Charaka Samhita's views on alcohol as cardio-protective and Ojas supporting: the fine line between benefits and harms

Dr. Vijay Murthy

In this presentation, a detailed analysis of alcohol as part of one’s diet and lifestyle will be analysed from drawing parallels between the 2nd century CE Classical text book of Ayurveda, Charaka Samhita, Chikitsa Section, Chapter 24 and findings from cohort studies on alcohol drinkers and non-drinkers in medical literature. With a brief introduction to the change in attitudes towards alcohol through historical developments in India from pre-Mughal and pre-colonial era, Ayurveda’s views on alcohol will be presented by contextualising alcohol as part of European traditions.

After describing the contradicting properties of alcohol and the life promoting Ojas, Charaka’s advise on how to derive health benefits from appropriate consumption of alcohol will be explored. The choice of alcohol as in classics for different Prakruthi of individuals along with suggestions on contemporary alcoholic beverages will be made. Charaka’s description of stages of intoxication and their effect on one’s mind and personality will be presented by comparing benefits of light to moderate alcohol consumption and the harmful effects of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Suggestions will be made on what constitutes light to moderate alcohol consumption based on current guidelines.

Also, how to choose and what quantities to consume for health benefits will be presented by interpreting a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal in 2011. Further, Charaka’s suggestions on the 8 factors to be considered for alcohol consumption and 12 guidelines Charaka prescribes for healthy drinking will be discussed. The concept of alcohol poisoning or alcoholism will be discussed briefly by interpreting Charaka’s views and contemporary definitions. The cardio-vascular benefits of appropriate consumption of alcohol as one’s diet will be presented. This presentation will be of interest to all those who are curious to know the classical views of Ayurveda on alcohol and how to interpret these practically for modern lifestyle.


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