Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems and remains one of India’s most popular traditional healthcare systems. The principle belief of Ayurveda is that the health and wellness of a person depends on the balance between his mind, body and spirit. The popularity of ayurvedic medicine lies in the fact that it uses herbs alone or a combination of herbs, metals and minerals or other materials to create medicines, special diets and other specialized herbal treatments.
While the Ministry of Ayush, Central government and other institutes in India support the clinical and laboratory research on ayurvedic medicine, there is a lack of standardization in place, and thus it is not studied as part of conventional (Western) medicine. In the US, Ayurveda is still considered as a form of complementary and alternative medicine.
What is the principle behind Ayurveda?
Ayurveda originated in India thousands of years ago. The term Ayurveda, combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge) and is based on universal interconnectedness (that states all things in the universe are connected), the body’s constitution or Prakritiand life forces or doshas. Understanding the body and the root cause of its ailments allow ayurvedic physicians to prescribe individualized treatments using natural compounds of herbs and prescribe specific diet, exercise and lifestyle recommendations. A balance between one’s physical, spiritual and emotional well-being is key to a healthy body.
From the common cold to serious ailments like arthritis and diabetes, a through body detoxification and psychosomatic issues, people have recognized that the mind can create illness in the body and vice versa. Using the body constitutions, Vata(air/energy), Pitta (fire), Kapha (water), combinations like Vata/Pitta, Vata/Kapha, Pitta/Kapha, and a combination of all three (tridosha), Ayurveda aims to find the underlying cause of the illness. The six stages of the development of disease include aggravation, accumulation, overflow, relocation, a buildup in a new site, and manifestation before it is labelled as a known disease. Ayurvedic physicians can recognize the illness in the making before it creates more serious imbalance in the body and creates a balance by boosting the deficient ones and reducing the excess ones.
Panchakarma (five actions), is one of the most popular Ayurvedic therapies that is prescribed to remove all the toxins from the body. The five basic cleansing methods used here are Vaman: medically-assisted vomiting therapeutic vomiting or emesis, Virechan: medically-assisted purgation purgation, Basti: medically-assisted Enema with medicated ghee/oil or decoction enema, Nasya: instillation of medicated nasal drops and Raktamokshana: blood-letting. The process is known to reverse the disease path from its manifestation stage, back into the blood stream, and eventually into the gastrointestinal tract. It is achieved through special diets, oil massage, and steam therapy.
The main source of this knowledge in Ayurveda is the Vedas, the divine books of knowledge that dates back to around 1000 BC. Some of the oldest known Ayurvedic texts include the Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, which concentrate on internal medicine and surgical treatments respectively. AshtangaHridaya Samhita is another treatise which focuses on the physiological aspect of the body. There are eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine in existence today. These include: KaayaChikitsa (Internal Medicine), BaalaChikitsa (Pediatrics), GrahaChikitsa (Demonology/Psychology), UrdhvangaChikitsa (treatment related to the head and neck), ShalyaChikitsa (Surgery), DamstraChikitsa (Toxicology), JaraChikitsa (or Rasayana for Rejuvenation) and Vájikarana (Aphrodisiac or infertility).
With the growing popularity of Ayurvedic medicines, specifically for its use of natural compounds, the need of the hour is to provide people with more scientific results. A lot of research work is going on in the field of Ayurveda. In India, research in Ayurveda is undertaken by the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS), through a national network of research institutes. Many clinical trials on disease such as diabetes, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, cardio vascular disease, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, stress and more have been done and studies continue.
From time immemorial, sages have done a lot of research in the formulation of ayurvedic drugs. This practice continues till today when manufacturing a new Ayurveda formulation. A pilot study followed by clinical trials is done before introducing the medicine into the market. The properties of many plants have also been studied and published. There have been several clinical trials on popular ayurvedic procedures like the detoxification programmes Panchakarma too. Comparative study with modern medicine has time and again proven that Ayurveda can provide a better course of treatment for various diseases. Long-term comparative studies have shown that quality of life in Ayurveda intervention is even more effective than modern intervention.
Some of the research papers which prove the same have been listed below:
• Ayurveda–modern medicine interface: A critical appraisal of studies of Ayurvedic medicines to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; Arvind Chopra, ManjitSaluja, and Girish Tillu; J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2010 Jul-Sep; 1(3): 190–198; doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.72620.
• Comparative effectiveness of a complex Ayurvedic treatment and conventional standard care in osteoarthritis of the knee – study protocol for a randomized controlled trial; Claudia M Witt, Andreas Michalsen, Stephanie Roll, Antonio Morandi, Shivnarain Gupta, Mark Rosenberg, Ludwig Kronpaß, ElmarStapelfeldt, Syed Hissar, Matthias Müller, and Christian Kessler; Trials. 2013; 14: 149. Published online 2013 May 23. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-14-149; PMCID: PMC3664613
• A clinical comparative study of the management of chronic renal failure with Punarnavadi compound; G. S. Prashanth, M. S. Baghel, B. Ravishankar, S. N. Gupta and Miten P. Mehta; Ayu. 2010 Apr-Jun; 31(2): 185–192.
More Ayurveda research papers can be found in journals such as IJAR - International Journal of Ayurvedic Research, IJAPC - International journal of Ayurveda and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, J-AIM: Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, AYU, JREIM - The Journal of Research and Education in Indian Medicine, Ancient Science of Life, International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Pharmacy, Indian Journal Of Traditional Knowledge (Ijtk), Journal of Ayush -Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, European Journal of Medicinal Plants, and many more.
The future of ayurvedic medicine can be predicted on the basis on its historical importance and its growing popularity and acceptance in the global wellness market. Ayurveda is a healthcare system dating back to 2,500 to 3,000 years; focusing primarily on the healthy living of individuals and the society at large, rather than fighting the disease. To achieve this, Ayurveda has evolved, setting certain abstract and absolute principles to define health and disease.
While Ayurvedic medicines are created using traditional herbal formulations, these medicines rely on the latest extraction technologies to extract and retain the vitality of the botanicals. The process is known to use the whole plant in its drug formulation and so there will be multiple chemical compounds (Note: not chemical extract) within the formulation. Medicines in Ayurveda mainly contain powders, tablets, decoctions, medicated oils, etc. which are prepared from natural herbs, plants and minerals, extracted from natural sources make it easily accepted and assimilated in the body without creating any harm and side effects.
So make the switch today and enjoy a healthier tomorrow.
(Author is the in-house ayurvedic consultant at AyurUniverse.com)