In the world of Ayurveda, you hear a lot about the concept of ama—toxins that can build up in your body due to factors like weak digestion, pollution, an improper diet, or less-than-ideal lifestyle choices. Ama clogs the channels of the body, preventing nutrients from being delivered efficiently to the cells and preventing wastes from being discharged efficiently from the body.
According to Hari Sharma and his fellow co-authors of The Answer to Cancer, "If you were to take all the 'bad stuff' circulating in the body and lump it together with a single name, that would be ama. It's germs. It's partially-digested food. It's oxidized LDL (the bad cholesterol)... Ama is the forerunner of all disease. If you have enough of it, you will get sick. The less of it you have, the healthier you are."
With all that in mind, keep reading for more information on signs you might have an accumulation and how you can safely and easily rid your system of it.
Do You Have Ama? Take the Questionnaire
So how do you know if you have ama? And how do you get rid of it? Start by taking this Ama Questionnaire from The Answer to Cancer (excerpt printed with permission from SelectBooks, Inc.):
Circle your response (1 = least; 5 = most)
- I tend to feel blocked in my body (constipated, congested in the head, general lack of clarity, or other).
1 2 3 4 5
- In the morning when I wake up, I'm groggy; it takes me quite a while to feel really awake.
1 2 3 4 5
- I tend to feel weak, physically, for no reason that I can see.
1 2 3 4 5
- I get colds (or similar conditions) several times each year.
1 2 3 4 5
- My body tends to have a feeling of heaviness.
1 2 3 4 5
- I just tend to feel that "something isn't working right" in the body (digestion, breathing, bowel movements, or something else).
1 2 3 4 5
- I tend to feel lazy. (My capacity to work seems all right, but I have no inclination.)
1 2 3 4 5
- I commonly have indigestion.
1 2 3 4 5
- I often have to spit.
1 2 3 4 5
- Often, I just don't have a taste for food. I have no appetite.
1 2 3 4 5
- I just tend to feel tired, even exhausted...in mind or body.
1 2 3 4 5
Add up your scores to arrive at a rating for your level of ama:
- 45-55 Severe
- 35-45 Moderate
- 25-35 Mild
- 11-25 Minimal
If your results show you have some ama build-up in your system, don’t lose heart! We’ll offer some helpful, ama-reducing tips later on this article. For now, let’s do a deeper dive into the different types of ama, and how they’re created in the physiology.
The Three Different Types of Ama
Maharishi AyurVeda recognizes three types of ama:
- First, there is the “regular” ama that is heavy and sticky; it is formed through poor dietary habits and low digestive fire. Over time ama tends to accumulate in the system and block the channels of the body, causing a variety of conditions.
- The second type of ama, which is more toxic, is called amavisha. This type of ama mixes with the doshas or tissues or waste products of the body and causes more chronic problems.
- The third type of ama is called garvisha; this is associated with bioaccumulation of environmental toxins. The human body has hundreds of different cell types and 50 to 75 trillion cells. Each one of your cells knows who you are and where it has to be in order for it to be part of you and to be able to communicate that to all the other cells. This is what is called inner intelligence. In the world of cells information must flow, and ama blocks the flow of this information.
Over time, each type of ama can lead to chronic illness if not addressed. Again, we’ll offer some ama-reducing tips later on.
10 Things That Can Cause Ama
Many factors can lead to an accumulation of ama in the mind and body, including:
- Eating before the previous meal is digested
- Not making lunch the main meal; eating large meals at night
- Ice drinks and cold-food meals
- Food that isn't fresh, pure, and organic. Old food, stale food, packaged foods
- Eating without full attention on the meal; watching TV or reading. Eating too quickly
- Eating while emotionally upset
- Not taking the heaviest parts of the meal first when the agni (digestive fire) is strongest
- Not taking time to relax, decompress, and unwind
- Not engaging in light, enjoyable exercise daily whenever possible, or a few times a week
5 Easy Ways to Eliminate Ama
- The first stage in eliminating ama is always Nidan Parivarjanan — reducing the causes of ama. Therefore, simply try to avoid the 10 less-than-ideal behaviors listed above. Chances are, you’ll feel much better in just a few days!
- The next step is to digest the ama, a process known as Ama Pachan, through the use of digestive substances. This can be as simple as sipping hot water, or using specific spices or herbal preparations, many of which are listed below.
- Then comes Lekhan, or cleansing of the digestive tract. Lekhan means "to scrape." Again, this can be as simple as taking a drink such as hot water and lemon in the morning, and may also include the use of specific spices such as ginger and black pepper or specific herbal preparations. But this depends on the prakriti of the individual, as certain spices may be too heating. When in doubt, consult with a Maharishi AyurVeda health expert.
- The next step is to increase the digestive fire. This is known as Agni Dipan, or kindling the digestive fire through light diet. This may consist of a strict regimen beginning with liquid meals, progressing gradually to semi-liquid meals, then to thicker soups, and gradually to more solid food over a period of time. One can always have a liquid diet once a week, particularly if overweight or more Kapha. The use of specific spices in the food, and herbal preparations taken at specific times of the meals and during the day, is helpful. Again, this is judged according to the agni of the individual and their nature.
- Finally comes Shodhan, which is the elimination of ama. This can be done with specific Ayurvedic herbal formulas or, for a more intensive ama reduction, through Panchakarma. Panchakarma is a specific supervised in-house cleansing program. These programs are available at The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa.
Herbs to Reduce Ama
The herbal formulations listed below can help reduce your ama load considerably.
Blissful Sleep — Research conducted at the University of California at San Diego* indicates that Blissful Sleep helps people fall asleep more quickly. The herbs in the Blissful Sleep formula produce a calming, balancing effect on the body, mind, and emotions.
Elim-Tox helps detoxify the colon and digestive tract. But it doesn't stop there — it also helps cleanse the liver, the sweat glands, the nutritive fluid, the blood, and the fat tissue. This blend of 18 Ayurvedic herbs helps clear the microchannels of the body, allowing waste to be removed and vital nutrients to reach the cells.
Elim-Tox-O helps cleanse your body's natural purification systems using fewer Pitta-stimulating herbs, making it the recommended choice for people who have a tendency towards acne, heartburn, and excess stomach acid or who have a lot of "fire" in their physiology.
Herbal Di-Gest — Proper digestion and metabolism, on the other hand, result in the conversion of the foods you eat into healthy body tissues. Herbal Di-Gest is a blend of 10 Ayurvedic spices and herbs that promotes healthy assimilation and elimination, so you won't feel dull and heavy after meals.
Herbal Cleanse — This is a gentle, yet effective, herbal supplement for cleansing the bowel. Herbal Cleanse contains rare forms of senna leaf and turpeth root (Indian jalap) along with five other herbs to aid natural elimination, enhance cellular purification, and improve assimilation of nutrients.
Organic Genitrac — Helps flush out ama from the genitourinary tract. It targets the genitourinary channels to help eliminate toxins through the urine.
Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) — A mild laxative, it purifies so gently that when used over a long period of time, it allows even the deepest tissues and organs of the body to release toxins. It supports food absorption and promotes ojas, the finest product of digestion, which rejuvenates vital energy.
* Published in "Complementary Therapies in Medicine," Vol. 11, pp. 223-225, 2003.
A Special Self-Massage to Lower Ama: Garshana
Garshana (pronounced gar-shan) is a specific Ayurvedic massage that helps remove ama through the use of moderately-textured raw silk massage gloves. As explained by Vaidya Manohar, a pre-eminent Ayurvedic expert, garshana in Sanskrit means "friction by rubbing." According to the Ayurvedic texts, a garshana massage stimulates blood flow, stimulates the lymphatic system, removes blockages in the physiology, nourishes the mind and nervous system, removes ama, and helps enliven alertness.
Garshana massage is often recommended for people with a Kapha imbalance as well. The symptoms of imbalanced Kapha include being overweight, water retention, lymphatic slowness, dullness physically or mentally, slow circulation, or blockages in circulation.
The dry brushing of garshana massage also exfoliates the skin and stimulates the blood flow to deeper tissue cells by increasing the circulation. According to Ayurveda, this kind of massage helps remove lymphatic blockages and promotes healthy lymphatic circulation. Garshana also removes ama in the microchannels and is said to help alkalize the blood, helping to eliminate stagnant impurities. In addition, garshana helps detoxify the liver and helps create negative ions (which are the good ones!). Lastly, this traditional Ayurvedic massage also opens the skin pores so herbal massage oil can penetrate and nourish the skin deeply
How to Do Garshana Massage:
Garshana massage should be done on dry, clean skin, after showering, while using medium-firm pressure and a vigorous motion. You can follow up with a light oil massage to soothe the skin.
Proper garshana procedure involves two types of movements. The nature of the movements should be vigorous, to stimulate the skin:
- Circular movements in joint areas.
- Back and forth on long bones.
Please note: garshana should not be done over the heart or on the breasts.
My Vedic Kitchen: Ama-Reducing Recipes
Recipes by Chef Mosa, The Raj, Fairfield, Iowa
These delicious recipes help dissolve and digest ama in the heart and elsewhere, opening the shrotas—the microcirculatory channels located throughout the body. Using select foods, flavors, and eating times to help the body detox is one of the special skills of authentic Maharishi AyurVeda. When undigested toxins accumulate, they tend to do so in the heart. Here are three delicious ama-reducing recipes. They come to us from the premier Maharishi AyurVeda Panchakarma clinic in the United States — The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa.
The first recipe is a classic. It comes to us from Raj Vaidya Siju, formerly the Ayurvedic expert-in-residence at The Raj. He recommends this delicious digestive lassi for the heart.
The next two recipes come to us from Chef Mosa Scalzer. The first of these features organic poached pears. Chef Mosa calls it a real crowd-pleasing dessert dish that will not disappoint.
With all these helpful, ama-reducing tips, supplements, and recipes, you’ll be well on your way to living a life in greater balance!
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