Ayurveda, or ayurvedic medicine,
is a healthy-lifestyle system that people in India have used for more than
5,000 years. Ayurveda emphasizes good health and prevention and treatment of
illness through lifestyle practices (such as massage, meditation, yoga, and
dietary changes) and the use of herbal remedies.
medicine is holistic, which means viewing the body and mind as a whole.
Ayurveda not only treats a person's physical complaints, but it also changes
lifestyle practices to help maintain or improve health.
to ayurveda, the five elements of nature (space, air, fire, water, earth)
combine in the body as three components (doshas) known as Vatta, Pitta, and
Kapha. These doshas relate closely to the basic elements of nature and to
specific functions of the body. A balance of these doshas is thought to be
required for optimal health.
The doshas, which are determined at the time of conception,
also relate to an individual's physical makeup and personality. A person with a
Vatta makeup tends to have a small, thin build. The Pitta body style is more of
a medium, muscular build. The Kapha appearance is usually bigger and
well-developed. Most people are considered to have a combination of doshas,
with one type usually being predominant.
In ayurvedic medicine, it
is thought that if an imbalance occurs in any of the three doshas, illness
results. Ayurvedic medicine treats illness in many ways, including dietary
changes, herbal remedies, and exercise. According to the ayurvedic philosophy,
you can also use yoga, meditation, or counseling to treat disease.
People use ayurvedic
practices to maintain health, reduce stress, and improve flexibility, strength,
and stamina. Researchers have found that yoga and meditation can be effective
ways to treat diseases such as
high blood pressure, and
Ayurveda stresses proper diet
for maintaining good health and treating disease. Herbal medicines are
prescribed based on the person's dosha type.
studying the effects of ayurvedic herbal medicines on various long-term
Ayurvedic practices such as yoga
and meditation can be safe ways to promote health. If you have a long-term
illness, you may be able to combine ayurveda with conventional medical
Ayurvedic herbal medicines, like conventional
medicines, may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with
other medicines or herbs you are taking. Some ayurvedic medicines may contain
high levels of heavy metals. A study found that about 1 out of 5 ayurvedic
medicine products in grocery stores in the Boston area contained potentially
harmful levels of lead and other heavy metals.1 Be
sure to tell your doctor about all herbs and natural supplements that you are
taking. If you have taken ayurvedic medicine products, ask your doctor about
screening for heavy metals.
Always tell your doctor if you are
using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an
alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be
safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an
CitationsSaper RB, et al. (2008). Lead, mercury, and arsenic in
U.S.- and Indian-manufactured Ayurvedic medicines sold via the Internet.
JAMA, 300(8): 915–923.
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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