Ayurveda

Literally translated means “the science or knowledge of life,” is the traditional holistic medical system of India. Although Ayurveda is practiced in India as a comprehensive health care system with eight branches, including pediatrics and gynecology, it has only recently become known in the United States. Ayurveda’s premise that mind, body, and spirit are intimately connected is revolutionizing the way Westerners understand their body and their health. Ayurveda teaches that separating mind and spirit from the body creates physical imbalance, which is the first step in the disease process. It naturally follows that re-integration is the first step toward healing. Based on the principle that disease is the natural end result of living out of harmony with our environment, Ayurveda views symptoms of disease as the body’s normal way of communicating disharmony. With this understanding of disease, Ayurveda’s approach to healing becomes obvious: to reestablish harmony between self and environment and create an optimal environment for health.

According to Ayurveda, each person has a constitution created at conception that determines basic physiology and personality. This constitution is the inherent balance of three doshas, or subtle biological forces which govern the functions of the body, known as Vata (motion), Pitta (metabolism), and Kapha (cohesiveness). There are infinite combinations and permutations of these three basic energies, and each person’s constitution is a unique expression. Constitution determines what a person is naturally attracted to and what is experienced as repulsive, what is in harmony with his or her nature, and what will cause imbalance and susceptibility to illness. Because no two people are alike and no two presentations of a disease are alike, Ayurveda does not approach the cure of a disease as much as it approaches the cure of the person who has the disease.

To help individuals create an optimal environment for health, Ayurveda offers a group of treatments often referred to as “five sense therapies.” Through its detailed science of diet and herbalism, aroma therapy, color therapy, sound therapy, and touch therapy (massage and marma therapy), Ayurveda recommends how to use the senses to interact with the environment to create balance. These recommendations are based on a person’s constitution, current health imbalances, and the time of the year.

National Institute of Health’s position on AyurvedaWritten by the National Institute of Health
Ayurveda is India’s traditional, natural system of medicine that has been practiced for more than 5000 years. Ayurveda provides an integrated approach to preventing and treating illness through lifestyle interventions and natural therapies. Ayurvedic theory states that all disease begins with an imbalance or stress in the individual’s consciousness. Lifestyle interventions are a major Ayurvedic preventive and therapeutic approach. There are 10 Ayurveda clinics in North America, including one hospital-based clinic that has served 25,000 patients since 1985.
In India, Ayurvedic practitioners receive state-recognized, institutionalized training in parallel to their physician counterparts in India’s state-supported systems for conventional Western biomedicine and homeopathic medicine. The research base is growing concerning the physiological effects of meditative techniques and yoga postures in Indian medical literature and Western psychological literature. Published studies have documented reductions in cardiovascular disease risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol and reaction to stress, in individuals who practice Ayurvedic methods.
Laboratory and clinical studies on Ayurvedic herbal preparations and other therapies have shown them to have a range of potentially beneficial effects for preventing and treating certain cancers, treating infectious disease, promoting health and treating aging. Mechanisms underlying these effects may include free-radical scavenging effects, immune system modulation, brain neurotransmitter modulation and hormonal effects.
Ayurveda is an important solution to this health care crisis because it offers a true mind-body-spirit paradigm, emphasizes self-responsibility, and promotes prevention through lifestyle changes. A well-trained Ayurvedic practitioner may choose to enter into private practice, join other health care practitioners at a wellness center, teach public education classes on Ayurvedic principles, supervise a pancha karma center, teach at an Ayurvedic college, and conduct workshops, seminars and retreats. Health care providers can enhance their current practice by offering their clients Ayurvedic services. The future is bright for Ayurveda and for those dedicated and competent practitioners who will make its wisdom available.

Benefits/Contraindications

See Ayurvedic website for information.

Training/Licensing

Ayurvedic practitioners are not licensed in the United States, and its practice is not regulated by state or federal agencies. Standards of competency are set by individual schools that have received state approval. Ayurvedic practitioners in the United States are taught how to practice legally within a limited scope of practice so they are not viewed as practicing medicine without a license. We might say that Ayurveda’s current status in the US is analogous to the Chinese medical profession during its early years in the 1970s.In 1998 a diverse group of practitioners, many representing schools of Ayurveda in this country, began meeting to discuss the creation of state and national professional associations. These associations focused on licensing and certification issues and the important task of educating people on Ayurveda and its practices.   Today Ayurveda is becoming increasingly popular in Europe, Australia and the US and many Ayurvedic colleges have opened to meet this demand. At this point in time, the Ayurvedic medical degree is not recognized or regulated in the US or Canada.