Mental Retardation (MR) is a neuro-developmental disability which originates during the developmental period, that is, from conception up to the age of 18 years; and results in significantly sub-average general intellectual function, with concurrent deficits in functional life skills. The diagnosis of MR requires an intelligence quotient (IQ) score of less than 70 and equivalent deficits in at least two areas of functional life skills. MR can be categorized as syndromic or non-syndromic, with at least 800 recognized syndromes being associated with MR. For the vast majority of individuals with MR, there is no identifiable cause. Prenatal exposure to toxins, prenatal thyroid dysfunction, and postnatal exposure to lead and other toxins are some of the causes of MR. Children with MR are more likely to be born into families of low socio-economic status, low IQ and little education. Symptoms of MR include: behavioral disturbances; language delay; fine movement and adaptive movement delay; gross movement delay; and neurological and physical abnormalities.
The Ayurvedic treatment of MR is aimed at attempting to reduce or reverse identifiable causative factors or apparent brain damage, and improving cognitive function. Medicines from the ‘Medhya’ category are very useful in this condition. These include Brahmi (Bacopa monneiri), Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), Vacha (Acorus calamas), Mandukparni (Centella asiatica), Jyotishmati (Celastrus panniculatus), Kushmand (Benincasa hispida), Ustukhudoos (Lavandula stoechas), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus). Medicines which act on the ‘Majja” dhatu (tissue) are also very useful in this condition, and include Guduchi, Amalaki and Musta (Cyperus rotundus).
Medicines which act on the nerves, muscles and neuromuscular junctions are also useful in this condition. These medicines include Yograj-Guggulu, Kaishor-Guggulu, Trayo-Dashang-Guggulu, Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu, Vat-Gajankush-Ras, Maha-Vat-Vidhwans-Ras, Ekang-Veer-Ras, Tapyadi-Loh, Agnitundi-Vati, Vish-Tinduk-Vati, Suvarna-Malini-Vasant, Abhrak-Bhasma, Trivang-Bhasma and Suvarna-Bhasma.
Regular massage of the entire body is also believed to help in neuro-muscular development and coordination. Medicated oils are used for this purpose, which include Mahanarayan oil, Mahamash oil, and Mahasaindhav oil. Known causes of MR, if present, can be treated concurrently.
It is important to note that treatment needs to be given for prolonged periods ranging from several months to several years in order to get noticeable improvement.