Ayurveda, or Ayurvedic medicine, is an ancient (over 5,000
year old) healthcare tradition that was practiced in India
and is now seeing a resurgence in popularity in the western
world. According to the University of Minnesota's Center for
Spirituality & Healing, over 90% of Indians, on the
Indian subcontinent, today, uses some form of Ayurvedic
The 3 Principles of Ayurveda
The premise of Ayurveda is that everyone has a unique constitution, or Prakuti, that defines your physiological and mental health. The components of this balance are three bodily energies, called doshas; Pitta, Vata and Kapha energies. It is the unique and individual balance of these doshas that defines each person's unique constitution.
- Pitta energy - linked to fire, controls the
digestive and endocrine systems.
People with high pitta energy are considered fiery in temperament, intelligent and fast-paced.
When pitta energy is out of balance, ulcers, inflammation, digestive problems, anger, heartburn and arthritis can result.
- Vata energy - linked to air and space, controls
bodily movement, including breathing and blood
Vata energy is associated with people who are lively, creative, original thinkers.
When out-of-balance, vata types can endure joint pain, constipation, dry skin, anxiety and other ailments.
- Kapha energy, linked to earth and water, controls
growth and strength, and is associated with the chest,
torso and back.
Kapha types are considered strong and solid in constitution, and generally calm in nature.
Out-of-balance Kapha is associated with obesity, diabetes, sinus problems, insecurity and gallbladder issues.
Research and Herbal Associations
The fundamental concept of Ayurveda is to maintain health, and not a study of the disease. It looks at the person and their vulnerability. Students of Ayurveda believe that understanding a prakruti, the unique balance of doshas, can help in determining the patients risk of developing health conditions. Disturbances in any of the three major doshas are addressable by a range of Ayurvedic treatments, including herbal remedies, dietary restrictions, yoga, massage, meditation and breathing exercises.
In the 1970s, a study by World Health Organization (WHO) to test the effectiveness of Ayurvedic treatments in patients with rheumatoid arthritis found that such treatments were both safe and effective, providing symptomatic relief of arthritis with no harmful side effects.
- Turmeric, is commonly prescribedby Ayurvedic practitioners. Turmeric contains beta-carotene, calcium, flavonoids, iron, niacin, potassium, zinc and other nutrients. And in addition to its potential effectiveness in treating peptic ulcers and some forms of cancer, turmeric also has proven anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have suggested that it may help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Ashwagandha (aka Indian Ginseng but not botanizcally related to Ginseng), described as one of the more powerful herbs in Ayurveda. Used for alleviating symptoms such as stress, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. It helps improve learning, memory, and reaction time, brain-cell degeneration Stabilizes blood sugar,
- Frankincense, a dried resin derived from the
Boswellia tree, is a another widely used Ayurvedic
treatment. According to NCCAM, osteoarthritis patients had
significant decreases in pain after using a frankincense
Other common Ayurvedic Herb Plants:
Holy Basil (Tulsi Sacred basil)
If you're considering an Ayurvedic treatment, or any other alternative therapies, be sure to speak with your primary care physician or other health care professional. Some Ayurvedic treatments may be dangerous when combined with prescription or over-the-counter medicines.