Ayurvedic medicine is as old as Chinese Medicine, spanning 5,000 years. Originally developed in India, it is an alternative practice that focuses on treating patients according to individual constitution instead of a specific ailment.
How Ayurvedic Healing Works?
One of the primary principles of Ayurvedic medicine is treating illness according to specific body or metabolic types. In other words, every patient falls into a certain category of body type with common characteristics.
According to field experts, there are three main types or doshas. These are Vata, Pitta and Khapa.
Vata Metabolic Type
People with a Vata body type tend to change according to dietary and lifestyle choices and circumstances. This means your weight and shape can vary depending on the habits you develop.
However, general characteristics include dry skin, prominent veins and joints, high energy levels, distinctive features and an active imagination. Vata types are said to suffer more frequently from constipation, mood disorders and cramps.
Pitta Metabolic Type
According to this ancient science, people who are well-proportioned with a medium build fall under the Pitta body type. Fair skin, thin hair and a short temper are other common characteristics.
Pittas are known for suffering from acne, heartburn, hemorrhoids and ulcers. Some experts believe that this type also tends to be organized, intelligent, highly efficient and articulate.
Khapa Metabolic Type
Khapa body types are often heavyset with oily, damp skin. Sluggish digestion makes them prone to obesity and high levels of cholesterol. They are also susceptible to procrastination and heavy sleep. However, their personalities tend to be tolerant, affectionate and patient.
Mixed Metabolic Types
Ayurvedic practitioners state that it is very rare for a patient to belong strictly to one metabolic type. Many are mixed and exhibit characteristics of more than one group. The job of the expert is to capture dominant traits and formulate a treatment plan best suited to the individual treated.
In alternative medicine, there are many causes of illness that include poor diet, genetic factors and pollution in the environment. Ayurvedic medicine maintains this principle. However, this healing practice also believes that seasonal changes can affect the condition of one’s health.
The Vata metabolic type, for instance, tends to suffer from muscular and rheumatic conditions in the fall because of windy, dry weather. Pitta types don’t do well in summer, as the light and heat can trigger a range of inflammatory illnesses. The Khapa’s worst season is winter, which is when this patient suffers respiratory and sinus disorders.
Conditions Treated By Ayurveda
Ayurveda does not have a specific list of conditions it treats. In a way, the healing system can be used for almost all ailments and can assist in disease prevention as well. The goal is to restore that all-important balance of mind, body and spirit.
A disease in the body, whether it’s a headache or cancer, is believed to be the result of physical, mental and spiritual imbalance. This disharmony manifests itself in a variety of illnesses depending on the genetic tendency and environmental influence of the patient.
Because Ayurvedic medicine is a set of therapies instead of just one, its benefits are manifold. Treatment involves herbal remedies, diet, yoga, meditation, massage therapy and changes to personal environment. Each of these therapies have shown efficacy in numerous studies. Some are also standalone treatments that we will examine in later chapters.
Ayurvedic herbal preparations deserve special mention. Some are prepared using common herbs like thyme, ginger and curcumin, which are known for their anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory activity. Ginger holds benefits for patients who suffer from frequent headaches and migraines.
In addition to common herbs, practitioners may use ashwagandha and Boswellia serrata to prepare medications. The former is beneficial for heart disease patients and can inhibit the growth of tumors. The latter has demonstrated healing power in patients with bronchial asthma.
Medicines can be taken orally, inhaled or used to medicate baths, tonics and enemas.
Ayurvedic diagnosis is almost an art. Practitioners can measure the strength and tone of a pulse to determine a patient’s metabolic type, and the state of internal organs. There are 12 main types of wrist pulses, six on the left and six on the right.
In addition to palpation, physicians also observe the color and sensitivity of the tongue, nails and eyes. Urine tests are also commonplace and used to detect physical imbalance in the system. These diagnostic tools are used in combination to learn as much as possible about the unique composition of the patient.
Detoxification is an important element of Ayurvedic treatment. It is a thorough process called pancha karma that involves purging the body of toxins through bowel, nasal and blood cleansing. The aim is to eliminate undigested food, as it is seen as a root cause of illness.
Patients are usually massaged with herbal oils that are easily absorbed by the skin and ultimately excreted from the body at various points. It is also common practice to donate or remove blood in order to increase its volume. When the body is purged of unabsorbed food, patients may be required to consume ghee and yogurt to restore healthy bacteria in the gut.
Palliation normally follows physical purging. Patients engage in breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and other spiritual healing techniques to return to harmony. Practitioners also use it as a cleansing procedure for those with weakened immunity.
Through herbal medicines and other natural means, Ayurvedic physicians enhance the patient’s ability to function normally in a process called rasayana. This stage is said to improve sexual vitality, longevity and general wellness.
Satvajaya (Mental Hygiene)
The final stage of treatment is called satvajaya, and utilizes meditation, tantra, sound therapy, geometric shapes, crystals, and metals to establish healthy mental patterns. Practitioners aim to induce altered states of consciousness for spiritual and physiological benefits.