Ayurvedic medical practice, Ayurvedic medicine

By Jennifer Rioux, PhD, AD, C-IAYT, AYT

For people who are interested in learning more about Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of the Indian subcontinent, we offer this guest post by Jennifer Rioux, PhD. She is a Doctor of Ayurveda, a Certified Yoga Therapist, and an M.Div. Candidate in addition to being an anthropologist.

What Is Ayurveda?

‘Ayurveda’ means: the Science of Life. As such, Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic system of health and healing that focuses on whole-person care, nature-based remedies, and the power of diet, lifestyle and daily routine to maximize our health, prevent disorder and disease, and correct imbalance.

Ayurveda is the original personalized medicine. It comprises 5,000 years of theory and practice that orient care around the original constitution of the patient and how the patient has qualitatively and quantitatively veered away from their constitutional baseline – resulting in imbalance.

Five Elements Form Three Doshas:

Ayurveda is based in five-element theory: space, air, fire, water and earth. These five elements combine into three sets of pairs, which are referred to as the doshas. Dosha translates as “that which becomes vitiated” (imbalanced or disturbed.) The goal of the Ayurvedic practitioner is to apply remedies, in a collaborative manner with the patient, that will redirect the doshas back to their original baseline, which represents a state of health for that individual.

The doshas are: Vata – space + air; Pitta – fire + water; and Kapha – water + earth. Each of the doshas is associated with a set of qualities that characterize their structure and function; the organs and substances in the body with which they are associated; and the primary ways in which they manifest as imbalance.

Learning about Ayurvedic Medicine:

One of the most important tasks of the Ayurvedic practitioner is patient education. The practitioner identifies the original constitution of the patient and the patient should recognize themselves in this portrayal. Likewise, the practitioner paints a picture of how and why imbalance was able to take root in the body-mind-spirit and the patient should resonate with the Ayurvedic depiction of their health history and the causal pathways leading to their presenting symptoms. This understanding allows the patient to be a full participant in guiding their care, reducing risk, and preventing disease.

Ayurvedic assessment techniques include traditional diagnostics like face, tongue and pulse reading. In addition, a practitioner will interview the patient about past illness, family history, stressors, health priorities, etc. and find out about the patient’s typical routines, meals, relationships and coping strategies.

Ayurveda to Treat Root Causes:

Ayurveda is a gradual system of medicine, which means that it may take some months to achieve a desired result; however, these results are sustainable over time, as the imbalance is being corrected from its root cause. This is one of the hallmarks of Ayurvedic medicine: Ayurveda treats root causes and, in doing so, ameliorates current symptoms while preventing additional symptoms or comorbidities from occurring.

Ayurveda encompasses a whole-systems perspective, indicating that all symptoms in the body-mind-spirit are not only related but can be traced back to a finite set of root causes. Once these root causes have been identified, the health of the individual can be improved immensely, in an enduring way.

Ayurveda for Chronic Conditions:

Ayurvedic medicine can be useful in treating acute conditions, but especially excels in treating chronic illness and lifestyle-related diseases. Ayurveda offers an opportunity to understand disease manifestation in a comprehensive and individualized manner. Remedies may include: dietary modification, changes to lifestyle and daily routine (sleep, exercise, self-care, etc.), herbal remedies, medicated oils, light, sound and color therapy and the therapies associated with yoga, such as asana, meditation/relaxation, or breathwork.

The evidence base for Ayurveda is growing and many more studies on the effectiveness of Ayurveda for common ailments have been published in the last two decades. Biomedical practitioners now often collaborate with Ayurvedic professionals on patient care, in the spirit of integrating all medical wisdom.

About the Author:

Jennifer Rioux, PhD, AD, C-IAYT, AYT, is a medical anthropologist, Ayurvedic clinician, educator and researcher. She is available for Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga Therapy consultations, mentorship of students and providers, workshops, retreats and the traditional intensive Ayurvedic detox and rejuvenation therapy, known as Panchakarma. Her website is https://www.integralayurvedayoga.com. Other contact information: email integralayurvedayoga@gmail.com and phone 520-302-8568.

More on Ayurveda:

Other People’s Pharmacy posts on this topic can be found here, here and here.

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  1. Eve

    I’ve been cured almost 30 years ago, by a GP who specialised in Ayurveda in Germany after I had a second inoperable tumor in my womb. All other specialists told me there was nothing they could do. Last December, I went to an Ayurvedic clinic with trained doctors, to do a Panchakarma and I came home feeling rejuvenated and rid off a few symptoms I had. My son was born prematurely, in an Ayurvedic hospital in India, and I had the very best care, better than mothers I know in Europe and Australia who went through the same.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is paving the way to accept Ayurveda as a credible system of medicine as is Allopathy, within a national context of India. I’m sad seeing posts where this ancient medicine is denied. Chinese medicine has had more of a science-based approach and is quite successful, and Ayurveda has recognized the need for this. Ayurvedic doctors are the first to tell you that this system isn’t all-knowing and has its limitations. However, it doesn’t claim to be all there is, as modern medicine claims (and has no evidence). I’m dreaming of my next panchakarma!

  2. Mike
    Maple Valley, WA

    Seven years ago my naturopathic doctor recommended a product called Carditone which is an Ayurveda supplement for blood pressure. It is made by Ayush Herbs in Redmond WA. It has worked better than three different prescription blood pressure drugs and for some time two drugs at a time. I find no side effects but my blood pressure which I test daily is well within the normal range for my age. (79). The bottle suggests one per day but my doctor told me to take two per day. I get it from Amazon or Swanson Vitamins. Available at most health food stores. Their web address is http://www.ayush.com. Phone is 425-637-1400. Sixty caplets runs about $30.00.

  3. Mac B

    Maybe a good form of population control. Feel good while dying. “Medical Anthropologist?” Reminds me of a statement I once saw in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, diagnosis confirmed on autopsy. I am sure there is a place in society for pseudo medicine, just don’t get too euphoric.

    • Jennifer

      Hello MacB:

      Please look into the many well-respected PhD programs in Medical Anthropology at universities across the United States. Terry Graedon is a medical anthropologist herself. You are quick to dismiss a system of medicine that has an excellent track record of preventing disease, reducing risk for comorbidities, and reversing chronic conditions.

      There is a growing body of well-conducted research on ayurvedic medicine in the peer reviewed medical literature. Searching PubMed will bring up a host of interesting citations.

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