My guilty pleasure is watching “Koffee with Karan.” Judge all you want, but it is the one show where I don’t feel personally invested or find anything relatable. It’s pure entertainment and has nothing intellectual about it. Given the intensity of my work and the fact that I’m not a big TV watcher, 45-60 minutes of this show, and my stress levels come down. But then, a couple of weeks ago, I watched an episode starring legend Anil Kapoor and young actor Varun Dhawan. The host, Karan Johar, did something unusual where he had callers dial into the show with their questions. One of the men who called wanted advice on spicing up things in the bedroom.
Anil Kapoor very politely refused to engage in this conversation in a public forum. He said that he couldn’t make suggestions unless he had met with a person and had a private conversation. But Varun Dhawan jumped on the bandwagon of publicity and tried to enlighten the caller. He recommended a Ayurvedic herb, ashwagandha, several times on the show. I was astounded. Varun Dhawan is a great dancer but that doesn’t qualify him as an Ayurvedic doctor, Ayurvedic practitioner or an herbalist. Vaidyas and Ayurvedic practitioners spend years learning this ancient wisdom. Ayurveda is considered more than a mere healing system. It is the science and art of living appropriately, in tune with nature while honoring our own nature. This helps to achieve longevity. How can Bollywood celebrities, unless they have studied Ayurveda, treat the science of life like folk medicine?
Dhawan kept touting his own virility, used the word intercourse a few times, and asked the caller about the frequency of his sex life. That was distasteful enough, given that “Koffee with Karan” is not a show about male libido, or a Science 101 class on male reproductive system. What shocked me most was Dhawan’s audacity to make herbal recommendations on national television without considering the repercussions. Just because Ashwagandha is known as herbal Viagra doesn’t mean it’s great for everyone. He had no background on this caller, his challenges in the bedroom, his doshic imbalances, his diet, his lifestyle, his environment, his issues, or where exactly he needed help.
A large majority of people in India follow two religions: cricket and Bollywood. After that episode, how many young men do you think sought out Dhawan’s advice and started popping Ashwagandha pills or using the powder without really knowing if it’s going to benefit them? Also, 80-90% of the times, Ayurvedic herbs might not have side effects. But the 20-10% of the times that they do, who will be held responsible?
The Ayurvedic System
According to Ayurveda, there are three pillars of health. Prudent and proper management of sexual activities is the third pillar of life. The first two being diet (ahara) and sleep (nidra). These three together form the foundation on which to build a life of health and longevity.
There are eight different branches in Ayurveda. Each branch focuses on a different area of health. Conditions like impotence fall under the domain of vajikarana, which centers around sexual health and reproduction. In Sanskrit, vaji means horse, the symbol of sexual potency and performance, and karana means power. Vajikarana means producing a horse’s vigor and enviable sexual strength in a human being. Vajikarana is concerned with aphrodisiacs, virility, and improving the health of progeny. In Ayurveda, Vajikarana is used for two purposes – promoting sexual health and treating sexual diseases.
Ayurveda and Klaibya
Klaibya (erectile dysfunction), also termed impotence, refers to the inability to obtain or maintain an erection that is firm enough or lasts long enough to have satisfactory sexual intercourse. Aside from the physical impact, impotency has severe psychological consequences as there are cultural notions around masculinity tied into potency and success. Erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation, and low libido (sex drive) are the most common sexual disorders in Indian men. Studies show that 50-70% of men over the age of 40 struggle with klaibya.
Causes of Klaibya
Ayurveda lists several reasons that might cause impotence. Depletion of shukra dhatu or reproductive tissue. Then there is the aggravation of doshas, especially vata dosha due to an unwholesome diet and lifestyle. One can’t ignore the importance of psychological issues: fear of performing sex, anxiety, depression, mental block around sex, grief, or even worries. From treatable medical conditions to dietary habits to stress to being in a difficult relationship to structural abnormality of penis to addiction to alcoholism to low testosterone to rectal surgery to diabetes/STDs/cardiac diseases to high cholesterol to high blood pressure to high triglyceride…all contribute to klaibya. Organic causes like neurological damage, hormonal imbalance, side effects of medications, trauma, and other factors too contribute to impotency, Ayurveda tells us.
Ways to Manage Klaibya
Ayurveda identifies the cause behind impotency or klaibya in each individual before making any recommendations. It also offers different healing and treatment modalities for klaibya, depending on a man’s needs. Coming back to Dhawan and his recommendation: There are different kinds of klaibya and causes for it. Yes, Ashwagandha is a popular male rejuvenating tonic and sattvic herb. But not everyone needs to hop on the Ashwagandha train, especially if you have excess heat in the body (especially pitta individuals), have diabetes, or an overactive thyroid. It might do more harm than good. Don’t listen to recommendations about spicing up things in your bedroom from an unreliable source.
“Ayurveda is not just about nutrition or herbology, it has a unique tool for diagnosis, diagnosis of understanding the human constitution is different from person to person. Each one has a unique metabolic system.” ~ Maya Tiwari