Changes occur in organisms as they age. The study of biological aging or senescence has given rise to a number of theories to explain why old age occurs. Changes at the cellular level and in the organism as a whole have been attributed to genes, damage due to biological processes and others. However it is interesting to note that there are several cold-blooded animals which show very nominal senescence and even negative senescence - in which mortality falls with age. These reptiles and fish age very slowly and have very long lifespans
When cells lose their ability to divide, they are known as senescent. This generally occurs after a normal cell divides about 50 times. These cells either age or destroy themselves. When the whole organism ages, it is characterized by inability to respond to stress, and being affected by age-related diseases
Senescent cells are thought to produce harmful substances that cause inflammation which lies at the root of many physical and mental illnesses. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic found that by targetting and destroying senescent cells by means of a drug, some of the aging processes could be stopped.
However there is a theory that senescence of cells could have developed in order to form a protection against cancer where cells divide uncontrollably. Therefore stopping the process of senescence itself may be dangerous. However if the senescent cells could be completely removed or if the harmful compounds they release could be neutralized, then many age-related diseases could be prevented.
Tests on mice showed that treating them with a drug that identified and destroyed senscent cells, caused dramatic delay in the cataract development and age-related muscle and fat changes. When the drug was given to mice that were already old, further decline due to age was prevented. The research is still in very early stages and apart from changes in muscle and tissue, it is yet to be seen what changes might occur in the brain. Also it is not known whether continuous removal of senescent cells will be required or it can be done at regular intervals.
Humans have always tried to delay the aging process externally and internally by various herbs and medications. Ayurveda recommends several herbs and herbal formulations to delay aging and build immunity against diseases. Modern research shows these herbs to adaptogenic, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories - all defences against the aging process
Amalaki / Indian gooseberry - with its high vitamin C content, anti-oxidant and adaptogenic properties is considered a premier anti-aging herb. It is the main ingredient in Dabur Chyawanprash which is probably the best known ayurvedic formulation known to build immunity.
Turmeric - has been shown to have remarkable anti-oxidant properties and its ubiquitous use in Indian cooking is credited for Alzheimer's disease being largely absent in India.
Ashwagandha is another premier adaptogenic and anti-oxidant herb. It helps relieve mental and physical stress which contribute to aging.