Guide To Understanding Ayurvedic Medicine (Ayurveda)

Ayurvedic medicine is a term used to describe an ancient medical system that originated in India and is derived from ancient writings. Ayurveda utilizes a more holistic and natural approach to mental and physical health. First developed in India over three thousand years ago, Ayurveda is one of the oldest known systems of holistic medicine. The most common treatments used in Ayurvedic medicine include special diets, aromatherapy, exercise, herbs, massage, and other formulated supplements. While it is used abundantly in India and surrounding regions, Ayurveda is considered to be a form of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States. Ayurvedic treatments and products are not approved or reviewed by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration, and state-approved Ayurvedic schools and training programs are scarce in the United States.

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How It Works

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Ayurvedic medicine works through the belief every individual is made of five different components present in the universe: air, water, space, fire, and earth. These components congregate together to form three different energies referred to as doshas. Each individual inherits a different combination of the doshas, and these determine how their body works. The balance of an individual's doshas is associated with the chances of becoming ill and the health problems they develop. Ayurvedic medicine treatment plans are individually created and take unique emotional and physical makeup into consideration along with the primary life force and the delicate balance of these three components. One main goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to remove all undigested food from an individual's body through the use of a cleansing process referred to as panchakarma and relies on methods such as massage, herbs, laxatives, blood purification, medical oils, and enemas.

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Comparison To Traditional Medicine

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Traditional or mainstream medicine differs from Ayurvedic medicine in several ways. The term disease is defined in different ways by each medical system. Disease in traditional medicine is characterized by any disruption or deviation in the normal function or structure of any part of an individual's body. Disease in Ayurvedic medicine is caused by the three doshas being out of balance. The approach to the treatment and causes of disease in traditional medicine is through concentrating on certain parts of the body systems. In contrast, Ayurvedic medicine is based on the principle that the cause of all diseases is poor digestive function and stress. The treatment in Ayurvedic medicine is standard for all diseases and includes repairing the digestive function in an individual, acting on any unbalanced doshas, and removing stress from the body. Traditional medicine uses pharmaceutical treatments in combination with diet changes and lifestyle changes with the addition of complementary treatment methods. Ayurvedic medicine uses changes in diet and lifestyle and moves to the use of herbs and panchakarma when those changes are not effective.

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Benefits Of Ayurveda

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Some benefits of Ayurvedic medicine have been established in systemic research reviews and well-designed clinical trials. Certain plant extract formulations used in Ayurvedic medicine have shown to help osteoarthritis patients with their symptoms. Functional improvements and pain reduction were both recorded with the use of these plant-based formulations that include glucosamine sulfate. A combination of forty different herbal compounds helped individuals with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in a National Center For Complementary Integrative Health pilot study. A clinical trial reported improvements in symptoms of type 2 diabetes patients with the use of a combination of five specific Ayurvedic herbs. Turmeric, which is utilized in many Ayurvedic preparations, has shown potential for the relief of digestive symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis and similar diseases. Numerous individuals claim Ayurvedic medicine helped improve their overall quality of life while they were going through conventional treatment regimens for their chronic condition or disease, such as cancer.

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Safety Of Treatments

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Several warnings have been established by the United States Food And Drug Administration about the use of Ayurvedic products and treatments. It has not been unusual to find gems, metals, and minerals present in Ayurvedic preparations with the potential to cause harm. High blood levels of mercury and lead have been reported in individuals who have used Ayurvedic products. A rare adverse side effect reported in individuals who have used Ayurvedic products is arsenic poisoning. Ayurvedic medicine can be unsafe if an individual uses it to postpone a visit to see their conventional healthcare provider regarding a medical issue. Because some ingredients in Ayurvedic products can interact with traditional medications, patients should consult their traditional doctor before using any Ayurvedic products. Some healthcare providers do not believe Ayurvedic medicine is safe because there has not been enough research done to prove its benefits outweigh its risks. Ayurvedic medicine providers and products are also not regulated in any way in the United States to ensure basic quality and safety.

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Where It Falls Short

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It is important for individuals thinking about using Ayurvedic medicine to understand traditional medicine is not able to be replaced by any form of holistic or natural medical systems, including Ayurveda. Obvious examples of where traditional medicine cannot be replaced include treatment during emergencies, bacterial infections, diagnosis of diseases, structural problems, and instant symptom or pain relief. Another way Ayurveda falls short of mainstream medicine is where there is scarce documentation of the mechanism of action and the active component in their herbs and formulations. Many researchers expressed concern with the fact Ayurvedic formulations contain numerous different herbs with active components and bioactive ingredients that may adversely interact with each other. Ayurvedic medicine is also known to be a process that takes several months to show any results or changes in a patient's symptoms or ailments. The short shelf life, unknown purity, and overall availability of Ayurvedic formulations are other known reasons why some individuals may drop out of this form of treatment.

Whitney Alexandra