As science has begun to bridge the gap between alternative and conventional medicine, a new concept of Integrative Medicine has formed. Ayurvedic Medicine, the 5000 year old, universal approach to health has found its way into the mainstream understanding as one of the complementary therapies utilized by millions of people around the world. Originated in India, Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic healing systems that looks at creating a balance between body, mind and spirit in order to achieve health and wellness.
Over the last few decades, many peer review journals and evidence-based studies have shown the efficacy of Ayurvedic therapies on a number of diseases and disorders. The majority of these studies have been linked to specific herbs and spices used commonly in Ayurveda. For example, a commonly used culinary spice in India, Curcumin (found in Turmeric), has been extensively studied within the last decade. Clinical trials have shown its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects as well as its role in metabolic syndromes such as diabetes.
But how does this modern application link back to the understanding of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures containing the philosophy of life and an understanding of our role here as humans?
Ayurveda’s fundamental approach in using plants as medicine is that the individual person as a whole is who advocates the use of herbs instead of isolating, extracting, and administering active ingredients. Ayurveda supports the synergistic approach as opposed to the reductionist approach to studying physiology, nature, or herbs. There’s a saying in Ayurveda which explains “As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.” In other words, Ayurveda is based on the study of nature in its totality, and it is this relationship to nature, which will determine the relationship with our own individual self.
This understanding is based on five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Ayurveda approaches all of creation as having its basis in these five elements and their respective qualities. They have functional significance in our bodies, including structuring (tissues, organs, bones, etc), binding and moistening (bodily fluids), Transforming (metabolism, hormones, enzymes etc) Moving (transport and communication within the body), and spacing (all macro- and micro-channels).
These five elements manifest themselves in human physiology as three Doshas. They are Vata (space+air), Pitta (fire+water), and Kapha (earth+water). Evaluation of these Doshas is very important in Ayurveda. We all have all three, but a tendency to exhibit the predominant qualities of one or more within our nature. They are not only present physiologically, but emotionally and mentally as well. The qualities of each of these Doshas can be understood by the qualities of the elements being hot, cold, dry, variable, moist etc. And these can be further understood by the way these qualities manifest in the body such as inflammation, constriction, obstruction, mucus etc.
These 3 systems also exist in foods, plants, climate, seasons and our age span. By understanding what predominance we have at any given time, and which of the external factors can help balance us, we can apply the appropriate remedies.
Nature is beautiful as it provides us with the appropriate plants, food and herbs within the climate in which a person must thrive. For example, warmer climates are more conducive to growing hot peppers and chili. These foods are used to stimulate a digestion when there is a reduction of appetite due to body regulating its temperature control.
Ayurveda’s role goes beyond just the use of food, plants and herbs. Meditation, Yoga, Pranayama and the study of Vedanta are all part of the holistic approach to creating balance within an ever-changing body and mind. As we explore more into the understanding of “why” the practice of Ayurveda is so important to us as humans, we can explore the questions within ourselves for the desire to be accepting and understanding to all that lies within and outside of us. It is only through this acceptance, true non-attachment and the alleviation of suffering can reside.
sama dosha sama agnischa sama dhatu mala kriyaaha| Prasanna atma indriya manaha swastha iti abhidheeyateSushruta Samhita
Balanced Doshas, Balanced Digestion, Balanced Tissues and Proper release of Impurities. Peacefulness of the Spirit, Senses and the Mind, That is the definition of Perfect Health.Sushruta Samhita