Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Ayurveda, (Sanskrit for “science of life”), form of alternative medicine based on the principle that disease is caused by an imbalance of life forces. Derived from spiritual visions received by Indian rishis (Sanskrit for “seers of truth”) 5000 years ago, Ayurveda is the oldest existing system of medical practice and is regarded by proponents as a complete way of life aimed at spiritual, mental, and social well-being as well as physical health.

The keystone of Ayurvedic medicine is the constitution of the individual. Ayurveda identifies three basic metabolic body types corresponding to three basic life energy forces, or doshas. Each person’s constitution is seen as a mixture of these doshas. Advocates of Ayurvedic medicine believe health is a balance of these energy forces, resulting in harmony of body, mind, and spirit in the individual as well as between the individual and the outer forces of the environment and society.
Ayurveda does not seek to treat the symptoms of disease; instead, it seeks to restore the underlying balance of the doshas. The Ayurvedic practitioner diagnoses a patient’s constitutional type and imbalances through such techniques as questioning, specialized pulse measurements, and observation of the tongue, eyes, nails, face and skin, voice quality, urine, and breath odor. The practitioner then makes specific recommendations to bring the doshas back into balance.
Ayurvedic therapies focus on lifestyle changes and herbal remedies, concentrating on diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, massage, herbal tonics, steam baths, enemas, and other alternative medical practices such as aromatherapy. Special cleansing therapies such as bloodletting and blood-thinning herbs are also used to rid the body of disease-causing toxins.
Ayurveda is considered useful in supporting many other kinds of treatment programs. Proponents believe it is a preventive as well as a curative therapy that can strengthen the immune system against disease. Changing lifestyle habits can improve persistent problems such as back pain, arthritis, tension headaches, high blood pressure, obesity, constipation, allergies and colds, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other stress disorders.
More than 100 colleges in India grant degrees in Ayurvedic medicine upon completion of a five-year program. In the United States, Ayurvedic practitioners must be licensed in some other form of health care, such as allopathy (Western medicine), or another system of alternative medicine, such as naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic, or acupuncture.

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