An Overview of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a system of medicine developed on the Indian subcontintent. It translates as ‘the science of life’, and
is a holistic system that equally emphasizes body, mind and spirit. As with many other holistic practices, Ayurveda
is based on the concept of balance and harmony in the function of the body. The treatment methods include
nutritional intervention, exercise, meditation, massage, breathing therapies, sunlight and herbs. Ayurveda is
widely used in India, and is more than just a system for curing illness. It's regarded as a system for maintaining
As with many other holistic systems, Ayurveda is focused on maintaining balance. In Ayurveda, the balance is
between the essences of air, fire, water, earth and spirit. The system for assigning a person to one or another of
the essences is complex, as is the system of classifying all substances according to their qualities. However, both
are central to the practice. Ayurvedic physicians undergo rigorous training to learn eight different branches of
medicine: internal medicine, surgery, eye, ear, nose and throat diseases, pediatrics, psychiatry, toxicology,
rejuvenation and fertility.
Ayurveda is growing more popular in the United States, and the demand for Ayurvedic herbs has prompted
manufacturers to conform to standards in extraction, manufacturing, packaging and labeling.
The Evidence For Ayurveda
Many of the disciplines of Ayurveda are supported by research, though there is little research to support the
practice as a whole. Therapies such as exercise and meditation offer proven benefits in lowering blood pressure,
reducing weight and controlling diet and addictions. Many of the traditionally used herbs have undergone Western
examination and testing which has identified active ingredients that do account for some positive effects on
Criticisms of Ayurveda
The criticisms of Ayurveda center on the fact that little research has been conducted to prove that the
methodologies and therapies actually work, or to determine how they work when they do. The herbal component of
Ayurveda raises most concerns, since herbs, minerals and other natural substances do contain active ingredients
that may be harmful if taken by people with certain conditions or in large doses. Because herbal treatments are
unregulated, there are many products available that may be useless or harmful.
As with any other alternative medicine, consult your doctor about any treatment, medicine or supplement to be
certain that it won’t interfere with conventional medical treatment. It should be noted that, similar to a few
other holistic disciplines, Ayurveda focuses as much on prevention of disease as on curing it. Thus, Ayurvedic
medicine is only one part of a lifestyle that is supported by an underpinning of ancient philosophies.