Ayurvedic medicine -- also known as Ayurveda -- is one of the world's oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems. It was developed thousands of years ago in India.
It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease. But treatments may be recommended for specific health problems.
In the U.S., Ayurveda is considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Ayurveda ConceptsAccording to Ayurvedic theory, everything in the universe -- living or not -- is connected. Good health is achieved when your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe. A disruption of this harmony can lead to poor health and sickness.
For followers of Ayurveda, anything that affects your physical, spiritual, or emotional well-being can cause you to be out of balance with the universe. Some things that can cause a disruption include:
Every person is made of a combination of five basic elements found in the universe:
Vata DoshaVata dosha (space and air) is thought to be the most powerful of all three doshas. It controls very basic body functions, such as how cells divide. It also controls your:
Things that can disrupt this dosha are:
Some practitioners may have a great deal of training or experience, others may not. Do your homework when choosing an Ayurvedic practitioner. Ask about his or her training and experience.
In India, Ayurvedic training can take five or more years. Graduates receive either a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) or Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (DEMS) degree.
At your first visit, the practitioner will examine you and try to determine your primary dosha and the balance among the others. The exam will include:
Treatment depends on your unique prakriti, your primary dosha, and the balance between all three of them.
A main goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to cleanse your body of undigested food called ama, which can stick to the inside of your body and make you sick. This cleansing process is called panchakarma. It is used to reduce any symptoms and reestablish harmony and balance.
Panchakarma may include:
Other treatments may also be recommended to:
Several Ayurvedic herbal treatments have been studied for a variety of medical conditions. An example is ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) that has anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and, possibly, anti-cancer effects.
Recently, scientists have reported that Ayurveda may be a valuable tool in managing obesity and diabetes. However, a Cochrane review found there is insufficient evidence to recommend Ayurveda for the routine treatment of diabetes.
The FDA has warned that one in five Ayurvedic medicines contain toxic metals, including:
Lead, mercury, and arsenic are heavy metals. They can cause life-threatening illness, especially in children.
The FDA does not review or approve Ayurvedic products. But the agency has put an import alert on certain Ayurvedic products since 2007. This prevents the products from entering the country. However, many customers purchase the products over the Internet. Such sales are harder to monitor.
Always tell all your doctors about the medicines you take, including herbs, supplements, minerals, spices, and other products. They can sometimes interact with each other, increasing your risk for serious health problems.
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