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Wise Smoke for the Deep Throat

Everyday Ayurveda by Bhaswati Bhattacharya

To keep the voice healthy, medicated herbs needed to be introduced into the throat periodically. Lozenges, teas and gargling work, but they touch deep into the throat for just moments. Ayurveda spent considerable time developing delivery forms for its medicines, addressing the concerns of ease of use, pleasant taste, stability in final form, ease of transport, schedule for consumption, delivery to the site in the body needed and adherence by the patient.

To deliver herbs to the deep throat, the wise men of Ayurveda sought a form that would deliver particles to a highway of constant movement of air from birth until death, where fingers do not easily reach. They watched nature and how nature delivered things from one place to another.

It is not difficult to suppose that a wise man found someone coughing after inhaling ashes and smoke from a cooking fire. From this, the pharmaceutical delivery of medicines via dhoompana was born. Medicinal smoking is not new to man. Many cultures ritually smoke plants, lighting leaves, herbs and powders on fire, to inhale the smoke. Dhoompana is a systematic prescription of particular elements that will moisturize and clean the throat and vocal cords, remove dryness, and roughness, and replace phlegm with clean mucus provoked from the throat’s rejuvenating mechanisms. The ancient shastras say that vitiated kapha in the head is eliminated most quickly by dhoompana, the drinking of smoke.

 

There are many varieties of dhoompana: for soothing coughs, for drawing up and out toxins, for moisturizing the dry throat and for eliminating waste. A typical routine in Ayurveda is the smoking of cloves in dhoompana in the winter months to soothe a sore throat and melt mucus.

 

The method for medicinal smoking is also precise. Smoke is first drawn in through the nose and then the mouth, but it is always exhaled through the mouth, as the toxins should never come through the nose, where it can travel to the space near the eyes. One should always smear some ghee or oil on the end and ignite it, so that the dhoompana is not completely dry and full of ash, and one should use an instrument to hold the herb. Sometimes, the smoke is drawn through a water vessel, called a hookah, so that the smoke is moistened. At times, the herbs are crushed and made into herbal cigarettes for ease of transport and storage.

 

The best times for dhoompana are just after bathing, eating, scraping the tongue, after brushing the teeth, after sneezing and after applying oils to the face (for example, after nasya or collyrium) and just after sleep. Common herbs include kanchnar guggul, a great scraping (lekhaniya) herb for all things kapha, especially in the neck and throat, which I use at the end of a common cold, for thyroid conditions, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and throat, as well as in case of formations of tumors in the neck and throat. Licorice (yashtimadhu) is a demulcent for those thick mucus coughs at the end of a bout of bronchitis or a bad cold. It can be smoked or added to teas and decoctions. Herbs such as cloves and cardamom also soothe the voice.

 

Ayurveda mentions a host of diseases and conditions in the face, head and neck that show great results with dhoompana. It prevents strong vātakapha disorders that occur above the shoulders. But it must be done with care at the correct times in the day’s routine, and not in excess, in order to deliver the dosha-balancing agents according to the vātapitta–kapha flows of the day and the body. Dhoompana is not the same as a casual smoke of a cigarette; it is a planned medicinal application of smoke to the throat using the principles of Ayurvedic dosha and guna theories to balance the imbalances. If done improperly, without the guidance of someone that can diagnose doshas and gunas, dhoompana can cause bleeding disorders, malfunctioning of the senses and mental disorientation. But if done well, at the right time, dhoompana liquefies the kapha in the chest, throat and head in minutes without drying, creating thirst or changes in function.

thesatime | The Southasian times

The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.   bhaswati@post.harvard.edu  | www.drbhaswati.com 

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