Maharishi Ayur-Veda Research Review

The following contains sections from “Maharishi Ayurveda Research review” published in Complementary Medicine International, March/April 1996.

Hari M. Sharma, MD, FRCPC * Charles N. Alexander, PhD

Part two: Maharishi Ayur-Veda herbal food supplements and additional strategies.

Key words: Maharishi Ayurveda, Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi Amrit Kalash (MAK-4 and MAK-5), Antioxidants, Rasayanas, Maharishi Panchakarma.


Ayurveda, the traditional health care system of India, is recognized by the World Health Organization as a comprehensive system of natural medicine. In recent decades, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in collaboration with prominent Ayurveda physicians and scholars, has systematically restored the ancient Ayurveda approaches. There are now several hundred studies on this multi-strategy system of health care known as Maharishi Ayurveda. This article reviews the most significant studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM); clinical and laboratory studies on Maharishi Ayurveda herbal food supplements, particularly Maharishi Amrit Kalash (MAK-4 and MAK- 5); and the Maharishi Ayurveda modalities known as Maharishi Panchakarma and primordial sound. Clinical research indicates TM reduces several cardiovascular risk factors (including hypertension, lipid peroxide, cholesterol, cigarette smoking and psychological distress), and decreases medical care utilization and costs. Maharishi Amrit Kalash and other Maharishi Ayurveda herbal mixtures have shown antioxidant, cardioprotective, antineoplastic, immunomodulatory, and neurophysiological effects, as well as reduction of chemotherapy and toluene-induced toxins. Maharishi Panchakarma (Ayurveda rejuvenation treatments) reduces cardiovascular risk factors, and the primordial sound known as Sama Veda reduces cancer cell line growth in vitro. Using various Maharishi Ayurveda strategies in unison showed positive results in treating several chronic diseases in a pilot study conducted in the Netherlands. The effectiveness of this multi-strategy approach of Maharishi Ayurveda was also demonstrated in an insurance study, which showed an 86% reduction in hospitalization and doctor visits. These findings indicate Maharishi Ayurveda warrants further investigation in laboratory and clinical settings.

Additional Maharishi Ayurveda strategies

A. Maharishi Panchakarma

Maharishi Ayurveda utilized more than 20 different approaches for achieving and maintaining optimal health. One set of physiological purification techniques referred to as Maharishi Panchakarma (PK) or Maharishi Rejuvenation treatments, is purported to balance the physiology and remove intra- and extra-cellular impurities which accumulate over time due to improper eating and living habits. PK consists of preparatory procedures to loosen and remove superficial impurities through oleation with ghee (clarified butter) followed by purgation with castor oil. Several days later, a set of five procedures is used according to individual needs, to remove deeper-seated impurities. These five procedures are: whole-body massage with herbalized oil; continuous flow of herbalized sesame oil on the forehead; fomentation of the body with herbalized heat; special herbalized sesame oil head massage and nasal administration of herbs; and sesame oil retention or herbalized eliminative enemas.81

Maharishi Panchakarma was investigated for its effect on cardiovascular risk factors. PK was given for three to five days to 31 subjects (15 male and 16 female). Fasting blood samples were tested for various biochemical parameters before, during, one week after, and 2.9 months after PK. Results showed improvement in several cardiovascular risk factors. Lipid peroxide (LP) levels rose during PK, then fell at 2.9 months to levels lower that the original levels (p=0.023). The transient rise in blood stream levels of LP may be due to an exchange of peroxidized cell membrane lipids for undamaged lipids present in ghee and sesame oil. Both sesame oil and ghee contain linoleic acid, an important structural lipid in the cell membrane, which also serves as the substrate for other structural lipids. The massage that is a part of PK may accelerate this exchange process, possibly by the activation of phospholipase A2. As the peroxidized lipids are removed from the body by the extraction and elimination procedures of PK, the levels of LP should ultimately decrease, which is what this study confirmed.81

Other cardiovascular risk factors also showed improvements with use of PK. Total cholesterol fell acutely in all subjects (p=.0001) and HDL cholesterol rose 7.5 % (p=0.015) at 2.9 months, if original values were mg/dl. Vasoactive intestinal peptide, a coronary vasodilator, rose a significant 80% (p=0.003) 2.9 months after PK. Reductions were seen in pulse (p=0.033) and diastolic blood pressure (p=0.027) after PK. State of anxiety measures also improved significantly (P<0.025).81

An additional study on Maharishi Panchakarma was conducted in the Netherlands on 93 patients and also showed improvement in cardiovascular risk factors. Total cholesterol was measured before and immediately after a two week treatment program. Results showed a significant reduction in total cholesterol levels (p<0.001). A psychological evaluation was conducted using the Freiburger Personality Inventory before, immediately after, and six to eight weeks after PK treatment. Over the two week treatment period, there were significant reductions in bodily complaints, irritability, bodily strain, and psychological inhibition, as well as greater emotional stability. Results of testing conducted six to eight weeks after treatment showed evidence of sustained benefits for mental health and well-being.

Sesame oil, which is used in Maharishi Panchakarma, has also been shown to have antineoplastic properties. Lipase-digested sesame oil and undigested sesame oil dramatically inhibited the growth of three malignant colon cell lines in vitro but did not substantially inhibit growth of normal colon epithelial cells. Sesame oil also selectively inhibited malignant melanoma cell line growth in vitro, as compared to normal melanocytes (p=0.006).84

B. Primordial Sound

Another strategy of Maharishi Ayurveda which is purported to restore balance to both mind and body is use of "primordial" sounds.2 It is well known that sound and music are forms of vibrational energy which can have a significant impact on living organisms. Plants have been shown to grow more vigorously when exposed to certain sounds or forms of music.85 In the health care arena, music has been used for centuries for prevention and cure of disease.86 The primordial sounds of Maharishi Ayurveda are purported to function at the quantum level of matter, a level that has recently been explored in the field of quantum physics. At this basic level of material existence, physiological imbalances can be corrected by the specific patterns of wave vibrations called primordial sounds.

An experiment conducted on the primordial sounds known as Sama Veda showed in vitro reduction of growth of human cancer cell lines. The effects of Sama Veda or hard rock music (AC/DC, “Back in Black”) were compared to no sound on the growth of cancer cells in culture. Five human tumor cell lines (lung, colon, brain, breast and skin) and one normal cell line (fibroblasts) were tested. Sama Veda significantly decreased the average growth across cell lines (p=0.005). In the presence of hard rock music, growth of cells was significantly increased (p=0.003). These results suggest the importance of use of proper sounds for restoration and maintenance of health.

Multi-strategy approach of Maharishi Ayurveda

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the effect of mind-body interactions on the physiology. Stress affects mental functioning, which in turn affects physiological functioning. Recent investigations into the interaction between the immune system, endocrine system and nervous system have led to the emergence of the field of psychoneuroimmunology.89

Studies have shown that severe mental depression results in suppression or loss of immune defense mechanisms.90 On the other hand, a positive mental state has been shown to correlate with increased survival time for some patients with AIDS and cancer.91,92,93 Such psychological states stimulate neurendocrine responses that involve the release of various neuropeptides for which lymphocytes in the immune system have receptors.94 In turn immune system products such as interleukins, for which there are receptors in the hypothalamic area of the brain, can then modulate nervous system functions and corresponding mental states, thus completing the regulatory loop. There is also a growing body of data suggesting that the neurotransmitters of the autonomic nervous system can have immunomodulatory effects. Thus, in response to psychological stimuli, there is a complex communication network in which information is exchanged between the neuroendocrine and immune systems and the autonomic nervous system.

The guiding principle of Maharishi Ayurveda is that balanced mental functioning, more than any kind of physical immunity, can prevent disorders.2 For this reason, the development of consciousness through the TM technique and other mental procedures is considered fundamental to Maharishi Ayurveda treatment. Other Maharishi Ayurveda strategies which are physically oriented operate directly on the body, but may also indirectly influence the mind and the nervous system through the complex interaction of the neuro-endocrine-immune and autonomic nervous systems. For this reason, it is recommended that the various approaches of Maharishi Ayurveda be used in unison so the whole mind-body system can be influenced.

A study on insurance statistics also attests to the disease-prevention capabilities of the combined approaches of Maharishi Ayurveda. Insurance data were collected for a seven-year period on faculty and staff of Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield, Iowa. The faculty and staff at MIU practice TM and most of them also use the advanced meditation technique known as the TM-Sidhi program. Many also use the herbal food supplement, Maharishi Amrit Kalash, regularly, and some utilize Maharishi Panchakarma and other prevention-oriented programs offered by Maharishi Ayurveda. Comparing the MIU group to all other Iowans insured by the same company, the MIU group was hospitalized for illness and surgery 86 percent less.96 Hospitalization for childbirth was roughly equal between the two groups. These statistics point to a massive reduction in human suffering and health care expenses that could be realized if the prevention strategies of Maharishi Ayurveda were widely adopted throughout the world.


Clinical studies and laboratory findings on Maharishi Ayurveda indicate significant results for prevention and treatment of disease, and suggest directions for more extensive clinical evaluation. The Transcendental Meditation technique has shown clinical application ranging from reductions in cardiovascular risk factors to significant decreases in health care costs through reduced use of medical services. The mechanism of action of TM is understood through stress reduction and accompanying neurophysiological and behavioral changes. Meta-analysis indicate that TM produces distinctive effects on decreasing physiological arousal, psychological distress, alcohol abuse and increasing self-actualization. With chronic anxiety, hypertension and other stress-related disorders, TM may be particularly relevant for regaining and maintaining optimal health. Clinical studies and laboratory findings on Maharishi Ayurveda herbal mixtures, particularly MAK 4 and MAK 5, show antioxidant, cardio-protective, antineoplastic, antidiabetic, immunomodulatory and neurophysiological effects, and reduction of chemotherapeutic- and toluene-induced toxicities. The free-radical scavenging ability of these preparations may underlie this broad range of findings. These beneficial effects were not accompanied by any harmful side effects. This laboratory research, along with initial clinical studies, suggests these Maharishi Ayurveda herbal mixtures may be beneficial in treating cardiovascular disease, cancer and other prevalent chronic diseases. Other strategies of Maharishi Ayurveda have also shown beneficial effects. The physiological purification procedures known as Maharishi Panchakarma reduced cardiovascular risk factors, and primordial sound slowed the growth of cancer cell lines in vitro. The multi-strategy approach of Maharishi Ayurveda, which recommends use of the various approaches in unison, was shown to be effective in treating several chronic diseases. A study on endurance statistics illustrated the effectiveness of utilizing multiple approaches of Maharishi Ayurveda by showing an 86% reduction in hospitalization and doctor visits.

Given that studies conducted thus far support predictions of the classical Ayurveda texts, and point to marked reductions in medical costs, it is important that all of the strategies of Maharishi Ayurveda be fully evaluated, individually and in combination through randomized controlled trials, and implemented where effective.


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