Autism is the prototype disorder for pervasive developmental disorder which is believed to be a complex genetic and neurological disorder that generally lasts throughout a person life. Current statistics shows that autism occur in all racial ethnic and social groups and recently there have been reports of an increase in the number of children receiving a diagnosis of autism or receiving public services for autism.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by problems with social interactions, impaired verbal and non-verbal communication and a pattern of repetitive behavior with narrow, restricted interests. Boys are more likely than girls to have autism. Though the exact cause for autism is unknown, genetics plays an important role, and environmental, immunological and metabolic factors may have a contributory role.
Behavioral therapy, coupled with specific education, and periodical assessment by a multi-disciplinary team, form the mainstay in the management of children with autism. Additional Ayurvedic herbal treatment can be given to reduce troublesome symptoms and improve cognition. Herbal medicines can be given safely for long periods even to children, and therefore, this therapy is specially beneficial for children with autism.
The brain tissue can be treated by correcting the metabolism of the “Majja” dhatu in the body. Medicines useful in this condition are: Pancha-Tikta-Ghruta Guggulu, Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and Musta (Cyperus rotundus).
In addition, Ayurveda mentions a category of medicines known as “Medhya”, which improve the working capacity of the brain. This category includes medicines like Mandukparni (Centella asiatica), Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Guduchi, Padma (Nelumbo nucifera), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Vacha (Acorus calamus) and Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis).
Normally, a combination of several medicines is used in the treatment and management of autism. In addition to the two categories of medicines mentioned above, other medicines like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) are also used routinely. Autistic children usually require a high dose of herbal medicines to get good results.
In addition to oral treatment, autistic children benefit from massage treatment all over the body using medicated oils like Chandan-Bala-Laxadi oil and Mahanarayan oil. Ayurvedic Panchkarma procedures like “Shirodhara” and “Nasya” are beneficial for the problems related to autism, but may be more suitable for older children and adults.
Treatment has to be tailor-made for each child according to the severity and presentation of symptoms. In addition, different children may respond differently to the herbal medicines. Parents should avoid the temptation to treat their children on their own.