehta Porwal. She is BAMS and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org