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The Period defined as 'old age' can generally be taken to be from 65 or 70 until the time of death. In women, the period after menopause can be associated with the beginning of 'old age' as the hormonal changes taking place are responsible for many of the features associated with ageing in females. Some people, nationalities and cultures age remarkably well whereas others age more quickly. However, medically it refers specifically to the age-related decline of body structure and functions.
The first signs of Old Age were generally noted to be greying of the hair. Dryness and wrinkling of the skin, Hair loss, decline of bodily functions, aching in the lower back and joints, lowering of libido and memory loss are other typical signs indicating ageing and the progress towards old age.
The diseases attending old age can be divided broadly into several categories:
Numerous diseases become more prevalent in old age due to decreasing immunity, weaker blood and diminished digestion and absorption. Chronic diseases of Liver, Kidney, Lungs and other organs may occur. But of all diseases associated with old age, Cancer is perhaps most important. Despite Cancer not being a disease of old age, it has been suggested that if we lived long enough, we would all die of Cancer; in other words, given the opportunity to otherwise live to an old age, its most likely Cancer would be the thing to overcome us. The incidence of many cancers rises significantly in old age including Lung, Prostate, Breast, Bowel etc.
Biomedically, the primary cause of the symptoms of ageing is oxidative stress. This can be helped radically by the use of numerous herbs, flowers and fruits with potent anti-oxidant activity. Green tea, Balm, Rosemary, Sage, Chrysanthemum, Goji berry and a multitude of other herbs have potent anti-oxidant activity. Therefore, the use of them daily in an easy and obvious choice as a preventative for deleterious effects of excessive oxidative stress in the elderly.
Another primary cause is a decrease in hormone function, specifically the sex hormones. The health of the sex glands is closely related to youthfulness and therefore better ageing. Many of the medicines used to support and treat during old age have beneficial effects on sex hormones, specifically the Rehmannia 6 Pills (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan) of TCM and the various related formulas.
Old Age in Traditional Medicine
The Elderly, by nature, tend to become Cold and Dry. These qualities are adverse to man’s nature, which is Warm and Moist. Hence, the cold and dry disposition of Old age signifies the end of the life cycle, and that Death is approaching.
In most cases, the elderly person will show predominant signs of either Coldness or Dryness. The dryness of the elderly is a sign of the lessening of Yin. The wrinkling of the skin, wearing of the joints, and weakening of the bones are all signs of a lack of Yin/Body moisture. The lack of function, coldness and debility are signs of Yang deficiency or Coldness.
A Body that is chronically dry is manifesting signs of Yin Deficiency. Moistening foods are used and Yin tonics given.
A Body that is chronically cold is manifesting signs of Yang Deficiency. Warming foods and Yang tonics are used.
In addition, Essence is declining or has wasted away in old age. Essence tonics are also used, these usually being also either Yang or Yin tonics.
Treatment of disorders of Old Age in Traditional Medicine
In all the Traditions, medicines and regimen to promote longevity or delay old age have been used. In the East, various medicines and formulas have been long used to promote longevity. Ayurveda has Rasayana medicines, those that are rejuvenative. TCM has Kidney tonics, tonics for the Yin, Yang and Essence. The former includes medicine that enhance the ability of nutrient to become the tissues of the body, including Essence. TCM kidney tonics primarily support hormone function, in their application to diseases of old age.
A number of the important medicines to support in old age are largely nutritional; for example seeds such as Sesame, and Nuts such as Walnut. While containing other constituents their nutritional contents including minerals and fatty acids, are highly relevant.
Of course there are a number of important tonic medicines used for old age including Ginseng, Shilajit, Polygonum He Shou Wu, Cordyceps, Prepared Placenta etc.
Ayurveda places enormous importance on cleansing the body before rejuvenating, this being achieved with Panchakarma, the five methods of cleansing the body. Of these, the most important is regarded as oleation, the oiling of the body, both internally and externally. Oiling the body softens and lubricates, helps remove obstruction and helps the body carry off waste. As most elderly people have dry and inactive skin, feel the cold and gain benefit from extra fatty acids, oiling the body is a simple thing to recommend in old age.
Based on the Above, we can recommended several things for the Elderly:
1. Eat Lightly
Eat moderate amounts of easily digested food; Avoid overeating; chew well
Limit meat and only eat small portions of softly cooked meat (slow cooked, soups etc)
2. Use Herbs Daily
Ginger tea; Rosemary wine
Herbs in your cooking: Garlic, Basil, Oregano, Cumin, Turmeric, Ginger etc.
Teas of Chrysanthemum and Goji; Lemon Balm; Sage; Camomile etc.
Moderate exercise daily; Walking
Use Tai Chi, Yoga or similar
Oil the body
4. Keep the Mind Active
Learn new things; have a hobby or passion
Socialise; listen to good music; enjoy pleasant scenery; Laugh every day; Get a pet
5. Be Moderate
Be moderate with food, drink, exercise, rest and sex
Nutrition that's Good for the Elderly:
–eat only when hungry, eat smaller meals or light, easy-to-digest food
–Honey; Honey Water; Mead
–Red Wine, Rosemary Wine, Ginger tea, Wort (boiled malted barley)
–Flower or Herb teas; Green tea or Pu erh tea
–Kidney beans, Red Bean, Rice, Oats, Quinoa, Barley, Malted Barley
–meals made of Grains and Beans: Porridge, Congee, Eight Treasure Congee, Kitchari etc.
–Rice cooked with Milk and Honey
–Chicken Soup; Bone Soup; Meat Soup; Eggs
–Dried Fruit: Dates, Figs, Raisins, Currants, Goji berries etc.
–Nuts & Seeds: Walnuts, Pistachio, Pine nuts, Almonds; Sesame,
–Other: Garlic; Asparagus; Chinese Yam (Shan Yao)
What to Avoid
–meat from old animals (beef etc.); cured meats (hard-to-digest)
–raw foods, salads (lightly cooked meals are best)
–overeating; big meals (small meals more frequently are best)
Medicines recommended for the Elderly
Syrup of Citron – cooling, and benefits digestion.
Syrup of Citron peel – warm, good for a cold Stomach and Heart.
Syrup of fresh Ginger root and Rose honey – strengthen the Stomach.
Electuary of Galen
Avicenna’s Confection of Philosophers
Electuary of Ambergris
Triphera of Haly (called Inda)
Letificans Almansor of Rhazes – promotes Cheerfulness
Electuary of Myrobalans
Diamoschu, Diambrae, Electuary of Gems of Mesue
Mithridate & Theriac
1. Celandine ‘The Essence hereof preserves from old age, or makes age look youthful’ (Salmon)
2. Sun Dew and distilled preparations were regarded as promoting longevity
Vinegar of Squill
Oxymel of Squill
Powder of Happiness (Letificans)
Decoction of Comfrey and Solomans Seal
Confection of Sesame and Triphala (Ayurveda)
Electuary to Restore Humidity (Arnold de Villa Nova)
Cooling Pearl Powder (Diamargariton Frigidum) (Nicholas)
Powder of Cinnamon Compound (Mesue)
Electuary of Orchid (Diasatyrion) (Nicholas)
Antidote for Cold Kidneys and to Excite Libido (Nicholas)
Antidote for Cold Lumbar, for Venery, and Defect of Semen
Triphala Electuary Greater (Unani)
1. From Charaka:
Triphala (Three Myrobalans)
This compound was listed in Charaka for Diabetes. It has been studied and shown to have anti-ageing effects. (See here)
Rehmannia Shu Di Huang
Lycium Gou Qi Zi
Aquilaria Chen Xiang
Poria Fu Ling
Strengthening tonic for age-related diseases, including amnesia and stroke.