A Deeper Look Into Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic Medicine, or Ayurveda, is a practice that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Translating to "the science of life", Ayurveda is a holistic approach that strives to create harmony and balance between the body and mind in order to promote healing, prevent illness and disease, and improve overall well-being. Today, it is used and relied on not only in India, but by many people throughout the entire world.

One of the fundamental teachings of Ayurvedic medicine is that the five elements of nature - space, air, water, fire, and earth - make up three components, or "doshas", within the human body. These doshas are called Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha, and they are believed to contribute to a person's physical traits, as well as their personality.

The 3 Doshas

  • Vatta: A combination of air and space, Vatta is believed to control movement, breathing, heartbeat, creativity, vitality, and problems pertaining to the nervous system, such as anxiety, pain, and fear.
  • Pitta: A combination of fire and water, Pitta is believed to control functions such as digestion and metabolism, as well as intelligence, contentment, and negative emotions such as anger, hate, and jealousy.
  • Kapha: A combination of earth and water, Kapha is believed to dictate a person's physical build and control their immune system. It is also believed to control emotions such as love, forgiveness, envy, and greed, as well as states of serenity and relaxation, or insecurity.
It is believed in Ayurveda that if a person's doshas are off-balanced, illness will occur. In this case, the person should use various herbal remedies which work to bring the doshas back into balance. They should also implement practices that focus on mindfulness and proper nutrition, and exercises that benefit not only the physical body, but also the spirit. These practices and exercises are arranged into the following categories:
  • Pranayama: This exercise is mainly composed of breathing techniques that promote calmness.
  • Abhyanga: This is the practice of massaging the body with herbal oils in order to stimulate blood circulation and draw toxins out of the body through the skin.
  • Rasayana: Consisting of meditation and repetition of words or phrases, Rasayana is often combined with herbs in order to provide total rejuvenation.
  • Yoga: Yoga combines pranayama, movement, and meditation in order to improve circulation, flexibility, and digestion, and to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, pain, and cholesterol.
  • Pancha Karma: This approach tries to cleanse the body of toxins through sweating, bowel movements, or even vomiting.

But is Ayurveda truly effective? Some may argue that no, it is not up to par with conventional medicine in terms of effectiveness; However, others argue that there are studies which show otherwise. For example, a 2011 preliminary study funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health compared conventional treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (the drug methotrexate) to Ayurvedic treatment (a natural medicine consisting of 40 herbal compounds), and the results showed that both treatments had very similar, if not the same, effects to one another. Additionally, many other Ayurvedic herbal compounds are currently being studied worldwide for their potential to treat problems such as Alzheimer's, anxiety, asthma, cancer, dementia, menstrual cramps, obesity, constipation, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, and acne.

 While it cannot be said that Ayurveda is the right medicinal approach for everyone, it  should not be completely dismissed or disregarded. Everyone's body is unique and may react differently to various medicines, herbs, and physical exercises. Severity of illness also differentiates between individuals, so it is always best to consult with a physician before taking any sort of medical approaches into your own hands.

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