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Ayurveda is a traditional system of Indian Vedic medicine. The term comes from the name of one of the ancient sacred scriptures of Hinduism in Sanskrit, the Vedas. “Ayurveda” in Sanskrit means the knowledge or the science of longevity. Ayurveda is considered one of the most ancient medical systems on the planet. Its main principles were written down over two thousand years ago in India. Ayurveda was studied by the Tibetans, the Chinese, the Egyptians, and the Greeks who continued practicing it after returning home and passed it down to younger generations.

Ayurveda is both a medical and philosophical system. Its main purpose is attaining harmony and good health for the physical body, mind, and spirit. Ayurveda views and studies the life of the human being and the life of the whole Universe as integral and interconnected parts of each other.

According to Ayurvedic teachings, all matter and the human organism in particular are comprised of five primary elements: earth (Pṛthvī), water (Jala), fire (Agni), air (Vāyu), and ether (Ākāśa). These elements join together in different proportions to form three substances — doṣa (Devanāgarī — “that which deteriorates, fault, defect”). These three elemental energies or humours regulate bodily functions of the human organism. The three doṣa are:

  • Vāyu vāta (air & space — “wind”) — the impulse principle responsible for mobility of the functions of the nervous system. It regulates all activity in the body, starting from the movement of thoughts to the movement of food. It is in charge of such functions as pulsation of the heart, respiration, circulation, and elimination;
  • pitta (fire & water — “bile”) — the fire or  energy principle, which regulates digestion and metabolism by means of bile, enzymes, and amino acids. Everything that enters the body must be “digested” and assimilated from sensory perception to food for nourishment;
  • kapha (water & earth — “phlegm”) is the fluidity and stability principle of the body. Kapha comprises all our cells, tissues, and organs. Lubrication of joints and organs, strong muscles and bones, cellular secretions, and memory retention are all part of kapha’s function.

If the three doṣa are in balance in the human organism, the person is in good health. Imbalance may be caused by improper nutrition or seasonal changes, which the human organism cannot manage on its own, as well as excessive predominance of one doṣa over the other ones. The major reason for diseases, according to Ayurvedic teachings, lies in the disturbance of one’s psycho-emotional state. Indian doctors view all diseases as stemming from some kind of negative emotions experienced by a person. Thus, gastric ulcer is the result of lengthy nervous strain, liver diseases are caused by anger, gall bladder suffers from hatred, respiratory system — from grief, kidney — from fear, and heart — from feelings of offense.

Ayurveda understands treatment as, firstly, healing mind and soul, and secondly, restoring the balanced proportion of doṣa in the human organism by means of diet, medicines, and surgical methods.

Diet plays a vital role in the prevention and treatment of diseases, in the opinion of ancient Indian doctors. Even today, much emphasis is made on dietary prescriptions. According to Ayurveda, human health is largely affected by the tastes of products, flowers, and herbs, the variety of their combinations and proportions. For example, sweet products produce a cooling and moisturising effect, increase weight, and promote fat, blood, and tissue formation. Salty and sour products stimulate digestive processes. Bitter products bring about detoxification of the organism and weight reduction. Hot and spicy products stimulate metabolic processes and reduce weight. Products with astringent taste increase mobility.

As for medicines applied in Ayurvedic methods, they include substances of plant and animal origin, as well as metals, precious and semi-precious stones processed in a particular way and prepared in the form of powders, pills, syrups, tablets, infusions, and solutions.

Disease diagnostics is performed through examining the skin, ear auricles, eyes, tongue, and feeling the rate and strength of the pulse. Besides, a doctor puts together the patient’s natal chart specifying the peculiarities of the patient’s physical characteristics, climatic conditions at the place of residence and work, daily bodily rhythm and life rhythm in general, and any kind of data informative of the patient and his/her lifestyle.

Doctors practicing emphasise that patient’s health always depends solely on the patient himself — on how attentively he/she treats the physical body and mind, how pure his/her thoughts are. The doctor’s role is simply in selecting and recommending the appropriate diet and nutrition regime for this particular person.

Tags: folk medicine, alternative medicine, diet, Ayurveda, detoxification

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