If you have ever been curious about ancient medicine practices, you will find these facts about Ayurvedic medicine interesting. Ayurvedic medicine is traditionally practiced in India, and it is considered by many to be the oldest healing science. Ayurveda literally means the science of life. It is very different from Western medicine and does not rely on synthetic medications to treat illnesses. Rather, Ayurvedic practitioners try to heal disease by restoring balance through changes in diet, herbs, and meditation. These facts about Ayurvedic medicine will give you a basic understanding about this complex healing science.
1. Three Doshas
One of the most important facts about Ayurvedic medicine is that patients are treated according to their constitution or dosha. When a person’s dosha is out of balance they can experience disease, and Ayurvedic medicine attempts to correct the illness by restoring balance. There are three doshas, and each one is characterized by certain mental and physical traits. People who have a vata dosha tend to be very petite or thin. They also are very creative people who love excitement. People who have a pitta constitution are of medium build and generally have pink undertones. Pitta people are also highly intelligent and find it very easy to concentrate. Kapha is the third dosha, and kapha people tend to have a very strong build and are mild mannered and reliable. You can find out more about your dosha here: doshaquiz.chopra.com
2. Pulse Examination
When you see an Ayurvedic practitioner, they will perform something called a pulse examination. This is a very specialized exam, and it helps the doctor determine what your dosha is and if it is out of balance. During the exam, they will place their index, middle, and ring fingers on your hand. The exam will be done on your right hand if you are a man and the left if you are a woman. If they feel a pulse resembling the movement of a snake in the index, that indicates a vata dosha. A pulse representing the movement of a frog is a pitta constitution, and a pulse that is swan like is a kapha constitution. By using a pulse examination, the practitioner can get a better understanding of your overall health.
In Ayurveda there is a close association between food and medicine. In fact, an out of balance dosha is balanced with dietary changes and herbal medicine. These changes are associated with rasa, which is taste. There a 6 rasas that need to be balanced. They include sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Each rasa can increase or reduce a dosha. For example, sweet flavors decrease pitta and vata and increase kapha, while sour flavors increase kapha and pitta. When an Ayurvedic practitioner discovers an imbalance they will recommend increasing or decreasing certain foods in order to restore balance. For example, a person who has too much pitta will want to avoid sour foods.
4. Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine is a large part of Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used since ancient times, and can be very useful. Interestingly, some of the traditional herbal medicines used in Ayurvedic medicine are becoming more common. Turmeric capsules are now commonly found in health food stores, and are used to treat inflammation. If you are looking to use Ayurvedic herbal medicines, you will want to make sure that you buy them from a reputable source because there has been a problem with heavy metal contamination. Also, these herbs work best when they are used according to the doshas, so for the most benefit it is best to see a practitioner.
5. Treatment Plan
Just like any doctor’s appointment, you will leave an Ayurvedic practitioner with a treatment plan. In addition to the dietary and herbal medicines I mentioned, Ayurveda employs several other methods for treatment. Cleansing and detoxification can be a large part of the treatment, and includes fasting, enemas, and body treatments. Often, Ayurvedic doctors will also recommend yoga, meditation, massage, and exercises specific to your dosha. All of these different treatments are used to help a person feel their best, and can be very beneficial.
In India, there are undergraduate and graduate colleges for Ayurvedic medicine. Typically, students will complete 5 years of training before they can become an Ayurvedic doctor. In the U.S. and Canada the qualifications are not as regulated. There are no national standards for certifications and licensing. However, there are several schools for Ayurvedic medicine, and it is possible to find a qualified practitioner. To find a qualified practitioner, see ayurvedanama.org.
7. Two Branches
There are two main branches in Ayurvedic medicine. They include Traditional and Maharishi. Maharishi Ayurveda is based on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s translation of the classical texts. This type of Ayurvedic medicine promotes transcendental meditation. However, it is similar to traditional Ayurvedic medicine in that it uses herbs and believes that disease is a result of imbalance. It is important to know that both branches of Ayurveda have been very helpful to people.
I hope this brief introduction to Ayurvedic medicine has piqued your interest. It is an ancient healing science that has proved to be beneficial to people for centuries. Increasingly, Western medicine is embracing some of the treatments of Ayurveda, including herbs and meditation. Would you ever consider seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner?
Source: Micozzi, Marc S. Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Missouri: Saunders, 2011. Print