What is Ayurveda?
Also known as: Ayurvedic medicine
Information acquired from www.altmedicine.about.com
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India, which originated there over 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda emphasizes re-establishing balance in the body through diet, lifestyle, exercise, and body cleansing, and on the health of the mind, body, and spirit.
In North America, Ayurveda is considered a form of alternative medicine. Like traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda is a whole medical system, meaning that it is based on theories of health and illness and on methods of preventing and treating health conditions.
In the last decade, Ayurveda has been growing in popularity in North America, partly due to the work of Deepak Chopra, M.D., a physician who combines western medicine with Ayurveda.
According to Ayurveda, everything is composed of five elements: air, water, fire, earth, and space. These elements combine to form the three doshas, vata, kapha, and pitta, or metabolic types. In Ayurveda, doshas account for some of our individual differences.
The vata dosha is a combination of space and air. It controls movement and is responsible for basic body processes such as breathing, cell division and circulation. Vata body areas are the large intestine, pelvis, bones, skin, ears, and thighs. People with vata as their main dosha are believed to be quick-thinking, thin, and fast, and are susceptible to anxiety, dry skin, and constipation.
The kapha dosha represents the elements of water and earth. Kapha is believed to be responsible for strength, immunity, and growth. Kapha body areas are the chest, lungs, and spinal fluid. People with kapha as their main dosha are thought to be calm, have a solid body frame, and are susceptible to diabetes, obesity, sinus congestion, and gallbladder problems.
The pitta dosha combines fire and water. It is thought to control hormones and the digestive system. Pitta body areas are the small intestines, stomach, sweat glands, skin, blood, and eyes. People with pitta as their primary dosha are thought to have a fiery personality, oily skin, and are susceptible to heart disease, stomach ulcers, inflammation, heartburn, and arthritis.
An imbalanced dosha is believed to interrupt the natural flow of prana, or vital energy. The disrupted energy flow is then thought to impair digestion and allow the build up of body waste, or ama, which further impairs energy and digestion.
What might an Ayurvedic treatment plan involve?
- Diet: Recommendations are individualized to a person's dosha and the season. Foods can either balance or cause imbalance to each dosha.
- Cleansing and detoxification: This may be done through fasting, enemas, diets, and body treatments.
- Herbal medicine: Examples of Ayurvedic herbs are triphala, ashwaghanda, gotu kola, guggul, and boswellia.
- Exercise: Individualized to a person's constitution
- Massage: Medicated herbal oils are often used.