Diaphoretic (svedana karma)

Diaphoretic herbs induce perspiration and by this action restore circulation, dispel fever and chills, while eliminating toxins from the surface of the body. They are surface-relieving agents used in the initial and acute stages of colds and flus, as well as more chronic conditions of asthma and arthritis. The initial or acute stage of colds and febrile diseases paralyzes the defensive energy that moves along the surface of the body. The result is a stoppage of sweating and a blockage of circulation. Diaphoretic herbs, by stimulating perspiration, restore the defensive energy of the body. They are the first line of defense against disease.

Some of these remedies produce an actual and observable sweat, while others just aid the sub-sensible sweating that goes on all the time.

They produce the following general therapeutic effects:

  1. Promote sweating
  2. Relieve muscle tension and aching joints
  3. Bring down fevers associated with colds and flus
  4. Promote the eruption and resolution of inflammatory skin conditions
  5. Help disperse surface water and facial edema
  6. Relieve headache due to cold and congestion

How Diaphoretics Work

Many of these remedies will cause the dilation of surface capillaries, thus helping poor circulation. It is thought that the stimulation of sweat glands occurs because the vessels in the area are dilated. This cannot explain all that is seen to occur but goes part of the way. The deeper value of these remedies comes from the way they can support the work of the kidney by increasing cleansing through the skin. Thus they have a role in holistic treatment of kidney problems but also any broadly based approach to health.

Most diaphoretics are warming. They are hot, pungent herbs that decrease Kapha and Vata and increase Pitta. Most colds are of a Kapha nature, an invasion or buildup of cold and dampness. Vata, or wind, is the factor that carries cold and dampness invasion, or ignites an existing cold and damp condition. Warming diaphoretics treat the common cold by dispersing wind, chill and dampness. They may also possess other properties such as stimulants, expectorants, antimicrobial, anti-asthmatic and anti-rheumatic.

Cooling diaphoretics are usually bitter-to-pungent herbs that decrease Pitta and kapha but increase Vata. They are more for Pitta type colds and are more effective in treating high fever, sore throat and other inflammatory symptoms involving the invasion of toxins in the blood. They are generally alterative and may possess diuretic properties.

Diaphoretics cleanse the lymphatics and the plasma. Cooling diaphoretics may also have a cleaning action of the blood. Diaphoretics help cleanse the subtle channels and capillaries. They work primarily on the lungs and the respiratory system, yet they also help open the mind, clear the sinuses and the senses and stimulate the nervous system.

The use of diaphoretics should include other methods of heat such as physical exercise, hot bath or sleeping under a warm blanket and fasting.

Typical heating diaphoretics: cardamom, ephedra (Ma Huang), ginger, sage, thyme, cinnamon, basil, angelica (dang gui)

Cooling diaphoretics: catnip, chamomile, coriander, peppermint, spearmint 

Herbal Examples:

Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset)

Capsicum minimum (Cayenne)

Sambucusniger (Elderberry & flower)

Zingiberofficinalis (Ginger)

Achilleamillefolium  (Yarrow)

Nepetacataria (Catnip)


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