Alternative Medicine: Ayurvedic Medicine (Ayurveda)

Alternative Medicine


Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the oldest systems of medicine. It has a holistic approach to health, encompassing mind, body and spirit to maintain good health and wellbeing. Ayurveda stems from the Sanskrit words ayus, meaning life or lifespan, and veda, meaning knowledge.
Originally evolved in India approximately 5000 years ago, Ayurvedic medical practice has more recently spread all over the world and is now practiced in most western countries.

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History of Ayurveda

The word Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates to mean 'life-knowledge'. Although Ayurveda has been practiced in India for at least 5,000 years, it has become a popular form of alternative medicine in the west in more recent times. The theory behind Ayurvedic medicine is taken from several sacred Indian Sanskrit texts written between 1500 BC and 400 AD and it is thought be one of the oldest forms of healing.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is designed to help people live long, healthy, and well-balanced lives by preventing illness. This is accomplished through proper drinking, diet, and lifestyle, as well as use of herbal remedies to treat illness. These approaches help to maintain balance in the body, mind, and consciousness.

Two main types of Ayurvedic medicine are used today: traditional and Maharishi. Both forms believe that disease arises from imbalances in the three basic energy types called DOSHAS and both use herbal medicines for treating disease. Maharishi Ayurveda also recognises the role of psycho-spirtitual balance and the importance of harmonising life-style to natural body rhythms in prevention and treatment of diseases.

How does Ayurveda work?

According to Ayurveda, there are three basic energy types called doshas, present in every person and everyone has a unique energy pattern that is related to a specific combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics.

Keeping a Healthy Balance via The Three Doshas

Everybody has these three energies but usually one or two will dominate in a given individual.

Factors that disturb the balance of the three Doshas are stress, unhealthy diet, weather and problems in relationships between family members and such imbalances will be expressed as disease in the body.

So, the treatment that an Ayurveda practitioner would prescribe is designed to re-balance the three doshas.

The mind-body-spirit connection is well known in all forms of alternative medicine and Western medicine now also recognises the role of stress reduction to fight illness, for example studies have shown that regular practice of Meditation can reduce anxiety.

Other studies have found that Ayurvedic medicine can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, slow the aging process speed recovery from illness. A vegetarian diet may also be recommended by Ayurvedic practitoners for the many health benefits it provides.

What should I expect from an Ayurvedic treatment?

At your first visit, the practitioner will take a detailed medical history. This will probably involve checking your pulse, feeling your abdomen, examining your tongue, eyes, nails, and skin, and listening to the tone of your voice. He or she will ask you a lot of questions about your general state of health and especially about your lifestyle, diet, habits, and environmental surroundings.

The practitioner will then make recommendations on how you can restore your natural dosha balance, most likely by making changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.

Some of the treatments that may be recommended include breathing exercises (pranayama), rubbing the skin with herbal oils to improve circulation and remove toxins (abhyanga), meditation using herbs and repeated words or phrases (rasayana), exercise (yoga), cleansing techniques to remove toxins from the body (pancha karma) and herbal medicines to restore dosha balance.

What can Ayurveda be used for?

Primarily, Ayurveda focuses on prevention of disease and has been shown to be useful in prevention of diseases such as heart and cardio-vascular disease and stroke, arthritis and diabetes.

Combining yoga with specific Ayurvedic herbal remedies can reduce pain and disability if you have arthritis.

Ayurvedic herbs are being studied as treatments for Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, asthma, dementia, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), herpes, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, perimenopausal problems, and premenstrual syndrome, amongst many other conditions.

Are there any risks?

Most Ayurvedic therapies are unlikely to have adverse side effects, especially if you make sure you are seeing a qualified practitioner.

Ayurvedic herbs may interact with other medications, so you must be sure that you tell your General Practitioner and your Ayurvedic Practitioner everything that you are taking so they can assess the possible risk of medication interactions.

How can I find a qualified practitioner?

In Australia, go to The Australian Traditional Medicine Society website at

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