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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Ayurveda
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Ayurveda, or ayurvedic medicine, is a healthy-lifestyle system that people in India have used for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda emphasizes good health and prevention and treatment of illness through lifestyle practices (such as massage, meditation, yoga, and dietary changes) and the use of herbal remedies.
Ayurvedic medicine is holistic, which means viewing the body and mind as a whole. Ayurveda not only treats a person's physical complaints, but it also changes lifestyle practices to help maintain or improve health.
According to ayurveda, the five elements of nature (space, air, fire, water, earth) combine in the body as three components (doshas) known as Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. These doshas relate closely to the basic elements of nature and to specific functions of the body. A balance of these doshas is thought to be required for optimal health.
The doshas, which are determined at the time of conception, also relate to an individual's physical makeup and personality. A person with a Vatta makeup tends to have a small, thin build. The Pitta body style is more of a medium, muscular build. The Kapha appearance is usually bigger and well-developed. Most people are considered to have a combination of doshas, with one type usually being predominant.
In ayurvedic medicine, it is thought that if an imbalance occurs in any of the three doshas, illness results. Ayurvedic medicine treats illness in many ways, including dietary changes, herbal remedies, and exercise. According to the ayurvedic philosophy, you can also use yoga, meditation, or counseling to treat disease.
Some people use ayurvedic practices to maintain health, reduce stress, and improve flexibility, strength, and stamina. Practices like yoga and meditation can be helpful for people with diseases such as asthma, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
Ayurveda stresses proper diet for maintaining good health and treating disease. Herbal medicines are prescribed based on the person's dosha type.
Ayurvedic practices such as yoga and meditation can be safe ways to promote health. If you have a long-term illness, you may be able to combine ayurveda with conventional medical treatment.
Ayurvedic herbal medicines, like conventional medicines, may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with other medicines or herbs you are taking. Some ayurvedic medicines may contain high levels of heavy metals, which may be harmful to your body.
Talk with your doctor about any complementary health practice that you would like to try or are already using. Your doctor can help you manage your health better if he or she knows about all of your health practices.
Other Works Consulted
Sodhi V (2013). Ayurveda: The science of life and mother of the healing arts. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 248–254. St. Louis: Mosby.
Current as of: December 20, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen M. Fairfield MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine
Current as of: December 20, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen M. Fairfield MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine
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