Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. Ayurvedic medicine is an up and coming practice in the United States. In Western medicine it is regarded as a complementary or alternative medicine however, Ayurvedic medicine is the traditional medicine in Eastern cultures of the Indian subcontinent. According to the National Centers for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) about 80% of Indians still use Ayurveda as their traditional system of medicine. In addition Ayurvedic medicine is also used in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan.
Ayurveda originated in India several thousand years ago. The word Ayurveda comes from Sanskrit and means the science of life. The basic principles of Ayurvedic medicine include maintaining the body’s balance of mind, body and spirit. By accomplishing this one can avoid disease and illness, reach harmony and overall wellness. Ayurvedic medicine like traditional medicines practiced throughout the world have developed ways to prevent, manage, and treat health problems. However, Ayurvedic medicine uses holistic properties to cleanse the body and reestablish balance. There are eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine in existence today. They are Internal medicine, Surgery, Treatment of head and neck disease, Gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics, Toxicology, Psychiatry, Care of the elderly and rejuvenation, and Sexual vitality.
Within Ayurveda, vitality is attained through a healthy metabolic state, good digestion and proper excretion. However to attain the proper balance you must understand some key foundations. Ayurveda’s key foundations for health and disease are incorporated within universal interconnectedness, the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (doshas). By understanding the key elements within these areas of Ayurvedic medicine you can see the basis for Ayurvedic health.
The universal interconnectedness states that all things in the universe are connected. This includes both living and nonliving things. Secondly all humans are made up of elements that are found within the universe such as the five great elements, earth, water, fire, air, and ether. If one’s body and mind are in harmony and one’s interactions with the universe are wholesome then our health will be good. However when someone is out of balance with the universe, disease will arise.
Ayurvedic medicine believes that the body is made up of constitutions. The body is made up of 7 primary elements plasma, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow, and semen or female reproductive tissue. It is these constituents that regulate a person’s general health. A person’s bodily constitution is unique in its ability to function, resist illness and recover from disease. However, the body’s constitution can be altered by digestion and excretion. Additionally the balance of three life forces also known as doshas, which control the body’s activities, determines one’s constitution.
Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes the importance of balance of the three doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha. Each person possesses a unique combination of doshas although normally one dosha is prominent. Doshas can be imbalanced for different reasons such as age, lifestyle, diet, mental or physical exertion, seasons, weather, chemicals or germs. Doshas are made up of the five basic elements and relate to specific functions in the body. Food, activity and bodily processes are constantly changing the relationship of the doshas within the body. If the doshas become imbalanced it can produce unique symptoms to that specific dosha, which is imbalanced.
Ayurvedic treatment and prevention encompasses the ideas of restoring balance and harmony throughout the body. Therefore, treatment methods are individualized to every person. No two people will have the same type of treatment protocol. Ayurvedic practitioners and patients need to be actively involved in their treatment plans because most Ayurvedic medicine involves changes in diet, lifestyle and habits. Before any treatment is prescribed an Ayurvedic practitioner will determine the primary dosha and the relationship between the three doshas. Ayurvedic practitioners approach diagnosis through examining the patient’s entire lifestyle and habit. They use all five senses to observe the patients health problems.
The goal of Ayurvedic treatment is to reduce symptoms by eliminating and cleansing the body of impurities, preventing further illness, and restoring the body back to balance. Panchakarma is the process by which Ayurveda eliminates toxic elements from the body through the digestive tract and respiratory system. Enemas, massage therapy, medical oils, nasal sprays, herbs, and spices may be recommended. Additionally physical exercise such as stretching, breathing exercises, meditation, massage, and yoga should be included in any Ayurvedic treatment. Furthermore, a change in diet is normally recommended. Herbs and honey, minerals, proteins, vitamins and tonics can improve digestion, increase appetite and boost immunity. Spiritual healing such as meditation to relax the body and mind is a normal remedy for increasing harmony.
After the treatments have been preformed and the body has been restored to harmony, the Ayurvedic practitioner will set the patient up on a maintenance and prevention plan to be able to avoid further disease, imbalances and impurities.
Sarah Labdar, “What is Ayurvedic Medicine?”, Everyday Health