Ayurvedic Medicine


Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic form of medicine.  The name is an amalgam of two Sanskrit words ayur which means life and veda which means knowledge.  The purpose of Ayurveda is to find a balance between the psychological, physical, and spiritual aspects of an individual.  When a person is out of balance from all of these things, they will experience emotional, illness, and spiritual sickness.  There are specific treatments in ayurveda that do various things such as:

  • Detoxification
  • Release of negative emotions and thoughts
  • Rejuvenation

Ayurvedic therapies are customized to each person, depending on their health, strengths and weaknesses.  The treatment may consist of things like dietary changes, yoga, meditation, massage, and herbal medicines.

History of Ayurveda

Ayurveda originated in India more than 3,000 years ago.  It was believed to be the medicine used by Buddha.  After the British annexed India during the nineteenth century, Ayurveda lost its reputation temporarily as Indian physicians started to follow the Western medical practices.  Yet once India gained independence in 1947, there was a strong move back to the ancient practice.  An act in 1970 established a Central Council for Ayurveda to make sure that there is proper training and to set up a register of established and qualified practitioners.   This helped Ayurveda earn a respectable reputation. 

Ayurveda has become integrated into some Western medical practices around the world.  There are now Ayurvedic institutes in India, Europe, and the United States where medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, and homeopathic practitioners come to learn the philosophy.  Deepak Chopra, a United States licensed endocrinologists, has brought Ayurveda into the forefront. 

How Ayurvedic Medicine Works

In the Ayurvedic philosophy, all aspects of nature, including every living thing can be characterized by five basic elements including: space (akash), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jala), and earth (prithvi).  Health is achieved when all of these elements are in balance.  When there is imbalance, disease will ensue. 

The five elements coalesce in human beings differently.  There are three basic combinations where these elements fall, also known as doshas, translating to biological forces.  Each person has a unique combination of doshas, these combinations are known as prakriti, or constitution. 

Although there are always three doshas present in each individual, there is one dosha that is usually the most dominant.  This dominant dosha is the indicator of which condition an individual is most susceptible to.  Once it is found, it will guide the recommendation for the different preventative and therapeutic measure.  The key to maintaining good physical and mental health is to keep the dominant dosha from over-expression. 

Apart from the dosha being a huge influence on the health, there are outside factors that play a role as well, such as viruses and bacteria, seasonal changes, and time of the day.  The Ayurvedic practitioner will prescribe dietary changes based on the seasons.  When the doshas are out of balance, a person will become vulnerable to the different forces.  A person may become vulnerable to things caused by infections and environmental stresses.  If the doshas are in balance though, people will be able to fight off any kind of stress or infection they may encounter. 

How Ayurvedic Medicine is Practiced

During the initial session, the Ayurvedic practitioner will take a thorough history and interview the patient about lifestyle and medical history.  The patient will then be asked to talk about the chief complaint, any medications they are on, lifestyle, and history.  Even before the treatment begins, the practitioner will note physical and mental state in order to aid diagnosis. 

The Ayurvedic practiotioner will first try to determine the person’s dominant dosha and try to figure out if it is in balance.  They will then examine the nails and tongue to see if any of the physical traits can give a hint about the dosha.  The practitioner will also ask about prior medical history and take the person’s pulse, while noting any qualities that are characteristic of the different doshas.  A urine sample will be observed and the Ayurvedic practitioner will not the color and odor for important clues about the dosha.  Integrative practitioners will also use conventional medical tests for diagnose of illnesses. 

The practitioner may ask the patient to undergo a detoxification process, like an enema, laxative, or a washing of the nasal passages. The practitioner may even create a remedy, such as something that is mostly plant based, and sometimes from sea shells, minerals, or from an animal substance.  The treatment is a long-term process.  Getting the right balance of doshas may take several weeks or months.  The practitioner may even recommend things such as a modification in diet, breathing exercises, or yoga.  

Conditions Benefited by Ayurvedic Medicine

Success has been reported for the following conditions:

  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Backache
  • Bruises
  • Bulimia
  • Burns
  • Bursitis
  • Candidiasis
  • Catarrh
  • Common Cold
  • Colic
  • Colitis
  • Constipation
  • Cystitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Eczema
  • Exhaustion
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Gout
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Headaches
  • High Cholesterol
  • Hyperactivity
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Kidney Stones
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Metabolic problems
  • Nausia
  • Obesity
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin rashes
  • Sore throats
  • Sprains
  • Stress
  • Teething
  • Tinnutis
  • Ulcers
  • Water retention

Ayurvedic Medicine Techniques

The Ayurvedic doctor customizes the treatment to the individual depending on their condition.  The aim of the treatment is to get rid of harmful substances and negative emotions, balance out the doshas, and get the body, mind, and spirit stronger. 


Toxins are thought to be the root of disease.  Food that is improperly digested is thought toe be the root cause of toxins.  This technique, which uses emetics and enemas gets rid of toxins.


Palliation tries to balance the doshas.  Shaman is much calmer and more spiritually oriented than Shodan. 


The aim of this technique is to get rid of psychological stress and negative thinking, which are both predisposing factors for physical illness.  Satavajaya cleanses the mind with the goal of achieving personal development and spirituality.  These are components of Satvajaya:

  • Manta: Chanting a sacred or mystical word to awaken internal awareness
  • Yantra: Focusing on geometric figures to promote creative thinking
  • Tantra: To channel energy throughout the body.


Herbs are a part of Ayurvedic medicine.  They are either taken topically or orally, and are part of such regimens as cleaning and detoxification, palliation and rejuvenation. 


There is a heavy emphasis on a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, legumes, and unsaturated fats such as fish oils, olive oils, and nuts. 

Different spices, drinks, and foods are categorized according to their different tases, the energetic effet they will have on the doshas, and their post-digestive effect on the body’s tissues.  Other important aspects on determining whether or not the food is suitable are the following:

  • Food’s form (solid vs. liquid)
  • Whether it makes a person feel hot or cold
  • Heavy vs. Light
  • Oily or dry

The foods must be compatible.  Some foods in combination may disrupt normal digestive function and start an accumulation of toxin. 

Fasting can also be a way to help the body detoxify itself and is often part of the pallation process.  Fasting is also thought to give the digestive system a rest.

Other Therapies Utilized in Ayurveda:

These are used for cleansing and detoxification:

  • Enemas
  • Nasal douching
  • Emetics
  • Steam saunas
  • Bloodletting


Tanning is used for pallation.   Crystals, gems, and metals are worn to promote mental and spiritual healing.


Ayurvedic medicine should be taken with caution.  A 2004 study published in the Journal of American Medicine Assocation found that at least 20 percent of Ayurvedic herbal products had a high level of lead, mercury, and arsenic.



  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
  5. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)

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