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Ayurvedic Medicine

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Herbs that have been used for thousands of years by traditional practitioners are now undergoing rigorous scientific analysis. It's exciting that age-old remedies are often supported by current researc.

Herbs that have been used for thousands of years by traditional practitioners are now undergoing rigorous scientific analysis. It's exciting that age-old remedies are often supported by current research.

Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic system of healing from India dating back 3,000 to 5,000 years, includes the use of a number of herbal remedies. One of these, brahmi (Bacopa monniera), has traditionally been used as a brain tonic, asthma and anti-anxiety remedy, digestive aid, and cardiotonic; recently conducted in vitro, animal, and human studies seem to support all of these claims.

The Indian spice turmeric (Curcuma longa) is being examined as an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbal medicine. A recently published double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial of a blend of 10 Ayurvedic herbs showed it to significantly stabilize blood-sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.

These and studies on other Ayurvedic herbal remedies represent the scientific approach of studying specific herbs apart from their original holistic context. Ayurvedic medicines, however, are part of a complex system of healing that encompasses not only the study of diseases and remedies but also the intellectual and spiritual health of the person.

As Above, So Below

The Sanskrit word Ayurveda has been translated variously as the science of healing and the study of longevity. Ayurvedic medicine is based on the principle that the laws and materials which govern the universe also shape the lives of all beings, including human beings: "As above, so below."

Three universal forces known as the tridosha or three doshasvata, pitta, and kapha are found in unique proportions in each of us, and they are used to classify human types in Ayurvedic medicine. The doshas, in turn, are made up of the five elements: space, air, water, fire, and earth. Some of us are more vata (space and air), some more pitta (fire and water), and some more kapha (water and earth).

Our dosha is our constitutional type and can make us more prone to some diseases than others. Where conventional medicine simply offers ASA for a headache, in Ayurvedic medicine, a patient with a headache would receive a treatment specific to their doshic type.

Ayurvedic diagnosis consists of evaluating both the patient (rogi) and the disease (roga). A complex 10-point system for analyzing the holistic health status of the patient complements an eight-point examination of the body and an examination of the five senses. The etiology of the illness is assessed in a way unknown to conventional medicine; to the Ayurvedic practitioner, the sickness may have been caused by an intellectual misunderstanding (prajnaparadha), an affront to or misuse of the senses (asatmyendriyartha samyoga), and/or a falling out of harmony with natural cycles (kala parinama).

Ayurvedic treatments include a vast array of herbal remedies, cleansing and detoxifying programs, meditation, yoga, gemstones, and more. If you want to find out more about Ayurvedic medicine, start with the resources in the sidebar below.

Recommended Resources:

  • Chopra, Deepak, Perfect Health: The Complete Mind-Body Guide. (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001).
  • Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999).
  • The National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine niam.com/corp-web/index.htm.
  • The Ayurvedic Institute ayurveda.com.
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