It is an ancient healing system that has been practised in India for thousands of years to prevent, manage and treat illnesses. The name means “science of life” and it uses a variety of products and techniques to cleanse the body of substances that can cause disease, and to balance the mind, body and spirit.
According to texts written more than 2000 years ago, it can be used for everything from internal medicine and obstetrics through to psychiatry and sexual vitality.
Ayurvedic medicine is based on the premise that you have good health if your mind and body are in harmony, and your interaction with the universe is natural and wholesome. Diseases happen when you are out of harmony with the universe, and the effect on your health can be physical, emotional, spiritual or a mixture. Practitioners believe we all have a unique combination of physical and psychological traits which make up our constitution and affect our health. We also have three life forces, or energies, known as doshas, that control the way our bodies work. Your chances of developing certain types of illnesses are thought to be related to the way doshas are balanced and how they are affected by a variety of outside influences, such as lifestyle, diet and our mental state.
Treatments are tailored to each person’s constitution and often involve:
- Eliminating impurities, which can be done using massage, enemas and medical oils.
- Reducing symptoms: Ways of doing this include physical and breathing exercises, massage and dietary changes.
- Increasing resistance to illness: Doses of tonics containing herbs, proteins, vitamins and minerals may be given to improve immunity.
- Reducing worry: Nurturing good mental health and spiritual wellbeing is encouraged.
As well as containing herbs and other plants, some preparations contain metals and a couple of US studies have found that some may contain harmful levels of components such as lead and mercury. Some of the herbs may cause side effects or interfere with conventional medicines. Always tell your doctor if using alternative therapies, and your Ayurvedic practitioner if you are on conventional medication.