The Vagus nerve-a missing link between Osteopathy and Ayurveda?
Students of Osteopathy have been taught the importance of the Vagus nerve in health and disease for decades. Now advances in the study of the nervous system have now prompted researchers in Indian to propose that the Vagus nerve may be the physiological basis of the Vata dosha-considered to be the most important dosha for physical survival in Ayurveda
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve or CN X. The Latin word Vagus means literally “wandering” (the words vagrant, vagabond, and vague come from the same root), suggesting how vast its influence is. It is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system in the human body, and interfaces with the parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract.
The role of the parasympathetic Vagus nerve in maintaining survival and homeostasis has been known for over a century. In 1872 Darwin acknowledged the dynamic neurological interaction between the heart and the brain via the Vagus when he writes:-
“. . .when the heart is affected it reacts on the brain; and the state of the brain again reacts through the pneumo-gastric [vagus] nerve on the heart; so that under any excitement there will be much mutual action and reaction between these, the two most important organs of the body.”
Modern studies are now hi-lighting the importance of the Vagus nerve in not just cardiovascular health but also in integrating the control of mental and physiological networks regulating gut homeostasis, metabolic status, inflammation, immunity, physical wellness, mental health, and social behaviour.
We are now in a fascinating time in the study of the nervous system advances in research are helping us further understanding the role of the Vagus nerve and its potential links with other medical systems such as Ayurveda.