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Ayurvedic Medicine – Benefits

Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient systems-based medicine that developed among the Brahmanic sages of ancient India. Ayurveda is composed of the roots “ayur” for life and “veda” for knowledge. Ancient Vedic texts indicate that the system is the oldest, dating back to before 4000 BC. It was practiced as early as 3000 BC and some believe it is as old as 8000 years. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are very similar in that they are based on universal natural bipolar concepts that matter and energy are one. There are several aspects of this medical system that distinguish it from other approaches to healthcare:

o The focus of Ayurveda is to integrate and balance body, mind and spirit rather than focusing on individual symptoms. This is believed to help prevent disease and promote well-being by balancing the three subtle energies known as the doshas – individually they are Vatha, Pitta and Kapha.

o The Ayurveda philosophy assumes that people, their health and the universe are connected. It is believed that health problems can arise when these relationships become unbalanced.

o Ayurveda, herbs, metals, massages and other products and techniques are used with the intention of purifying and restoring balance to the body. Some of these products can be harmful when used alone or with conventional medicines.

o Ayurveda recognizes the unique constitutional differences of all individuals and therefore recommends different regimens for different types of people. Although two people appear to have the same outward symptoms, their energetic constitutions can be very different and therefore require different remedies.

o Ayurveda is a complete medical system that recognizes that ultimately all intelligence and wisdom flows from one absolute source (Paramatman). Health is manifested by the Grace of the Absolute working through the Laws of Nature (Prakriti). Ayurveda supports nature by promoting harmony between the individual and nature, leading a life in balance according to its laws.

o Ayurveda describes three basic universal energies that regulate all natural processes on both a macrocosmic and microcosmic level. That is, the same energies that produce effects in the various galaxies and star systems are at work at the level of human physiology – your own physiology. These three universal energies are known as the Tridosha.

o Ancient Ayurveda physicians recognized the need to preserve the alliance of mind and body and offer humanity tools to remember and nurture the more subtle aspects of our humanity. Ayurveda seeks to heal the fragmentation and disorder of the mind-body complex and restore wholeness and harmony to all human beings.

Unlike traditional Western medicine, Ayurvedic medicine is non-invasive and focuses on the needs of the individual and prevention rather than treating the symptoms as a one-size-fits-all solution. Taking over-the-counter and prescription medication for symptoms that may have a different cause from someone else’s makes as much sense as buying a hat that’s right for someone else.

o Is your liver getting the nutritional support it needs?

o Are you taking the right antioxidants in the right amounts?

o Does your body metabolize proteins effectively or poorly?

o Does your body metabolize fats or carbohydrates effectively or poorly?

o Do hidden food intolerances or allergies make you ill?

During the last century, Ayurvedic medicine has undergone a renaissance, evolving its holistic approach to health in accordance with modern needs and the scientific advances of the time.

The National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine (NIAM) was founded in 1982 by Scott Gerson, MD, PhD, the only physician in the country who possesses both Ayurveda and allopathic medicine, and is considered the largest and most authentic source of information on Ayurveda in the United States.

Ayurveda medicine conceptualizes and practices eight major branches of medicine in addition to numerous additional branches. The eight major subspecialties still taught today include:

1. Internal Medicine (Kayachikitsa)

2. General Surgery (Shalya Tantra)

3. Otorhinolaryngology (Shalakya)

4. Pediatrics and Obstetrics/Gynecology (Kaumarabhrtya)

5. Psychiatry (Bhutavidya)

6. Toxicology (Agada Tantra)

7. Nutrition, Detoxification and Rejuvenation (Rasayana Tantra)

8. Fertility and Masculinity (Vajikarana)

For each disease there is information about: definition, etiology, prodrome, clinical symptoms, pathophysiology, prognosis, principles of treatment, drugs, nutrition, lifestyle recommendations and even etymology. This approach is similar to modern western medicine and even more comprehensive.

Resources:

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o Bhatt AD. Clinical Research on Ayurvedic Therapies: Myths, Realities and Challenges. Journal of the Associated Physicians of India. 2001;49:558-562.

o Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead poisoning associated with Ayurvedic medicines – five states, 2000-2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2004;53(26):582-584.

o Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Lead toxicity: Physiological effects. Toxic Substances and Diseases Agency Registry website. Accessed September 1, 2005.

o Chopra A, Doiphode VV. Ayurvedic Medicine – Core Concept, Therapeutic Principles and Current Relevance. Medical Clinics of North America. 2002;86(1):75-88.

o Courson WA. Government License and Ayurvedic Practice: Planning for the Future, Managing the Present. National Ayurveda Medical Association Newsletter [online journal]. Fall 2003. Accessed February 22, 2005.

o Dodd’s YES. Know your CAM provider. Bulletin of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons/American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons [online journal]. December 2002. Accessed September 12, 2005.

o Fugh-Berman A. Interactions between herbs and drugs. Lancet. 2000;355(9198):134-138.

Gogtay NJ, Bhatt HA, Dalvi SS, et al. The Use and Safety of Non-Allopathic Indian Medicines. drug safety. 2002;25(14):1005-1019.

o Lodha R, Bagga A. Traditional Indian Medicine Systems. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. 2000;29(1):37-41.

o Mishra L, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Health care and disease management in Ayurveda. Alternative therapies in health and medicine. 2001;7(2):44-50.

Saper RB, Kales SN, Paquin J, et al. Heavy metal content of Ayurvedic herbal medicine products. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004;292(23):2868-2873.

Shankar K, Liao LP. Traditional medicine systems. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2004;15:725-747.

o Subbarayappa BV. The roots of ancient medicine: a historical outline. Journal of Life Sciences. 2001;26(2):135-144.

o Szapary PO, Wolfe ML, Bloedon LT, et al. Guggulipid for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2003;290(6):765-772.

o Thompson Coon J, Ernst E. Herbs for lowering serum cholesterol: a systematic review. Journal of Family Practice. 2003;52(6):468-478.

o World Health Organization Regional Office for Southeast Asia. Facts and Figures on Health and Behavior – Overcoming Depression. World Health Organization Regional Office for Southeast Asia website. Accessed February 16, 2005.

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