Urticaria, commonly known as “hives” typically develops as rash on the skin, accompanied by severe itching. Acute urticaria is of short duration, up to six weeks, and is usually caused by certain food products, medicines, insect bites and infections. This usually responds well to standard treatment like antihistamines.
Chronic urticaria is usually of much longer duration, and in most cases, the offending cause is not known. Standard modern medicine may not be very helpful here. It is in such patients that Ayurvedic herbal treatment may be very useful and effective. One major advantage of Ayurvedic herbal medicines in such an affliction is that medicines may be taken for long periods without any serious side-effects.
I shall now discuss the different types of urticaria, from the point of view of Ayurveda, and mention their Ayurvedic treatment in brief.
When disturbed “Vata” dosha is mainly responsible for causing urticaria, a pricking sensation is predominant, and this type of urticaria is called “Sheetapitta”. When disturbed “Kapha” dosha is mainly responsible, itching is the predominant symptom, and this type of urticaria is called “”Udarda”. Impurities are formed in the “Rakta” dhatu due to improperly induced emesis (vomiting), and the resulting urticaria is termed as “Kotha”. When this kotha becomes recurrent, it is termed as “Utkotha”.
For the treatment of urticaria, application of Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) oil and fomentation with hot water is beneficial. Induced vomiting and induced mild purgation are beneficial, where symptoms are severe, however, these procedures should be carried out by qualified and experienced physicians.
All efforts should be made to try to avoid the offending cause, if known. Soda bicarbonate powder mixed in warm water, when applied to the hives, gives immediate relief from itching. Ayurvedic medications containing Trikatu or Marich(Piper nigrum) and Turmeric (e.g. Haridrakhand Yog) are useful in controlling urticaria. Other products like Sameerpannag, Sutshekhar, Arogyavardhini, and Gandhak Rasayan are also very useful. Medicines like Kamdudha, Mukta and Gairik are useful in reducing the burning sensation associated with itching in urticaria.
Patients with chronic urticaria may not respond readily to the above mentioned treatment. A detailed history for the symptoms, and a detailed study of the constitutional framework of the patient is essential in deciding the ideal combination of medicines for each patient, so as to get maximum results. Treatment for the impurities caused in the “Rakta” Dhatu, and treatment for stress, are two important principles of treatment which contribute significantly to the success of treatment. Therefore, medicines like Sariva ( Hemidesmus indicus), Manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) and Shankhpushpi (Consecora decussata) are useful in chronic urticaria. Ultimately, treatment has to be tailor-made for each patient having chronic urticaria.