Ayurveda • Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term combing the words for life (ayur) and science or knowledge (veda). Ayurveda means “the science of life.” • Ayurveda is the oldest healing system in the world. • Ayurveda has influenced many of the older traditional methods of healing used by various cultures, and is considered the “mother of healing.”
What is Ayurvedic Medicine All About? • Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through close attention to balance in ones life, right thinking, diet, lifestyle, and the use of herbs.  • The aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit. It is holistic system used to prevent illness and promote wellness. • Ayurvedic practices help to cleanse the body of substances that can cause disease, thus helping to reestablish harmony and balance. • Ayurveda uses a variety of healing techniques including herbs, massage, and specialized diets. • In the United States today, Ayurvedic medicine is considered complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) and is used in conjunction with modern western techniques.
History of Ayurveda • Ayurveda originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and was originally passed down from master to student through an oral tradition. • Ayurveda was first placed in its written form by Srila Vyasadeva as part of the Vedas.  • Around 1500 B.C. Ayurveda grew into a respected and widely used system of healing and was divided into eight specific branches of medicine. • Ayurveda went through a short period of decline in India during the period of British rule till 1947 when India gained it’s independence and many new schools began to emerge. • Ayurvedic healing continues to evolve to this day and has adapted to cope with modern need and scientific approaches.
Origins of Ayurveda • It is believed that Dhanvanatri,the God of healing, taught the science of medicine to the sages. • According to another legend, the knowledge of healing originated from Brahma who taught it to Daksha, who further taught Indra. • During a gathering of all the great sages Bharadvaja came forward to learn this art of healing from Indra . He then taught this science to Atreya, who further transmitted this knowledge throughout world.  • Later Agnivesh who was foremost among the disciples of Atreya wrote Agnivesha Samhita, the most comprehensive form of Ayurveda.  • The oldest compilations of Atreya and Agnivesha were lost, but the systems were re-organized by Charaka and Sushruta and compiled into the two main texts on Ayurvedic medicine; Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. 
The Two Schools of Thought • Atreya • The school of physicians.  • Represented by Charaka Samhita which is the only work that covers Ayurveda comprehensively.  • Shows discussions on physiology, anatomy, etiology, pathogenesis and symptoms of diseases.  • Includes the internal and external cause of illness.  • According to Charaka, the first and the main cause of illness is the loss of faith in the divine.  • Dhanvantri • The school of surgeons.  • Represented by Sushruta Samhita.  • Contains details and discussions of various surgeries, burns, fractures, wounds and amputation.  • Includes the complete discussion of the human anatomy.  • The first science of massage of vital body points originated from Sushruta Samhita. 
Astanga Ayurveda • The practical tenets of Ayurveda are divided into eight sections or branches.  1.Internal Medicine 2. Surgery 3. Organic Medicine 4. Pediatrics 5. Toxicology 6. Rejuvenating Remedy 7. Aphrodisiac remedies 8. Spiritual Healing
Doshas • According to Ayurvedic philosophy the entire cosmos is an interplay of the energies of the five great elements.  • Space • Air • Fire • Water • Earth • Vata, pitta, and kapha are combinations and permutations of the five elements that manifest as patterns present in all creation.  • Each person has a unique combination of the three doshas. Doshas are constantly being formed and reformed by food, activity, and bodily processes.  • A person's chances of developing certain types of diseases are thought to be related to the way life force energies are balanced, the state of the physical body, and mental or lifestyle factors.  • Each dosha has a particular relationship to bodily functions and can be upset for different reasons.  • Each dosha has its own physical and psychological characteristics. An imbalance of a dosha will produce symptoms that are unique to that dosha. 
Vata • The subtle energy associate with movement.  • Combines the elements ether and air.  • Considered the most powerful dosha because it controls very basic body processes such as cell division, the heart, breathing, discharge of waste, and the mind. • Vata can be aggravated by fear, grief, 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 and neurological conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, and insomnia.  • In balance vata promotes creativity and flexibility. Out of balance vata produces fear and anxiety. 
Pitta • Expresses as the bodies metabolic system.  • Combines the elements fire and water. • Controls hormones and the digestive system.  • A person with a pitta imbalance may experience negative emotions such as anger and may have physical symptoms such as heartburn within 2 or 3 hours of eating.  • Pitta is upset by eating spicy or sour food, fatigue, or spending too much time in the sun.  • People with a predominantly pitta constitution are thought to be susceptible to hypertension, heart disease, infectious diseases, and digestive conditions such as Crohn's disease. • In balance, pitta promotes understanding and intelligence. Out of balance, pitta arouses anger, hatred and jealousy. 
Kapha • The energy that forms the bodies structure.  • Combines the elements water and earth.  • Helps to maintain strength and immunity and to control growth. • An imbalance of the kapha dosha may cause nausea immediately after eating.  • Kapha is aggravated by, greed, 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, cancer, obesity, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma.  • In balance kapha is expressed as love, calmness, and forgiveness. Out of balance, kapha is expressed as attachment, greed, and envy. 
Prakriti • Each person has an unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics which comprise their constitution.  • When we are healthy, our physical, mental, and emotional characteristics are in balance. Imbalance is disorder.  • Many factors both internal and external act upon us to disturb the balance of our constitution.  • Emotional state • Diet and food choices • Seasons and weather • Physical trauma • Work and family relationships • When one understands the nature and structure of disorder, one can re-establish order. 
Vata Type • Quick mind, flexible, and creative; alert, restless and very active.  • Vata types have a hard time becoming and staying grounded. • Constitution is balanced by warm, cooked foods and sweet, sour, and salty tastes.  • Routine is difficult but essential if vata is to be lowered and controlled.  • Best for vata types to go to bed by 10 pm as they need more rest than other types.  • People with excessive vata respond to warm, moist, slightly oily, heavy foods. Steam baths, humidifiers, and moisture in general. Daily oil massage before bath or shower is also recommended. 
Vata Diet • Warm, well-cooked oily foods, should have three or four small meals a day and may snack as needed while maintaining a two-hour gap between each meal.  • Regular meal times are important for vata.  • Vatas can use more oil in cooking their food and should limit intake of raw foods.  • Cooked oats and rice and cooked vegetables are good for vata.  • Sweet ripe juicy fruits are good for vata. The astringent and drying fruits, such as cranberries, pomegranates, and raw apples should be avoided.  • Dairy products, eggs, chicken, turkey, fresh fish, and venison are good sources of protein, limit quantities of legumes and cook well.  • All nuts and seeds, oils, spices, and dairy products are good for vata with hard cheese being eaten sparingly.  • Since vata people tend to be prone to addiction, they should avoid sugar, caffeine, and tobacco.  • One should seek relaxation and meditation to reduce vata. 
Pitta Type • Have many of the qualities of fire, warm bodies, penetrating ideas, sharp intelligence.  • Body type is medium height and build, with ruddy or coppery skin, may have moles and freckles, silky hair, medium sized eyes. Sharp nose with a reddish tip.  • Easily agitated and aggressive and tend toward hate, anger, and jealousy when imbalanced.  • Constitution is balanced by sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes.  • Diet and lifestyle changes emphasize coolness – cool foods, avoidance of chilies and spices, and cool climates. Need to exercise at the coolest part of the day.
Pitta Diet • Avoid sour, salty, and pungent foods. Vegetarianism is best, refrain from eating meat, eggs, alcohol, and salt.  • It is beneficial to incorporate sweet, cooling, and bitter foods and tastes into the pitta diet.  • Barley, rice, oats, and wheat are good grains, vegetables should form a substantial part of the diet. Any vegetable that is too sour or hot will aggravate pitta.  • Salads and raw vegetables are good, as well as sweet fruits. Avoid sour fruits with the exception of limes to be used sparingly.  • Most nuts and seeds have too much oil, however coconut and sunflower and pumpkin seeds are alright occasionally. Small amounts of olive or sunflower oils are good.  • Sweet dairy products are good. They should avoid hot spices, using cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, and turmeric predominantly with small amounts of cumin and black pepper.  • Coffee, alcohol, and tobacco should be completely avoided, although the occasional beer or black tea with milk and cardamom may be relaxing. 
Kapha Type • Possess strength, endurance, and stamina, have sweet, loving dispositions, and are stable and grounded.  • May gain weight easily and have a slow metabolism, have thick skin and bodies and muscles are well developed. Eyes are large and attractive with thick lashes.  • Constitutions are most balanced by bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes.  • May become lethargic, when out of balance tend to experience greed, envy, attachment, and possessiveness.  • Winter is the time of greatest Kapha accumulation and following the kapha balancing dietary and lifestyle changes are most important during that season. 
Kapha Diet • Bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Foods that will invigorate the mind. Avoid dairy products and fats of any kind, especially fried or greasy foods.  • Need less grain with buckwheat and millet being optimal grains, followed by barley, rice, and corn. Roasted or dry cooked are best.  • All vegetables are good, but leafy greens grown above ground should be emphasized over root vegetables. Avoid very sweet, sour, or juicy vegetables. Raw, steamed, or stir-fried vegetables are good.  • Very sweet or sour fruits should be avoided. More astringent fruits such as apples, apricots, cranberries, mangos, peaches, and pears being preferable.  • Only rarely do they need animal food which should be baked, roasted, or broiled. Legumes are better than meat because of lack of fat, but should not be over consumed. Black beans, mung beans, pinto beans, and red lentils are best.  • Occasional sunflower and pumpkin seeds are alright. Almond, corn, safflower, or sunflower oils can be used in small amounts as with dairy products. Ghee and goat’s milk are good.  • Avoid sweets, only use raw honey, can use all spices except salt, ginger and garlic being the best.  • Can benefit from occasional use of coffee and tea, also not as harmed by tobacco and hard liquor. 
Treatment • Ayurvedic practitioners first determine the patient's primary dosha and the balance among the three doshas.  • Panchakarma – a process intended to cleanse the body by eliminating ama through the digestive tract and the respiratory system. Enemas, massage, medical oils administered in a nasal spray, and other methods may be used.  • Ama - an undigested food that sticks to tissues, interferes with normal functioning of the body, and leads to disease.  • Practitioners help reduce symptoms with methods such as exercise, meditation, massage, and changing the diet.  • Practitioners seek to reduce worry and increase harmony.  • Ayurvedic treatments rely heavily on plants and herbs, including oils and common spices. Sometimes, botanicals are mixed with metals or other naturally occurring substances to make formulas prepared according to specific Ayurvedic text procedures; such preparations involve several herbs and herbal extracts and precise heat treatment. 
Modern Day • Modern Ayurveda includes:  • Principles of preventive healthcare for the entire family (kulam svastyam kutumbakam). • Treatment of addictions (sangakara chikitsa). • Purification and rejuvenation treatments (panchakarma chikitsa). • The Ayurvedic approach to diet and weight loss (sthaulya chikitsa) • Musculoskeletal system treatments (vatavyadhi chikitsa). • Promotion of self-healing and resistance to disease (svabhaavoparamavaada). • Male and female infertility (vajikarana). • Beauty and cosmetic treatments for men and women (saundarya sadhana). • According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, more than 200,000 U.S. adults had used Ayurvedic medicine in the previous year.  • Ayurvedic medicine continues to be practiced in India, where nearly 80 percent of the population uses it exclusively or combined with conventional (Western) medicine. It is also practiced in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan. • Most major cities in India have an Ayurvedic college and hospital. The Indian government began systematic research on Ayurvedic practices in 1969, and that work continues.
Precautions • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use, including Ayurvedic medicine.  • 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.  • Ayurvedic practice involves the use of medications that typically contain herbs, metals, minerals, or other materials.  • Ayurvedic medications have the potential to be toxic. Many materials used in them have not been thoroughly studied in either Western or Indian research.  • An NCCAM-funded study published in 2004 found that of 70 Ayurvedic remedies purchased over-the-counter (all manufactured in South Asia), 14 contained lead, mercury, and/or arsenic at levels that could be harmful.  • Also in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12 cases of lead poisoning occurring over a recent 3-year period were linked to the use of Ayurvedic medications.  • Scientific evidence for the effectiveness of Ayurvedic practices varies, and more rigorous research is needed to determine which practices are safe and effective. 
Photo Credits • http://www.lowdensitylifestyle.com/ayurvedic-medicine-the-oldest-system-of-medicine-part-1/
References • http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm • http://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/intro_ayurveda.pdf • http://www.medindia.net/ayurveda/index.asp • http://www.ayurvediccure.com/ayurveda_ayurvedic_herbs/ayurveda_history.htm