Richard's Whole Foods  
10% Off Register online today and receive 10% off your next in-store purchase.
Your E-mail:     
Healthy Recipes Reference Library Store Specials About Us Friday, May 05, 2006
Search Site
Departments
Reference Library
  
Sign In
My Account
Contact Us
Shopping Cart
Checkout
Help


 
 
Table of Contents > Treatment Options > Ayurveda
Ayurveda

What is Ayurveda?

Considered by many scholars to be the oldest healing science, Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health that is designed to help people live long, healthy, and well-balanced lives. The term Ayurveda is taken from the Sanskrit words ayus, meaning life or lifespan, and veda, meaning knowledge. It has been practiced in India for at least 5,000 years and has only recently became popular in Western cultures. The "contemporary" form of Ayurvedic medicine is mostly derived from several sacred Indian texts which were written in Sanskrit between 1500 BC and 400 AD. The basic principle of Ayurveda is to preventillness by maintaining balance in the body, mind, and consciousness through proper drinking, diet, and lifestyle, as well as herbal remedies.

There are two main types of Ayurveda: traditional and Maharishi. The latter is a version of traditional Ayurveda based on translations from the classical texts by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Both types of Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe herbs, believe that disease results from an imbalance in the doshas (see below), and use many of the same remedies for treating illness. Maharishi Ayurveda, however, stresses the role of supreme consciousness in maintaining good health, and promotes Transcendental Meditation (TM) as a method for experiencing the pure consciousness of the universe. Maharishi Ayurveda also highlights the need to express positive emotions and to attune your life to the natural rhythms of the body.

How does it work?

Just as everyone has a unique thumbprint, according to Ayurvedic beliefs, each person has a distinct pattern of energy -- a specific combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. It is also believed that there are three basic energy types called doshas, present in every person:

  • Vata -- energy that regulates bodily functions associated with motion including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and the beating of the heart. When vata energy is balanced, there is creativity and vitality. Out of balance, vataproduces fear and anxiety.
  • Pitta -- energy that governs the body's metabolic systems including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and body temperature. In balance, pittapromotes contentment and intelligence. Out of balance, pittacan cause ulcers and arouse anger.
  • Kapha -- energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system. In balance, kaphais expressed as love and forgiveness. Out of balance, kaphaleads to insecurity and envy.

All people have vata, pitta, and kapha,but usually one or two are dominant in a given individual. Many factors can disturb the doshabalance such as stress, an unhealthy diet, the weather, and strained family relationships. Such disturbance is expressed in the body as disease. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe treatments designed to bring the doshas back into balance.

From a Western medical perspective, relief of stress appears to be one of the ways that Ayurveda works to help fight illness. For example, studies have found that Transcendental Meditation, a component of Maharishi Ayurveda, reduces anxiety. Other studies have found that Ayurveda lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, slows the aging process, and speeds recovery from illness. The herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine often have antioxidant effects, which means that they may help protect against the damage from free radicals (by-products of normal metabolism in the body) like long term illnesses such as heart disease and arthritis. Many Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend a vegetarian diet, which is believed to be better for your heart than diets containing red meat.

What should I expect from an Ayurvedic treatment?

Ayurvedic treatment focuses on rebalancing the doshas. On your first visit, the practitioner will take a detailed medical history, check your pulse, palpate your abdomen, examine your tongue, eyes, nails, and skin, and listen to the tone of your voice. He or she will also ask you questions about your general state of health with special focus on your lifestyle, diet, habits, and environmental surroundings. Based on this assessment, he or she will then make recommendations on how to restore your natural doshabalance, which almost always includes changes in lifestyle, particular diet. Practitioners draw from more than 20 types of treatment, but the most commonly prescribed include:

  • Pranayama -- breathing exercises. Practicing pranayama generates feelings of calmness.
  • Abhyanga -- rubbing the skin with herbalized oil (usually sesame oil is the base) to increase blood circulation and draw toxins out of the body through the skin.
  • Rasayana -- using mantras (repeated words or phrases) during meditation combined with specific herbs to rejuvenate a person.
  • Yoga -- combining pranayama, movement, and meditation. Has been shown to improve circulation and digestion, and to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, anxiety, and chronic pain.
  • Pancha karma -- cleansing the body of toxins to purify the body and reduce cholesterol. Practitioners use methods to induce sweat, bowel movements, and even vomit in an effort to cleanse the body of toxins.
  • Herbal medicines -- prescribing herbs to restore dosha balance.

What is Ayurveda good for?

The goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to preventdiseases before they occur. Studies have suggested that Ayurveda may be particularly effective at reducing the risk of heart disease. For example, a recent study found that this traditional Indian medicine helped reduce plaque and reverse the thickening of artery walls known as atherosclerosis in both healthy adults as well as adults at high risk for heart disease. (Atherosclerosis is a slow, complex disease in which fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and other substances build up in the inner lining of an artery. This build-up, also known as plaque, can lead to heart attack and stroke.)

Combining yoga with an Ayurvedic herbal remedy containing Winter cherry (Withania somnifera), Boswellia (Boswellia serrata), and Turmeric (Curcuma longa) can reduce pain and disability if you have arthritis.

A number of Ayurvedic herbal remedes have been evaluated for their beneficial effects. For example, Guggulipid (Commiphora mukul), a traditional Ayurvedic medication used to treat high cholesterol, is widely used in India. It appears to effectively lower cholesterol by blocking the production of cholesterol in the liver. Similarly, fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum)seeds can decrease LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and increase HDL cholesterol levels. These effects seem to be due to reduced intestinal absorption of cholesterol, and may be related to the high fiber content of the seed. Fenugreek seeds may also help control your blood sugars if you have diabetes, again because of the high fiber content.

Other Ayurvedic herbs are being studied as treatments for Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, asthma, dementia, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), herpes, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, perimenopausal problems, and premenstrual syndrome, amongst many other conditions. Ayurvedic herbs combined with conventional medications may also be helpful for acne, chronic constipation, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and uterine fibroids.

Are there any risks?

Most Ayurvedic therapies, such as pranayama and rasayana, are unlikely to have adverse side effects. Ayurvedic herbs, however, may interact with medications. In addition, one review found that some Ayurvedic herbs contain mercury that can produce skin lesions; mercury can also raise blood pressure. Be sure to consult your doctor before trying Ayurveda, especially if you take medicines or have certain dietary restrictions such as with diabetes.

How can I find a qualified practitioner?

For a list of qualified practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine in your area, contact the National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine (NIAM) by calling 914-278-8700, by emailing niam@niam.com, or by visiting their Web site at www.niam.com. Although none of the 50 states offer a license to practice Ayurveda, there are several institutions across the United States that offer educational programs including The California College of Ayurveda, located in Grass Valley, California. The school issues a certificate of Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist. Finally, other sources of information include the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, P.O. Box 2272, Loomis, CA 95650; and theAyurvedic Institute, 11311 Menaul Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87112, 505-291-9698 or www.ayurveda.com.

Supporting Research

Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine. 2000;7(6):463-469.

Bradwejn J, Zhou Y, Koszycki D, Shlik J. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on acoustic startle response in healthy subjects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000;20(6):680-684.

Chopra A, Doiphose VV. Ayurvedic medicine. Core concept, therapeutic principles, and current relevance. MedClin North Am. 2002;86(1):75-89, vii

Chopra A, Lavin P, Patwardhan B, Chitre D. Randomized double blind trial of an ayurvedic plant derived formulation for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2000 Jun;27(6):1365-1372.

Ernst E. Adverse effects of herbal drugs in dermatology. [Review] Br J Dermatol. 2000 Nov;143(5):923-929.

Fields, JZ, Walton KG, Schneider RH, et al. Effect of multimodality natural medicine program on carotid atherosclerosis in older subjects: a pilot trial of Maharishi Vedic Medicine. Am J Cardiol. 2002;89:952-958.

Gogtay NJ, Bhatt HA, Dalvi SS, Kshirsagar NA. The use and safety of non-allopathic Indian medicines. Drug Saf. 2002;25(14):1005-1019.

Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, et al. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study. Eur J Med Res. 1998;17;3(11):511-514.

Halpern M. Ayurveda. In: Novey DW, ed. Clinician's Complete Reference to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2000:246-257.

Lad V. Ayurveda:The Science of Self-Healing. Santa Fe, NM: Lotus Press; 1984:70-79, 101.

Mantle D, Pickering AT, Perry EK. Medicinal plant extracts for the treatment of dementia: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy, and tolerability. CNS Drugs. 2000;13:201-231.

Miller AL. Botanical influences on cardiovascular disease. [Review]. Altern Med Rev. 1998;3(6):422-431.

Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Aug;5(4):334-346.

Nagashayana N, Sankarankutty P, Nampoothiri MR, Mohan PK, Mohanakumar KP. Association of L-DOPA with recovery following Ayurveda medication in Parkinson's disease. J Neurol Sci. 2000;176(2):124-127.

National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine: Current Research. Accessed on June 30, 2000 at www.niam.com/corp-web/current.htm.

Pandit S, Biswas TK, Debnath PK, et al. Chemical and pharmacological evaluation of different ayurvedic preparations of iron. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;65(2):149-156.

Paranjpe P, Kulkarni PH. Comparative efficacy of four Ayurvedic formulations in the treatment of acne vulgaris: a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled clinical evaluation. J Ethnopharmacol. 1995;49(3):127-132.

Paranjpe P, Patki P, Patwardhan B. Ayurvedic treatment of obesity: a randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990;29(1):1-11.

Perry EK, Pickering AT, Wang WW, Houghton PJ, Perry NS. Medicinal plants and Alzheimer's disease: from ethnobotany to phytotherapy.
J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999 May;51(5):527-534.

Scartezzini P, Speroni E. Review on some plants of Indian traditional medicine with antioxidant activity. [review]. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Jul;71(1-2):23-43.

Sharma HM. Maharishi Ayurveda. In: Micozzi MS, ed. Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone Inc.; 1996:243-257.

Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hypotheses. 1992;39(4):342-348.

Yadav SK, Jain AK, Tripathi SN, Gupta JP. Irritable bowel syndrome: therapeutic evaluation of indigenous drugs. Indian J Med Res. 1989;90:496-503.

Zysk KG. Traditional Ayurveda. In: Micozzi MS, ed. Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone Inc.; 1996:233-242.


Review Date: December 2002
Reviewed By: Constance Grauds, RPh, President, Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists, San Rafael, CA; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Boston, Ma and Senior Medical Editor A.D.A.M., Inc.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
RELATED INFORMATION
  Related Articles
View Articles
 

Home | Store Locations | Buy Online | Store Specials | About Us | Delicious Living | Reference Library | News & Features | Health Tools | Treatment Options | Healthy Recipes | Ingredient Glossary | My Account | Contact Us | Help | Shopping Cart | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use |



Powered By Living Naturally