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What is Ayurvedic Medicine?

Medically reviewed by 
 
What is Ayurvedic Medicine?

While the mind-body connection has gained incredible recognition, this important concept has been at the heart of the practice of Ayurveda since it originated over 3000 years ago in India. Ayurveda means the "knowledge or science of life." It is a type of holistic and preventive medicine built on ancient wisdom and heavily rooted in science. 

Ayurveda is based on the principle that illness and disease are due to body, mind, and spirit imbalances. It encompasses evidenced-based practices that promote balance among the body systems while also attending to the needs of the mind, heart, and soul. Ayurveda encourages attunement to the needs of our whole being while living in alignment with the natural rhythms of the universe. While considered preventive and holistic, this integrative health practice has significant implications for health and well-being as it recognizes many factors that influence our health. 

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What is Ayurvedic Medicine? 

Ayurveda is ancient wisdom for health in mind, body, and spirit. This ancient practice takes an integrative yet science-based approach to health, prioritizing balance among the body systems for optimal health. It also encourages balance among the body, mind, heart, and spirit. Ayurvedic Medicine emphasizes mind-body attunement when it comes to health. This can be incredibly empowering and more of a preventive way of addressing health, often lacking in conventional medicine. Ayurvedic Medicine brings it back to the basics, however, with significant implications for our health. 

Ayurvedic medicine is rooted in biochemical individuality regarding our health, recognizing that we all have various needs based on our unique genetic biochemical makeup, experiences, and environmental influences. Ayurveda recognizes and appreciates the body's self-healing process to achieve balance. A one size fits all approach is not aligned with Ayurvedic Medicine. Instead, this approach emphasizes the importance of slowing down, taking care of yourself, aligning with your truth, and living a fully present life that nourishes you from the inside out, depending on your unique biochemical makeup (1). 

Ayurvedic Medicine is rooted in the ideology that all things in the natural world are made up of five major elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether (space). These elements represent ideas relative to nature and matter. A combination of each element results in three doshas which describe one's dominant mind-body energy state. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Doshas are regulatory factors for energy, behavior, mood, and optimal health.

While these doshas are present in all of us, it is thought that each of us has a dominant dosha from the moment we are born that serves as a blueprint for optimal health. In Ayurveda, one's health is considered to be influenced based on their dosha, and striving for balance in this domain is important for supporting health and wellness. When our doshas are balanced, we will likely feel more grounded, healthy, and vibrant. On the other hand, when our doshas are out of balance, we may experience digestive issues, irritability, or anxiety. Working with our dominant dosha is a way to enhance our health because we are working with our nature to optimize our health. In fact, there is growing research to suggest unique genetic, metabolic, and physiological patterns associated with each of the doshas. 

Principles of Ayurvedic medicine may consist of implementing personalized nutrition protocols, the use of herbs and spices among other medicinal plants, lifestyle changes that support our dosha, mind-body practices such as yoga, breathwork or meditation, connection with nature, as well as support for digestion, detox, and or immunity. Ayurvedic Medicine takes a root-cause approach to health, recognizing that the whole person can suffer when one system is out of balance. 

For instance, when the microbiome is out of balance, we may largely feel out of balance as it is so interconnected with all aspects of our health. Ayurvedic medicine also recognizes the importance of addressing imbalances in the mind and spirit, recognizing the multidimensional factors that constitute health. 

This approach acknowledges the role that stress and other lifestyle factors play in the pathophysiology of inflammatory conditions such as obesity and depression. Ayurvedic Medicine also recognizes food's role in inducing metabolic processes that influence our health. Food as medicine is a strong component of this approach, recognizing our biochemical individuality according to our doshas. Ayurvedic Medicine also acknowledges the importance of the time we consume our foods, termed chrono nutrition, which can benefit our health (1). 

Ayurvedic Medicine also recognizes the importance of being aligned with natural circadian rhythms and our connection to nature and others in terms of optimizing our health and energy. 

What Medical Evidence Supports Ayurvedic Medicine? 

Ayurvedic Medicine is well-evidenced and referenced in the literature for various health conditions. 

Research supports Ayurvedic Medicine in the form of medicinal plants for Dementia. This 2018 review found that several popular medicinal plants in Ayurvedic Medicine, including (Ashwagandha, Turmeric, Brahmi, and Shankhpushpi, among others) positively affected the brain by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation while regenerating neural tissue. 

There is also research to support how Ayurvedic Medicine enhances the immune system through the anti-inflammatory properties exhibited by plants and has strong implications for digestion, absorption, and microbiome health. Specifically, relative to immunity, research suggests that enhancement in natural killer cells and T helper cells could be the mechanism by which immunity is enhanced through Ayurvedic plants.

Research supports using many ayurvedic plants, like herbs, for anxiety disorders and insomnia. In this 2023 review, there was evidence for herbs such as Valerian Root, Hops, and Ginkgo supporting these conditions. It is imperative to note that these herbs may interact with other medications. As part of a holistic approach to anxiety, lifestyle should also equally be addressed. 

A recent systematic review of randomized and non-randomized trials looked at Ayurvedic Medicine in treating chronic rhinosinusitis, a condition that causes swelling of the lining of the sinuses. It was concluded that Ayurvedic therapy reduced subjective symptoms of those with chronic rhinosinusitis. 

Ayurvedic Medicine has also been supported in the literature with regard to hypothyroidism. In Ayurveda, imbalances in the body that contribute to hypothyroidism are examined such as enzymatic activity, hormones, and stress. In this study, herbal plants that exhibited thyrotropic activities along with yoga showed favorable results in managing this condition. 

Another study found that Ayurvedic Medicine, using several specialized plants with anti-inflammatory and other biological properties, helped reduce symptoms associated with Arthritis. Further research has found evidence for therapeutic, anti-inflammatory properties in many of the plants and herbs used in Ayurvedic Medicine with implications for many ailments. 

What is The Vata Dosha? 

Vata Doshas comprise the elements air and ether (or space). They are often characterized as energetic and creative. However, their mood is easily influenced by the people they surround themselves with, the weather, and the foods they consume. Those with the Vata dosha may get overwhelmed easily and be prone to digestive and circulation issues. Those with this dominant dosha tend to be irregular metabolizers, requiring smaller yet more frequent quantities of food as they have difficulty coping with hunger (1). Routine is often important for a Vata-dominant dosha to manage energy and stress. Meditation may be of particular value. 

What is The Vata Dosha Diet?

The Vata Dosha Diet consists of various nutrient-dense whole foods that are soft and warm in texture to support optimal digestion and elimination (1). These foods may include berries, watercress, avocados, bananas, peaches, and dairy, such as yogurt. Foods rich in good quality protein and fas, such as wild-caught salmon, free-range organic chicken, and grass-fed beef, are often recommended for grounding and sustainability. Spices are also encouraged to promote optimal balance for Vata Dosha, including black pepper, dill, cumin, and ginger while avoiding cold and bitter foods. 

What is The Pitta Dosha?

The Pitta Dosha is composed of fire and water elements. Those with dominant pitta doshas tend to have more efficient digestion and can withstand colder temperatures as their body temperature tends to be higher. They are also considered fast metabolizers, requiring larger quantities of food than the other doshas, as their tolerance for hunger and thirst is lower based on their genomic profile (1). They tend to be intelligent, confident, and competitive by nature. Those with this dosha can benefit from meditation, mental challenges, and sufficient sleep to keep their energy grounded. 

What is The Pitta Dosha Diet? 

The Pitta Dosha Diet encourages cool, light, and energizing foods such as raw foods, fruit juices, non-starchy vegetables, and eggs. Watermelon, celery, kale, dandelion greens, collard greens, and cabbage are great balancing foods for the Pitta Dosha. This diet encourages avoiding heavy and spicy foods such as red meat and potatoes while supporting the consumption of white chicken and turkey meat, venison, and shrimp. 

What is The Kapha Dosha?

The Kapha Dosha encompasses the elements of earth and water. Those with this dosha type are often characterized as strong, steady, stable, empathetic, and caring. They may be more prone to slower metabolism, depression, and problems with mucus buildup. As Kapha doshas tend to be slower metabolizers, they require smaller amounts of food less frequently as they have a higher tolerance for thirst and hunger (1). Those with Kapha-dominant doshas must get adequate exercise, maintain regular sleep routines with good sleep hygiene, and follow a healthy diet that optimizes balance. 

What is The Kapha Dosha Diet?

The Kapha Dosha Diet encourages the consumption of spicy, hot, and somewhat acidic filling foods, such as veggies, fruits, eggs, and unprocessed meats. Artichokes, asparagus, beets, eggplant, cauliflower, and broccoli are excellent vegetables for this dosha, whereas peaches, apples, pears, cranberries, and berries are great selections of fruits. This type of dosha diet encourages avoiding fatty and processed foods and inflammatory oils as this can promote a further imbalance in the body while instead encouraging proteins from freshwater fish, white organic chicken, free-range eggs, and venison (1).

What is Ayurvedic Treatment?

Ayurvedic Treatment focuses on restoring balance among body, mind, and spirit. While treatment will vary depending on the individual's presenting concerns, some central components of Ayurvedic Treatment comprise personalized nutrition, detox protocols to eliminate toxins and impurities from the system, support with digestion and absorption, along with lifestyle factors that promote balance among the body systems like sleep and movement. 

Ayurveda recognizes that not one aliment manifests or presents the same in all of us. According to our doshas, we all have differences in our biochemical makeup and energies of the body and mind. Forms of this treatment may include strategies to bring balance among the body, mind, and soul, encompassing yoga, breathwork, mindfulness, meditation, and spending more time in nature. Ayurveda emphasizes the mind-body connection and encourages us to slow down and tune into the natural signs and alignment of the universe and our unique nature, such as bringing awareness and integration of our doshas.

Ayurveda recognizes the importance of being in touch with our emotions and the signals from our body since suppressing both can further lead to imbalance and toxicity. Part of Ayurvedic Treatment may involve being more attuned to your emotions and cues from your body while finding ways to feel authentic to you to process and release those feelings while meeting your needs. Additionally, Ayurveda uses herbs, spices, and a plant-based diet to maximize health with phytonutrients and phytochemicals.  

Do Ayurveda Practitioners Run Labs?

Ayurveda is largely based on promoting balance in the body to restore health and wellness. Practitioners of Ayurveda may request labs to gain more insight into what is occurring in the body on a biochemical level, as this most effectively supports personalized and optimal health. While these labs will vary depending on the individual's presentation, here is a list of some that may be common in Ayurvedic practice. 

Comprehensive Stool Test

This test provides valuable insight into the diversity and ratio of bacteria in our gut. Microbiome health is foundational to all aspects of our health. Microbes in the gut play a role in regulating inflammation and mood, as well as influencing energy absorption and detox. If someone's microbiome is out of balance, feelings of fatigue, compromised mood, or even issues with metabolic and hormonal health may be present. 

DUTCH Plus

This test is best for those who suspect they have hormonal imbalances. Hormones work in delicate synchronicity to orchestrate the different processes in our body that make us feel balanced, grounded, and connected with all other aspects of our health. When our hormones are imbalanced from stress, diet, or other lifestyle factors, we can be more prone to fatigue, weight gain, inflammation, anxiety, or depression. This test thoroughly assesses sex and adrenal hormones and their metabolites. It also assesses the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR) to assess for HPA-Axis activity.

Methylation Panel

This test looks at methylation, a process with several biological roles in the body. Many of these biological processes are slowed down or paused without sufficient methylation. Methylation is needed for healthy DNA, neurotransmitters, hormones, and detox. When methylation is compromised, high levels of homocysteine become elevated in the blood, leading to oxidative stress and inflammation, which can lead to problems with detox, accelerated aging, mood, nervous system, and cardiovascular health. 

Amino Acids

Amino acids are essential to nearly every function of the body. They are necessary to synthesize protein, hormones and neurotransmitters, aid in detox, and build bile for efficient digestion. The demand for amino acids in individual tissues determines the rates of uptake. This means that we all have varying needs for amino acids based on our unique biochemical individuality and current state of health. Insufficient amounts of amino acids can result in feelings of fatigue and low energy, compromised mood and concentration, among others. The Amino Acids Analysis is a urine test that can help analyze amino acid levels.

Organic Acids

This test assesses for products of metabolism excreted in the urine, including intestinal yeast and bacteria, vitamin and mineral levels, oxidative stress, neurotransmitters, and oxalates. Measurements of organic acids can provide nutritional insight as they can assess for enzyme deficits, nutrient deficiencies, or toxic build-up, which could be insightful for someone struggling with energy or mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, chronic stress or fatigue, or mood imbalances.

Summary 

Ayurvedic Medicine is built on the ancient wisdom of promoting health and healing by restoring body balance on a biochemical level, integrating holistic practices that encompass mind, body, and spirit. It is a way of life. Ayurveda is an integrative yet evidenced-based approach to health that considers the many factors that influence our health and well-being, emphasizing one's nutrition and lifestyle, unique biochemical make-up and energies, and their relationship to spirituality and nature. Ayurveda encourages synchronicity within mind, body, and soul, along with the universe's natural rhythms, for optimal health, vitality, and wellness. 

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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