Kumbha Kamala is the Ayurvedic term used to refer to both the types of acute hepatitis – acute hepatitis A and acute hepatitis B. Though both these diseases have a very low mortality rate, – that of 0.33% – they must be remedied as soon as possible, because they are both highly infectious diseases.
Hepatitis is a general term given to any form of inflammation of the liver. Jaundice is a key symptom of all forms of hepatitis.
The liver is the largest organ of the body. There are several functions that it performs day in and day out. The following are the functions of the liver:-
With so many functions, the liver is apt to break down sometime. This happens when there is a viral infection or a change in the lifestyle of the person compounded with vices such as alcoholism. In such situations the liver gets inflamed. Such inflammations are called as hepatitis.
There are two main types of hepatitis – acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis. In acute hepatitis, the disease resolves itself without any specific treatment within a timeframe of up to six months. If the conditions of hepatitis last beyond this period, then the hepatitis becomes chronic. Chronic hepatitis is known to last in people for as long as twenty years.
When we speak of kumbha kamala, we refer only to acute hepatitis. Hence, this article will cover only acute hepatitis.
There are two main types of acute hepatitis – acute hepatitis A and acute hepatitis B. The following table illustrates the key aspects of these two conditions:-
Both the forms of acute hepatitis are caused due to viral infections. The virus that is responsible for the two conditions are Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). However the modes of transmission of these viruses are quite different.
(i) Acute Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A virus is transmitted through the contamination in the food. It is caused through the orofecal route, i.e. the system through which food moves into the body. Some of the contaminations in food that can cause acute hepatitis A are:-
In some cases, acute hepatitis A has been known to spread through personal contact from an infected person to a healthy person.
(ii) Acute Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted in many more ways than HAV. The following are some of the modes in which HBV can be transmitted from one person to another:-
Hepatitis B is much more dangerous and much more transmittable than hepatitis A. There have been epidemics of hepatitis B in history. It is estimated that about one-third of the total world population today are infected by the HBV, but only about 3 to 6% actually show the conditions of the disease. Also, hepatitis B can become chronic and in rare instances, fatal.
According to Ayurvedic beliefs, kumbha kamala is both a pitta as well as a kapha dosha disorder. Pitta dosha represents the fire element and kapha dosha represents the equilibrium between the earth and water elements. Vitiations in the pitta and the kapha doshas can result in kumbha kamala.
Being a virally transmitted disease, hepatitis can affect almost anybody in the world. Despite that, there are some people who stand a higher risk of getting infected than others. The following are some high risk groups:-
People who live with a person infected with any form of hepatitis are at a great risk of getting the disease themselves.
People who have unsafe sexual contacts with several partners can contract hepatitis B if even one of the partners has the infection.
Hepatitis cases are common among people living in overcrowded areas where there are no proper hygiene facilities.
Hepatitis is also prevalent in tropical countries and among people who do not bother much about their personal hygiene.
Healthcare workers are exposed to hepatitis risks if they do not take adequate precautions.
Hepatitis is known to be a genetically transmitted disease. If a family member (especially parents) had hepatitis, then there is a good chance of contracting the disease.
The symptoms of kumbha kamala are different depending on which type it is. The following is a list of symptoms of both the types of kumbha kamala:-
Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis A
Jaundice, which begins with the yellowing of the eyes
Darkening of urine
Nausea and vomiting
Extreme feelings of fatigue
Fever accompanied by chills
Loss of appetite
Problems with digestion
Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis B
General feeling of being ill and at unease
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Aches and cramps in the body
Darkening of urine
In both the forms of hepatitis, jaundice is the most common symptom. Jaundice coupled with fevers, loss of appetite, dark urination and body aches are the common symptoms associated with hepatitis.
Drastic measures need to be taken in order to prevent hepatitis from becoming an epidemic. The following are some guidelines towards this end:
Prevention of Acute Hepatitis A –
Be very particular about cooking your food properly. Bring the water used in cooking to a proper boil before turning the gas off.
Drink water that has been carefully filtered and brought to boiling point.
Fruits brought from the market should be properly washed before being consumed. Ideally, they must be peeled before being eaten.
The leftover food must be properly discarded.
If a person has contracted hepatitis A, then care must be taken to keep all his or her eating and drinking utensils well-separated from the other utensils in the house.
The feces and urine of hepatitis A patients must be disposed with extreme care. The toilets must be fumigated after every visit.
Prevention of Acute Hepatitis B –
All physical contact with the patients of hepatitis B must be strictly avoided.
Be very careful during blood transfusion. Among other things, get the blood checked for hepatitis B also.
Only disposable syringes and disposable razors must be used.
One must be very cautious about the medical history of a sexual partner. The safest way is to remain monogamous, i.e. faithful to one sexual partner.
Vaccinations are available for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B infections. Nowadays, there are vaccines available for infants that greatly reduce the risk of infections in future life. Also, people with a hepatitis patient in their house must immediately get themselves vaccinated at their healthcare center.
The basic guidelines for following healthy dietary patterns apply to hepatitis too. The following are some of them:-
Salts must be curtailed in the diet.
Keep the diet rich in carbohydrates.
Cut down on spicy and oily food.
Avoid sugars to a large extent.
Say a complete no to alcohol.
Say yes to all kinds of green leafy vegetables.
Have a good portion of fruits, but do not go overboard. Apples and plantains are good.
Hepatitis is a disease that cures itself after some time; hence, there is no need for any specific treatment. It is essential to only take precautions to avoid it from becoming chronic.
In Ayurveda, there are several herbs that are used to reduce the symptoms of hepatitis, especially jaundice. These are the same herbs that are used to bring down the problems of simple jaundice. The following is a list of some of these herbs with their effects on the human body.