Ayurveda, The Classical Medicine System from India
Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world's oldest medical systems that still has
great value today. Ayurveda is the primary health care system in India keeping
its 1.13 billion citizens in good health and Ayurvedic medicine has an excellent
world wide reputation with Ayurvedic doctors now being trained in many
- The aim of Ayurveda is to integrate and balance the
body, mind, and spirit. This is believed to help prevent
illness and promote wellness.
- In Ayurvedic philosophy, people, their health, and the
universe are all thought to be related. It is believed
that health problems can result when these relationships
are out of balance.
- In Ayurveda, herbs, metals, massage, and other
products and techniques are used with the intent of
cleansing the body and restoring balance.
What is Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurvedic medicine is also called Ayurveda. It is a
system of medicine that originated in India several thousand
years ago. The term Ayurveda combines two Sanskrit words--ayur,
which means life, and veda, which means science or
knowledge. Ayurveda means "the science of life."
Ayurveda is considered a type of
CAM and is a complete medical system. As with other such systems,
it is based on theories of health and illness and on ways to
prevent, manage, or treat health problems. Ayurveda aims to
integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit (thus, some
view it as "holistic"). This balance is believed to lead to
contentment and health, and to help prevent illness.
However, Ayurveda also proposes treatments for specific
health problems, whether they are physical or mental. A
chief aim of Ayurvedic practices is to cleanse the body of
substances that can cause disease, and this is believed to
help re-establish harmony and balance.
History of Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurveda is based on ideas from Hinduism, one of the
world's oldest and largest religions. Some Ayurvedic ideas
also evolved from ancient Persian thoughts about health and
Many Ayurvedic practices were handed down by word of
mouth and were used before there were written records. Two
ancient books, written in Sanskrit on palm leaves more than
2,000 years ago, are thought to be the first texts on
Ayurveda--Caraka Samhita and Susruta Samhita.
They cover many topics, including:
Ayurveda has long been the main system of health care in
India, although conventional (Western) medicine is becoming
more widespread there, especially in urban areas. About 70
percent of India's population lives in rural areas; about
two-thirds of rural people still use Ayurveda and medicinal
plants to meet their primary health care needs. In addition,
most major cities have an Ayurvedic college and hospital.
Ayurveda and variations of it have also been practiced for
centuries in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and
Tibet. The professional practice of Ayurveda in Western
countries began to grow and became more visible in the late
- Pathology (the causes of illness)
- Surgery (this is no longer part of standard Ayurvedic
- How to care for children
- Advice for practitioners, including medical ethics
Does Ayurveda work?
Ayurveda includes many types of therapies and is used for
many health issues. A summary of the scientific evidence is
beyond the scope of this Backgrounder. You can consult the
PubMed database on the Internet or contact the NCCAM
Clearinghouse (for both resources) for any research results available on
a disease or condition. However, very few rigorous,
controlled scientific studies have been carried out on
Ayurvedic practices. In India, the government began
systematic research in 1969, and the work continues.
To learn about how Ayurveda works as a medical system, these pages provide and
overview, and you can learn how Ayurveda may help you by
In recent times many vested interests are waging a war against Ayurveda to check
its unprecedented growth. There has been a systematic, ongoing campaign to
malign Ayurvedic medicines especially, those containing metals and minerals.
Surprisingly, the focus is on the safety and not the efficacy when it comes to
Ayurvedic medicines should not be studied after splitting up the individual
drugs. They have to be looked at in a synergistic way. They are safe as the
ingredients are buffered by many other compounds contained in them. Medical
journals and newspapers tend to give disproportionately dramatic coverage to
isolated reports of harm caused by taking these medicines. Interestingly, none
of the credible journals have carried human trials of Ayurvedic medicines that
caused any harmful effects
The failure of Allopathic medicine to effectively treat a wide range of chronic
illnesses opens up a space for Ayurveda in the west. To appease western medicine
proponents, Ayurvedic approaches are starting to dovetail with Allopathic
approaches i.e. reduce stress, reduce exposure to free radicals, improve
nutrition, manage weight, caloric consciousness and so on. In India we use these
herbs as medicines and not as dietary supplement.
Ayurveda resists the Cartesian world view of Allopathy, which separates mind and
body and its advocacy of the mechanical intervention into nature that strives to
manufacture health. In Ayurveda, knowledge is context bound, resistant to
universalizing rules applicable to all. Another policy that appears to be
underway is systematic Allopathization of Ayurveda and closing down small
Ayurvedic firms by insisting and imposing number of restrictions. Here the
politics is forcing Ayurvedic drug research to follow the line of Allopathy, not
to meet any consumer demand, but to appease the drug corporations.
Concerns about Ayurvedic medicine?
While health officials in India have few concerns about
Ayurvedic medicines, the major pharmaceutical companies and anti competition
raised concerns about certain Ayurvedic medicines containing herbs, metals, minerals, or other
materials. Some governments also share some of these concerns
which are that:
Reasons behind Incurable Diseases
- Some Ayurvedic medications have the potential to be toxic.
1) Many materials used in them have not been thoroughly
studied in either Western or Indian research. In the
United States, Ayurvedic medications are regulated as
As such, they are not required to meet the rigorous
standards for conventional medicines.
2) An American study
published in 2004 found that of 70 Ayurvedic remedies
purchased over-the-counter (all had been manufactured in
South Asia), 14 (one-fifth) contained lead, mercury,
and/or arsenic at levels that could be harmful.
3) Also in
2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
received 12 reports of lead poisoning linked to the use of
- 1) The anecdotal evidence of using particular herbs
and herbal combinations going back 6000 should be evidence
enough of a products safety. Such concerns are most often
raised by the pharmaceutical industry.
- 2) Lead, mercury, and arsenic exist in our diet and
Ayurvedic doctors are careful to prescribe only safe
products that meet modern quality controls.
- 3) Such cases rarely occur in remote villages where
the doctors are not properly trained and where medicines
are fraudulent and this is extremely unlikely to occur
today as the doctors training and manufacturing standards
- Most Ayurvedic medications consist of combinations of
herbs and other medicines, so it can be challenging to
know which ones are having an effect and why.
- This is also true for many modern pharmaceuticals,
however well trained doctors have a wealth of evidence on
the use of herbal medicine to draw from.
- Whenever two or more medications are used, there is
the potential for them to interact with each other. As a
result, the effectiveness of at least one may increase or
decrease in the body. For example, it is known that guggul
lipid (an extract of guggul) may increase the activity of
aspirin, which could lead to bleeding problems.
- Ayurvedic doctors are well aware of this and it is
important when visiting a doctor to let him/her know what
other medications you take.
- Most clinical trials of Ayurvedic approaches have been
small, had problems with research designs, lacked
appropriate control groups, or had other issues that
affected how meaningful the results were.
- Such trials do not have the unlimited financial
resources of the pharmaceutical industry or any government
backing and the as there is no financial profit for
anyone, such trials are difficult to set up. However there
are 6000 years of anecdotal evidence supporting the use
and effectiveness of herbal medicines which far outweigh
the brief trials of allopathic medicines, some of which
have claimed many thousands of lives despite the best
trails and safety evaluations.
The ancient Ayurvedic health sciences proves the existence of
psychosomatic illnesses and what your thoughts are able to influence.
Some examples that could explain the causes of disease:
Anxiety causes digestive system disorders, heart, and skin diseases.
Apathy causes diabetes.
Being abusive causes diabetes and heart diseases
Being too categorical or unwavering in beliefs causes diabetes, migraines,
Cruel behaviour causes epilepsy, asthma, and blood deficiency.
Greed causes tumours, fatness, and heart diseases.
Hostility causes stomach ulcers, acid heart burns, and verrucas.
Immoral behaviours causes chronic diseases, infections, and dermal diseases.
Inconsistency or being fickle causes infertility.
Insecurity weakens the immune system.
Lying causes addiction to alcohol, parasite infections, and failure of the
Jealousy causes cancers and immune system failure.
Restricted irritating situation causes lung diseases.
Seeking conflict causes thyroid enlargement.
Taciturnity causes schizophrenia and kidney diseases.
Vengefulness causes sleep disorder and throat illnesses.
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