The Ayurvedic System of Medicine

There are several traditional systems of medicine developed in different parts of the world, but none are as old as the Ayurvedic system. It has its roots so far back in antiquity that it is the oldest record of anything anywhere on earth besides fossils.

It is said that ten thousand years ago the wisdoms of the gods were put in hymns that were passed down from generation to generation. They were like poems to song. Three to four thousand years ago they were written down in four books which we know of as The Vedas.

Ayurveda Meaning

Then there were other writings by religious leaders who wrote about the Vedas, gleaning from them the wisdom in order to put it to use. This is where the Ayurveda comes from.

Ayurveda is a word which means knowledge about life from the Sanskrit word Ayur meaning life or span of life and Veda meaning knowledge or science. 

The idea is that all areas of life affect one's health and happiness. That is why the Ayurveda covered all different subjects and aspects of life, for example astrology, spirituality, government, politics, art and humanities as well as healthcare information and techniques.

Ayurveda does not concentrate on disease. It teaches that ill health comes about from imbalances between the mind, body and spirit. Its focus is on lifestyle. Practices and remedies are designed to bring back the balance.

They include purification processes or cleanses, diet, herbal remedies, massage therapy, yoga and meditation and any path to return to happiness as it is unhappiness that brings about the symptoms of disease in the first place.

The 5 Elements

The basic premise is that the universe is made ofPancha Mahabhoota, which means the 5 elements. Another way it is called isPancha Maha Bhutas meaning the 5 great elements. Anytime I have studied anything from India I have noticed that there doesn't seem to be any standardization of spelling, so don’t let that confuse you. These elements areEther, Air, Fire, WaterandEarth.

I am sure you recognize four of these, but what is Ether? Well, it is not the gas, that came much later. In Ayurveda, Ether is both the idea of physical space that holds everything in the universe, but also it is the unseen power of everything and nothing. It is an unmeasurable spirituality that can affect all of existence. It is universal, formless and unmoving.

It is said that Ether was there, then in getting active formed Air and the interaction of Air and Ether made space for Fire to burn. Fire caused the Air to become dense and form water and this continued formed Earth. It was an evolution of condensing. Everything originates in Ether and is contained in the Earth element.

These elements are present in everything including bodies. Their different combinations form the characteristics of a person. There are 3 patterns of energy that relate to which element or combination of elements tend to collect in a person. These are calledDoshas which are energies that solidify to earth elements and they each have their particular weaknesses. The weakness is in relation to the accumulation of an element instead of its continuous replenishment and replacement. This is how it becomes unbalanced.

The 3 Doshas areVata, Pitta andKapha. 

  • Vatais related toAir andEthernot clearing out and replenishing with regularity.
  • Pitta is related toFireandWater not being let go and replenished with fresh elements and therefore getting imbalanced
  • Kaphais related to stagnatingWater andEarth.

One dosha is not considered more important than another. It is different combinations of the doshas or elements in the person that makes the personality and individuality. 

It is not a matter of being a better dosha, but the balancing of all the doshas. And balancing doesn't mean that they should be in equal amounts, but that they are all continuously replenished and there is no build up of one. 

For purposes of healing, doshas are used to categorize body types. One is thought of as having a genetic or spiritual predisposition to a dosha or a certain combination of doshas. 

These doshas are used to determine what remedies are best for a person. Remedies for Vata tend to be geared toward regularity since Vatas by nature are more ethereal and random.

Remedies for Pitta tend toward moderation since fire can burn too much resulting in anger and disease.

Remedies for Kapha tend to be toward stimulation since it contains the heaviest elements and can fall into inertia or stagnation.

There are also best practices for each Dosha as to the kind of exercise, diet, and daily routine as the main objective of Ayurveda is to stay healthy.

Overview of woman with a mortar with herbs in it and bowls of herbs in the background on a tray

The Digestive System is The Key

The thing that is true for all Doshas is that the digestive system must be kept strong. The digestive force or energy is referred to asAGNI which means fire. Digestive fire manifests in the body as a combination of gallbladder secretion known as bile along with pancreatic secretions which are digestive enzymes. They both enter the duodenum, the first part of the small intestines, through the common bile duct. So it's like a Y tube that drains into the first part of the small intestines. This Y and the duodenum are calledThe Seat of Agni. 

The first thing that is said to go wrong in a body is the diminishing of the power of Agni. This is not at all surprising because in all ancient healing systems it is the same, even though they may use different words to describe it. 

In the Ayurvedic system the build up of detrimental elements from undigested food is calledAma. 

It is believed in Ayurveda that Ama is the reason we get gallstones and kidney stones. It progresses through the body like a polluted river that backed up and reversed from the intestines to the rest of the body. It causes every disease known to man.

This is why the procedure common to balancing all the doshas is cleansing the gallstones from the whole biliary or bile system. This restores The Seat of AGNI. Agni, incidentally, is also the name of the Fire God.

In Western medicine it is unknown that the most detrimental gallstones are formed when Ama backs up from the intestines into the liver. There can be hundreds of gallstones in the bile ducts of the liver because of this. The cleansing of these gallstones is the first thing done in remedying any disease or imbalance.

Then diet and herbal remedies are used along with other modalities to bring back balance. 

Deep practitioners of Ayurveda say that every material is potentially medicinal. Over 1500 herbs have been described in Ayurvedic writings from 2500 BC to 1900 AD. Here are just a few popular ones categorized by the Doshas more commonly in need of them. But remember everyone has all the doshas in them, so they are actually good for everyone, but most needed by those doshas.

Vata:

Ashwagandha

Triphala

Ginger


Pitta:

Guta Kola

Brahmi (Bacopa)

Dandelion


Kapha:

Turmeric

Tulsi (Holy Basil or Indian Basil)

Ginseng


So there you have it, the basics of the Ayurvedic system. I hope you enjoyed it.

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*This article is intended for informational purposes. The statements above have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Author

Rosalie Roder got her Bachelors' degrees in Chemistry and Biology from Mary Baldwin University in 1983. After graduation, with that background, her real education on natural health and healing and human potential began. It is a never ending study and she is always happy to share what she has found out so far.