Many scholars – both eastern and western – consider Ayurveda to be the oldest medical science. It is a holistic approach to health that is designed to help people live longer by maintaining perfect equilibrium between an individual’s body, mind and spirit. This is done through proper drinking, diet and lifestyle as well as by prescribing herbal remedies.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, comprising of the words ‘ayus’ and ‘veda.’ Ayus means life and Veda means knowledge or science. The term Ayurveda thus means ‘the knowledge of life’. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholars, ‘ayu’ comprises the mind, body, senses and the soul.
Broadly regarded as the oldest form of healthcare in the world, Ayurveda is a medical system that originated in India thousands of years ago. The basics of Ayurveda can be found in Hindu scriptures called the Vedas. The Rig Veda, one of the four Vedas, which was written over 6,000 years ago, contains prescriptions that can help people overcome various ailments through herbal remedies.
According to Ayurvedic opinion, each person has a definite pattern of energy — a particular combination of physical, mental, and emotional traits. It is also believed that there are three fundamental energy types called doshas, present in every person:
- Vata — energy that controls body functions associated with motions, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heartbeat. When vata energy is balanced, there is creativity and vitality. When it is out of balance, vata produces fear and anxiety.
- Pitta — energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and temperature. In balance, pitta leads to contentment and intelligence. When out of balance, pitta can cause ulcers and arouse anger.
- Kapha — energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturises the skin, and maintains the immune system. In balance, kapha is expressed as love and forgiveness. When out of balance, kapha leads to insecurity and envy.
Everyone has vata, pitta, and kapha, but usually one or two are predominant in a particular person. Many things can disturb the energy balance, such as stress, an unhealthy diet, the weather, and strained family relationships. The disturbance shows up as a disease. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe treatments to bring the doshas back into balance.
From a Western medical view, stress relief seems to be one of the ways Ayurveda works to help fight illness with the help of herbal remedies. For example, studies have found that Ayurveda lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, slows the ageing process, and hastens recovery from illness. Many herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine have antioxidant effects, which means that they may help protect against long-term illnesses such as heart disease and arthritis. Many Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend a vegetarian diet, which is believed to be better for your heart than non-vegetarian diets.
Ayurvedic treatment focuses on rebalancing the doshas. On your first visit, the practitioner will take a detailed medical history, check your pulse, feel your abdomen, examine your tongue, eyes, nails, and skin, and listen to the tone of your voice. The practitioner will also ask you questions about your general health, paying special attention to your lifestyle, diet, habits, and surroundings. The practitioner will then recommend how to restore your natural dosha balance, which almost always includes changes in lifestyle and diet and a dose of herbal remedies.