Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It originated in India more than 3,000 years ago and remains one of the country’s traditional health care systems. Its concepts about health and disease promote the use of herbal compounds, special diets, and other unique health practices. India’s government and other institutes throughout the world support clinical and laboratory research on Ayurvedic medicine, within the context of the Eastern belief system. But Ayurvedic medicine isn’t widely studied as part of conventional (Western) medicine.
Key concepts of Ayurvedic medicine include universal interconnectedness (among people, their health, and the universe), the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (dosha), which are often compared to the biologic humors of the ancient Greek system. Using these concepts, Ayurvedic physicians prescribe individualized treatments, including compounds of herbs or proprietary ingredients, and diet, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations.
The primary goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to help people live long, healthy and balanced lives without the need for prescription drugs, complicated surgeries or suffering through painful conditions. In fact, the very word Ayurveda itself means something in Sanskrit similar to “lifespan build on knowledge” or “science of life.”
Those who practice Ayurveda believe every person is made of five basic elements found in the universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth.
These combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called doshas. They control how your body works. They are Vata dosha (space and air); Pitta dosha (fire and water); and Kapha dosha (water and earth).
Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. But one is usually stronger than the others. Each one controls a different body function. It’s believed that your chances of getting sick -- and the health issues you develop -- are linked to the balance of your doshas.
Those who practice Ayurveda believe this is the most powerful of all three doshas. It controls very basic body functions, like how cells divide. It also controls your mind, breathing, blood flow, heart function, and ability to get rid of waste through your intestines. Things that can disrupt it include eating again too soon after a meal, fear, grief, and staying up too late.
If vata dosha is your main life force, you’re more likely to develop conditions like anxiety, asthma, heart disease, skin problems, and rheumatoid arthritis.
This energy controls your digestion, metabolism (how well you break down foods), and certain hormones that are linked to your appetite.
Things that can disrupt it are eating sour or spicy foods and spending too much time in the sun.
If it’s your main life force, you’re more likely to develop conditions like Crohn’s disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, and infections.
This life force controls muscle growth, body strength and stability, weight, and your immune system.
You can disrupt it by sleeping during the day, eating too many sweet foods, and eating or drinking things that contain too much salt or water.
If it’s your main life energy, you may develop asthma and other breathing disorders, cancer, diabetes, nausea after eating, and obesity.