The nervous system is perfectly organised as far as anatomical or structural and physiological or functional functions are concerned. The nerve cell or neuron is the fundamental unit of the nervous system. Neurons conduct the message from the brain to organ and vice-versa. This process is called transmission of the nerve impulse.
Drugs that Act on the Nervous System
- Medya-rasayana (Nootropics): These drugs have the capability of increasing the cerebral function of the brain. They are also known as cerebral activators. Brahmi is typical example.
- Nadi balya (Nevine): These groups of drugs increase the action of the nerves and are also known as nervine tonics. Examples: Kiwanch (Mucuna prurita) and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).
- Nidrajanana (Hypnotics): These hypnotic drugs are used to cure insomnia and mental health problems. Example: Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi).
Diseases Linked to the Nervous System
A few diseases linked to the nervous system are discussed below
Anxiety usually occurs without an obvious cause. It is characterised by extreme agitation and distress and reporting of restlessness, excessive sweating, mood swings, palpitation and even chest pain, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, impotence and premature ejaculation.
Alzheimer’s disease (Senile dementia)
Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of dementia (memory loss) in developed countries. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease, characterized by memory loss, language deterioration, poor judgment, and indifferent attitude. Muscular activity, is however okay. Alzheimer’s disease usually begins after age 65, but can manifest even as early as 40. It usually manifests as declining memory and over time, destroys personality, cognition and even the ability to function normally both physically and intellectually.
Lack of sleep (Insomnia)
Sleep is a natural process and if it gets disturbed it may pose a serious impact on the health of a person. Lack of sleep is common in chronic maladies like fever or depression. One must get proper sleep for at least six to eight hours. In mild cases indigestion, stress, tonsillitis or dental pain may be cause for insomnia. If patient is suffering from chronic sleeplessness, then medical advice is necessary
Exact cause of migraine is not known. Stress, lack of food, infrequent meals, alcohol, overtiredness, change in sleep patterns, physical activity, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, change of routine and very hot baths are some of the factors identified which can trigger attacks in susceptible people.
The main symptoms of migraine are nausea, vomiting, intense headache often on one side of the head only, and photophobia (fear of light). The patient may experience stiffness of neck or shoulders. Tingling or stiffness in the limbs, inability to concentrate, and difficulty in speaking or in rare case loss of consciousness are the findings. A typical attack of migraine lasts between four to seventy two hours and sufferers are usually symptom free between attacks.
Parkinson’s disease is a disease of elderly patients. Exact cause of the disease is not known but it is proposed that there is an imbalance in the function of neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine. Sometimes history of viral illness and environmental factors are linked to the incidence of the disease.
Tremors are essential features of the disease. In addition slow repeated voluntary movements and rigidity of the muscles are important features. The patient seems to be wearing a mask. Tiredness and depression are sometimes seen in a patient of Parkinson’s disease.
Ananta-vata (Trigeminal neuralgia)
Trigeminal nerve is a cranial nerve supplying various part of the face. It is commonly found in middle age people and rarely in young age. Apparent cause of the disease is not known.
The main feature of the disease is severe pain in the face lying across the distribution of the trigeminal nerve.
Revolving sensation (Vertigo)
Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness that occurs when sense of balance has been disrupted. There are number of reasons for the incidence of vertigo. Benign positional vertigo is the commonest reason and is characterized by sensation of motion initiated by sudden head movements. Vertigo may also be caused by inflammation (swelling) within the inner ear. Vertigo can be caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. Head injury may also result in vertigo. Migraine could also cause vertigo. It is very important to determine that if vertigo truly exists. It should not be confused with the symptoms of lightheadedness or fainting.
The patient of vertigo presents with nausea, vomiting, sweating, abnormal eye movements. The duration can be from minutes to hours and can be constant or episodic. It is very important to tell the doctor about any recent head injury and new medicine. Sometimes hearing loss and ringing sensation is encountered. In addition there can be visual disturbances, weakness, and difficulty in speaking, decreased level of consciousness and difficulty in walking. Vertigo is encountered in patients having cervical spondylosis or pain in the neck (described in chapter on diseases of joints).
The incidence of diseases linked to the nervous system is on the rise. Dementia, anxiety neurosis and depression are common in the urban as well as rural populations. Effective allopathic drugs are available to treat symptoms of above said disorders in short term patterns. However, they have life-threatening side-effects. Research in this century has demonstrated that Ayurvedic formulations are effective for long term management of dementia, anxiety neurosis and depression, if taken under medical supervision.