Ayurvedic treatment for Kala Azar

Kala Azar

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  • Definition
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Management
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Kala Azar Ayurvedic treatment


Kala azar is a condition also called as ‘Visceral leishmaniasis’ and is characterized by irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anemia (which may be serious).1

It is a vector borne disease caused by the Sand fly of genus Phlebotomus argentipes - the only known vectors of kala-azar in India.2

If the disease is not treated, the fatality rate in developing countries can be as high as 100% within 2 years1

Ayurveda does not mention the entity kala azar as such but it has described certain diseases which mimic the condition namely Visamajwara (Satatajwara) [Continues intermittent fever], Krimi (Raktaja) [Worms/parasites in blood] and Plihodara/Pliha roga (Spleen enlargement disorder). Raktaja Krimi [Worms/parasites in blood] is also responsible for the manifestation Raktaja vyadhi (Disease pertaining to blood tissues), out of which Pliha roga is one. Plihodara is a syndrome characterized by abnormally enlarged spleen (organ that produces blood cells), physical weakness, anorexia, indigestion, retention of stool and urine, thirst, body ache, lethargy, cough, mild fever, pain in abdomen, reddish or abnormal tinge or appearance of blue, green or yellow streaks on abdomen, and severe anemia.3


Kala Azar


The cause of Kala azar is a protozoan parasite that may belong to any of the more than 20 Leishmania species. These parasites are transmitted into humans by the bites of the infected female phlebotomine sandfly - a tiny insect. There are three main forms of leishmaniasis:

  • Cutaneous,
  • Visceral or kala-azar, and
  • Mucocutaneous.1

Since most people infected by the parasite do not develop any symptoms at all in their life; therefore, the term leishmaniasis refers to actually showing signs of sickness due to a Leishmania infection and not just being infected with the parasite.1


Kala Azar


While many people with Leishmaniasis do not show symptoms, those who show signs of sickness with leishmaniasis (Kala azar) may show the following2

  • A recurrent fever that is intermittent or rises twice in a day
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss with thinning of body
  • General weakness
  • Splenomegaly – spleen enlarges rapidly to massive enlargement
  • Mild enlargement of Liver
  • Swelling of lymph glands – not very commonly seen in India
  • Dryness, thinning and scaly skin.
  • Hair may be lost.
  • Light coloured persons show grayish discolouration of the skin of hands, feet, abdomen and face which gives the Indian name Kala-azar meaning “Black fever”
  • Rapid development of Anemia

Anaemia with lethargy and gross splenomegaly produces a typical appearance of the patients2


Kala Azar


Diagnosis of the disease is generally made by combining the visible clinical signs with lab tests (mainly rapid diagnostic tests). In cutaneous and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, clinical manifestation with parasitological tests confirm the diagnosis but serological tests have limited value.1


Kala Azar


As per Ayurveda, Jvaraghna (febrifuge), Krimighna (Anti helminth/parasitic) drugs as well as plihaghna and plihodara (Treatment of Spleen) management principles are useful in the management of kala-azar.3,4

Diet Recommendations (Aahar)

  • Light and digestible food according to prakruti should be recommended.
  • Koshna jala (warm water) should be used for drinking.
  • Avoid excessive intake of amla (sour), lavan (salty), katu (spicy), kshar (alkali), ushna, tikshna rasas (intake of hot, spicy and junk food), curd5

Lifestyle changes (Vihar)

  • Avoid Exertion
  • Adequate rest is recommended.
  • Avoid Ati vyayam (excessive exercise/exhaustion), Diwasvapana (sleeping at day time) and Vegvidharan (holding of natural urges).


Kala Azar
  1. How is sinusitis caused? Does it have anything to do with cold foods?

Sinusitis is basically an inflammation of the membranes of para-nasal sinuses or the group of four paired air-filled spaces that surround the nasal cavity. Colds, bacterial infections, allergies, asthma and other health conditions can cause sinusitis, or inflammation of the para-nasal sinuses.

In some people, cold foods may flare the condition and aggravate the allergies resulting in sinus problems. Such people should avoid eating cold foods.

  1. What are symptoms of Asthma? How do I know if someone may have asthma?

Symptoms of Asthma differ from person to person. Some may have infrequent asthma attacks, some have symptoms only at certain times — such as when exercising — or some have symptoms all the time. 

Asthma signs and symptoms include-

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling (wheezing is a common sign of asthma in children)
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu
  1. My reports show a low platelet count, do I have dengue?

Diagnosing dengue fever can be difficult, because its signs and symptoms can be easily confused with those of other diseases — such as malaria, chikungunya, leptospirosis and typhoid fever.

Your doctor will likely ask about your medical and travel history. Be sure to describe any contact you may have had with mosquitoes. Certain laboratory tests can detect evidence of the dengue viruses, but test results usually come back too late to help direct treatment decisions. A low platelet count is generally seen in dengue but is not the only isolated finding. Fever, body-ache, skin rash, which appears two to five days after the onset of fever and minor bleeding accompanied by low platelet count is conclusive of Dengue.

  1. How does one contract typhoid? 

Typhoid fever is caused by a bacteria called S. typhi. This bacteria spreads through ingestion of contaminated food or water, and occasionally through direct contact with someone who is infected. In developing nations, where typhoid fever is endemic, most cases result from contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation. The majority of people in industrialized countries pick up typhoid bacteria while traveling and spread it to others through the fecal-oral route or contamination of food and drinking water with fecal contact that may occur due to flies, etc.

This means that S. typhi is passed in the feces and sometimes in the urine of infected people. You can contract the infection if you eat food handled by someone with typhoid fever who hasn't washed hands carefully after using the toilet. You can also become infected by drinking water contaminated with the bacteria.

  1. Can malaria only spread from mosquitoes?

Although the commonest cause of malarial fever is due to a bite by the infected female anopheles mosquito, this is not necessarily the only way one can be affected. 

Because the parasites that cause malaria affect red blood cells, people can also catch malaria from exposures to infected blood, including:

  • From mother to unborn child
  • Through blood transfusions
  • By sharing needles used to inject drugs
  • Organ transplants
  1. Does yellowness of eyes always mean there is a liver problem?

In some people who eat large amounts of food rich in beta-carotene (such as carrots, squash, and some melons), their skin may look slightly yellow, but their eyes do not turn yellow. This condition is not jaundice and is unrelated to liver disease.

Yellowness of the eyes is usually due to the leaked bilirubin pigment in the blood stream. This is called jaundice and most probably occurs in cases of liver inflammation. Such patients will also have a visible yellowness of skin.

  1. How does one get elephantiasis? 

Elephantiasis is basically swelling of the lymph glands due to an infection. The disease spreads from person to person by mosquito bites. When a mosquito bites a person who has lymphatic filariasis, microscopic worms circulating in the person's blood enter and infect the mosquito. People get lymphatic filariasis from the bite of an infected mosquito. The microscopic worms pass from the mosquito through the skin, and travel to the lymph vessels. In the lymph vessels they grow into adults. An adult worm lives for about 5–7 years. The adult worms mate and release millions of microscopic worms, called microfilariae, into the blood. People with the worms in their blood can give the infection to others through mosquitoes.

  1. What is the difference between Pneumonia and Pneumonitis?

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

Pneumonitis on the other hand, is a general term that refers to inflammation of lung tissue. Although pneumonia is technically a type of pneumonitis because the infection causes inflammation, most doctors refer to other causes of lung inflammation when they use the term "pneumonitis”.

Factors that can cause pneumonitis include exposure to airborne irritants at your job or from your hobbies. In addition, some types of cancer treatments and dozens of drugs can cause pneumonitis.

  1. Is rheumatic fever same as rheumatoid arthritis?

They are different. Rheumatic fever occurs after an infection of the throat with a bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes, or Group A streptococcus. Group A streptococcus infections of the throat cause strep throat or, less commonly, scarlet fever. Group A streptococcus infections of the skin or other parts of the body rarely trigger rheumatic fever. The exact link between strep infection and rheumatic fever isn't clear, but it appears that the bacterium ‘plays tricks’ on the immune system.

Rheumatic fever usually occurs in younger population especially children while rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammation of the body that mostly affects the joints in adults. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that certain cells of the immune system do not work properly and start attacking healthy tissues — especially the joints. The one that affects young children is called stilts disease.

  1. Every time I touch cold water I get these spots on my skin. There is no other complaint. Is this because of some allergy to water?

You may have a condition called Urticaria. It is a skin reaction that causes red or white itchy spots on the skin. There is a type of Urticaria called cold urticaria, in which skin that has been in contact with cold develops reddish, itchy spots. The severity of cold urticaria symptoms varies widely. Some people have minor reactions to cold, while others have severe reactions. Swimming in cold water is the most common cause of a whole-body (systemic) reaction.


Kala Azar
  1. Leishmaniasis. Available at http://www.who.int/leishmaniasis/visceral_leishmaniasis/en/ accessed Aug 30th 2016
  2. National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme,. KALA-AZAR OR VISCERAL LEISHMANIASIS. Available at http://www.nvbdcp.gov.in/kala-azar.html accessed Aug 30th 2016
  3. Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011. Chapter 13.
  4. Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011. Chapter 1.
  5. Byadgi PS. Natural products and their antileishmanial activity - A critical review. Int Res J Phamacol. 2011; 2(4): 46-49

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