Ayurvedic medicine has been the traditional medicine of India and Sri Lanka for at least the past two thousand years. It is a combination of philosophy and science. As such, it takes into account every aspect of a person's life andrequires a large degree of patient involvement, and even belief. Because itis a holistic system, it concentrates as much on the individual's mental andspiritual well-being as it does on physical health and seeks to guide individuals to their natural, inner harmony.
Ayurvedic medicine seeks first to prevent disease by keeping an individual'sconstitution sound and strong, since good health is a means to attain a meaningful life. When a person does get ill, the Ayurvedic practitioner tries to discover what has put his or her constitution out of balance. As a total system of healthcare, Ayurvedic medicine goes far beyond any single type of therapy or treatment and offers instead a complete life regimen.
One of the basic tenets of Ayurvedic medicine is the important principle of "biologic individuality." This means that each person is a unique individual with his or her own special physical and mental constitution, and must, consequently, be treated individually. Therefore, what works for one person does not automatically work for another with the same condition. It is the skill ofthe practitioner that identifies the exact composition of each person's constitution or his or her psycho-physiological type. There are ten major types that are derived from the different combinations of "doshas," or the three vital energies. Since bad health is the result of an imbalance in an individual'sdosha, Ayurvedic practitioners first diagnose the exact imbalance and then prescribe some combination of diet, exercise, herbal products, and purification procedures to rebalance the patient's dosha.
The primary diagnostic tool for the Ayurvedic physician is simple observation. Doing without most equipment or laboratory testing, the experienced practitioner first asks many questions of the patient, learning details of his health history, as well as that of his family. After those medical questions, he inquires as to the type of child and adolescent the patient was, and learn about the patient's lifestyle, job, likes and dislikes, and habits. During the physical examination, the physician observes the patient very closely, first simply noting his overall appearance, especially his coloring. He then studiesthe eyes, lips, tongue, and nails, looking for signs of doshic imbalance. Inaddition to palpation, or feeling the body and its internal organs, he listens to intestines, heart, and lungs. The tongue is an especially important diagnostic site, as discoloration and localized sensitivity indicate particularproblems with internal organs. Some physicians examine a patient's stools, while most routinely perform an examination of a patient's urine, focusing on color and odor.
Once the Ayurvedic physician completes his diagnosis, he selects therapeuticsgeared to both the body and the mind. According to the nature of the imbalance, the patient may first undergo some detoxifying or cleansing therapies. These may include sweating in a steam bath or the taking of a laxative or enema.
After the patient is detoxified, the physician may prescribe an herbal remedyto correct the "dosha" imbalance. These are not intended to eliminate any disease, since the disease is the result or symptom of the original imbalance.Essential to this therapy is the physician's advice concerning the patient'slifestyle, food, eating habits, and exercise. Good habits in each of these areas work toward maintaining one's balance following detoxification and therapy.
Meditation is the major tool for stress reduction. It consists of several methods, to concentrate the mind using a variety of breathing exercises and/or chanting. Another goal is the elimination of repressed emotions, because Ayurvedic medicine believes that toxins can be produced by repressed and/or negative emotions.
Ayurvedic medicine is not licensed in the United States. The fact that it isa person-specific type of medicine, with no one particular cure appropriate for every disease or patient, makes it especially difficult to assess from a traditional Western medical viewpoint.
As an overall healthcare system, Ayurvedic medicine is safe for most people if they are in the hands of a qualified practitioner. However, certain detoxifying treatments, such as enemas, may not be suitable for pregnant women or patients with frail health. Herbal remedies should be taken with care, following the quantity and dosage carefully. Using Ayurvedic medicine in cases of severe trauma, acute pain, diseases in an advanced stage, or in place of neededsurgery presents a major risk to the patient.