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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 236-244

Could Agnihotra yagya have any role in the prevention and management of epidemics as COVID-19: A scientific perspective

1 Department of Roga Nidan, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Swasthavritta, Government PG Ayurvedic College and Hospital, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission04-Nov-2020
Date of Decision20-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance28-Sep-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
Vijay Kumar Rai
Department of Swasthavritta, Government PG Ayurvedic College and Hospital, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/joa.joa_275_20

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Objective: COVID-19 has challenged the healthcare systems of the world and was declared as public health emergency of international concern. With more than 55 million cases of COVID-19 and 1,355,769 deaths globally, the world is still searching for cure. In the absence of any definite treatment, the practices of prevention have occupied the central role, with governments across the globe promoting the same. In the context of this global catastrophe, an ancient Indian practice of Agnihotra yagya (fire ablations) is being presented here with the scientific evidences to explore the possibility before the world for its repurposing for prevention and management of epidemics as COVID-19. Data Source: Databases of Google Scholar and PubMed were searched with the keywords anti-microbial effects and their different combinations and permutations along with hand search, benefits, of Agnihotra, research, Yagya. Review Methods: Relevant articles were downloaded and stored in a folder. Then, they were screened for their relevance after reading, and finally, 70 articles were included in the study, bringing the scientific aspects in a systematic manner to put forward the scientific aspects. Results and Conclusion: The existing evidence support the anti-microbial, healing, energizing effects along with beneficial effects on the comorbidities of patients, thus decreasing the percentage and intensity of morbidity and mortality rates of diseases. With the above observations, Agnihotra Yagya may be researched more extensively, bringing out more evidences for the real utilization of this practice in the fight against COVID 19.

Keywords: Agnihotra, anti-microbial, copper, healing, medicinal smoke, Yagya

How to cite this article:
Singh S, Rahat S, Rai VK, Rai S. Could Agnihotra yagya have any role in the prevention and management of epidemics as COVID-19: A scientific perspective. J Ayurveda 2022;16:236-44

How to cite this URL:
Singh S, Rahat S, Rai VK, Rai S. Could Agnihotra yagya have any role in the prevention and management of epidemics as COVID-19: A scientific perspective. J Ayurveda [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 4];16:236-44. Available from: http://www.journayu.in/text.asp?2022/16/3/236/357299

  Introduction Top

COVID-19 has emerged as a global catastrophic challenge for health care causing huge economic losses and setbacks. Recognizing the devastating potential of the disease, the outbreak was declared as public health emergency of international concern.[1] Coronavirus was known since much earlier times to be affecting animals and birds. It managed to enter the human causing outbreaks in 2002–2003 as a severe acute respiratory syndrome, followed by 2014. In December 2019, Wuhan city in China experienced low respiratory infections[2] with causative agent identified in January 2020 as novel corona virus, officially called severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), from throat swab sample of the patients. The WHO in February 2020 reported it as seventh member of the enveloped coronavirus family, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019)[3],[4] data updated on November 19, 2020 records more than 55 million cases of COVID-19 globally with 1,355,769 deaths.[5] According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, number of cases of COVID-19 in India has been reported as 9,050,597 with 132,726 deaths.[6]

Transmission of COVID-19 is reported through human to human contact by droplet infection, aerosols, fomites of cough, sneeze; direct contact of mucosa with body fluids, urine, and stool. The aerosols are reported to be viable in air and on various surfaces up to 72 h. The incubation period is reported from 1 day to 21 days, with median period of 5–6 days.[7] Incubation period is important to decide about the isolation strategies of the exposed asymptomatic population. The immune status of the individual is a very important factor determining the clinical outcome of the infection in terms of development or absence of disease and its severity or mortality. With no specific medical treatment till date, the medical systems worldwide are exploring all possible pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical, contemporary or conventional approaches to find the answer to address this global catastrophe. This paper reports the scientific evidences for an ancient Indian traditional practice to highlight the potential role it could play in holding the rage of COVID-19.

  Agnihotra Yagya Top

Yagyas (fire offering with Mantra chanting) are documented to be performed since Indus civilization, approx. Nine thousand and five hundred years ago.[8] Yagya is referred in Atharvaveda as the naval of the world. Agnihotra is composed of two words Agni meaning fire and hotra meaning an oblation or an offering. Fire has been given utmost importance in Indian civilization. Rigveda quotes agni (fire) as the sacred idol of God in its very first mantra.[9] Agni is present in three forms in the body in the form of digestive juices, enzymes, hormones, and catalysts, on earth in the form of fire and in universe in the form of sun.

Yagya utilizes the two external sources of energy that is sun and fire, and combines them with the energy of mantras and fire offerings to potentiate human powers, create harmony within the body, environment, universe, and cosmic forces. The scientific principle behind it could be one ness with the environment and universal healing. Small scale yagyas are called as homa or havana or Agnihotra.

In Ayurveda, Yagya or homa or Agnihotra is described as a component of Daivavyapashraya chikitsa, meaning treatment processes directed and based toward God. Yagya process delivers augmented benefits through the combination of four-fold treatment therapy in one. They are Mantra chanting, aushadha (medicines) used in the form of wood fire and havansamgri (fire oblations), the process of upahara (present or devote or offer) consists of offering these substances to the fire with mantra chanting (offerings) and Yagya (the whole process) itself.

  The Process of Agnihotra yagya Top

These fire offerings are performed in pyramid-shaped copper pot, the dimensions and shape of which may vary as per need. Usually, it is an inverted pyramid in shape with dimensions 6.5 cm height, 14.5 cm × 14.5 cm dimension at top, and 5.25 cm × 5.25 cm at the bottom with three steps.

The fire of the Yagya is made by burning small dried sticks which are free from insect and worm infestation. The most commonly used wood is of mango (Mangifera indica). Palash (Butea monosperma), Bilva (Aegle marmelos), Pipal (Ficus religiosa), Bargad (Ficus bengalensis), Shami (Proposis sinereria), Gular (Ficus glomerata), Chandan (Santalum Album), Agar (Aquilaria agallocha), Tagar (Valeriana wallchii), Deodar (Cedrus deodara) are other plants utilized for the purpose. Some Agnihotra methodology uses dried cow dung cakes.[10] The fire is generally ignited with camphor.[11]

The havan samagri (fire oblations) are variable and may consist of unpolished unbroken rice (Akshat) and cow ghee only5[5] or it may be an admixture of various categories of substances consisting of:

  1. Medicinal herbs: Commonly used havan samagri consists of mixture of fragments of Agar (Aquilaria agallocha Roxb.), Tagar (Valeriana officinalis), Kapurkachari (Heydichium spicatum), Gugal (Commiphora mukul or Commiphorawightii), Nagarmotha (Cyperus rotundus), Jatamansi (Nordostachysjatamansi), Chandan (Santalum album), Ela (Elatoriacardomum), Jayaphala (Myristica fragnens), Launga (Syzgiumaromaticum), Dalchini etc. Other contents may also include medicinal herbs as Somlata (Ephedra gerardiana), Giloya (Tinospora cordifolia), Bramhi (Bacopa monnieri), Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus Pluricaulis), Nagkesara (Mesua ferrea Linn.), Mulhaithi (Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn.), Rakta chandana (Pterocarpus santalinus), Baheda (Terminalia belerica), Sontha (Zingiber officinale Rosc.), Harad (Terminalia chebula), etc
  2. Odoriferous substances: Saffron (Crocus sativus), musk (Moschus moschiferus L.), Agar (Aquilaria agallocha Roxb.), Tagar (Valeriana officinalis), chandan, ilaychi (Elettaria Cardamomum.), jayphal (Myristica fragrans (Houtt.), javitri (Myristica fragrans), kapoor (Camphor) are used in havan
  3. Health constituents: Cereals such as wheat (Triticum aestivum), rice (Oryza sativa), barley (Hordeum vulgare), til (Sesamum indicum), kangu (Panicum italicum), munga (Vigna radiata), chana (Cicer arietinum), arhar (Cajanus cajan), masur (Lens culinaris), fruits, sugar, dried grapes, honey, chhuhara (Phoenix dactylifera Linn.), clarified butter (ghee).

Agnihotra is conducted twice precisely at the time of sunrise and sunset after proper cleansing, bathing, wearing clean clothes in clean environment. The fire is ignited with fire sticks and camphor and havan samagri are offered in the fire along with clarified butter simultaneously with chanting of Gayatri mantra or other mantra on the pronunciation of Svaha. Other yagyas are conducted at per their specific indication and intents. For Agnihotra yagya, Agnihotra mantras are chanted along with simultaneously offering of pinches of unbroken, unpolished rice admixed with ghee in the cow dung pancake fire on pronouncing Svaha.[12] This rice held within the index finger and thumb amounts to about 3 g.[13] The specific duration for the time of Agnihotra or Yagya depends on the purpose of the yagya, mantras and their number which are to be chanted and is variable. However, the optimum duration for yagya has been described as 30 min[13] in which the person doing the yagya or Agnihotra are supposed to sit and meditate till the havan fire is ablaze.[12]

  The Components of Agnihotra Yagya: Scientific Rationale Top

The inverted pyramid Havan kund shape acts as a receiver of energy fields and generates and dissipates them in the surrounding environment.[14] Pyramid shape has been accepted in several literatures as the receiver of energy, and inverted pyramid may thus also help in the dissipation of this energy.[15] A study on pyramid shape reported for its capacity to preserve the organic substance kept under it from microbial contamination and spoiling for 5 days which points towards its bacteriostatic[16] and energy preserving capacity.[17]

Copper used as the metal of the havan kund is recognized universally as a good conductor of heat and electromagnetic radiations.[18] Copper is being increasingly acknowledged for its scientific bacteriostatic, antimicrobial properties.[19],[20] Copper on burning gets converted into copper oxide, which also has properties similar to copper in anti-bacterial[18],[19],[21] and anti-viral action.[22] Copper oxide also acts as a catalyst,[23] and thus, it is hypothesized that the copper havan kund may be imparting its antimicrobial, antiviral properties along with the catalytic properties to the reactions occurring in the process of combustion.

Research describes Agnihotra yagya to purify water kept in Faraday cages (which block electromagnetic radiations) so it is hypothesized that the process of yagya produces an energy field beyond electromagnetic field, which strongly impacts the surroundings.[24] Copper used in havan kund could also be potentiating this energy receival and transmission process as it is the second-best conductor after silver.[18]

Mantra chanting done during the process of Agnihotra or Yagya also adds on to the beneficial effects of the process. A study has documented the difference in the anti-microbial properties of medicinal smoke produced in yagya with Gayatri Mantra chanting and without Gayatri Mantra chanting at statistically significant levels (P < 0.05).[25] Gayatri Mantra recitation has been studied to produce 110,000 sound waves per second and is reported in studies to have a beneficial effect on human intellectual capacities[26] as well as on plants.[27] “Aum” mantra chanting is documented to bring limbic deactivation in functional magnetic resonance imaging study[28] along with bringing a significant decrease in Galvenic skin response (GSR) level along with relaxation and improved mental alertness.[29] Studies have recorded reduced stress level,[30],[31] the activation of the right insula, right temporal lobe, left inferior parietal lobule, bilateral superior temporal gyri, lateral globuspallidus and culmen of the cerebellum and the domination of gamma waves in human brain on listening of Gayatri Mantra.[32],[33] Another study has recorded decreased GSR with initiation of Gayatri Mantra associated with fire ablations.[34]

  Combustion Process in Agnihotra Top

The combustion products of Yagya may vary due to varying properties of substances used, their proportion, unspecified conditions of combustion such as temperature attained, air supply control, and interaction among the various products formed. The temperature varies in the kund from 250°C to 600°C, while the flames have temperature as high as 1200°C–1300°C. Subtlization and sublimation are the two main components involved in the yagya process, which produces steam, smoke, solid particles, volatile compounds, which diffuse in the surrounding atmosphere. Substances such as thymol, eugenol, pinene, and terpinol are produced and spread in the surroundings in this process due to which the aroma and the effect of yagya are felt at considerable distances. The solid particles and smoke produced, act as colloidal particles for diffusion offering significant surface for mechanical diffusion of volatile aromatic substances.

Yagya involves the combustion of fatty substances mainly in the form of ghee and other vegetable fats. They keep the fire alight and help in efficient combustion of wood cellulose. Slow combustion of hydrocarbons produced during the reaction results in the production of methyl and ethyl alcohols, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, formic acid, acetic acids, etc.

  Subtlization and Sublimation Top

Subtlization and sublimation are also important components of yagya procedure similar to what is observed in the conventional medical science. The more subtle forms of the medicine given in injectable format are effective more quickly and potently as compared to oral medicines. Nanoparticles are being increasingly researched for their potential benefits based on the same principle of subtlization. The nasal route of the administration of drug further reduces the dose of the drug and increases its efficacy. This being the reason a lot of researches are going on exploring this potent route and its medical applications. Subtlization and sublimation increase the potency exponentially.

An author has explained this process with the example of red chili, which in gross form will only affect the people directly handling it; however, once it is burnt in fire, the vapors produced may cause all present in that area to experience cough, burning in the eyes, throat irritation, etc.[35] The process of Yagya makes the scientific use of the process of combustion, volatilization, subtlization and sublimation in controlled manner.

  The antimicrobial Substances Produced During Combustion in Agnihotra Top

Formaldehyde is a powerful antiseptic with effective germicidal action in the presence of significant amounts of water vapor, which is also produced in large quantities during Yagya.[15] Formaldehyde is also documented to penetrate the bacterial spores.[36] A study documents the efficacy of formaldehyde on the inactivation of viruses in infectious samples in relation to temperature and relative humidity at different concentrations.[37] Another study reports 0.7% formaldehyde to inactivate >3 logs of two animal coronaviruses (mouse hepatitis virus, canine coronavirus) after a 10-min exposure time.[38]

Formic acid and acetic acid are also good disinfectants. Further, the ultraviolet and other short wavelength regions of the sunlight react (photochemical reaction) with the volatile substances diffused in the surrounding atmosphere and undergo photochemical decomposition, oxidation, and reduction. The germicidal action of smoke is further potentiated by aliphatic acids[39],[40] and the products of volatilization of different fatty acid esters. Compounds as elemene (b-elemene),[41] irioresinolbeta-dimethyl ether,[42] 2,4-bis (tert-butyl)-phenol[43],[44] identified in Agnihotra smoke are reported with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory effects and positive outcomes in various infections, cancers, etc.[8] Fumes of ghee combustion are reported to assist the elimination of blood clots, bacterial infections in nasal passages, lungs, veins, and protect the respiratory system.[45] The slow combustion process of Yagya utilizes small quantities of oxygen and releases meager amount of CO2 which is mixed with aromatic oils and antiseptic products, disseminating them distant surroundings, acting as cerebral stimulant[46] and posing no actual environmental hazard.[47]

Medicinal smoke apart from yagya has also been studied and reported with beneficial effects. “Smoke-extract” obtained after burning of medicinal plants was found to have lower minimum inhibitory concentration values with superior antimicrobial activity as compared to methanol, acetone extract and essential oil (for the aromatic species).[48] A herbal dhoopstick evaluated for antimicrobial effects against sterilizing agents as ultraviolet (UV) light, formalin, potassium permanganate revealed greater antimicrobial activity on bacteria as well as fungus.[49]

  Antimicrobial Studies Top

One hour treatment with medicinal smoke from the burning of wood and a mixture of havan sámagri caused 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min, and the smoke was able to disinfect the air, which was maintained for up to 24 h in the closed room. Pathogenic bacteria were recorded absent in open room at 30 days.[50] Another study also documented Agnihotra to be effective against Airspora with 63% reduction in bacterial colony and 91% reduction in fungal colony count.[51],[52],[53]

Yagya smoke produced with or without mantra chanting has been reported with significant differences in their antimicrobial effects.[54],[55] In vitro experiments on S. aureus showed that Agnihotra reduced its pathogenicity by constraining coagulase production.[56] In vivo experiment on introduction of such Agnihotra treated pathogen in albino mouse did not produce any disease. Streptococcus pyogenes became nonpathogenic when kept in the atmosphere of Agnihotra.[51] In vitro experiments on Mycobacterium avium tubercular cultures grown on the acid-fast bacilli positive sputum culture test after treatment by yagya-products reveals, 75% lesser growth against 15% reduction on burning of only wood.[57] Agnihotra done only with cow dung cake, rice and ghrita as offering also revealed significant reduction in microbial growth.[58],[59] Such antimicrobial (anti-bacterial and anti-fungal) effect can be achieved up to 30 feet in the air.

  Human Studies on the Beneficial Effect of Agnihotra Top

A study of agnihotra yagya with mantras on healthy volunteers revealed significant brain waves changes (alpha enhancement and delta suppression on electroencephalography which remained for more than 15 min) after agnihotra yagya, DC shift in electrocardiogram base line against yagya and irregular syllable group.[60] Agnihotra is also reported in studies to be beneficial as an adjuvant therapy for the patients of alcoholism[61] and smack addictions.[62] Agnihotra Yagya products are responsible for treating tuberculosis disease by controlling pathogen number and their pathogenicity.[63] Acute diabetic patients after 2 to 3 weeks of daily agnihotra exhibited normal blood sugar and absent urine sugar.[64] The atmosphere close to yagya and agnihotra ash is documented to heal nervous system disorders, asthma, heart diseases, lung infections, skin diseases and the diseases of the eyes and ears.[65] Further, studies have documented the beneficial effect of yagya along with integrated approach in the management of cases of osteoarthritis,[66] subclinical hypothyroidism,[67] OCD and PCOD,[68] stress and anxiety,[69] pulmonary edema and cardiomegaly,[70] epileptic seizures,[71] acute myeloid leukemia.[72] Yagya as an adjuvant therapy in cancer patients records positive response for Quality of life.[73] A hospital documents reduced infection rate and decreased requirement of antibiotic in patients undergoing cardiac bypass surgery.[74]

The news published in newspaper about the survivor two families of Bhopal gas tragedy living about a mile distance away from the Union Carbide factory gas plant documented about their regularly performing Agnihotra (Havan) with no death and hospitalization.[75] A recent website documents the beneficial effect of Agnihotra in protecting family living adjacent to COVID-198 case with positive contact history to be negative from disease due to impact of Agnihotra.[76]

  Other Scientific Aspects Related to Agnihotra Top

The process of Agnihotra encompasses several other components and aspects which also need to be evaluated to realize the effects of Agnihotra process on the whole.

  Early Morning and Evening Sun Exposure Top

The early timing of performance of Agnihotra prepares the performer and keeps their Circadian rhythm regulated. The circadian clock affects various body functions as brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle. A disturbed light-dark cycle (sleep–wake cycle) disturbs the biological clock leading to all kinds of disorders as - insomnia, depression, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, decreased immunity, diabetes, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, cardiovascular disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, increased vulnerability to infectious diseases, several GIT problems as peptic disease, impaired digestion, etc., increased tumor genesis in the liver and gut, all sorts of neuro-endocrinal problems and other disorders.[77] Early rising also gives exposure to early sun, which also provides numerous health benefits as Vit. D production, release of endorphins, NO, melatonin, exposure to UV and IR rays, improved immunity, decreased cardiovascular risk, etc.[78],[79],[80],[81],[82],[83],[84],[85],[86],[87],[88],[89],[90],[91]

  Discussion Top

Agnihotra yagya could help in prevention of COVID-19 disease by breaking the chain of transmission through its anti-microbial effects produced in the air, body parts and on affected surfaces, by decreasing the viability of the virus present in aerosols, reducing the viral load and possibly virulence also and thus reduce the number of positive cases.

Agnihotra yagya could also aid the management of the disease in positive cases by reducing the viral load and the chances of secondary infection in COVID-19 infected individuals. The fumes of the yagya with antimicrobial and healing properties are able to reach and affect the external skin, the eyes, nose, nasopharynx, oropharynx, and lungs, thus possibly resolving the disease pathogenesis there, through the resolution of khavaigunya (vitiation of the pathways); which in case of COVID-19 is mainly the Pranavaha srotas (~Respiratory system).

The drugs used in Agnihotra are documented to have anti-inflammatory effects (Guduchi [Tinospora cordifolia],[92] Palash [Butea monosperma],[93],[94] Kapurkachari [Hedychium spicatum],[95] Ama [Magnifera indica],[96] Jayaphala [Myristica fragrans],[97] Somlata [Ephedra geriardana];[98] Deodara [Cedrus deodara],[99] Kesar [Crocus sativus],[100] launga [Syzgium aromaticum],[101] cardamom,[102] camphor,[103] honey,[104] guggulu[105]), anti-histaminic and mast stabilizing effects (Baheda [Terminalia bellerica] and launga [Syzgium aromaticum][101]), anti-oxidant and anti-microbial (honey,[104] Somlata,[99] Ama[106]); antiviral and antimicrobial effects (Mulethi[107]) immunomodulatory properties (Camphor,[103] Honey,[104] Ama[106]); antibacterial properties (cardamom[102]), bronchodilator properties (Camphor,[103] Mulethi,[108] Ama,[109] Pipal,[110] Somlata[111]). Further, the essential of Chandan relieves anxiety, stress, and depression[112] while Jatamansi is also effective in various mental illnesses.[113] It is propositioned here that the beneficial effects of these drugs may be carried through the fumes, and those effects may also reach the blood and the whole body through the process of diffusion in the lungs, which needs to be confirmed by further scientific studies.

The beneficial effects on comorbidities as hypertension, obesity, stress, etc., obtained through its regular practice may possibly help in decreasing the intensity of morbidity and mortality rates of COVID-19 as immunity is found to play an important role in the outcome of the disease.

Several scientific studies have been conducted on the mantras, and it has emerged that power of sound vibrations produced in the mantras penetrates the energy spheres at the subtle and cosmic levels. The Sanskrit language syllables and alphabets on pronunciation produce harmonious wave patterns and vibrational powers, which are studied to affect the human brain and psychology positively. The Mantra chanting patterns are designed so as to utilize the sound energy in the form of vibrations to match them with cosmic energy forces emanating from the universe. These vibrations also spread specific energy waves in the surrounding atmosphere as the oblations are offered.

  Conclusion Top

Considering the above benefits of the process of Agnihotra Yagya associated with advantages of concomitant sunlight exposure, which helps in improving immunity, producing psychoneuroimmunological benefits, reducing infections, and reducing the effect of comorbidities; coupled with the process of subtlization and sublimation which helps the medicinal components and benefits to reach the nasal cavity as well as in the lungs and eventually in the blood and the whole body, Agnihotra can play a crucial role in the prevention and management of COVID-19 disease and could also help decrease the morbidity and the disease progression in Mild and Moderate cases. However, it is still not clear whether the whole process of yagya provides the benefits delineated or it will vary with the alteration in the specific mantras, havan samagri, samidha, duration of yagya, timing of yagya performance, etc., with the determination of their scientific affects and mechanisms on the human body and the environment. Scientific studies based on the same concept to explore the real benefits are warranted to realize the true potential of this ancient Indian practice and bring it forth to the scientific community.

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Conflicts of interest

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