What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a whole-body (holistic) system of medicine. It began in India more than 3,000 years ago. Ayurveda means the study of life. It takes a natural approach to all aspects of health and well-being.
Ayurveda is based on the idea that each person has certain life forces (doshas) and everything in the universe is connected. An imbalance in one area can affect another. When the imbalance is not corrected, disease and illness can occur. This approach uses lifestyle changes and natural treatments to support balance and a return to health and wellness. Ayurveda is very focused on overall health but may also use specific treatments for certain diseases.
The focus of Ayurveda treatment is to support the body in removing toxins and impurities, reducing symptoms, increasing disease resistance, and reducing stress. It also focuses on creating more harmony and balance in life. Herbs and other plants are often used. These include oils and common spices.
Ayurvedic treatment starts with an internal cleansing (purification). This is followed by a combination of a special diet, including a wide variety of spices, herbal and plant medicines, massage therapy with different types of oils, yoga, and meditation. Treatment is unique for each person.
In India, Ayurveda is considered a medical system. It is practiced in the same way that conventional Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine, and homeopathic medicine are practiced elsewhere in the world.
Ayurveda providers in India must go through rigorous, state-recognized educational training before practicing medicine.
Before working with an Ayurvedic provider, be sure to check their training and background. Currently, Ayurvedic providers are not licensed in the U.S. The U.S. also does not have a national standard for Ayurvedic training or certification. But a few states have approved Ayurvedic schools.
Is it safe?
Many Ayurvedic materials have not been fully studied from a Western perspective. Ayurvedic medicines are regulated as dietary supplements, not medicines, in the U.S. So they are not required to meet the same safety standards as medicines. Some Ayurvedic medicines contain herbs, metals, minerals, and other materials that may be harmful if not used correctly. In some instances, Ayurvedic medicines may also contain toxic materials, such as lead, arsenic, and mercury. In addition, any herb, mineral, or metal used in this type of treatment may work against conventional medicines or other supplements that have been prescribed.
For this reason, it's important to talk with your conventional healthcare provider before using any Ayurvedic treatment. This is even more important if you:
Are pregnant or breastfeeding
Are thinking of using Ayurvedic therapy to treat a child
Have ongoing health conditions
Are an older adult
Take prescription medicines or are using other herbal or alternative supplementation
Any diagnosis of a disease or condition should be made by a healthcare provider with conventional medical training. The provider should also have a lot of experience managing that disease or condition.
Some studies show that Ayurveda can have positive effects for certain conditions when used with standard, conventional medical care. But it should not replace standard medical care. This is even more important if you have a serious health condition, take prescription medications, or if you are from a high-risk group, such as those listed above.
Tell all of your healthcare providers (conventional or complementary) about the health approaches, supplements, and medicines you use. This will give them a full picture of your health. It will help ensure safe, effective, and coordinated care.