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 treats more than a person's physical concerns. It also looks at lifestyle and health behaviours, diet, digestion, stress, and environmental factors.
According to Ayurveda, the five elements of nature (space, air, fire, water, earth) combine in the body as three components (doshas) known as Vata, 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.
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.
In India, Ayurveda is currently used with conventional medicine as a form of primary health care.
Why It Is Used
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 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.
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 they know about all of your health practices.
Current as of: January 3, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen M. Fairfield MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine
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