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Ayurvedic medicine is a system of healing that originated in ancient India. In Sanskrit, ayur means life or living, and veda means knowledge, so Ayurveda has been defined as the "knowledge of living" or the "science of longevity." Ayurvedic medicine utilizes diet, detoxification and purification techniques, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and massage therapy as holistic healing methods. Ayurvedic medicine is widely practiced in modern India and has been steadily gaining followers in the West.
According to the original texts, the goal of Ayurveda is prevention as well as promotion of the body's own capacity for maintenance and balance. Ayurvedic treatment is non-invasive and non-toxic, so it can be used safely as an alternative therapy or along-side conventional therapies. Ayurvedic physicians claim that their methods can also help stress-related, metabolic, and chronic conditions. Ayurveda has been used to treat acne, allergies, asthma, anxiety, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, colds, colitis, constipation, depression, diabetes, flu, heart disease, hypertension, immune problems, inflammation, insomnia, nervous disorders, obesity, skin problems, and ulcers.
Ayurvedic physicians seek to discover the roots of a disease before it gets so advanced that more radical treatments are necessary. Thus, Ayurveda seems to be limited in treating severely advanced conditions, traumatic injuries, acute pain, and conditions and injuries requiring invasive surgery. Ayurvedic techniques have also been used alongside chemotherapy and surgery to assist patients in recovery and healing.
Ayurvedic medicine originated in the early civilizations of India some 3,000-5,000 years ago. It is mentioned in the Vedas, the ancient religious and philosophical texts that are the oldest surviving literature in the world, which makes Ayurvedic medicine the oldest surviving healing system. According to the texts, Ayurveda was conceived by enlightened wise men as a system of living harmoniously and maintaining the body so that mental and spiritual awareness could be possible. Medical historians believe that Ayurvedic ideas were transported from ancient India to China and were instrumental in the development of Chinese medicine.
Today, Ayurvedic medicine is used by 80% of the population in India. Aided by the efforts of Deepak Chopra and the Maharishi, it has become an increasingly accepted alternative medical treatment in America during the last two decades. Chopra is an M.D. who has written several bestsellers based on Ayurvedic ideas. He also helped develop the Center for Mind/Body Medicine in La Jolla, California, a major Ayurvedic center that trains physicians in Ayurvedic principles, produces herbal remedies, and conducts research and documentation of its healing techniques.
To understand Ayurvedic treatment, it is necessary to have an idea how the Ayurvedic system views the body. The basic life force in the body is prana, which is also found in the elements and is similar to the Chinese notion of chi. As Swami Vishnudevananda, a yogi and expert, put it, "Prana is in the air, but is not the oxygen, nor any of its chemical constituents. It is in food, water, and in the sunlight, yet it is not vitamin, heat, or light-rays. Food, water, air, etc., are only the media through which the prana is carried."
In Ayurveda, there are five basic elements that contain prana: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These elements interact and are further organized in the human body as three main categories or basic physiological principles in the body that govern all bodily functions known as the doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each person has a unique blend of the three doshas, known as the person's prakriti, which is why Ayurvedic treatment is always individualized. In Ayurveda, disease is viewed as a state of imbalance in one or more of a person's doshas, and an Ayurvedic physician strives to adjust and balance them, using a variety of techniques.
The vata dosha is associated with air and ether, and in the body promotes movement and lightness. Vata people are generally thin and light physically, dry-skinned, and very energetic and mentally restless. When vata is out of balance, there are often nervous problems, hyperactivity, sleeplessness, lower back pains, and headaches.
|Ayurvedic Body Types|
hair. Pale, cool,
gies, and sinus
and slow eater.
Pitta is associated with fire and water. In the body, it is responsible for metabolism and digestion. Pitta characteristics are medium-built bodies, fair skin, strong digestion, and good mental concentration. Pitta imbalances show up as anger and aggression and stress-related conditions like gastritis, ulcers, liver problems, and hypertension.
The kapha dosha is associated with water and earth. People characterized as kapha are generally large or heavy with more oily complexions. They tend to be slow, calm, and peaceful. Kapha disorders manifest emotionally as greed and possessiveness, and physically as obesity, fatigue, bronchitis, and sinus problems.
In Ayurvedic medicine, disease is always seen as an imbalance in the dosha system, so the diagnostic process strives to determine which doshas are underactive or overactive in a body. Diagnosis is often taken over a course of days in order for the Ayurvedic physician to most accurately determine what parts of the body are being affected. To diagnose problems, Ayurvedic physicians often use long questionnaires and interviews to determine a person's dosha patterns and physical and psychological histories. Ayurvedic physicians also intricately observe the pulse, tongue, face, lips, eyes, and fingernails for abnormalities or patterns that they believe can indicate deeper problems in the internal systems. Some Ayurvedic physicians also use laboratory tests to assist in diagnosis.
Ayurvedic treatment seeks to re-establish balance and harmony in the body's systems. Usually the first method of treatment involves some sort of detoxification and cleansing of the body, in the belief that accumulated toxins must be removed before any other methods of treatment will be effective. Methods of detoxification include therapeutic vomiting, laxatives, medicated enemas, fasting, and cleansing of the sinuses. Many Ayurvedic clinics combine all of these cleansing methods into intensive sessions known as panchakarma. Panchakarma can take several days or even weeks and they are more than elimination therapies. They also include herbalized oil massage and herbalized heat treatments. After purification, Ayurvedic physicians use herbal and mineral remedies to balance the body as well. Ayurvedic medicine contains a vast knowledge of the use of herbs for specific health problems.
Ayurvedic medicine also emphasizes how people live their lives from day to day, believing that proper lifestyles and routines accentuate balance, rest, diet, and prevention. Ayurveda recommends yoga as a form of exercise to build strength and health, and also advises massage therapy and self-massage as ways of increasing circulation and reducing stress. Yogic breathing techniques and meditation are also part of a healthy Ayurvedic regimen, to reduce stress and improve mental energy.
Of all treatments, though, diet is one of the most basic and widely used therapy in the Ayurvedic system. An Ayurvedic diet can be a very well planned and individualized regimen. According to Ayurveda, there are six basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Certain tastes and foods can either calm or aggravate a particular dosha. For instance, sweet, sour, and salty decrease vata problems and increase kapha. Sour, salty, and pungent can increase pitta. After an Ayurvedic physician determines a person's dosha profile, they will recommend a specific diet to correct imbalances and increase health. The Ayurvedic diet emphasizes primarily vegetarian foods of high quality and freshness, tailored to the season and time of day. Cooling foods are eaten in the summer and heating ones in the winter, always within a person's dosha requirements. In daily routine, the heaviest meal of the day should be lunch, and dinner should eaten well before bedtime, to allow for complete digestion. Also, eating meals in a calm manner with proper chewing and state of mind is important, as is combining foods properly and avoiding overeating.
Costs of Ayurvedic treatments can vary, with initial consultations running anywhere from $40 to over $100, with follow-up visits costing less. Herbal treatments may cost from $10 to $50 per month, and are often available from health food or bulk herb stores. Some clinics offer panchakarma, the intensive Ayurvedic detoxification treatment, which can include overnight stays for up to several weeks. The prices for these programs can vary significantly, depending on the services and length of stay. Insurance reimbursement may depend on whether the primary physician is a licensed M.D.
Ayurveda is a mind/body system of health that contains some ideas foreign to the Western scientific model. Those people considering Ayurveda should approach it with an open mind and willingness to experiment. Also, because Ayurveda is a whole-body system of healing and health, patience and discipline are helpful, as some conditions and diseases are believed to be brought on by years of bad health habits and require time and effort to correct. Finally, the Ayurvedic philosophy believes that each person has the ability to heal themselves, so those considering Ayurveda should be prepared to bring responsibility and participation into the treatment.
An Ayurvedic practitioner should always be consulted.
During Ayurvedic detoxification programs, some people report fatigue, muscle soreness, and general sickness. Also, as Ayurveda seeks to release mental stresses and psychological problems from the patient, some people can experience mental disturbances and depression during treatment, and psychological counseling may be part of a sound program.
Research and general acceptance
Because Ayurveda had been outside the Western scientific system for years, research in the United States is new. Another difficulty in documentation arises because Ayurvedic treatment is very individualized; two people with the same disease but different dosha patterns might be treated differently. Much more scientific research has been conducted over the past several decades in India. Much research in the United States is being supported by the Maharishi Ayur-Ved organization, which studies the Ayurvedic products it sells and its clinical practices.
Some Ayurvedic herbal mixtures have been proven to have high antioxidant properties, much stronger than vitamins A, C, and E, and some have also been shown in laboratory tests to reduce or eliminate tumors in mice and to inhibit cancer growth in human lung tumor cells. In a 1987 study at MIT, an Ayurvedic herbal remedy was shown to significantly reduce colon cancer in rats. Another study was performed in the Netherlands with Maharishi Ayur-Ved products. A group of patients with chronic illnesses, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, hypertension, eczema, psoriasis, constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, and non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, were given Ayurvedic treatment. Strong results were observed, with nearly 80% of the patients improving and some chronic conditions being completely cured.
Other studies have shown that Ayurvedic therapies can significantly lower cholesterol and blood pressure in stress-related problems. Diabetes, acne, and allergies have also been successfully treated with Ayurvedic remedies. Ayurvedic products have been shown to increase short-term memory and reduce headaches. Also, Ayurvedic remedies have been used successfully to support the healing process of patients undergoing chemotherapy, as these remedies have been demonstrated to increase immune system activity.
Lad, Dr. Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. Minneapolis: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
American Institute of Vedic Studies. P.O. Box 8357, Santa Fe, NM 87504. (505) 983-9385
Ayurveda Holistic Center. Bayville, Long Island, NY. (516)759-7731 mail@Ayurvedahc.com http://www.Ayurvedahc.com.
Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Medical Clinic. 10025 NE 4th Street, Bellevue, WA 98004. (206)453-8022.
Ayurvedic Institute. 11311 Menaul, NE Albuquerque, New Mexico 87112. (505) 291-9698. info@Ayurveda.com http://www.Ayurveda.com.
Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences. 144 N.E. 54th Street, Seattle, WA 98105. (206) 523-9585.
Center for Mind/Body Medicine. P.O. Box 1048, La Jolla, CA 92038. (619)794-2425.
College of Maharishi Ayur-Ved, Maharishi International University. 1000 4th Street, Fairfield, IA 52557. (515) 472-7000.
National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine. (914) 278-8700. email@example.com. http://www.niam.com.
Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda. P.O. Box 1091, Boulder, CO 80306. (303) 443-6923.
"Inside Ayurveda: An Independent Journal of Ayurvedic Health Care." P.O. Box 3021, Quincy, CA 95971. http://www.insideayurveda.com.
1. any drug or remedy.
2. the art and science of the diagnosis and treatment of disease and the maintenance of health.
3. the nonsurgical treatment of disease.
alternative medicine see complementary and alternative medicine.
aviation medicine the branch of medicine that deals with the physiologic, medical, psychologic, and epidemiologic problems involved in flying.
ayurvedic medicine the traditional medicine of India, done according to Hindu scriptures and making use of plants and other healing materials native to India.
behavioral medicine a type of psychosomatic medicine focused on psychological means of influencing physical symptoms, such as biofeedback or relaxation.
1. the study of disease by direct examination of the living patient.
2. the last two years of the usual curriculum in a medical college.
complementary medicine (complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)) a large and diverse set of systems of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention based on philosophies and techniques other than those used in conventional Western medicine, often derived from traditions of medical practice used in other, non-Western cultures. Such practices may be described as alternative, that is, existing as a body separate from and as a replacement for conventional Western medicine, or complementary, that is, used in addition to conventional Western practice. CAM is characterized by its focus on the whole person as a unique individual, on the energy of the body and its influence on health and disease, on the healing power of nature and the mobilization of the body's own resources to heal itself, and on the treatment of the underlying causes, rather than symptoms, of disease. Many of the techniques used are the subject of controversy and have not been validated by controlled studies.
emergency medicine the medical specialty that deals with the acutely ill or injured who require immediate medical treatment. See also emergency and emergency care.
experimental medicine study of the science of healing diseases based on experimentation in animals.
family medicine family practice.
forensic medicine the application of medical knowledge to questions of law; see also medical jurisprudence. Called also legal medicine.
group medicine the practice of medicine by a group of physicians, usually representing various specialties, who are associated together for the cooperative diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.
internal medicine the medical specialty that deals with diagnosis and medical treatment of diseases and disorders of internal structures of the body.
legal medicine forensic medicine.
nuclear medicine the branch of medicine concerned with the use of radionuclides in diagnosis and treatment of disease.
patent medicine a drug or remedy protected by a trademark, available without a prescription.
physical medicine physiatry.
preclinical medicine the subjects studied in medicine before the student observes actual diseases in patients.
preventive medicine the branch of medical study and practice aimed at preventing disease and promoting health.
proprietary medicine any chemical, drug, or similar preparation used in the treatment of diseases, if such article is protected against free competition as to name, product, composition, or process of manufacture by secrecy, patent, trademark, or copyright, or by other means.
psychosomatic medicine the study of the interrelations between bodily processes and emotional life.
socialized medicine a system of medical care regulated and controlled by the government; called also state medicine.
space medicine the branch of aviation medicine concerned with conditions encountered by human beings in space.
sports medicine the field of medicine concerned with injuries sustained in athletic endeavors, including their prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
state medicine socialized medicine.
travel medicine (travelers' medicine) the subspecialty of tropical medicine consisting of the diagnosis and treatment or prevention of diseases of travelers.
tropical medicine medical science as applied to diseases occurring primarily in the tropics and subtropics.
veterinary medicine the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of animals other than humans.
A holistic approach to health care that is based on principles of Ayurveda and is designed to maintain or improve health through the use of dietary modification, massage, yoga, herbal preparations, and other measures.
ayurvedic medicineSanskrit combination of ayur (Life) and veda (knowledge). The oldest existing medical system in the world, which is practised primarily in the subcontinent of India, and which is taught in over 100 colleges. Ayurvedic medicine encompasses aromatherapy, diet and nutrition, herbal medicine, massage and vedic astrology; ayurvedic philosophy holds that disease is caused by an imbalance of homeostatic and immune mechanisms related to three physiological principles known as “doshas”.
While a large body of traditional ayurvedic medical literature exists, no peer-reviewed data suggest that it is superior to western medicine.
• Vata dosha (Wind force)—Vata represents fluid and motion; it corresponds to the Western concepts of circulation and neuromuscular activity.
• Pitta dosha (Sun force)—Pitta directs all metabolic activities, energy exchange and digestion.
• Kapha dosha (Moon force)—Kapha represents structure, cohesion and fluid balance and, when deranged, predisposes toward respiratory disease, diabetes, ASHD and tumours.
• Accidental—e.g., typhoon, elephant trampling;
• Mental—e.g., loss of mental harmony;
• Natural—e.g., ageing, childbirth;
• External—e.g., weather, foods and others.
• Diet—Foods should be consumed slowly, in the natural season and in a tranquil surrounding; occasional fasting may promote health.
• Medicine—The primary therapeutic and preventative arsenal is based in herbal remedies, which may be supplemented by homeopathy and conventional (western) or orthodox drugs.
• Practical—Behaviour modification, breathing exercises, mental counseling, enemas, transcendental meditation, yoga and a “healthy” life style.
Diet, mild herbs, mineral preparations and lifestyle adjustments, which are intended to balance life forces and return the body to its normal state of harmony.
Medication and strong herbs, coupled with purification practices—e.g., purging, medicated enemas, therapeutic vomiting, nasal medication, therapeutic bloodletting.
A·yur·ve·dic med·i·cine(ī'yŭr-vā'dik med'i-sin)
A system of alternative medicine that uses herbs, aromatherapy, music therapy, massage, yoga, and other measures; places equal emphasis on mind, body, and spirit.
[Sansk. āyurveda, science of life, fr. āyur, life, + veda, knowledge]
Ayurveda,"science of life" from ancient Vedic tradition of India.
Ayurvedic medicine - ancient science of natural medicine which promotes health of mind and body.
a natural healing system developed in India. Equal emphasis is placed on the body, mind and spirit and the system strives to restore the innate harmony of the individual through diet, exercise, meditation, herbs, massage, exposure to sunlight and controlled breathing.