Ayurvedic Medicine: What is it and how can it help you?

10.02.2020 15:48

 

"If a truth comes from the enemy but it’s valid, the doctor must not argue against it, and they must consider it for the patient’s sake." (4) One of Ayurveda’s declarations is that this form of medicine is not closed to external contributions or opinions, it is open to applying medicines from other medical systems and traditions, because its’ focus and sole purpose is on the welfare of the patient.

Undoubtedly a very moral concept, which all health systems should practice. Ayurveda is one of the oldest medicines, with more than 5000 years of antiquity, which has come to conquer the diverse corners of the world with its’ wisdom.

Don’t you know what it is? Discover more about it here...

 

The origins of Ayurveda

 

As previously mentioned, it is a medicinal system which originated thousands of years ago, in India. It is believed to have its’ foundations and origins in the Atharvaveda, one of the ancient texts of Hinduism (known as the Vedas). It often mentioned herbs, spells and formulas to treat health problems. It is also believed to refer to the Rig Veda, with its detailed description of different conditions and cures. Moreover, there are those who consider that its true origin is in the texts Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. (2)

Since a lot of this knowledge and text has been verbally shared in the past to the yogi disciples, it is very difficult to be certain of its’ content and origins. Ayurveda itself has undergone many changes over time; perhaps the last, oldest original book being the Bhava Prakash, written more than 400 years ago. After that, the ayurvedic texts weren’t modified to the same extent again. The foundations are not based on the context or the environment, but on the human being and the relation between their body and mind. Independent of habits, civilizations and environment, the relation between the body and mind does not change.

"Those who practiced Ayurveda were at the service of humanity, since their motivation was to alleviate human suffering" (4)

 

The principles of Ayurveda

 

The texts referring to Ayurveda, including its’ name, are written in Sanskrit: the language used for all the sacred texts of Hinduism. The term Ayurveda आयुर्वेद comes from āyuh (life) vedá (knowledge), "Knowledge of life". Its’ principles are based on what it considers a universal truth: the connection between the mind, body and soul in a human being which leads to the connection with the universe and nature.

Ayurveda works to achieve harmony between both worlds, the interior and the exterior. It believes that this balance can be achieved through diet, habits and lifestyle (social behaviour, thoughts, exercise, sleep, etc), medicinal herbs, and so on.

Perhaps one of the most outstanding aspects of Ayurveda is that it treats each individual for what he or she is, a unique and particular being; so instead of applying generalized treatments like traditional medicine, it carries out extensive studies of the patient's characteristics to then determine the type of treatment that best suits his or her situation.

In order to determine this, the so-called Doshas are defined, which could be considered in the modern language as biotypes.

 

What are the Doshas?

 

According to Ayurveda the 5 senses serve as a portal between the inner and outer worlds and are connected to the 5 elements: air, fire, water, earth and ether. These 5 elements are grouped into 3 types of energy called Doshas: Pitta, Kapha and Vata, which are found in everything that exists in the universe, be it things or people. (2)

The body needs energy to perform 3 basic functions: movement, nutrition/ metabolism and lubrication.

Pitta: Heat - Responsible for digestion, metabolism, nutrition, vision and body temperature. When it is balanced it promotes intelligence, however if it is out of balance it promotes anger, jealousy and ego.

Kapha: Liquid - Responsible for nutrition and the structure of the cells, immune system and joint lubrication. When in balance it shows love and calm, but if out of balance it leads to attachment and envy.

Vata: Movement - Related to the biological activity responsible for the body’s movements, as well as one’s breathing and heartbeat. When balanced, it promotes creativity, while an imbalance leads to fear and anxiety.

Each person has the qualities of these different Doshas, some in a more pure form, that is to say there is one that is predominant, but the majority have a balance or combination of Doshas, that is why the types are often: Pitta-Vata, Vata-Pitta, Kapha-Vata, Kapha-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha, Vata-Kapha.

An imbalance in these energies can cause disease, so Ayurveda seeks to establish balance again. To do this, you need to understand how the Doshas work together in the individual.

While the body is governed by these 3 Doshas, the mind is governed by 3 attributes also called Gunas, these are Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Satva is responsible for kind, joyful and honest thoughts and emotions, Raja for ego, arrogance, desire, love and passion, and Tamas for calmness, sleep and ignorance.

The different aspects of our life, such as food, sleep and activity habits, social relationships, etc. affect the balance of the Doshas. This is why it is important to know what yours is and to seek balance.

 

How do you balance them?  (5)

 

 

Vata:

 

Stay calm.

Avoid cold, frozen or raw foods

Avoid extreme cold

Eat warm and spicy foods

Maintain a regular routine

Get enough rest

 

Pitta:

 

Avoid excess heat

Avoid excessive use of oil

Avoid or limit salt intake

Eat cold, raw and not too spicy food

Exercise in the morning or evening (cooler times of day)

 

Kapha:

 

Exercise hard

Avoid heavy and dairy foods

Avoid cold food and drinks

Have a varied routine

Avoid greasy or oily foods

Don't take naps during the day

 

The diagnosis:

 

As previously mentioned, Ayurveda is based on each individual, according to their specific constitution (doshas) designing exclusive treatments for each one, a diagnosis is made by paying attention to several factors. (2)

1- Root factors: Hetu

2- Early symptoms: Purvaruupa

3- The symptoms: Rupa

4- The individual’s combination of different doshas: Samprapthi

5- Response to certain treatment (medication, diet) to help identify the possible diagnosis: Upasaya

 

The treatment:

 

-- The best treatment is ‘Nidana Parivarjana’, i.e. abstaining from the root factors --(2)

Often, the treatment is aims to tackle the cause of the disease, the disease itself, or both. It is made up of 3 factors:

- The diet: Ahara

- Mental and physical behavior (habits): Vihara

- Medicine: Aushadha

 

The treatment can be Preventive or Curative:

 

Swasthasyaurjakara: Preventive treatment to promote health in the body and balance between the doshas.

Aturasyaroganut: Treatment to treat the disease or imbalance.

 

Treatment methods

 

1- Shodhana: Focuses on cleansing and the elimination of toxic substances through sweating, ointments, purging, etc. One then gradually incorporates food, first liquids and then solids. It is usually prescribed in cases of more severe illness. It is often associated with the cause of the illness.

2- Shamana: The palliative treatment that is done through diet control, fasting, sun exposure, exercise, yoga and medicine. It is often used to treat less severe diseases and aims to tackle symptoms of the disease.

 

Ayurveda tips for a healthy lifestyle

 

You can follow these suggestions to help you keep a healthy balance: (1)

1- Take care of your diet: nourish your body by adding all the colours of the rainbow or the 6 Ayurvedic flavours (sweet, salty, sweet-and-sour, spicy, bitter) to your dish.

2- Get enough rest: try to sleep 7 hours a day. Go to bed at 10 pm and wake up between 4 - 5 am as these are the purest hours of the day.

3- Cleanse your body: do regular cleansing and purification to eliminate toxins and waste from the body.

4- Self-Care: Wash your face and eyes with warm water, massaging them gently every day.

5- Drink fluids: Avoid cold water and add ginger infusions to your daily routine.

5- Exercise every day: preferably in the early morning.

6- Give yourself body massages with (organic) oil: focusing on the places with nerve endings such as hands and feet.

7- Have a light breakfast and dinner: Midday is when the digestive fires are strongest, so it is the best time to have the "strong" meal of the day.

8- Do all of your activities with presence: i.e. if you are eating, eat; if you are reading, read; if you are bathing, take a bath. Allow yourself to experience and feel in every moment.

9- Practice Yoga and pay attention to your breathing: Be it asanas (postures), meditation or pranayamas (breathing).

10- Use herbs that can balance and detoxify your body such as: Triphana, Ashwagandha, Ginger, Turmeric, Neem, Brahmi and Indian pennywort.

One of the best-known medicinal plants in Ayurveda is Aswagandha, an adaptogenic plant that can help you manage stress and anxiety (3), raise your energy levels, boost your immune system and improve memory and overall cognitive system. Learn more about the benefits of Aswagandha in our next blog!

The benefits of this practice go beyond the disease, since its primary objective is prevention, to achieve a complete state of health, seeking a balance between our body, mind and soul.

 

Try some of these tips and rely on the medicinal plants that can offer a natural help to achieve this balance in your overall being.

 

1 - Uday Deshmukh & Bharat C. Chouragade: Concept Of Vihara In Ayurveda - A Review Article International Ayurvedic Medical Journal {online} 2017 {cited August, 2017} Available in: http://www.iamj.in/posts/images/upload/3090_3096_1.pdf

2- National Health Portal of India (2015), "Ayurveda", Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Available on: https://www.nhp.gov.in/ayurveda_mty

3- Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry, Asha Hospital, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India.(2002) "A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.", Indian journal of psychological medicine. Available in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798

4 -V. Narayanaswamy, "Origin and development of ayurveda", Ancient Science of Life, Vol I, No I, College of Indian Medicine, Madras, India. Available in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336651/pdf/ASL-1-1.pdf

5- Vasant Lad, BAM&S, MASc, "Ayurveda: a brief introduction and guide", The ayurvedic Institute, Available in: - https://www.ayurveda.com/resources/articles/ayurveda-a-brief-introduction-and-guide

   

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