What Is Ayurveda & How Can People Benefit From Ayurvedic Medicine?

Photo: Unsplash: Debashis Biswas
What Is Ayurveda & What Are The Health Benefits Of Ayurvedic Medicine, Diet, Detox & Herbs?

Ayurveda is a system of holistic medicine focused on health and wellness which originated in India thousands of years ago, and continues gaining global popularity to this day for good reason.

What is Ayurveda?

According to the basic definition, pronounced Ay·​ur·​ve·​da or ī-ər-ˈvā-də, is “a form of alternative medicine that is the traditional system of medicine of India and seeks to treat and integrate body, mind, and spirit using a comprehensive holistic approach especially by emphasizing diet, herbal remedies, exercise, meditation, breathing, and physical therapy.”

As further explained by the Ayurvedic Institute:

"Ayurveda is considered by many scholars to be the oldest healing science. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means 'The Science of Life.' Ayurvedic knowledge originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and is often called the 'Mother of All Healing.' It stems from the ancient Vedic culture and was taught for many thousands of years in an oral tradition from accomplished masters to their disciples. Some of this knowledge was set to print a few thousand years ago, but much of it is inaccessible. The principles of many of the natural healing systems now familiar in the West have their roots in Ayurveda, including Homeopathy and Polarity Therapy."

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As a child being raised in America, I recall noticing that there are people generally fall into one of three basic body types; thin, medium, and thick. As it turns out, these body types play a pretty crucial role in Ayurvedic medicine.

According to the this Eastern healing science, there are three basic types of energies or functional principles present in everything, including us, and which translate into three types known as doshas (pronounced doe-shahs).

As the Chopra Center explains, "The three doshas — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha — are derived from the five elements. Also known as mind-body types, the doshas express unique blends of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics."

If you’re first diving into Ayurvedic Medicine, you can determine your dosha using the Chopra Center's online test.

Based on the predominant energy in our body, Ayurveda classifies people in to 9 mind-body types. Further, it aims to determine which of the three in your body is out of balance, in an effort to bring all three into balance.

Ayurvedic medicine takes a holistic approach to this balancing act, looking at what food you eat, when you eat it, and how you eat it, as well as your sleeping patterns, relationships, and movements.

Just a few of the many health benefits include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Weight loss or maintenance
  • Relief from insomnia
  • Cleansing from toxins
  • Minimized inflammation
  • Diabetes prevention
  • Lower blood pressure

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My personal experience with this holistic health method goes back nearly a decade, when I underwent an Ayurvedic detox called Panchakarma ("five actions" in Sanskrit).

My journey took place at a yoga school and retreat center, where I was accompanied by Vijay Jain, MD, a U.S.-trained medical doctor and master of Ayurveda.

To prepare for this journey into health and wellness, I spent the weeks leading up to my stay consuming processed butter with herbs. Once I arrived, the doctors and Ayurvedic practitioners asked me questions and examined my pulse, tongue, and skin before prescribing Ayurvedic herbs to address my imbalances.

I was put on an Ayurvedic diet consisting of easily digestible foods. This was followed by a regime of yoga, meditation, quiet time, lectures, Ayurvedic massage, and rest.

The health and wellness that resulted from this program was beyond spectacular.

I never imagined I would feel this good again, ever. My mind, body, and soul seemed to be in balance from all of the natural medicine and holistic health practices.

As a Western-trained cardiologist, I was both delighted and perplexed by how well this alternative medicine worked.

I realized I knew little about nutrition, eating, how to detox, and stress. I learned how relationships, sleep, and movement play a large role in natural health and wellness. And, I realized that I didn’t know much about herbs, supplements, body care products, or how to make myself or my patients truly healthy.

After my Ayurvedic cleanse, I wondered if I could prescribe alternative Ayurveda treatments to my own patients.

Even more so, I was curious to find out what my patients, colleagues, insurance companies, hospitals, the American Medical Association (AMA), professional societies, and malpractice and regulatory authorities think about it.

Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. view Western medicine as not just the first, but the only choice when it comes to healing, and Ayurvedic medicine is therefore currently considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

I believe these medical opinions need to be questioned and challenged for the benefit of patients and communities that could be benefit greatly through natural health practices.

The Council for Ayurvedic Research (CAR) recently launched as "a pioneering initiative to promote and establish Ayurveda as an evidence based health science globally," and others are working "to improve the research methodology for Ayurveda with main emphasis on the fundamental research," with the goal of encouraging "young researchers to work on various areas of research for the development and promotion of Ayurveda."

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I’ve started recommending Ayurveda to patients because, in Western medicine and culture, we focus on fighting disease rather than on achieving health.

Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese medicine, Functional Medicine, and related systems take health and disease equally into account.

I see this as having more integrity with my patients. They see me to get better, and I have an obligation to them to use all of my knowledge — including my knowledge of Ayurvedic practices — to help them heal.

Humankind has undergone massive changes over recent years that may have led to various health problems.

When the first U.S. census was conducted in 1790, 95 percent of people lived in the countryside, closer to nature. Over time, we have produced many, many chemicals, now exported globally, which can be found in the food chain, personal care products, in our schools, parks, playgrounds, and on the highways.

I believe we need heavier detoxification now more than ever.

For those of you who want to learn how to detox your body, Ayurvedic Medicine can be a great solution. The detox diet and detoxifying wellness practices can significantly boost your health and wellness. No matter how much detox we do, as long as our excessive exposure to pollutants continues, even intense detox will fail.

I believe Western medicine is behind in the science of detox, and that we need to learn how to work with our bodies in a more natural way. Ayurvedic Medicine is showing us the way, verifying that emotional and physical detoxification are key primary health practices.

When we detox from our negative emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, we can truly find health and wellness. And that is what all medicine should really be all about.

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Dr. Daniel Rieders is a cardiologist who is certified in Functional Medicine with a focus on natural health and wellness. To find out more, visit his website.