Q. What is Ayurveda medicine?
A. Ayurved is a Sanskrit word. “Ayur” means lifespan and “ved” means knowledge, or science, so Ayurveda is literally the Science of Life and Longevity, which defines lifespan as a balanced union of body, senses, mind, and consciousness. Ayurveda is a “consciousness-based” holistic approach that simultaneously focuses on these four components of life.
Q. How does Ayurveda medicine work?
A. Ayurveda offers a comprehensive method of diagnosis and an array of therapies that emphasize prevention , purification, a natural and safe health care. Ayurveda has a unique approach to natural health care; it develops a personalized health plan, customized according to an individual’s physiology or body-mind type (Prakriti). It addresses specific imbalances through diet recommendations, herbs, lifestyle, Ayurveda therapies, Ayurveda detoxification and rejuvenation programs (Panchakarma), yoga, and meditation. While addressing those specific imbalances, full consideration is given to the person as a whole.
Q. How old is Ayurveda?
A. Ayurveda originated more than 5000 years ago. It is the oldest system of medicine known to Mankind. In the ancient times, Ayurveda was very influential and provided founding principles for Tibetan and Chinese medicine, early Arabic, Unani, and Greek systems of medicine.
According to Ayurveda, “As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.” In other words, Ayurveda is based on the study of Nature in its totality, and therefore its fundamental principles are universal.
Ayurveda is Nature’s gift to the suffering Mankind; it is based on the fundamental Laws of Nature at work in the Universe, in the environment and in all living physiologies. Nowadays, Ayurveda is receiving increasingly more attention because of its safe, preventive and practical approach of health, because it offers individuals insights and understanding of their own physiology and provides practical tools to maintain their own health on a daily basis. This is why the oldest system of Natural Medicine answers to the needs of our modern times.
Q. Is Ayurveda widely used today?
A. Today, on the Indian Subcontinent, Ayurveda is part of the primary health care system; universities offer five years of Undergraduate Study in Ayurveda, including a one-year Internship, and many of them offer a three-year Postgraduate Degree (MD Ayurveda) recognized by India’s University Grant Commission. Some universities and colleges in Europe, Russia, North America, and Japan have already started offering Adjunct Courses of Ayurveda in medical schools.
Q. How does the use of herbs in Ayurveda differ from that of other medicinal practices?
A. The use of herbs in Ayurveda follows a fundamentally different approach: Ayurveda not only promotes the understanding of the individual person as a whole, but it also advocates the use of whole herbs as well, rather than the administration of isolated, extracted, active ingredients of an herb. Ayurveda does not promote a reductionist approach to the study of physiology, Nature, or herbs.
Q. What is the Ayurveda view on human physiology?
A. Ayurveda describes a common basis of understanding for human physiology, cosmic physiology, and herbs. This understanding is based on five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. These five elements each have a functional significance in our body:
Structuring (Body tissues for ex.)
Binding and moistening (Bodily fluids)
Transformation, digestion, and metabolism (Enzymes and hormones)
Movement/circulation, transportation and communication (the Nervous and Circulatory Systems)
Spacing (All macro- and micro-channels)
These five elements manifest themselves in the human physiology as the three Doshas (biological humours or biometabolic principles). They are Vata (Space+Air), Pitta (Fire+Water), and Kapha (Earth+Water).
Vata performs functions of circulation, transportation and communication, and represents all macro and micro channels (such as the Nervous system, Circulatory System, etc.)
Pitta is transforming or metabolizing. It represents Enzymes and Hormones.
Kapha comprises all structures and represents body tissues (Bones, Muscle Tissue, Nervous Tissue, Fat Tissue, etc.)
Q. How does this view relate to plants?
A. Ayurveda describes how the same five elements can be found in the physiological constitution of plants, of the human body, and in everything else in the Universe. Ayurveda Herbology (Dravya Guna Vigyan) describes the qualities and the effect of food and herbs through these five fundamental principles:
Taste (Rasa), such as sweet, sour, bitter, salt, pungent, astringent
Qualities (Gun), such as heavy, light, cold, hot, dry, oily
Potency (Veerya), i.e. effect on a system or organ
Post-digestive action (Vipak), such as sweet, sour, and pungent
Specific effect (Prabhav)
The five principles of action found in herbs manifest as one dominant element, or as a combination of the five elements. Knowing this combination is the key to determining the effect of foods and herbs on the human body-mind and consciousness.
Ayurveda skilfully uses appropriate foods, herbs, lifestyle, and routine in order to create and maintain a balance (Swa-stha) between Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, bodily tissues, digestion and metabolism, as well as to clear channels and foster happy senses, mind, and consciousness. All these are part of the holistic definition of a healthy individual.
Q. How important is it that herbs used in Ayurveda medicine be organic?
A. At the beginning of all ancient society systems, food and herb were exclusively organically grown. Much later, chemical pesticides and fertilizers were introduced, that make plants grow faster, thus changing the quality of food. Moreover, those chemicals remain in the food as trace elements. As a result, we sometimes find that herbs which had been effective for thousands of years don’t produce the effect they used to have any more, due to the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Fortunately, it is getting well recognized in India as well as in many other places, that plants must be grown organically. Governments start enforcing control over growing methods and conditions. In their effort to promote Ayurveda, they want to ensure that the Ayurveda medicine works with organically grown and handpicked herbs.
Q. What are some of the common medicinal plants used in Ayurveda?
A. Ayurveda offers a pharmacopeia of more than 500 herbs:
Single herbs that are used for their action on the three Doshas, bodily tissues, or specific systems or organs; or for their effect as an analgesic, nerve tonic, laxative, anti-asthmatic, or anti-inflammatory.
Herbal formulas based on a combination of primary herbs:
herbs that enhance bioavailability, helping assimilation of medicinal substances in the physiology.
herbs that eliminate or minimize side effects and maximize side benefits,
herbs that facilitate the elimination of metabolic wastes and toxins,
and herbs that have immunomodulating effects, boosting or toning the immune system.
Here are some of the herbs most commonly used either single or in combinations:
Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) for heart care;
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) which is particularly good for the nervous system, anxiety, or depression – think of it as the Indian ginseng
Guggul (Commiphora mukul) which is most commonly used for high cholesterol and joint inflammation, stiffness and joint pains
Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is very good as an immunomodulator, for skin diseases, liver problems, and hyperacidity
Gokshur (Tribulus terrestris) is commonly used for urinary problems, kidney stones, or prostate problems
Nirgundi (Vitex nirgundo) is also very good for joint pains, sciatica, and disorders of the nervous system
Have more questions about Ayurveda? Contact us and we’d be happy to answer them!