What is Ayurveda?

Also known as: Ayurvedic medicine Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India, which originated there over 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda emphasizes re-establishing balance in the body through diet, lifestyle, exercise, and body cleansing, and on the health of the mind, body, and spirit. In North America, Ayurveda is considered a form of alternative medicine. Like traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda is a whole medical system, meaning that it is based on theories of health and illness and on methods of preventing and treating health conditions.

An initial assessment with an Ayurvedic practitioner may last an hour or longer. The practitioner will ask detailed questions about your health, diet and lifestyle. He or she will listen to your pulse. Unlike mainstream medicine, 12 different pulse points are assessed in Ayurveda. The Ayurvedic practitioner also examines the tongue; its appearance is believed to provide clues about areas of the body that may be out of balance. The appearance of the skin, lips, nails, and eyes is also observed. After the assessment, the practitioner will determine an individual's unique balance of doshas, or metabolic types. One dosha is usually predominant and may be imbalanced, usually due to poor diet and unhealthy habits.

The practitioner also determines your prakuti, also called your constitution or essential nature. From there, the practitioner can create an individualized treatment plan, which often includes diet, exercise, herbs, yoga, meditation, and massage. The treatment plan generally focuses on restoring balance to one particular dosha.

Diet: Recommendations are individualized to a person's dosha and the season. Foods can either balance or cause imbalance to each dosha. See a list of foods thought to balance each dosha. Cleansing and detoxification: This may be done through fasting, enemas, diets, and body treatments. Herbal medicine: Examples of Ayurvedic herbs are triphala, ashwaghanda, gotu kola, guggul, and boswellia. Yoga Meditation Exercise: Individualized to a person's constitution Massage: Medicated herbal oils are often used.

In India, there are many undergraduate and postgraduate colleges for Ayurveda, where the training can involve up to five years of study. Outside of India, some people who have been trained in another health profession (e.g. medical doctor, nurse, naturopathic doctor) study Ayurveda before or after their training. Other practitioners attend Ayurvedic college only. Currently, there are no national standards for the certification training or licensing Ayurvedic practitioners in the United States or Canada. If you are interested in consulting with an Ayurvedic practitioner, it is important to seek a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and learn about his training.