Chances are, you’re already far more familiar with Ayurveda than you think. Yoga and Meditation have become extremely popular in the United States and worldwide, and are key components of Ayurvedic Medicine. In the U.S., we often consider stress reduction techniques such as these to be distinct from medicine. However, the important impact that stress has on health is emphasized in Ayurvedic practice and reflected in Ayurvedic treatments.
Ayurveda originated in India thousands of years ago, and is one of the oldest systems of medicine in existence. The word “Ayurveda” means “science of life” in Sanskrit. The goals of Ayurveda include physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. These are attained through Lifestyle/Behavior Modification (Diet, Exercise), Herbs, Meditation, Yoga, Massage and Bodywork.
Like Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda revolves around the principles of harmony and balance, and the belief that illness results when the “Prana” or vital energy is imbalanced. There are five conceptual elements of the body that must be in balance for health to be maintained: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Ether. Additionally, there are said to be three “Doshas”, or core constitutions based on one’s individual physiological and temperamental qualities. They are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The analysis of a patient’s Dosha is used as a diagnostic tool, since it is believed that different Doshas are prone to different types of diseases, and will need different types of treatment.
Ayurveda is a highly personalized type of medicine; people are evaluated as individuals and given individualized treatments for their ailments. This is perhaps one reason that it is not very well-studied in the United States; it is challenging to conduct research on personalized medicine in a randomized clinical trial.
Most Ayurveda practitioners study in India, where there are over 150 undergraduate and 30 post graduate schools for Ayurvedic Medicine. Typically, the training lasts five years, after which time practitioners are awarded either a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) or a Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (DAMS). There are several states in the U.S. that have schools of Ayurvedic Medicine: please see Light on Ayurveda Education Foundation: Ayurvedic Schools in the U.S.A. for a full list of schools.
The United States does not currently have any standardized training or certification for Ayurveda. For this reason it is critical to thoroughly research your practitioner’s academic background prior to commencing treatment and to disclose all medical treatments to your primary healthcare provider, even your over-the counter pharmaceutical and herbal supplement use.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
4. Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Fourth Edition by Marc S. Micozzi for more detailed information (Ch. 29). Published by Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, Missouri 2011.
5. Integrative Medicine Second Edition by David Rakel for more detailed information on usage for specific conditions. Copyright 2007, 2003 by Elsevier Inc. Published by Saunders Elsevier, Philadelphia, PA 2007.