Ayurvedic medicine (aka Ayurveda) is one of the oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems in the world, developed over 5000 years ago in India and is often referred to as Indian Traditional Medicine. The majority of India’s population uses Ayurvedic medicine exclusively or combined with conventional Western medicine, and it is practiced in varying forms in Southeast Asia. In the Western World Ayurveda traditions are a type of complementary or alternative medicine.
The term “Ayurveda” combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Many Ayurvedic practices predate written records and were handed down by word of mouth. Three ancient books known as the Great Trilogy were written in Sanskrit more than 2,000 years ago and are considered the main texts on Ayurvedic medicine—Caraka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Astanga Hridaya.
It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit; universal interconnectedness (among people, their health, and the universe); the body’s constitution (prakriti); and life forces (dosha). The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease but Ayurvedic pracititioners use these concepts to prescribe treatments, including herbal compounds, diet, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations.
The rishis (wise old men, sages) of ancient India saw the underlying mechanics of the manifest world through deep meditation. They saw that everyone and everything is made of five elements that interchange and morph into that which can been seen, touched, heard, tasted, and smelled. The fundamental elements are air (which is moving, light, cool, and unstable and as it moves quicker and quicker a friction is created and transforms itself into fire, and which is connected to thoughts and movement in the human system), space (the most fundamental element which is unbounded and infinite), fire (which is hot, consuming, transformational, and powerful, and is connected to metabolism, digestion, blood, and hormone functions in the human body), water (which is cool, heavy, flowing, and moist, and solidifies into the earth element), and earth (which has qualities of solidity, groundedness, coolness, moisture, and density).
These fundamental elements combine and overlap with each other, and fluctuate continuously in all animal, plant, mineral, and human physiology. Specific combinations of the elements are called Doshas (force or fault), of which there are three (Tri-Dosha): Vata, a combination of air and space, Pitta – water and fire, and Kapha, earth and water. Every individual has a unique mix of the three doshas of which one tends to be more dominant. Each dosha controls a different body function. When the Doshas go out of balance it can lead to a disorder of the body or mind. It is said that those with dominant Vata energy tend to be thin, restless and creative; Pitta mostly conform to a happy medium; Kapha tend to be heavy, slow and lethargic.
This explains why Ayurveda stresses the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Staying rested, fresh, vital and positive is necessary to keep the immune system strong and avoid illness. 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.
Your particular body's constitution (prakriti) works to keep you healthy and is believed to stay the same for your entire life. However, how you digest food and eliminate waste can influence it. A key priority in 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.
Some studies on Ayurvedic Medicine have shown that meditation can be very effective in relieving stress and reducing the risk of heart disease. There are studies underway, studying the effectiveness of Ayurvedic herbs in treating cancer. A report that Ayurveda may be valuable in treating obesity and diabetes was found to be lacking in sufficient evidence.
The FDA does not review or approve Ayurvedic products but certain Ayurvedic products have been banned in the US. The FDA warned that Ayurvedic medicines quite often contain toxic metals like Lead, Mercury and Arseni, that exceed the standards for acceptable daily intake. If taking Ayurvedic products or receiving treatments, it is important to inform your physician as these treatments and/or products may interact with each other and/or any medicaments prescribed by your doctor, and this could carry the risk of serious health problems.
AYURVEDA AND BEAUTY
As living a vital life and the regular discharge of waste materials is considered the secret of youth and beauty in Ayurveda, massage is seen as the most effective way of encouraging this. Massage is considered just as essential to health and beauty as good diet and other lifestyle habits. Inner and outer beauty are said to be interrelated and the more we nurture ourselves, the more radiant we become. The emphasis is on self-awareness and development of positive lifestyle and habits that will help bring out the best in us. Ayurvedic Facial massage is growing in popularity in Western Europe, and may be physically energising and balancing, while also offering rejuvenating qualities by improving skin tone.
The Ayurvedic diet is devoid of strong stimulants or depressives such as coffee, sodas, or alcohol; low in fat and refined sugars; and high in fibre and whole grains, providing lasting energy through the day. Fibre also helps maintain a clean and toned digestive tract by providing bulk and helping toxins and excesses to be evacuated - a fundamental concept in Ayurveda.