Panchakarma is an Ayurvedic detox and rejuvenation regimen which includes herbs, vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga, and massage. [Photo: Bigstock]

Ayurvedic detox regimen reduces inflammation, heart disease risk

13 September, 2016

Natural Health News — An Ayurvedic-based well-being program, which included a vegetarian diet, herbs, meditation, yoga and massages, could help reduce inflammation and heart disease risk.

Participants in the controlled clinical trial at a well-known Ayurvedic centre in California showed measurable decreases in various blood-based metabolites associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk and cholesterol regulation.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, represent a rare attempt to use metabolic biomarkers to assess the reported health benefits of integrative medicine and holistic practices.

The study involved 119 healthy male and female participants, 30-80 years of age, who stayed at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, Calif. Just over half were assigned to the Center’s Perfect Health programme, a 6-day Ayurvedic Panchakarma intervention. Panchakarma refers to a detoxification and rejuvenation regimen involving massage, herbal therapy and other procedures to help strengthen and rejuvenate the body.

What you need to know

» Testing the efficacy of multifaceted integrative programmes such as Ayurveda can be difficult.

» In this study from the US researchers measured a variety of blood metabolites to determine the physiological changes brought about by Panchakarma – an Ayurvedic-based regimen that includes dietary changes, massage, herbs, and other detoxification and rejuvenation therapies.

» Blood taken from the participants showed measurable and generally positive changes in blood metabolites after just 6 days.

Changes in the blood

The remainder were assigned to a control group who were simply enjoying a relaxing resort holiday. Blood plasma analyses, using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, were taken before and after the six-day testing period.

The researchers found that in the Panchakarma group there was a measurable decrease in 12 specific cell-membrane chemicals (phosphatidylcholines).  High levels of some of the chemicals detected have been shown to be associated with higher serum cholesterol and some others have associations with both higher and lower risk of type-2 diabetes risk.

These phospholipids exert broad effects on pathways related to inflammation and cholesterol metabolism. In general plasma and serum levels of the metabolites of phosphatidylcholine are highly predictive of cardiovascular disease risk.

Application of a less stringent measurement standard identified 57 additional metabolites differentially abundant between the two groups of participants.

Senior author of the study, which included researchers from multiple institutions, was Deepak Chopra, MD, clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, author and a noted proponent of integrative medicine.

“It appears that a one-week Panchakarma program can significantly alter the metabolic profile of the person undergoing it,” said Chopra, whose foundation provided and managed funding for the study.

More research is needed

Study co-author Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor of family medicine and public health and director of the Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health, both at UC San Diego School of Medicine, added that alternative and integrative medicine practices, such as meditation and Ayurveda, are extremely popular, but their effects on the human microbiome, genome and physiology are not fully understood. “Our program of research is dedicated to addressing these gaps in the literature.”

The authors suggested that given the very short duration of the trial, the serum profile changes were likely driven by the vegetarian diet component of Panchakarma.

Other and larger studies of this type would be needed to draw deeper and more meaningful conclusions. Nevertheless, the fact that the authors could see measurable changes in blood profiles after just 6 days does show that the remarkable repair mechanisms of the body can kick in relatively quickly if well supported.