Poliomyelitis is an enteroviral infection that can manifest in four different forms: unapparent infection, abortive disease, non-paralytic poliomyelitis and paralytic disease. Non-specific symptoms of this disease include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In addition, the non-paralytic type exhibits symptoms like neck rigidity, severe headache and back and lower extremity pain. The paralytic type is characterized by asymmetric loss of muscle function with involvement of major muscle groups, and muscular atrophy.
The Ayurvedic treatment of poliomyelitis is aimed at treating the symptoms and reducing the severity of complications. Medicines like Triphala-Guggulu, Yograj-Guggulu, Vat-Gajankush-Ras, Maha-Vat-Vidhwans-Ras and Dashmoolarishta are used to treat headache and body pain. Medicines like Sutshekhar-Ras, Laghu-Sutshekhar, Praval-Panch-Amrut and Vishwa (Zinziber officinalis) are used to treat nausea and vomiting. Abdominal pain can be treated using medicines like Shankh-Vati, Agnitundi-Vati and Trikatu (Three pungent herbs). In case of the paralytic type of poliomyelitis, severe constipation is a common presentation which can be treated using medicines like Gandharva-Haritaki, Hingashtak-Churna, Triphala (Three fruits) and Psyllium (Plantago ovata).
Most patients present in the chronic phase of the disease, with paralysis and atrophy, usually involving one of the lower limbs. In such patients, treatment is aimed at preventing further disability and improving limb function. The affected part is massaged with medicated oils like Maha-Narayan oil, Chandan- Bala-Laxadi oil, Mahamash oil, Maha-Sahachar oil and Vishgarbha oil. This is followed by medicated steam fomentation using decoctions like Dashmool-Qadha and Nirgundi-Qadha. A special Panchkarma procedure called “Shashtikshali-Pinda-Sweda” is very useful in treating polio-affected limbs. In this procedure, a paste of medicated milk containing Bala (Sida cordifolia) and rice is rubbed methodically on the affected limb. In addition, medicines are given by mouth to reduce muscular atrophy and paralysis, and improve muscular function. Medicines used for this purpose are: Maha-Yograj-Guggulu, Kaishor-Guggulu, Trayodashang-Guggulu, Tapyadi-Loh, Ekang-Veer-Ras and Agnitundi-Vati.
In chronic paralytic cases, the results of treatment depend upon the severity and duration of muscular paralysis. It is therefore, important to start treatment and physical rehabilitation at the earliest possible in order to derive maximum therapeutic benefit.