You hear a lot about “Ayurveda” and “Ayurvedic Medicine” if you follow natural and alternative health … but what exactly is it? Ayurvedic medicine is considered to be the world’s oldest healing approach. It originated in India at least 5,000 years ago, where it is still widely used for health care.
In the Western world, the use of Ayurveda is still considered a complementary approach, but its use is growing as increasing research proves its age-old remedies have real therapeutic value. Unlike conventional medicine in the United States, which focuses on treating disease, Ayurveda is based on preventing illness by maintaining balance in your body.
As explained by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):[i]
“Key concepts of Ayurvedic medicine include universal interconnectedness (among people, their health, and the universe), the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (dosha), which are often compared to the biologic humors of the ancient Greek system. Using these concepts, Ayurvedic physicians prescribe individualized treatments, including compounds of herbs or proprietary ingredients, and diet, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations.
The majority of India’s population uses Ayurvedic medicine exclusively or combined with conventional Western medicine.”
In Ayurveda, Balancing Your 3 Doshas is a Key to Wellness
Doshas describe the life force or energy that exists in every human being. The three main types follow.[ii] While everyone has some of each type, usually one or two are dominant, which may lead to unhealthy imbalances. Stress, poor diet, relationship troubles, pollution and even weather can disturb your dosha balance. Most Ayurvedic treatments are aimed at restoring balance to your doshas, while also taking into account your constitution (prakriti).
- Vata (air and wind): When balanced, vata leads to creativity and vitality. An imbalance is linked to fear and anxiety. Vata energy controls blood circulation, breathing, blinking, heartbeat and other bodily functions associated with motion. Dominant vata may make you prone to heart disease, anxiety, insomnia and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Pitta (fire and sun): Balanced pitta leads to contentment and intelligence, but if unbalanced pitta may lead to anger and ulcers. Pitta energy controls your metabolic systems, including digestion, nutrition and body temperature. Dominant pitta may put you at risk of high blood pressure and infectious disease.
- Kapha (water and earth): Balanced kapha leads to love and forgiveness. An imbalance may lead to insecurity and envy. Kapha energy controls growth in your body, maintains your immune system, moisturizes your skin and supplies water to your body. Dominant kapha may predispose you to diabetes, cancer, obesity and asthma.
The Essence of Holistic Medicine
If you’re interested in medicine that treats the whole person, not just the symptoms, Ayurveda will be of interest to you. An Ayurvedic practitioner will not only examine your medical history but also your lifestyle habits, surroundings and physical appearance (your skin, eyes, nails, tongue and even the tone of your voice may yield clues to your overall health).
The treatment plan will not only involve lifestyle changes but also detoxification to help eliminate impurities from your body. There are more than 20 common Ayurvedic treatments, including:[iii]
- Breathing exercises (pranayama)
- Mantras and meditation, sometimes combined with herbs, for rejuvenation (rasayana)
- Massage, including rubbing your skin with herbal oils to draw out toxins and increase circulation
- Dietary changes
- Detoxification and purification using sweating, enemas and other methods
- Herbal medicine
To get an idea of how an Ayurvedic approach might differ from a conventional medical approach, consider cancer treatment. From an Ayurvedic perspective, modern cancer treatment results in degeneration and depletion, whereas an Ayurvedic approach emphasizes rejuvenation. Researchers suggest that combining Ayurveda with conventional treatment may lead to better cancer care.[iv] As written in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine:[v]
“In cases where biomedical treatment of cancer is not feasible, an Ayurvedic approach focusing on strengthening digestion, eliminating toxins, reducing tumor growth, and improving tissue metabolism is useful. An Ayurvedic approach to cancer supportive care focuses on restoring equilibrium, building strength, and rejuvenation. Conclusion: Ayurvedic medicine offers a unique perspective on the biomedical diagnosis of cancer that emphasizes restoring wholeness, uses natural remedies, includes a focus on emotional health, and emphasizes prevention strategies.”
Popular Ayurvedic Herbs Show Immense Therapeutic Power
Modern research into Ayurveda is promising, with research suggesting it may work to treat rheumatoid arthritis as well as drugs (but with fewer side effects), help manage obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and offer a wealth of anti-inflammatory agents to treat chronic disease.[vi]
Some of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs also show impressive therapeutic potential. For instance:
- Boswellia: Boswellia, a key part of Heal-n-Soothe, has demonstrated powerful anti-inflammatory and immune system effects for joint pain relief and more.[vii]
- Turmeric: The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is a strong anti-inflammatory known for pain relief. Research also shows it may have anti-cancer properties and use for conditions ranging from obesity and diabetes to depression.
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha has been used in traditional Indian medicine for centuries to treat stress, pain, fatigue, and other disorders. And for good reason. Today’s scientists have discovered that this adaptogenic herb helps prevent damage to your neurons and improves your neurological function during times of stress.
- Ginger: Ginger is valued for relieving gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea. It also contains antioxidants and potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which have been found to help reduce pain and improve mobility in people with chronic pain.
- Devil’s Claw: Devil’s Claw is most widely known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and pain-relieving properties, although it has other unique attributes as well, including antioxidant properties.
You can find many of these Ayurvedic herbs, including turmeric, boswellia, ginger and devil’s claw, right in our all-natural Heal-n-Soothe, which is one of the reasons why it works so well to quickly reduce inflammation and many different types of pain.
Written By: Updated: May 19,2014