Ayurveda as a form of Naturopathic Medicine can be defined as a system which uses the inherent principles of nature to help maintain health in a person by keeping the individual’s body, mind and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term made up of the words “ayus” and “veda.” “Ayus” means life and “Veda” means knowledge or science. The term “ayurveda” thus means ‘the knowledge of life’ or ‘the science of life’.
Widely regarded as the oldest form of healthcare in the world, Ayurveda is an intricate medical system that originated in India thousands of years ago. The fundamentals of Ayurveda can be found in Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, the ancient Indian books of wisdom. The Rig Veda, which was written over 6,000 years ago, contains a series of prescriptions that can help humans overcome various ailments.
Ayurveda is based on the premise that the universe is made up of five elements: air, fire, water, earth and ether. These elements are represented in humans by three “doshas”, or energies: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When any of the doshas accumulate in the body beyond the desirable limit, the body loses its balance. Every individual possesses a unique combination of the doshas which define this person’s temperament and characteristics so one should modulate their behavior or environment to increase or decrease the doshas to maintain their natural state and prevent disease. Ayurveda suggests specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to help individuals reduce the excess dosha.
A healthy person, as defined in Sushrut Samhita, one of the primary works on Ayurveda, is “he whose doshas are in balance, appetite is good, all tissues of the body and all natural urges are functioning properly, and whose mind, body and spirit are cheerful…”
The three doshas, or bio-energies found in our body are:
Vata pertains to air and ether elements. This energy is generally seen as the force, which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination.
Kapha pertains to water and earth elements. Kapha is responsible for growth and protection. The mucousal lining of the stomach, and the cerebral-spinal fluid that protects the brain and spinal column are examples of kapha.
Pitta pertains to fire and water elements. This dosha governs metabolism, e.g., the transformation of foods into nutrients. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems.
‘Panchakarma’ or the Therapy of Purification
Panchakarma is the traditional Ayurvedic method of detoxifying, purifying and rejuvenating the body by ridding it of ama, or toxins that have accumulated in the body. Ama may be experienced as fatigue and heaviness and can most easily be identified as a thick coating on the tongue, according to Vasant Lad, founder and director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ama is considered the root cause of disease in the Ayurvedic medicine, so getting rid of it through five(pancha) actions allows the body to heal and function at optimal levels.