Ayurveda, which literally means Science of Life, originated in the ancient Vedic times of India and is the oldest and most complete system of natural medicine in the world. It has ancient roots and yet is modern in its systematic and scientific approach. Ayurveda is recognized by the World Health Organization as an effective health science. It provides an integrated approach to both the prevention and treatment of disease, through comprehensive lifestyle interventions and natural therapies. Ayurveda treats disease at its source rather than merely pacifying symptoms. It is health care that restores the essential role of consciousness in creating and sustaining health – wholeness of body, mind, and spirit.
Ayurveda utilizes a number of diagnostic techniques, all of which are noninvasive. Chief among these is Pulse Diagnosis, a detailed and systematic technique that allows the Ayurvedic practitioner to retrieve information signals present in the pulse, and thereby detect specific imbalances that can be treated before they result in more serious symptoms of disease.
Upon evaluation by the Ayurvedic practitioner, each patient receives a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan. Ayurveda utilizes multiple strategies to restore and maintain optimal health. These approaches strengthen the body’s immune system and self-repair mechanisms. Ayurvedic modalities include:
● Individualized dietary recommendations
● Advice on health-promoting daily routine
● Individualized behavioral recommendations
● Herbal preparations to rejuvenate the system and reduce ongoing damage to the physiology
● Procedures for the elimination of Ama (buildup of toxins in the physiology)
● Rasayana (Rejuvenation) therapy
● Spontaneous Meditation
● Energizing breathing exercises (Pranayama)
● Yoga exercises (Asanas)
Diet and Digestion
Ayurveda has long considered problems of diet and digestion to be among the central causes of all disorders and disease. Food is viewed as not only providing matter and energy to the body but also intelligence, order, and balance. Recommendations for diet are individualized, taking into account the characteristics of the patient and the underlying imbalances.
In Ayurveda, attuning the patient’s lifestyle to natural biorhythms is considered a crucial element of prevention and treatment. This includes recommendations for a health-promoting daily routine.
Behavior, Emotions, and the Senses
Behavior, speech, and emotions are understood to have a profound effect on one’s well-being. Emotions can be understood as fine fluctuations of consciousness. Ayurvedic theory holds that sensory input also impacts one’s health. Just as the body metabolizes food, similarly what one sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches is metabolized in various ways and has a tangible effect on one’s state of balance. Individualized behavioral recommendations are given to restore and maintain health.
Ayurveda’s approach to pharmacology makes sophisticated use of thousands of herbs and other plants. The combination of plant chemicals in the herbs enhances their effectiveness and prevents toxic side effects.
Elimination of Toxins in the Body
The build-up of toxins and metabolic waste in the body is known as Ama. These impurities clog the channels in the physiology, leading to the development of disorders and disease. Ayurveda has strategies to eliminate Ama.
Rasayana (Rejuvenation) Therapy
Rasayana (Rejuvenation) therapy deals with promotion of longevity and prevention or delay of the aging process. There are behavioral Rasayanas that recommend certain behaviors that increase health and well-being, however Rasayanas are usually herbs or herbal mixtures. Rasayanas increase resistance to disease, activate tissue repair mechanisms, promote vitality and stamina, and stimulate overall health.
In Ayurveda, the ultimate basis of prevention and cure is restoring one’s conscious connection to (or memory of) the innermost core of one’s being and experience. The foremost modality for development of consciousness is meditation, which connects one to the wholeness of life and thereby improves all aspects of health.
Pranayama (Energizing Breathing Exercises)
Prana is the vital life force and Pranayama is the process by which this life force is balanced and increased. Pranayama includes various forms of breathing exercises suited to different individuals. Pranayama creates vitality and enhanced energy. It balances both sides of the brain and balances emotional responses. The enhanced vital force that results from Pranayama is beneficial for health and all aspects of life.
Yoga Exercises (Asanas)
Asanas are stretching exercises that massage the internal organs and promote flexibility in the body. There are Asanas that benefit health in general and Asanas that are specific to certain disease processes.
There is a large body of published research on the modalities of Ayurveda. A few selected references are:
- Sharma H, Chandola HM, Singh G, Basisht G. Utilization of Ayurveda in Health Care: An Approach for Prevention, Health Promotion, and Treatment of Disease. Part 1 – Ayurveda, the Science of Life. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2007;13(9):1011-1019.
- Sharma H, Chandola HM, Singh G, Basisht G. Utilization of Ayurveda in Health Care: An Approach for Prevention, Health Promotion, and Treatment of Disease. Part 2 – Ayurveda in Primary Health Care. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2007;13(10):1135-1150.
- Sharma H, Clark C. Ayurvedic Healing. London: Singing Dragon, 2012.
- Sharma H, Mishra RK, with Meade JG. The Answer to Cancer. New York: SelectBooks, 2002.
- Sharma H. Awakening Nature’s Healing Intelligence. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 1997.
- Mishra LC, ed. Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2004.
- Kapoor LD. Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1990.