Ayurveda is a wonderful ancient medical concept; it include a fascinating medical philosophy and a
group of popular herbs. I am in the early stages of learning about it.
Ayurveda 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 a whole medical system. Ayurveda 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 (similar to "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 Ayurveda is to cleanse the body of substances that can cause disease to help reestablish
harmony and balance.
Ayurveda is based on ideas from Hinduism. Some Ayurvedic ideas also evolved from ancient
Persian thoughts about health and healing. 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: pathology (the causes of illness),
diagnosis, treatment, lifestyle, ethics and philosophy.
Two major beliefs in Ayurveda that pertain to health and disease
Interconnectedness-Ideas about the relationships among people, their health, and the universe
form the basis for how Ayurvedic practitioners think about problems that affect health. (1) All things
in the universe (both living and nonliving) are joined together. (2) Every human being contains
elements that can be found in the universe. (3) All people are born in a state of balance within
themselves and in relation to the universe. (4) This state of balance is disrupted by the processes of
life. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination. Imbalances weaken the
body and make the person susceptible to disease. (5) Health will be good if one's interaction with
the immediate environment is effective and wholesome. (6) Disease arises when a person is out of
harmony with the universe.
Constitution and Health- Ayurveda also has some basic beliefs about the body's constitution.
"Constitution" refers to a person's general health, how likely he is to become out of balance, and his
ability to resist and recover from disease or other health problems.: (1) The constitution is called the
prakriti. The prakriti is thought to be a unique combination of physical and psychological
characteristics and the way the body functions. It is influenced by such factors as digestion and how
the body deals with waste products. The prakriti is believed to be unchanged over a person's
lifetime. (2) Three qualities called doshas form important characteristics of the constitution, and
control the activities of the body. Practitioners of Ayurveda call the doshas by their original Sanskrit
names: vata, pitta, and kapha. It is also believed that: Each dosha is made up of one or two of the
five basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Each dosha has a particular relationship to
body functions and can be upset for different reasons. A person has her own balance of the three
doshas, although one dosha usually is prominent. Doshas are constantly being formed and
reformed by food, activity, and bodily processes. Each dosha is associated with a certain body
type, a certain personality type, and a greater chance of certain types of health problems. An
imbalance in a dosha will produce symptoms that are related to that dosha and are different from
symptoms of an imbalance in another dosha. Imbalances may be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle
or diet; too much or too little mental and physical exertion; or not being properly protected from the
weather, chemicals, or germs.
In summary, it is believed that a person's chances of developing certain types of diseases are
related to the way doshas are balanced, the state of the physical body, and mental or lifestyle
What is each dosha like?
Here are some important beliefs about the three doshas:
* The vata dosha is thought to be a combination of the elements space and air. It is considered the
most powerful dosha because it controls very basic body processes such as cell division, the heart,
breathing, and the mind. Vata can be thrown out of balance by, for example, staying up late at night,
eating dry fruit, or eating before the previous meal is digested. People with vata as their main
dosha are thought to be especially susceptible to skin, neurological, and mental diseases.
* The pitta dosha represents the elements fire and water. Pitta is said to control hormones and the
digestive system. When pitta is out of balance, a person may experience negative emotions (such
as hostility and jealousy) and have physical symptoms (such as heartburn within 2 or 3 hours of
eating). Pitta is upset by, for example, eating spicy or sour food; being angry, tired, or fearful; or
spending too much time in the sun. People with a predominantly pitta constitution are thought to be
susceptible to heart disease and arthritis.
* The kapha dosha combines the elements water and earth. Kapha is thought to help keep up
strength and immunity and to control growth. An imbalance in the kapha dosha may cause nausea
immediately after eating. Kapha is aggravated by, for example, sleeping during the daytime, eating
too many sweet foods, eating after one is full, and eating and drinking foods and beverages with
too much salt and water (especially in the springtime). Those with a predominant kapha dosha are
thought to be vulnerable to diabetes, gallbladder problems, stomach ulcers, and respiratory
illnesses such as asthma.
How does an Ayurvedic practitioner decide on a person's dosha balance?
Practitioners seek to determine the primary dosha and the balance of doshas through questions
that allow them to become very familiar with the patient. Not all questions have to do with particular
symptoms. The practitioner will:
* Ask about diet, behavior, lifestyle practices, and the reasons for the most recent illness and
symptoms the patient had
* Carefully observe such physical characteristics as teeth, skin, eyes, and weight
* Take a person's pulse, because each dosha is thought to make a particular kind of pulse
How else does an Ayurvedic practitioner work with the patient at first?
In addition to questioning, Ayurvedic practitioners use observation, touch, therapies, and advising.
During an examination, the practitioner checks the patient's urine, stool, tongue, bodily sounds,
eyes, skin, and overall appearance. He will also consider the person's digestion, diet, personal
habits, and resilience (ability to recover quickly from illness or setbacks). As part of the effort to find
out what is wrong, the practitioner may prescribe some type of treatment. The treatment is generally
intended to restore the balance of one particular dosha. If the patient seems to improve as a result,
the practitioner will provide additional treatments intended to help balance that dosha.
How does an Ayurvedic practitioner treat health problems?
The practitioner will develop a treatment plan and may work with people who know the patient well
and can help. This helps the patient feel emotionally supported and comforted, which is considered
Practitioners expect patients to be active participants in their treatment, because many Ayurvedic
treatments require changes in diet, lifestyle, and habits. In general, treatments use several
approaches, often more than one at a time. The goals of treatment are to:
* Eliminate impurities. A process called panchakarma is intended to be cleansing; it focuses on the
digestive tract and the respiratory system. For the digestive tract, cleansing may be done through
enemas, fasting, or special diets. Some patients receive medicated oils through a nasal spray or
inhaler. This part of treatment is believed to eliminate worms or other agents thought to cause
* Reduce symptoms. The practitioner may suggest various options, including yoga exercises,
stretching, breathing exercises, meditation, and lying in the sun. The patient may take herbs (usually
several), often with honey, with the intent to improve digestion, reduce fever, and treat diarrhea.
Sometimes foods such as lentil beans or special diets are also prescribed. Very small amounts of
metal and mineral preparations also may be given, such as gold or iron. Careful control of these
materials is intended to protect the patient from harm.
* Reduce worry and increase harmony in the patient's life. The patient may be advised to seek
nurturing and peacefulness through yoga, meditation, exercise, or other techniques.
* Help eliminate both physical and psychological problems. Vital points therapy and/or massage
may be used to reduce pain, lessen fatigue, or improve circulation. Ayurveda proposes that there
are 107 "vital points" in the body where life energy is stored, and that these points may be
massaged to improve health. Other types of Ayurvedic massage use medicinal oils.
How are plant products used in Ayurvedic treatment?
In Ayurveda, the distinction between food and medicine is not as clear as in Western medicine.
Food and diet are important components of Ayurvedic practice, and so there is a heavy reliance on
treatments based on herbs and plants, oils (such as sesame oil), common spices (such as
turmeric), and other naturally occurring substances.
Currently, some 5,000 products are included in the "pharmacy" of Ayurvedic treatments. In recent
years, the Indian government has collected and published safety information on a small number of
them. Historically, plant compounds have been grouped into categories according to their effects.
For example, some compounds are thought to heal, promote vitality, or relieve pain. The
compounds are described in many texts prepared through national medical agencies in India.
Below are a few examples of how some botanicals (plants and their products) have been or are
currently used in treatment. In some cases, these may be mixed with metals.
* The spice turmeric has been used for various diseases and conditions, including rheumatoid
arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and wound healing.
* A mixture (Arogyawardhini) of sulfur, iron, powdered dried fruits, tree root, and other substances
has been used to treat problems of the liver.
* An extract from the resin from a tropical shrub (Commiphora mukul, or guggul) has been used for
a variety of illnesses. In recent years, there has been research interest in its use to possibly lower
Does Ayurveda work?
Ayurveda includes many types of therapies and is used for many health issues. 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.
Toxicity, Side Effects, Danger, Adverse Events
Most herbal medications, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, have a few herbs potentially to
be toxic. But, the herbalists use them in special ways and in special preparations. We can not just
simply extract them and put them in our mouth. Health officials in India and other countries have
expressed concerns about certain Ayurvedic practices, especially those involving herbs, metals,
minerals, or other materials. Here are some of those concerns:
1. Quality of the products. In the United States, Ayurvedic medications are regulated as dietary
supplements. As such, they are not required to meet the rigorous standards for conventional
medicines. 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. Also in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention received 12 reports of lead poisoning linked to the use of Ayurvedic medications.
2. Active ingredients? 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.
3. Drug interaction. For example, it is known that guggul lipid (an extract of guggul) may increase
the activity of aspirin, which could lead to bleeding problems.
4. Limited scientific support.
A Few Common Ayurvedic Herbs
Ajwan (Apium graveolens), Amalaki Amla, Anantamool (Hemidesmus indicus; Indian
Sarsaparilla), Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna), Ashoka - Saraca indica - , Ashwagandha, Babul or
Babool, acacia nilotica, Bala (Sida cordifolia), Banaba, Bhringaraj or Bhringraj , Bhumiamla,
Bhumyamalaki, Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica), Boswellia, Brahmi, Chirayata, Citrak, Coleus,
Datura, Devadaru, Ginger, Gotu Kola, Guggul, Gymnema, Hapusha (Juniperus communis), Isabgol
Jatamansi, Kalmegh, Kanchnar, Kantakari, Kapikachehha, Katela, Kumari, Licorice, Manjishta,
Mandukapami, Meshasringi, Methi, Mulathi, Musta, Myrrh, Neem, Nirgundi, Noni, Pashanbheda,
Phyllanthus, Picrorhiza, Salai Guggal, Sarpagandha, Senna, Shankhapushpi, Shatavari, Shikakai,
Shilajit, Tamarind, Turmeric, Tylophora, Vacha, Vasaka, Vidanga, Vidari, Vilayati imli
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Ayurvedic Herbs Benefits and their use in natural healing - ZHION.COM updated on June 22, 2011
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