Originating in India more than 5,000 years ago and survived and flourished till date, Ayurveda is deemed to be the world's oldest complete medical system and it is today’s next big thing in alternative health. Like all holistic health systems, Ayurveda emphasizes the unshakable connections between the body, mind, and spirit. However, Ayurveda's connectedness extends far beyond the individual, reaching into the universal.
Geographically centred in South India (and notably in Kerala), the Ayurvedic philosophy of medicine is truly a holistic approach, based on the philosophy that health is dependent upon a person living in harmony with their internal and external world. Traditionally, mental health was as important as physical health. It was taught that in order to live a healthy, productive life one had to balance their mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.
Ayurvedic medicine is founded on the belief that illness is a result of an imbalance in the mind, body or soul. The body is self-healing if it is kept in spiritual and physical balance and this is basically what Ayurveda is about - helping the body to help itself.
Health and disease are by-products of aspects of one's life, such as nutrition, career, mental attitude, family and social activities, and spiritual life. If one area is weakened, all areas begin to suffer. To have and maintain true health, we need to nurture ourselves and keep all these things in balance, which is the key of Ayurveda.
The essential belief of Ayurveda is that the entire universe is made up of five elements - air, fire, water, earth, ether -, in their biological form in the living body are known as Doshas, or the humors, - Vata, Pitta, Kapha - that flow within us.
Doshas dictate everything about us, from the colour of our hair to the type of illnesses we suffer. They are even responsible for the foods we crave, our relationships and the things we like to do. We all contain elements of vata, pitta and kapha, but generally we have one - or sometimes two - dominant doshas. This unique combination is determined at the moment of conception, and is your own personal blueprint, or prakriti (nature). As you move through life, the proportion of each of the three doshas constantly fluctuates according to your environment, your diet, the seasons, the climate, your age, and many other factors. As they move into and out of balance, the doshas can affect your health, energy level, and general mood.
The goal of treatment within the system of Ayurvedic medicine is the re-balancing of these three doshas. In other words, by balancing the body’s doshas, Ayurvedic medicine is preventative, as it seeks to inhibit diseases from occurring in the first place.
A typical ayurvedic assessment would include an initial diagnosis. Subsequent treatment might include herbal medicines, massage, steam bath, shirodhara (herbal oil dripped on to the head), vasti (enema using medicated oils) and herbal body massage, or even detox by panchakarma.
Most ayurvedic herbal remedies are combinations rather than single herbs. Based on centuries of knowledge, are designed to support organ health and balance internal functions and are used to prevent and treat most conditions. The herbs and herbal formulas, developed by Ayurvedic physicians throughout its history are being accepted by western medicine and science. Studies and research are showing that these herbs are beneficial in many ways and the natural approach to health and wellness is becoming much more popular, in lieu of drug therapies and surgery.