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Dhoopana Karma - An Ancient Ayurvedic Method of Disinfection

Introduction

The environmental pollution levels are at the pinnacle these days. The air around us hosts around 10 to 10,000 microbes per cubic meter. A higher proportion of these microbes are infectious pathogens posing unprecedented health conditions. The entire globe is at the grab of a tiny virus that has already caused an impending pandemic. The ultimate cure for all setbacks encountered by the human race while on earth lies within Mother Nature itself. Safe, effective and natural disinfection techniques are attracting attention worldwide. This is where Dhoopana Karma (fumigation) of Ayurveda becomes effective.

Dhoopana - The Ayurvedic Disinfection

The holistic approach of Ayurveda focuses on both curing the disease and conserving the health of an individual. The key requisite for a healthy and happy life is the equilibrium between mind, body, soul, spirit and environment. Ayurveda has consistently stressed the importance of preventive medicine. Since disinfecting and purifying the immediate environment plays a pivotal role in prevention of diseases, the Ayurvedic methods of disinfection play an essential role. Dhoopana is one such method wherein drugs that contain volatile antimicrobial phytoconstituents are used for fumigation either in combination or as single drugs. These drugs may be herbal, herbo-mineral or of animal origin.

Dhoopana Karma

Dhoopana in Ayurvedic Classics

Ayurvedic classics have mentioned that the process of Dhoopana is effective towards the treatment of several ailments as well as disinfects the environment and inanimate objects.  It helps in combating diseases and cleansing the environment. The formulations mentioned in Ayurvedic classics are eco-friendly and economical and can be trusted not to develop any drug resistant microbes.

Acharya Caraka has classified Dhoopana according to their pharmacokinetic actions particularly in wound management. In Caraka Samhita, references of medicated smoke used to fumigate clothes are also seen. Astanga Samgraha has also given a similar classification. Susruta Samhita explains 40 types of Dhoopana. The recommended drugs include guggulu resin, neem leaves, ghee, dried cow dung etc. Kashyapa Samhita has dedicated an entire chapter for Dhoopana. Sharngdhara Samhita has explained 6 types of Dhoopa specifically in the treatment of wounds. Bhela Samhita has mentioned Dhoopana in the treatment of fever and piles.

Ayurveda generally classifies the process of Dhoopana into three on the basis of the action of Dhoopa

  1. Dhoopana - The normal fumigation done for the specific purpose of disinfection.
  2. Anudhoopana - The subsequent fumigation done to enhance the effect of Dhoopana.
  3. Pratidhoopana -  The anti fumigation procedure done to prevent the reappearance of disease.

Process of Dhoopana

The available ingredients are taken in a hot pan and are made to burn. The fumes coming out of it has disinfective properties. Expose the person or the place or the object that ought to be disinfected to the fumes. Blow air on the flame so that the fumes are spread around. This helps in dispersing the volatile components of the formulation. The drugs may also be made into Dhoopanavarthi (fumigation sticks) for easy administration.

Benefits of Dhoopana

The process of Dhoopana disinfects the immediate environment and is of great significance during winter and rainy seasons wherein the chances of disease outbreak are high. It helps to restrict the growth of disease causing pathogens, thereby preventing the outbreak of deadly pandemics. It is used to sterilise the therapeutic rooms, neonatal rooms and puerperal rooms wherein high standards of safety must be maintained. It cures infectious diseases in children. It also aids in the treatment of wounds, poisoning, fever, psychological disorders, gynaecological disorders etc. by acting as a method of drug administration. It is used to sterilise the vessels and machines for medicine manufacture and storage. It also increases the shelf life of raw drugs and shields their potency. It is used for beautification treatments of hair and skin.

How Does Dhoopana Act?

Dhoopana is a strategy of delivering drugs through the inhalation route. This mode of drug administration is easier and can quickly penetrate the blood brain barrier. The increased bioavailability of the drugs adds up the benefits. The formulations usually contain various drugs that offer a synergistic effect and hence enhances the action of the main antimicrobial drug. Most drugs used are volatile in nature. The volatility of the drugs helps in lowering the microbial contamination. The smoke is taken either through direct inhalation or is absorbed via the skin. No wonder, it has great healing properties.

Commonly Used Dhoopana Drugs

The common drugs used for Dhoopana include Azadirachta indica (Indian neem), Commiphora mukul (Guggulu resin), Aquilaria agallocha (Agaru), Brassica nigra (Indian mustard), Cedrus deodara (Devdaru), Ferula asafetida (Hingu), Nardostachys jatamansi (Jatamansi) etc.

The powder of organic turmeric and neem when burned with ghee has disinfectant properties. This may be used as a home remedy for fumigation. Powder of lemon grass, cinnamon, cardamom and clove are also bestowed with disinfectant properties. The volatile oils of neem leaves are seen to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes species. The minerals used for fumigation include sulphur containing compounds like  haratala, manashila etc. The sulphur content in them helps in disinfection. Animal products include the hair, nails and teeth of animals wherein keratin is the structural component. The keratin protein in these substances has sulphur content which aids in disinfection.

One of the most effective Dhoopana formulations used in fever is Aparajitha Dhoopa which include guggulu resin, neem leaves, resin of sal tree, etc. Dasanga Dhoopa is another common formulation used in poisoning. It is constituted by Indian mustard seeds, ghee, sweet flag, guggulu resin, root of Indian Costus plant etc.

Conclusion

The defense mechanism of each individual varies according to the immunity of each body constitution. Hence, the concept of fumigation is very pivotal to protect oneself from getting exposed to air borne pathogens. Safe, cost effective, convenient and lucrative methods of fumigation are gaining huge demand. Natural methods of Dhoopana are proved to have antiseptic, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial and antipyretic effects when done with the right herbs and formulations. The current scenario of pandemic is believed to be caused by air borne pathogens, the spread of which can be controlled through the process of fumigation. Resort to natural remedies, keep the environment safe and disease free.

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Reviewed By:

Best Ayurvedic Doctor in Mohali - Dr. Vikram Chauhan

Dr. Vikram Chauhan

MD (AYURVEDA)

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