Ayurveda is India’s traditional system of healing; it has been used for thousands of years.Ayurvedais a Sanskrit word that translates as “science of life.”
How Does Ayurveda Work?
Unlike Western medicine, which concentrates on such physical indicators of health as the results of blood work or of various types of scans, Ayurveda concentrates more on energy flows and how energy interacts with each person’s unique constitution.
How Does Ayurveda View the Body?
In Ayurveda, everyone has a certain lifeforce energy, known asprana, that emerges from combinations of five basic elements—air, earth, fire, space and water. These combinations are known asdoshas.
There are three doshas, each of which is associated with a set of characteristics:
- Vata: a combination of space and air forming the principle of movement; it is cold, dry and light
- Pitta: a combination of fire and water forming the principle of metabolism, or transformation; it is hot, moist and liquid
- Kapha: a combination of water and earth forming the principle of nourishment; it is cold, heavy and slow
Each dosha is divided into various subtypes that control different bodily functions and are thought to reside in different organs. For example,alochaka pittacontrols vision and is located in the eyes, whileshleshaka kapha helps lubricate, and exists in, the joints.
Each person’s basic constitution is a combination of these three doshas in varying levels, abbreviated asVPK. This constitution is determined at conception, based on the doshas inherited from one's mother and father.
What Does My Dosha Constitution Mean?
In most people’s constitutions, one dosha predominates. For example, your constitution may be designated as V3P2K1, meaning you tend to have vata characteristics such as being thin and quick minded, and having fine hair.
Each dosha is prone to particular ailments when it goes out of balance. As a vata person, for example, you may be prone to nerve conditions, constipation and anxiety. Pitta imbalance tends to show up as fever and digestive ailments, while kapha imbalance can appear as diabetes, obesity and pulmonary problems.
How Do I Balance My Doshas?
In Ayurveda, staying healthy means making the right lifestyle choices for your particular VPK constitution:
- If vata predominates: recommendations include cooking with oils such as olive oil orghee(clarified butter), and eating warm cooked foods; drinking warm water instead of cold; and engaging in gentle, flowing types of exercise, such as tai chi
- If pitta predominates: recommendations include eating dark, leafy vegetables and sweet, juicy fruits; making lunch your main meal; meditating on a regular basis; and swimming or bathing in cool water
- If kapha predominates: recommendations include adding ginger, pepper and other heating spices to meals that include lighter types of foods; learning new hobbies or taking classes to avoid falling into ruts; and engaging in vigorous exercise every day
Are Herbs Used in Ayurveda?
Ayurveda uses a sophisticated herbal system in which plants address dosha imbalances through their taste (astringent, bitter, pungent, salty, sour or sweet) and through energetic properties, such as heating and cooling.
Herbs commonly used in Ayurveda include:
- Andrographis: known traditionally as “king of bitters”; used for immune support*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Ashwagandha: Sanskrit name translates as “horse smell,” referring to the herb’s odor and strength; used to support a healthy stress response function*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Boswellia: several species used, includingBoswellia serrata; used to support joint comfort*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Gymnema: known as “destroyer of sugar” because chewing the leaves suppresses one’s ability to taste sweetness; used to support healthy blood sugar levels already within the normal range*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Turmeric: source ofcurcumin, a well-researched phytonutrient used to promote healthy free-radical protection*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Does Ayurveda Work with Western Medicine?
Like many other healing arts, Ayurveda is often used with standard medical practices.
Standard MDs focus on treating symptoms. They also tend to depend on diagnostic tests—such as blood glucose readings in people with high sugar levels—to tell if their treatments are working.
On the other hand, Ayurvedic practitioners are more concerned with the underlying constitutional imbalances that are thought to lie at the root of disorders. This means many of their treatments involve changes in lifestyle, such as dietary adjustments and changes in sleeping or activity patterns.
However, if the use of herbs is recommended and you have a pre-existing condition—and especially if you are already taking prescribed medication—you should always work with a qualified professional to create an herbal supplementation program that best meets your specific needs. You should also coordinate care with any other practitioners, including standard MDs, you may be seeing.
How Do I Find an Ayurveda Practitioner?
Ayurveda is legal in all 50 states. As a relative newcomer to healthcare in the United States, however, Ayurvedic practitioners are not licensed in the same manner as standard medical doctors, and each state has its own limits on what such practitioners may or may not do (a concept known asscope-of-practice).
This means you may have to do some digging to find someone who practices Ayurveda professionally; there currently is no find-a-practitioner service available online. Your best start would be to search “Ayurvedic practitioner near me” or “holistic practitioner near me” (the second will return other types of alternative practitioners as well).
To learn more about Ayurveda, visit the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.
The information in this blog is provided for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional. Consultation with a doctor or qualified healthcare practitioner is strongly advised, before starting any regimen of supplementation, a change in diet or any exercise routine. Individuals who engage in supplementation to promote health, address conditions or support any structure or function of the body assume all risks. Women who are pregnant, especially, should seek the advice of a medical doctor before taking any dietary supplement and before starting any change in diet or lifestyle. Descriptions of herbs, vitamins, nutrients or any ingredients are not recommendations to take our products or those of any other company. We are not doctors or primary-source science researchers. Instead, we defer to the findings of scientific experts who conduct studies, as well as those who compile and publish scientific literature on the potential health benefits of nutrients, herbs, spices, vitamins or minerals. We cannot guarantee that any individual will experience any of the health benefits associated with the nutrients described. Natural Organics will not be held liable for any injuries, damages, hinderances or negative effects resulting from any reliance on the information presented, nor will Natural Organics be held accountable for any inaccuracy, miscalculation or error in the scientific literature upon which the information provided is based.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.