Ayurveda means “science of life.” Ayurvedic medicine derives from religious scriptures that record the health care practices of ancient Indians. While the exact origins of Ayurvedic medicine are not known with certainty, the tenets were first written down 3500-5000 years ago; the practices themselves date from even earlier times. This traditional medicine of India is still widely practiced in Southeast Asia and has been adapted by western users.
Ayurvedic medicine is a system of preventive medicine grounded in the close connection between spirituality and health. The practice seeks to eliminate illness by looking at the whole person and treating underlying causes, not just symptoms. Balance within the body and harmony with the universe help people stay vital and realize their life potential.
Ayurvedic treatment is individualized according to a person’s constitution. The constitution involves the elements air, fire, water, and earth; good health occurs when the elements are in balance. Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of healing methods to bring the three elements into balance and restore the body and spirit. Ayurvedic remedies may include herbs, foods, aromas, gems, meditation, colors, yoga, massage, and lifestyle changes.
By integrating healing practices into daily life, Ayurveda seeks to promote general well-being and treat specific illnesses. Certain practices require working with a trained practitioner. One example is Ayurvedic massage, in which one or more therapists massage oil into the skin to release toxics. Another is herbal treatment. While the public has easy access to herbs and herbal formulations, herbs can have potent effects. It’s important that a knowledgeable practitioner supervise herbal treatment. Other practices, like diet, yoga, and stress management, become part of a person’s daily routine.
Ayurvedic medicine is particularly effective in treating chronic, non-communicable, lifestyle-related conditions. Skin conditions and emotional problems often respond well to Ayurvedic treatment. Obesity is treated through exercise, mental and physical exertion, and reduced sleep. Using weight-reducing herbs and avoiding food high in carbohydrates and oils are also part of the regimen.
Like all non-traditional medical practices, Ayurveda has its skeptics. Integration with western medicine has brought greater acceptance of the value of this ancient system of health and well-being.