What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is perhaps the oldest practice of medicinal healing. In Sanskrit, the word can be broken down: ayur- meaning lifespan, and veda- meaning knowledge. The ancient practice follows the belief that disease is a result of an imbalance of the primary energies in the body, called doshas. Several factors contribute to throwing the doshas off balance, including stress, poor diet, strained relationships, seasonal changes and lack of exercise.
Although all three doshas are present in all people, one energy is usually dominant in an individual. The doshas are associated with certain physical and emotional characteristics as well. Vata is the energy associated with movement, composed of Space and Air. Pitta is the energy of the metabolism, made of Fire and Water. Kapha is the energy that forms the structure of the body, composed of Earth and Water.
A typical first meeting with an Ayurvedic practitioner includes an initial examination of the pulses, tongue, and other areas of the body. The practitioner will ask questions about lifestyle, diet, relationships with family, etc. This examination will help the practitioner determine the prevalent dosha, and will also reveal any physical problems or energy blockages causing poor health.
The Ayurvedic practitioner will then prescribe the course of treatment, which may typically include the following:
- Prescription of herbs to help balance the doshas
- Meditation to calm anxiety
- Pranayama (breathing exercises)
- Abhyanga (rubbing the skin with herbed oils) to flush toxins
- Rasayana (mantras and herbs used with meditation)
- Yoga to improve circulation, digestion, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce anxiety and ease chronic pain
- Panchakarma to reduce toxins and cleanse the body
Studies have shown certain Ayurvedic treatments to help reduce stress and anxiety, thereby helping to lower blood pressure and help boost the immune system. Some Ayurvedic practitioners may recommend a vegetarian diet, which has been found to promote better heart health than diets inclusive of animal products.
Many herbs prescribed in Ayurveda have antioxidant properties, working to neutralize damaging free radicals in the body that can lead to disease. Boswellia and turmeric may help reduce the pain of arthritis. Guggul has been shown to help lower cholesterol by blocking cholesterol production in the liver. Fenugreek may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and may also help regulate blood sugar levels. Ashwagandha (a.k.a. Ayurvedic ginseng) is prescribed to help increase energy, reduce stress and reduce inflammation.
Ayurvedic therapies and herbs are currently under study as treatments for several conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, perimenopausal symptoms, acne, chronic fatigue syndrome and obesity. More research is needed.
There is currently no licensing for Ayurvedic practitioners in the US , but there are institutions that offer extensive education and certifications in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda should not be used to replace proven therapies for serious conditions, but rather as a compliment to traditional medical care. It is important to consult your physician before seeking Ayurvedic healing if you have a serious disease, especially if you are taking medications.
- Indications: Be aware that the herbs prescribed in Ayurvedic therapy may interact with any drugs, medications or supplements you are currently taking. Please consult your physician before seeking Ayurvedic treatment.