Interview with a Vaidya: Dr. JV Hebbar - Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda

Interview with a Vaidya: Dr. JV Hebbar

By on July 25, 2015

I’m going to tell you a little story. It’s about a man who wanted to know the secret of Ayurveda.

JV Hebbar is an Indian Ayurvedic doctor and a professional Ayurveda, health and lifestyle blogger. He has written five Ayurveda books and has co authored two textbooks on Ayurvedic mineralogy. He’s the very active author of, a health and lifestyle blog. We wanted to know the secret of his success.

Here it is:

1. Dear doctor, could you tell us about your Ayurvedic background, and how Ayurveda came to you?

Dr. JV Hebbar: During my childhood, I suffered a lot with health issues, 4 fractures and 2 abdominal operations. I lost my father due to Kidney problems at the age of 13. So, medical field naturally became attractive to me. I opted for Ayurveda because this wonderful Indian system of healing as spirituality test and is more close to the nature than any other medicine system.

2. You suffered with health issues. Were you treated with Ayurvedic medicine at that time?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Not much of Ayurvedic treatment actually. But those experiences attracted me to the medical science. I have equal respects to all forms of medicine system. But chose Ayurveda as it was more close to heart.

3. You are the author of 5 books about Ayurveda and lifestyle. What are your “8 Healthy Daily Habits for A Healthy Lifestyle”?

Dr. JV Hebbar: These habits are quite easy to follow and encompass physical, mental, social and spiritual facets of life.

Setting up a healthy lifestyle requires you to take small steps and bring small changes into your daily routine. These eight small steps will help you to move closer towards a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Drink 5 -6 glasses of water keeps you well-hydrated, cleanses kidney and urinary bladder, keeps skin well nourished, hydrated and moisturized.
  2. Taking light food at night – This helps to keep the stomach light and keeps weight under control. It also avoids overload on your digestive system.
  3. Waking up half an hour early – Waking up early in the morning, that too, half an hour before your regular schedule energizes sense organs and keeps you active throughout the day. As per Ayurveda, it is better to wake up before 6 am and going to bed before 11 pm.
  4. Drinking hot water at night – Half a glass of hot water at night at bed time helps for easy bowel movement the next day. It also reduces the effect of Kapha Dosha on the body, avoids ill effect of fat diet, useful in allergic rhinitis and obesity.
  5. Donating a small amount – Donating a small amount to the poor or having a social activity helps mind to relax and open for new ideas.
  6. Practice silence for a few minutes – This helps the mind to clarify and understand issues, helps to teach patience and makes you think before talking.
  7. Prayer in the morning fives you extra energy to keep the day smooth and successful.
  8. Reading a page of self-help book or spiritual book at bed time aids in sleep, keeps the mind calm and helps to inculcate noble thoughts and helps leads us to a successful life

4. According to Ayurveda, it seems like our kitchen could be our pharmacy. Which herbs and/or spices do you recommend the most on a daily basis?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Rightly said! Our kitchen is the best pharmacy. Her is the list of herbs that I commonly use for myself and for my family:

  • Tulsi – Holy basil – for adults, chewing 2 – 4 fresh leaves two times a day after food is best way to treat viral fever, allergic rhinitis, cough and cold.
  • Neem – Chewing leaves directly or making it a herbal tea (1 tablespoon of neem powder added with a cup of water, boiled and reduced to half a cup, filtered, consumed when hot) is useful in diabetes, minor bacterial and viral infections and infective skin diseases.
  • Ginger – chewing ginger readily or adding ginger powder to our regular tea is an easy way to treat cough, cold and viral infections.
  • Flax seed oil – Daily usage of 5 – 10 ml of oil in diet is useful in treating high cholesterol, constipation, obesity, ADHD and such other mental disorders.
  • Black pepper – In a dose of 1 – 3 grams per day, in divided dose per day along with a teaspoon of honey is good to treat low digestion strength, liver and spleen disorders.
  • Onion is anti-aging, rejuvenating, aphrodisiac and improves intelligence. It improves skin complexion, useful in skin disorders. Its juice extract, applied directly on scalp, 10 minutes before bath, is useful in hair fall.
  • Cardamom is a very good Indian spice with less of hotness and more of sweetness. Being an excellent anti oxidant, it is used in treating blood pressure, asthma, indigestion, dysuria etc. It also is an ingredient of Chyawanprash.

5. Why do you believe that “there is no better way of healing than Ayurveda”?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Because most of the Ayurvedic medicines are from natural herbs. When compared to other systems of medicines, the side effects are very less.

Wide range of herbs, with multiple combinations can be easily used in different health conditions.

Ayurveda not only considers physical and mental aspects of a person, The science also concentrates on spiritual and social aspects as well.

6. Why is the Ayurvedic massage considered as a treatment and not only a simple massage? What are its benefits and how often should a person receive a massage? At the same time, when to avoid massage?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Ayurvedic massage is done with herbal oils such as Maha Narayana oil, Ksheerabala oil etc. These oils are prepared with powerful muscle relaxing, pain relieving and anti aging herbs. Hence massage is very useful in anti aging treatment, arthritis treatment, muscle pain, ligament pulls etc.

Ayurvedic massage relaxes mind, induces normal sleep and relieves stress.

Everyone should undergo massage at least once per week, if not daily. One can simply buy a suitable Ayurveda oil. Take half to one ounce of it (15 – 30 ml) in a bowl. Just apply it to all parts of the body, rub it for five minutes. Wait for another five minutes and take hot water bath.

Massage should be avoided when a person has fever, in early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, wounds and abscesses.

7. What are the principles of Panchakarma, and how can we know which karma is better for us?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Over a period of time, body accumulates toxins within and they needed to be expelled out from time to time. The toxins are expelled either by inducing vomiting, purgation, through nasal drops or by administering enema.

If the accumulation of toxins is influenced by Vata, as in case of arthritis, bloating, anxiety, ageing related disorders etc, basti treatment (enema) is administered.

If the accumulation of toxins is influenced by Pitta, leading to disorders such as – liver and spleen disorders, skin diseases with red lesions etc, virechana (purgation) treatment is administered.

If the accumulation of toxins is influenced by Kapha Dosha, leading to diseases such as obesity, excessive cough, very low digestion strength etc, then vamana (vomiting) therapy is preferred.

For the diseases of ear, nose, throat and eye disorders, usually nasya (nasal drops) therapy is preferred.

8. How to avoid the creation of Ama (toxins) in our body and how to take care of our digestive fire (Agni)? Adding some spices in our food, is it enough to sustain Agni?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Adding a few spices to diet is surely one way to avoid Ama. Spices such as ginger, pepper, cinnamon and cardamom are very useful in this regard.

Follow these tips for a better digestive fire and to avoid Ama accumulation in stomach.

  • Have minimal food at dinner.
  • Eat only when you are really hungry. Eat only till the hunger is satisfied.
  • Drink only when you are thirsty, drink till the thirst is quenched.
  • Avoid sweets, heavy-to-digest foods such as fried foods, non veg foods for dinner
  • Exercise for at least 15 minutes in the morning
  • Sleep for not more than 7 hours at night.
  • Do not sleep or bathe soon after having food.

9. How much food should one eat per day as per Ayurveda?

Dr. JV Hebbar: It is really a difficult question to answer. The quantity of food that we take varies based on mood, what we had eaten on previous meal, what is the nature of present meal, whether the previously taken food is completely digested or not etc. Though there are uncertain factors, there are a few general rules that help to answer – how much food to eat per day.

Based on hunger: The rule of natural urges of Ayurveda states that – you should eat only when you are completely hungry. You should eat till the hunger is satiated. When you are hungry, it indicates that the digestive enzymes are completely produced to optimum extent. Hence the food that you take will be digested well.

You should eat till the hunger is satiated. While taking food, if you stop feeling hungry, that indicates that the food that you have taken matches with your digestion strength. Hence, it is time to stop eating.

Foods that are heavy, should be had less in quantity–about half to one third of stomach.

Foods that are light, can be had more than those with heavy, up to one third of stomach.

10. What about fasting? What are the mental and spiritual benefits of fasting? How and when to fast? Could you share some tips?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Fasting looks like a physical exercise, but fasting needs a good control on mind. Hence it is also a mental and spiritual exercise.

Spiritual benefits of fasting: If you are a spiritual seeker, fasting can act as a media to communicate with Almighty. It is a way to express your love towards God. It is a way to train your mind to strengthen belief in God.

Mental benefits of fasting: Fasting helps to exercise control over mind.

When you start fasting, it is more of mental hunger that you need to control than the stomach related hunger.

Fasting helps to have good control of mind, which:

  • helps to achieve superior concentration
  • boosts confidence
  • helps to keep distractions at bay.
  • makes you think twice before speaking
  • control of mind is key for anger management and following abstinence.

Fasting brings about clarity in thoughts, prevents laziness, improves enthusiasm and makes you feel light.

How to fast? There are different methods – such as:

  • Total fasting – not consuming anything at all throughout the day or for a particular hours within a day.
  • Water fasting – drinking water throughout the day, whenever one feels hungry
  • Juice fasting – drinking fruit / vegetable juice only.
  • Vegetable salad fast – replacing meals with vegetable salads, etc.

11. How and what to eat at night?

Dr, JV Hebbar: As per Ayurveda, we have to eat only when hungry. Ayurveda recommends to have light dinner at night, without heavy non veg foods, excessive fried foods and excess sweets. This is because, night is influenced by Kapha Dosha. If we indulge in excess of the above food types, kapha would further increase, leading toobesity, indigestion, worsening of joint stiffness (as in rheumatoid arthritis) etc.

For the same reason, having freshly made warm food is good to have for dinner, than frozen foods.

12. According to Ayurveda, What are the benefits of gym and exercise, and when should we avoid workout?

Dr, JV Hebbar: Exercise helps to lower body fat, improves agility, concentration, memory, prevents diabetes, high blood pressure and improves muscle strength.

According to Ayurveda, you must avoid gym under these circumstances:

  • Lack of sleep – According to Ayurveda, Vyayama or gym elevates Vata, so also, lack of sleep. So, elevation of Vata to a much higher level is undesirable. So, avoid gym if you did not have sleep and rest, the last night.
  • Muscle pull – Sometimes, in gym when a new exercise is tried, muscle twitch or pull. During these circumstances, it is highly advisable to keep away from gym till the time the muscle pull or twitch is treated, to avoid excessive Vata aggravation.
  • After giving birth – After delivering a baby, till the time the uterus returns to normal shape and the tendons and ligaments around it regain strength, it is highly advisable to avoid gym. Usually this period is up to 3 months in case of normal delivery and 6 months in case of caesarean section. Uterus prolapse during the later stages of life is linked to improper rest during the after-delivery-period. So take rest if you just have delivered a baby and enjoy taking care of your lovely baby.
  • Feeling of burnt out, breathing problem – Normally, after a heavy work schedule, we may feel over tired, or burnt out. in those circumstances, rest is very much needed. If you are feeling burnt out, stop going to gym for one week, then self access your condition and act accordingly.
  • During or just after a disease attack – Your body has already fought with infecting micro organisms.. so, it needs rest, before you go and fight with the gym machines. So, rest rest and rest, during or just after a disease attack.

13. Is Yoga enough? And if so, which asanas do you recommend daily ?

Dr.JV Hebbar: Yoga as a form of physical, mental and spiritual exercise is very effective for perfect health balance. Asanas are really a personal choice. Surya Namaskara, Bhujangasana, Padmasana, Uttana Padasana, Dhanurasana are my favourites.

14. What are the reasons to include pranayama in our daily routine?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Here are the health benefits of adopting pranayama as a daily routine:

  • The mind becomes concentrated. Brain becomes more active.
  • Memory power increases.
  • All the organs of the body will be stimulated.
  • Good flow of oxygen rich blood to brain and all the parts of the body is ensured.
  • The muscles will feel relaxed, thus reducing the pain.
  • Good for people with stress, depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Instills confidence and courage.
  • Useful in speech related problems.
  • It is helpful in chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes.
  • It is one of the best stress relieving techniques.

15. For those people who travel a lot, how to keep Vata dosha balanced while travelling?

Dr. JV Hebbar: If your job requires you to travel very frequently, having oil massage at least once a week is really useful to keep aches, pains, muscle twitches at bay.

While travelling, if you tend to get headache, try plugging your ears.

Do not expose yourself to direct wind through the window for prolonged period of time.

Keep the air conditioner’s temperature very near to normal temperature.

Especially in long travels, use hot water to drink. This maintains Vata balance.

16. Generally talking, how to take care of Vata nowadays ?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Regular oil massage at least once a week.

If you live in cold places, try hot water bathing.

Include a bit of spices in diet – ginger, pepper, cardamom.

Include at least half a teaspoon of ghee in diet.

Use at least a few teaspoons of oils in diet.

17. Could you share some simple Ayurvedic tips for a better sleep ?

Dr JV Hebbar: I give you some sleep tips for better sleeping:

  • Make your room ready: The sleeping room and your bed should be very neat and clean. Neatness around helps to have a calm mind, leading to good sleep.
  • Dark room: Darkness helps to calm the mind faster. It helps to avoid unnecessary thoughts and self-chatting which are the barriers for a sound sleep. If your room is not dark enough, consider using an eye band. It helps.
  • Sound proof: Sound is another barrier for natural sleep. If your home is not a quiet place, then at least use an ear plug.
  • Chose the right bed and pillow: Hard or smooth, chose the right one which suits you.
  • Bed spread colour: Make sure the bed spread, covers and pillows are light in colour. Light blue, light purple or whatever soothes your mind.
  • Keep your arms in right position: Some get good sleep when they keep their arm above the head level. Some wake up from sleep due to a paining arm, which was kept below a pillow. Your arm in a comfortable position is critical for a better sleep.
  • Foot massage: If you can convince your beloved to do a little foot massage (may be without any oil), it really helps the body and mind to relax better.
  • Fixed timing: It really helps to keep a fixed schedule for sleeping, it sets up the body rhythm. It will set the body and mind clock.
  • Avoid TV /Computer: You should not watch TV / Computer screen at least one hour before going to bed.
  • Avoid horror books, movies, tragedy serials etc – Entertainment should make your mind happy and calm. It should not stimulate your mind, at least late night.
  • No heavy dinner – Since the energy requirement at night is very less, it is better to avoid heavy dinner. Light dinner gives your tummy and body a light experience, inducing natural sleep.
  • No altercation / anger / heavy thinking – Morning is the better time for sorting out issues. Late night is the time to keep the mind calm and relax the body with sleep.

18. Some people feel tired all the time. How do you explain it, and how to find a solution ?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Tiredness and fatigue can haunt you in many ways. If you can formulate your daily life routine intelligently, you can do away with tiredness and fatigue. For this, the causes for fatigue are very important to know:

Lack of nutrition rich food: Fast food, colas, aerated drinks, excess alcohol are in no way substitutes for home-made foods, fruits and vegetables. Junk foods generate dangerous chemicals called free radicals, which cause damage to organs like heart, liver, kidney etc and cause excess tiredness.
Indigestion / Ama: This is one of the authentic causes for tiredness according to Ayurveda.
Fatigue symptoms:

You do not feel fresh after waking up in the morning, though you had a good night sleep.

You feel your stomach heavy all the time.

Either you eat more or eat less, there is no balance in hunger.

In such cases, correcting the digestive system is the right approach to cure fatigue.

Lasting illness: Chronic illness or disease is one of the major causes. If you are suffering disease for a long time, then it is better to consult doctor for a supplement to take care of overall body nourishment. This will cure fatigue and tiredness.

Mental fatigue: Lethargy, taking it easy, no mood for hard work, will train the mind and the body to feel tiredness, though you actually are not tired.

Having a disciplined lifestyle, with good work / rest balance is crucial to be competitive in this world, and to have a robust health.

Depression & anxiety: These cause mental fatigue and leads to tiredness. Solution lies in treating Depression and anxiety.

Stress: It is related with mental and physical fatigue. Physical stress due to accumulation of free radicals affecting the organs.

Physical stress can be handled with rest and appropriate Ayurvedic treatment.

Excess alcohol and smoking : One of the obvious reasons for feeling tired and burnt out all the time and you already know the solution.

Implementing at least a few of these all Ayurveda tips would help you to a great extent.

19. What is the best medicine for good mental and spiritual health? and is Facebook making us depressed people?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Social activities is the best way to have good mental and spiritual health. Giving, compassion and spreading love can really take your mind to higher altitudes. Examples of social activities:

Joining a group and fighting for a positive cause, like water supply for a poor area.

Joining a group and doing constructive work – like building a compound of a school

Regular act of kindness – like visiting an orphanage and offering some fruits, every Sunday.

Writing and publishing an article of public usage. (without any financial interest).

Offering free service in the area of your expertise to the needy. Example: If you are a lawyer, offering free legal counselling to the needy. etc.

Excessive indulgence in Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram really takes away the fun of human to human interaction. It makes our lives artificial. Today, many youngsters are giving more value to posting a Facebook update, as a measure of social activity, rather than going out and helping people in real world.

20. What is Ojas? And how to increase it during health and disease?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Ojas is a quantifiable liquid in the body, responsible for overall health, energy and liveliness. It is both a mental and physical factor. It is responsible for:

  • Health maintenance and health promotion
  • Fight disease
  • Prevent disease
  • Ojas is the essence part of all the body tissues. Examples: Say, someone has got pancreatitis. Doctor gives medicines and patient takes it. Ojas is that factor of the body that digests the medicines, takes it to the target organ, and does the healing, with the help of medicines.

A person with good quantity of Ojas is lesser prone to cold, cough, fever etc when compared to another, with lesser Ojas.

A person with good control of mind, who follows stringent Brahmacharya.

A person with good memory and concentration has more Ojas.

A person with spiritual believes and practice has more Ojas.

A person who eats in limited quantities, who has good control over anger, jealous etc has more Ojas.

A person who exercises and has a well built body has more ojas.

How to increase Ojas?

  • Regular intake of ghee, milk, and such other nutrition rich food.
  • Yoga, Pranayama, exercises, physical activities.
  • Mental exercises to improve concentration.
  • Prayer, Homa, Pooja and such other spiritual practices.
  • Being pious, righteous.
  • Medicines like Saraswatarishta

Food and medicine that might decrease Ojas:

  • Anger, grief, negative attitude
  • Excessively salty, pungent and bitter diet.
  • Ayurvedic medicines containing Kshara. Of course Kshara is required in some cases, but intake of such medicine over a long period of time would cause Ojas depletion (reference: Ashtanga Hridayam).
  • One who takes very less quantity of food over a long period of time, will have depleted Ojas. But that does not mean that over-eating will increase Ojas. Proper quantity of food, that digests easily, neither more nor less, increases Ojas.

21. What is the difference between a traditional healer and an Ayurvedic doctor?

Dr. JV Hebbar: Traditional healer is the one who acquires knowledge of science of healing through the family elders. The practice of healing is passed on from one generation to the other.

Advantages with traditional healer:

  • Thorough knowledge of Ayurvedic principles.
  • Strict and pure application of Ayurvedic principles.
  • No bias of modern medicine system.
  • Sound knowledge of very rare Ayurvedic herbs.
  • Use and application of yet-to-be-explored treatment techniques, herbs and herbal formulas.

Disadvantages with traditional healers :

  • Mix-o-pathy – Today patient comes to Ayurveda having tried all the other medical systems. Often patients are taking allopathic medicines, homeopathy pills, naturopathy treatments, acupuncture therapy, some chinese home remedies and then come to Ayurveda healer for treatment. Under such circumstances, pure knowledge of Ayurveda alone won’t help. Knowledge about interaction of Ayurvedic medicines with allopathic medicines is often lacking in a traditional healer.
  • Knowledge about new herbs – Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia is ever growing. Herbs from Unani and other systems are seamlessly getting integrated into Ayurvedic system with the help of scientific research. Knowledge of such updates is often lacking with traditional healer.
  • Knowledge not quantified – No one can really know the depth of knowledge of a traditional healer, for how many years, he has studied, what he has studied, what he knows, what he doesn’t etc.

As per the rules of Government of India, only a person with a degree in B.A.M.S is eligible to practice Ayurveda.

Pros of Qualified Ayurvedic doctor:

  • Qualification – A qualified Ayurvedic doctor in India spends 5.5 years in studies in B A M S.
    Along with Ayurvedic treatises, he studies:

    • Modern Anatomy
    • Modern Physiology
    • Modern Pathology
    • Modern techniques of patient examining
    • Pharmacology and Pharmacognosy
    • Modern way of diagnosis,
    • Usage of laboratory tests, such as blood and urine analysis, x ray, scanning, latest imaging techniques, etc.
    • Modern ways of performing minor surgeries – such as opening an abscess, dressing
    • Ayurvedic ways of performing minor surgeries such as piles, fissures, fistula etc
    • The knowledge of a qualified Ayurvedic doctor is quantifiable.
  • The method of acquiring knowledge is systematic.
  • Most of the other countries have rules and regulations for Ayurveda practitioners
  • Regulation – As per the rules of Government of India, a person with a degree in B A M S is only eligible to practice Ayurveda.
  • Less or nil secrecy – The diagnostic decisions, treatment methods, herbs chosen etc are open to be examined in case of an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Thank you, doctor!

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About Armanda Dos Santos

Armanda Dos Santos is a French Ayurvedic practitioner and an author. She teaches Ayurveda in France and Ankara (Turkey) and is based in Paris. She founded Ayurveda Magazine France, and co-founded the Nature’s Diet Magazine (UK). Since 2016, she's the new Executive Editor of JAHM (the international Journal of Ayurveda and Holistic Medicines).


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