Ayurvedic Medicine for Health
Everything you need to know about the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda.
For those who would like to learn more about Ayurvedic medicine, body+soul gives you all the facts.
What it is
- Ayurveda is an Indian health practice thought to be more than 5000 years old. It consists of a number of disciplines, including aromatherapy, diet, herbal medicine, acupuncture, yoga, massage, meditation and balancing of energies.
- The word "ayurveda" is translated from Sanskrit to mean "the science of life".
- Ayurveda proponents believe earth, water, fire, air and space make up the universe. Chyle (a fluid composed of lymph and emulsified fats), blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow and semen are believed to be the body's primary elements. Many traditional practitioners believe semen is the most precious and should be preserved through celibacy.
- Ayurvedic practitioners use the terms "vata", "pitta" and "kapha" to describe your body type and determine a course of treatment. Vata types are said to be thin and bony with restless minds; pitta have a moderate physique with muscular limbs and an alert mind; and kapha have broad frames, long limbs and are calm and patient.
- While few peer-reviewed studies have shown ayurvedic medicine has much effect in curing or treating disease, anecdotal evidence suggests many of its practices, including meditation, yoga and herbal remedies, have a positive effect on health.
- Ayurveda is "non-symptomatic medicine", says Peter Gowan from the Australasian Ayurvedic Practitioners Association. He says it aims to instruct people how to live so they don't get sick, rather than waiting for illness to develop.
- Ayurvedic practitioners claim that ayurvedic medicines and principles can be used in conjunction with western medicine, but check with your GP before starting any alternative therapies.
- Though some elements of ayurveda have been shown to have health benefits, in 2005, The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee investigation into alternative medicine in the UK concluded that the case for ayurvedic medicine was "not proven".
- Just because ayurvedic medicine is complementary doesn't necessarily mean it's safer than western medicine. "Some [complementary medicines] have potential risks, such as side effects, toxicity and allergies, " says Karen Kaye, deputy CEO of the National Prescribing Service.
- A study conducted by the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the US found that 21 per cent of ayurvedic medicines sold over the internet contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury or arsenic.
- In Australia, ayurvedic practitioners are not required to undertake as many hours of training as in India and some may have no formal training.
How to prevent it
- "If you have muscular, skeletal or blood-related problems, talk to your GP before turning to alternative medicines as they may impact on your treatment regime, " Kaye says.
- Sometimes conventional medicine could be contraindicated by using ayurvedic practices.