“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” ~ Ayurvedic proverb
Modern medicine has shifted away from preventative measures. Instead, it is focused more on responsive measures with a heavy emphasis on the use of prescription drugs. As a result, more people are starting to discover natural, holistic approaches to healthcare.
What is the Modern Approach?
The USA is commonly seen as a nation with advanced modern medicine, right? So, let’s use them as an example. What we will do is use money and where the consumers (people seeking help) are spending it as a rough idea as to what the population and practitioner behaviours are.
- Americans filled 4.3 billion prescriptions and doled out nearly $374 billion on medicine in 2014, according to new data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
- Americans spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) over the previous 12 months, according to a 2007 government survey¹.
Ok, so nearly 1/120th of consumer spending (health solution seekers) is on Complementary and alternative means, of which ayurvedic is an even smaller portion of that. So that would suggest that less than 1 in 120 people in the USA would look to natural healing methods before they take synthetic prescription-based medicine. Isn’t that interesting?
While modern medicine appears to be overwhelmed with treating the symptoms, holistic-integrated healthcare in the form of nutrition and lifestyle changes, focuses on the underlying root causes of pain and disease. It utilises the bodies natural healing mechanisms as a foundation for healing. The argument could be that modern medicine is now the alternative.
What is Ayurvedic Medicine?
Ayurvedic Medicine is a simple, natural approach to taking care of the body. It takes into consideration the entire framework of the human body including body, soul, and spirit.
According to the online resource Ayurvedacures.com, “Ayurveda is a holistic healing science which comprises of two words, Ayu and Veda. Ayu means life and Veda means knowledge or science. So, the literal meaning of the word Ayurveda is the “science of life.”
Ayurveda is a medical science dealing not only with treatment of some diseases, but it is a complete way of life. Ayurveda aims to make a happy, healthy, and peaceful society. The two most important aims of Ayurveda are to maintain wellness in healthy people and to cure the diseases of sick people.
Watch this video about the history behind Ayurveda.
History of Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurveda is the most ancient science of healing which enhances longevity. It has influenced many of the older traditional methods of healing including Tibetan, Chinese and Greek medicine. Hence, Ayurveda is considered by many as the “mother of healing.”
It is believed that the origin of Ayurveda is to be divine, stemming from the Hindu God Brahma. This knowledge was then handed down in the form of holy books, called the Vedas, which date back about five thousand years. From there, ancient schools of Hindu philosophical teachings were established to promote and practice this form of holistic healthcare starting in the 2nd century B.C.
Ayurvedic Medicine has long been the traditional form of medicine in India. Although it originally influenced other systems of healthcare, it is largely practised mainly in Hindu-based societies. This is in areas where the Vedas are influential such as Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Tibet.
Today, more people are learning about and turning to this holistic approach of medicine. Its principles and approaches take into consideration the entire person and beyond.
What are the Principles and Practices of Ayurvedic Medicine?
Ayurvedic Medicine takes into account more than just the immediate symptoms of an illness or disease. It takes into account the entire makeup of a person as well as life forces and a person’s connection to the universe.
Key concepts of Ayurvedic medicine include universal interconnection (among people, their health, and the universe), the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (dosha). Using these concepts, Ayurvedic physicians prescribe individualised treatments. These include compounds of herbs or proprietary ingredients as well as diet, exercise and lifestyle recommendations.
More specifically Ayurveda believes that the universe is comprised of five elements (these interestingly align with the original teaching and observations of Hippocrates, seen as the father of medicine):
- Space or Ether
These five elements are believed to form the three basic humors of the human body in varying combinations.
These three humors control the basic physiological functions of the body.
Ayurveda also believes that the human body consists of:
- Seven tissues (Saptadhatus)
- Tissue fluids (Rasa)
- Fat and connective tissue (Meda)
- Blood (Rakta)
- Bones (Asthi)
- Marrow (Majja)
- Muscle (Mamsa)
- Semen (Shukra)
And three waste products:
- Feces (Purisha)
- Urine (Mutra)
- Sweat (Sweda)
According to Ayurvedic beliefs, just as everyone has a unique fingerprint, each person has a distinct pattern of energy. This consists of a specific combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Ayurvedic practitioners also believe there are three basic energy types (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) called doshas, which are present in every person.
Everyone has vata, pitta, and kapha. But usually one or two are dominant in a particular person. Many things can disturb the energy balance, such as stress, an unhealthy diet, the weather, and strained family relationships. The disturbance shows up as disease. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe treatments to bring the doshas back into balance.
For a healthy state of mind and body, a consistent balance between all these elements should be maintained.
How is Ayurvedic Medicine Relevant Today?
More people than ever are becoming sick and turning to modern medicine’s treatment of choice – prescription drugs. At the same time, the history and practice of Ayurveda is becoming more and more relevant in today’s society as people have begun to seek other options for healthcare.
With the invention and prevalence of technology and the internet, more people are learning about different cultures and their healthcare practices.
People are starting to realise that diseases cannot always be cured by western medicine. They realise that other factors such as diet, nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle choices are not just factors that are causing their illness but also factors that can cure their illness.
Although Ayurvedic Medicine is prevalent in Indian society, it is now being spread into other Western societies. People now have greater access to this form of healthcare knowledge through the internet and travel. Also, some universities in places such as the United States teach Ayurvedic Medicine to their students.
While modern science is still out on Ayurvedic Medicine and its healing powers of diseases, it has stood the test of time. More people are looking for more natural, alternative forms of healthcare instead of western medicine’s prescription drugs. Ayurveda has become a more popular source for healthy and balanced living.
Ayurveda is one of the most renowned traditional systems of medicine. It has survived and flourished from the ages until today. With the enormous knowledge of nature-based medicine, the relationship of human body constitution and function to nature and the elements of the universe that act in coordination and affect living beings, this system will continue to flourish.
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