Ayurveda is a traditional Hindu medicinal practice. Though it originated in India, today it’s practiced worldwide.
Ayurveda is generally recognized in the West as an alternative or complementary form of therapy. Ayurvedic medicine is holistic in nature, addressing the conditions of the mind, body, and spirit. It’s concerned with bringing the body back into balance to alleviate symptoms of illness.
A central tenet in ayurvedic medicine is the idea that there are three doshas, or body types: pitta, vata, and kapha. Each dosha relates to a specific element — fire (pitta), air (vata), and water (kapha) — and a person with one dominant dosha will display physical or emotional characteristics consistent with that element.
The ultimate goal in ayurveda is to balance each dosha. This is done through a combination of diet, lifestyle modifications, and herbal remedies.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins found in and around the anus and rectum. They can be either internal or external. Some symptoms of hemorrhoids (or piles) include:
- intense itching around the anus
- painful or itchy swelling or lump near your anus
- painful bowel movements
- bleeding from your anus during or after bowel movements
- irritation and pain around the anus
- leakage of stool
It’s important to know for sure you have hemorrhoids, so do seek a diagnosis with your medical doctor to rule out other problems.
Doctors may recommend over-the-counter products for this issue. Serious hemorrhoids will require more treatment.
There are a handful of ayurvedic approaches to treating hemorrhoids you could try as well. Read on to find out more.
In ayurvedic belief, your dominant dosha determines the type of hemorrhoids you may be experiencing:
- People who are pitta might tend to experience inflamed, bleeding hemorrhoids that are soft and red. Other symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and a feeling of thirst.
- People who are vata may experience a high level of pain, constipation, and black hemorrhoids with a rough, hard texture.
- People who are kapha may have poor digestion and hemorrhoids that are slippery, light or white in color, soft, and large in size.
Ayurvedic approaches to hemorrhoid treatment are considered holistic. People experiencing hemorrhoids who want to try treating them with ayurvedic medicine should expect herbal remedies, lifestyle changes, and minimally invasive procedures as part of their treatment plan.
Your ayurvedic practitioner will evaluate your overall health to determine your dominant dosha before making treatment suggestions. It’s recommended that you speak to your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment approach.
If you’re experiencing hemorrhoids and want to take an ayurvedic approach to treatment, your options include:
Medication, or bhaishajya chikitsa
Most minor hemorrhoids can be treated with medication only. No other procedures are needed unless hemorrhoids are more severe. In worse cases, medicines may be used in addition to procedures.
Your dosha will factor into the medicinal remedies your ayurvedic practitioner chooses and any dietary or lifestyle changes they recommend you make in order to prevent recurrence. Some medicines may not be suitable for your dosha, so follow your practitioner’s guidance.
Herbal application, or kshara
Kshara is a caustic, alkaline paste used to manage hemorrhoids. The paste is made of an herbal blend and has a cauterizing action. Kshara is applied to the hemorrhoid using a specialized device called a slit proctoscope. The paste then chemically cauterizes the hemorrhoid, which may have been open and bleeding.
In ayurvedic medicine, this kshara karma method is considered to be the best approach for treating hemorrhoids.
Depending on your dosha, you’ll be advised to take specific medicines to balance your body as you recover. You may also need to make dietary or lifestyle adjustments to support healing.
It’s possible to be allergic to herbal medications. Do test the cream on your arm, and if no reaction occurs in 24 hours, try applying to the rectal area.
Surgical intervention, or sastra chikitsa
Your ayurvedic practitioner may recommend a therapy called kshara sutra. Kshara sutra uses special medicated thread to tie a hemorrhoid off at the base. This cuts off the blood supply to the vein, allowing the hemorrhoid to shrink over the next 7 to 10 days. It will shrivel and detach on its own.
Your ayurvedic practitioner will consider your dosha when it comes to treatment. You might need specific herbs to support postoperative healing. It’s also possible you may need to make some permanent changes to avoid future hemorrhoids.
While this procedure is considered minimally invasive, it does have risk. Surgical intervention could be dangerous for people who are susceptible to infection, have a bleeding disorder, or are on medications for heart conditions or blood-thinning. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner for advice.
Cauterization, or agnikarma
External hemorrhoids can be cauterized using infrared heat. Your ayurvedic practitioner might offer burning off the hemorrhoids. Cauterization will produce some pain.
This kind of therapy might require five to six treatments over the same number of weeks before it makes a difference. Once again, your dosha will be taken into account before treatment. There is potential for increased pain or infection with this procedure.
Kshara treatment appears to be safe, but there is potential for risk. More research is needed to understand how well they work and how they work.
One study evaluated 30 people experiencing hemorrhoids. Topical application of kshara paste for seven days resulted in the shrinkage of their piles. There were no side effects or adverse effects shown during this treatment. Researchers concluded this treatment would be most effective for first- and second-degree hemorrhoids.
In another case study of kshara chemical cauterization, the patient was symptom-free within 21 days and had no adverse effects or complications. One case study isn’t enough to say cauterization is safe, however.
Kshara sutra procedures have been found to be minimally invasive and low-cost, with a small risk of adverse side effects. These procedures have a few benefits:
- They take less time to perform.
- People can return to work the next day.
- Recovery is less painful than with hemorrhoidectomy.
One study recommends a combination of modern surgical intervention and ayurvedic treatments. Its findings suggest that modern and ayurvedic philosophy toward hemorrhoid treatment are similar but might be most effective if practiced together.
Ayurvedic hemorrhoid treatments like application of kshara paste and kshara sutra ligation have been shown to be safe and effective. If your practitioner or doctor has recommended herbal supplements or medications, be sure to ask about possible side effects.
Cauterization procedures and surgical procedures have much higher risk. Possible side effects include:
- damage to tissue
- leakage of stool
- recurrence of hemorrhoids
It can be risky for a person experiencing hemorrhoids to choose the wrong treatment. That means it’s vital to work closely with a knowledgeable practitioner before choosing.
Your doctor will be able to provide you with detailed information about your diagnosis. In the United States, there are guidelines for the care of hemorrhoids, and diagnosis and management of serious hemorrhoids needs to be under the care of a doctor.
While ayurvedic hemorrhoid treatments appear to be safe and effective, it’s important to weigh your options. Before you decide on a treatment approach, carefully consider the risks and benefits of the procedure. Talk with your doctor and practitioner before you decide which course to take.
A combination of Western and ayurvedic medicine is often an effective approach, and you may find that this works best for you. For some people, ayurveda alone might do the trick, while others will prefer traditional medical intervention.