Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine developed in India. It is a natural medicine having unique principles which are applicable still today. Ayurveda means knowledge of life. It is not just a system of medicine, but a way of living. Ayurveda deals with physical, mental, emotional, social, sexual and spiritual life and longevity.
In order to attain the ‘goal of health for all’ WHO realized the role of traditional, alternative and complementary systems of health care in the world. WHO recognises Ayurveda as a traditional medicine of India. Recognition of Ayurveda in different countries depends on the laws of that country. Ayurveda is regarded as an alternative system in most of the countries of Indian subcontinent with specific laws regarding practice of Ayurveda. But in most of other countries around the world it is regarded as a complimentary holistic system and practiced according to general natural therapy and trade rules. In Australia, Ayurvedic medicine is recognized as a bona fide system of health care.
Extensive measures are taken to standardize the Ayurvedic education, medicines and treatment. In India, education is more or less standardised, if you are receiving Ayurvedic treatment from India or a practitioner having Indian qualification, make sure the practitioner is an Ayurvedic doctor having Bachelor’s degree in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS). In most of other countries minimum hours of study required for an Ayurvedic practitioner is determined by the governing organisations. You can ensure the qualification of Ayurvedic practitioner by verifying the professional membership. Last decade Good Manufacturing Practices are implemented for Ayurvedic medicines in India, still a long way to go to standardize the system in full extent, as the current testing systems cannot completely verify the medicines. More studies are required in this area. WHO is supporting India to achieve this target in different ways. Generally Ayurvedic products manufactured from western countries are according to general trade rules of herbs and natural products. So if you are receiving treatment from a qualified accredited Ayurvedic practitioner who use medicines from a reputed Ayurvedic manufacturing company following international trade and manufacturing laws, you are receiving standardised Ayurvedic treatment.
Scientific studies on Ayurvedic medicines and treatments are going on in India and some other countries. The results are very promising. Researches have shown that individuals who practice Ayurvedic treatments are at a decreased risk for high blood pressure. In a controlled clinical trial of cancer patients in India, researchers found an Ayurvedic herb mixture worked as well as a standard laxative for relieving constipation caused by pain relieving drugs. In two small controlled clinical trials, a herb used in Ayurveda (Mucuna Pruriens) was found to reduce symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Studies with some herbs or Ayurvedic preparations prove that they can be successfully used to prevent or treat cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus and so on. More studies are required in various fields. Still now it is a paradigm for researchers to study on effectiveness of Ayurvedic herbs by including all of its efficacies. More than using the same research protocol for Ayurvedic medicines as of other medicines or systems, a new system to study need to be developed. But clinical experiences of Ayurveda are satisfying and it is a time tested system practiced in India for more than 5000 years.
Some of the private insurance companies provide rebate for Ayurvedic treatments. Discuss with your insurance agency to know details and criteria.
Some safety concerns are reported with Ayurvedic medicines. Most of them are due to improper preparation of medicines and industrial pollution of herbs. Even though most of the Ayurvedic preparations are from herbs, some are prepared by adding metals, minerals (after processing, some studies prove that if properly prepared the medicine contains only oxides of the metals and minerals) and animal products. If the medicines are from a reputed Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing company following international trade and manufacturing laws, they probably are safe. Even though most of the Ayurvedic preparations are from herbs, most of them are potential medicines. So always it is better to take them after thorough consultation and examination by an Ayurvedic practitioner, especially if you are suffering from diseases and/ or taking other medicines.
Ayurveda has an important role in improving wellness, to prevent diseases and to help deal with many chronic, auto immune, life style, nervous and musculoskeletal, immune deficiency, viral, nutritional deficiency and/or digestive disorders in which the scope of contemporary medicines are limited. In some of the diseases, an integrative approach using both Ayurveda and western medicine is more useful. Apart from addressing different symptoms scattered around the body, Ayurveda considers an individual as a whole, understands the root pathology causing these symptoms and acts accordingly.
Ayurveda and yoga are two systems that developed in India together, sharing same philosophy and ideas on diet, lifestyle and wellness. But Ayurveda deals mainly with physical body and diseases, where as Yoga with mental health and awareness. In order to attain mental health and awareness, a healthy body is absolutely essential. That is why ancient scholars of Ayurveda and Yoga appreciated both systems, and advised to use both Ayurveda and Yoga to maintain physical and mental health. In India yoga is included in Ayurvedic curriculum and most of the Ayurvedic practitioners advise both Ayurveda and Yoga for health.
Ayurveda has very unique principles which helped Ayurveda to successfully survive for 5000 years and deal with the problems of busy life and newly discovered diseases even today . According to Ayurveda everything in this world is made from five great states of material existence called panchabhootas. They are space (akasa), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jala) and earth (bhoomi). The differences in the proportion of these five states make differences in the materials. In a living body, these five states form three basic functional particles called doshas. They are vata, pitta and kapha. A balance in these doshas maintains health where as an imbalance lead to diseases. Apart from doshas, there are tissues (dhatus), waste materials (mala), digestive energy (agni), ojas (essence of body), channels (srotas) which together make up and maintain body. A proper functioning of all of these body constituents is important to maintain health. But doshas superimpose others. So it is important to control doshas (humors). So in an Ayurvedic consultation mainly your doshas are assessed and diet, lifestyle and treatments that are suitable to your doshas are advised based on their composition of five great states of material existences (panchabhootas).
Doshas are the basic functional particles of body. They are sometimes referred as humors. They are vata, pitta and kapha. Vata is the energy for movement and control, pitta is the factor for transformations and kapha provides stability and maintain body parts together. So generally vata is consuming, pitta is transforming and kapha is conserving. A balance in these three doshas brings health and an imbalance, diseases.
Every individual is unique and differ from one another in their physical and mental characteristics. This is due to the difference in the basic pattern of doshas of their body from the time of conception, which remains unchanged throughout life. This is called Ayurvedic body constitution (prakruti). This can be vata type, pitta type, kapha type or combination of two or more doshas (functional body particles).
Ayurveda tries to provide relief through every possible ways. Through advises on diet, daily activities, exercise, yoga, different massages, music, aromatherapy, colour therapy, relaxation, panchakarma, herbs, Ayurvedic medicines and so on. In Ayurveda treatments are mainly classified into two;
- Pacifying treatments: Mainly using herbs and different massages to pacify doshas and other vitiated body constituents.
- Cleansing/ purifying/detoxifying treatments: Different procedures (panchakarmas) are used to eliminate impurities from the body.
Panchakarmas are the detoxifying treatments of body. They are five in number. Panchakarmas are medicated enemas (vasti), purgation (virechana), emesis therapy (vamana), nasal cleansing (nasya) and bloodletting. All of these are performed in a controlled way using specific herbs or medicines that are suitable to your body type, diseases and season. Direct supervision by Ayurvedic practitioner and strict selection criteria are required to obtain best possible results. Usually before undergoing panchakarma treatments preparation of body using herbs, internal and external lubrication and sudation are required. Panchakarmas are recommended in Ayurveda to maintain health and wellness, increase seasonal immunity, prevention of diseases in particular body type and to address specific diseases.
Sirodhara is an Ayurvedic treatment which provides lubrication to head, nervous system and sense organs. It is usually referred as the treatment for third eye and gives tranquillity to mind. Sirodhara gives deep relaxation to mind and body. In this procedure warm herbal oil is poured on forehead in a rhythmic manner for 20-45 minutes from a special vessel suspended over reclining patient. It offers relief for problems of head ache, muscle pain, stress, mental disorders, etc.
In a bolus massage, the massage is performed mainly through a bolus or pouch prepared from fresh herbs, dry herbs, powders, medicinal rice, fruits, etc with or without oil or any other herbal dip. Usually this procedure is performed after applying warm herbal oil and the procedure lasts for 30-60 minutes. Properties and effects of kizhis generally vary very much according to the contents of kizhi. They can be relaxing, lubricating, anti inflammatory, improving muscle strength, stimulating nerves and/ or acting on joints.
Prana is the universal energy which forms most subtle level of doshas in our body. It provides vitality to body and energy to tissues. Prana is very important for respiratory health. It brings well being to every cell. It is inherent with fresh air, fresh food and well administered medicines and treatments. Pranayamas are popular practices that cultivate and control vibrant prana.
Ojas is the essence of body from which the body is developed during intrauterine life. After birth, proper metabolism of body is essential for nourishment of ojas. The quality of life is directly proportion to quality and quantity of ojas. Ojas provides lustre, strength, immunity, fertility, lucidity to mind and efficient digestion. It is the basis of existence of body, its absence lead to death.
Ama is an accumulation of materials in the body that turns toxic and causes imbalance of doshas (rumor) and other body constituents. An imbalanced digestive energy is the prime reason for the formation of ama. It can be metabolic wastes, toxic products of microbes, undigested food, accumulated waste materials due to improper elimination, etc. The presence of the ama is an important reason for diseases which lead to vague symptoms before producing specific pathology. Lack of taste, loss of appetite, belching, bloating, loose stools, constipation, fatigue, muscle spasms, loss of energy, low immunity, offensive smell of stool and flatulence, etc. can be due to ama. If it is controlled and corrected ama at this level, it is possible to prevent further pathology and future diseases.
Agni is an Ayurvedic term for energy that digests food and thought and responsible for proper metabolism and nourishment of body and mind. A balnced agni is essential to maintain health.
Susrutasamhita, an Ayurvedic classic defines health as ‘a balance of doshas (humors), digestive energy (agni) and tissues (dhatus), proper elimination of waste materials, proper sensory perception and wellness of mind and soul.’ In Ayurveda an absence of this health is considered as diseases.
No, generally you will able to experience the difference by treatment within 24-72 hours, according to your problem and its duration. Ayurveda doesn’t perform quick fix or try to suppress the symptoms, but correcting the pathology, it is better to opt to correct pathology than suppress the symptoms. In cases of miserable pain and suffering you can have an integrated approach to correct pathology and reduce symptoms.
No, Ayurveda advises diet according to your problems, pathology, Ayurvedic body constitution and season. Generally Ayurveda recommends including lots of fruits and vegetables in your food. You can discuss with your Ayurvedic practitioner the proteins that are most suitable for you. Generally Ayurveda suggests minimising the frequency of foods that are not suitable for you, not to quit it, unless quitting is absolutely essential for you