What is Ayurveda?
- Lot of times the secret of the content lies in the name itself. This is so true with Ayurveda. The word Ayurveda is made of two words “Ayush” – which means life and/or health and “Veda” – which means knowledge or to understand. So in essence, it means knowledge of life or knowledge of health. It is a true science and completely logical. This medical science originated thousands of years back in the Indian Subcontinent. It is very well documented in several text books. The results of using Ayurveda can sometime appear as magical, but it is based on logic.
- There are two aims of Ayurveda:
- Maintain the Health of Healthy
- Treat the diseases of the unhealthy
- It gives importance to the individual and believes that each individual is unique. There are general guidelines for everyone to follow, however, each person has to be considered individually and evaluated what is good/bad for him/her. A thing which is good for a particular person may not be true for another person because of various factors like age, location, food habit, climate. For example, somebody might have fever while exposed to sun whereas another person can have fever if exposed to cold … so it does not make sense that you treat them in the same way just because it is fever.
- It looks at the person as a whole and considers all the three elements: Body, Mind and Soul to achieve the balance.
- The impressions of birth, lifestyle, food habit, thinking …etc varies among different individuals and hence like fingerprint, each individual is in a unique stage at any given point in life and hence the treatment can vary from person to person
What is the definition of Health?
- Any science needs to have a clear definition of its objective – in this case health. Health is very clearly defined in Ayurveda. It also tells us how to measure the various parameters of health to arrive at a conclusion if we are healthy or not. As per Ayurveda, the definition of health is the balance of the Body,Mind and Soul. A good Vaidya ( Ayurvedic Practitioner ) can assess the condition of health by observing these parameters. There are several ways of observation.
- At the level of body it has following sub-categories
- Functions – All the bodily functions like breathing, temperature, blood flow, digestion, movement of various materials inside the body, opening/closing eyes, skin color, sparkle in the eyes …etc
- Organs – Plasma, Blood, Muscles, Fat, Bones, Bone Marrow, Reproductive capabilities
- Waste Management System — This comprise of Bowel movement, Urine and Sweating.
- Mind and Soul should be pleasant and happy and all the sense organs are performing at optimum levels
- I am not sure if modern science has a definition of Health nor there is a set of clear parameters that says that a person is healthy ( I guess one way is to take the 1800 tests and hope you fall within the average range — i doubt anybody ever will be called healthy, and even those are truly healthy may not come out healthy from these tests ). There are numerous instances where person feels that he is healthy but the tests turns out negative, and the other way round is even funny, the practitioner tells the patient that everything is fine, but the patient keeps complaining that he is not feeling fine. As per Ayurveda, perfect health is when both the patient and practitioner sees the balance in body, mind and soul.
- Health is One and Diseases are many: Would you rather chase one goal or many ? This is why Ayurveda stresses on maintaining health so that we don’t have to deal with the suffering.
Does it treat diseases?
- There are two main purpose of Ayurveda
- Maintaining the Health of the Healthy — If we do this correctly, then most likely we will not fall sick and wouldn’t it be so much nicer ? We all know how painful it is when we or our dear ones fall sick. Most of the time this happens because we violate the rules of healthy living and abuse our body. For some time, the body can resist and absorb this abuse. It gives us ample warning signs, but if we continue to ignore those signs and continue our abuse, we land up in an unhealthy state
- Treating the diseases of the diseases. Yes, it prescribes various ways on how to bring the balance of the Body and Mind back.
Should i take health in my own hands or leave it to the doctor?
- We go to doctor when things are not well. It is better to be in a position where we don’t have to go to doctor. So, i would say , yes,we should take health seriously and do things on a regular basis so that we don’t have to go to doctor. Its like the car, if you do regular maintenance like changing oil, filter …etc then it does not have to go to garage or mechanic.
What about modern research?
- I am all for research. The more we do , the more we learn. But we cannot take a silo research or what i call as the Elephant approach. We cannot do research on just the tail of the elephant and come up with a conclusion that it can be used as a good rope. It might be true in some cases, but more than likely that elephant will kick us if we try to use his tail as a rope. We need to look at it holistically. I feel the modern day research does not focus on the whole as a body and mind.
- Getting on Bandwagon: We are so disillusioned about health these days, that anytime there is a new suggestion , we blindly jump on it. That means we are not happy with the current situation and we want to get out of it. We go to extreme levels to change our food and lifestyle completely. That shows that the research has not been working, at least so far. Take the journey of Fat. First the theory was that any FAT was not good. Then came the theory that only certain fats are not good.Then we went on say that fat become bad if we heat them to a certain point, and now it is told that even saturated food is essential and good. We all went it for ride and not sure how much of us lost health taking this ride rather than benefitted. This did not use to be the case 40-50 years back. People had steady diet and overall they were healthy. The diet was not changed so quickly, because these things were tested over centuries and worked. After FAT there was similar ride about Calories , Diet Soda, Cholesterol, Gluten ..etc. I have heard that there is no conclusive evidence tying cholesterol to health. If the fact is that 50% of people having heart conditions have normal cholesterol and 50% of the people not having heart conditions have bad cholesterol, then it is ample evidence that there is no relation of cholesterol to heart health.
- I want research to come with responsibility and accountability. Most of the research in my mind these days is done to promote something. It is done on a small population sample and for a short period. People say, drinking 8 litres of water is good … i say… show me the research …and then we hear it was done as a small study and may not be any longer applicable. I don’t want to try theory on my body, which is more precious. I would rather go with something that is time tested and proven again and again. If you look at the modern day research, the outcomes and theories keep changing every few years. Yes, it is good to continue to refine, but i am not good when the research instead of refining results in re-define, that means the principle of the foundation of that research is not solid and i would not risk my life on those principles.
What is Pancha krama ?
These are deep cleansing procedures prescribed in Ayurveda. This might be either needed when the diseases are in aggravated state or part of your yearly body maintenance. Its like taking your car to the garage for 30K , 60K maintenance or when it breaks down. . The word itself represents 5 ( Pancha ) and Procedures ( Karma ) . These are deep cleansing procedures in Ayurveda and take the toxins out of the body.
Is Ayurveda applicable for Modern Day?
Its like asking is the Gravity Theory put forward by Newton, relevant today? Of course the answer is yes. It is a science and the principles works … yes always and even today. Heat creating food will generate heat inside the body. The science does not change nor does the principle, but the application of science evolves with time. Today we apply the Gravity principles to send rocket to moon, similarly same ayurvedic scientific principles can be applied to modern conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome , cancer etc.
Does Ayurveda prescribes lots of restrictions?
It is a science and the only job of science is to explain how things work. As a rule, we should be eating all types of foods… however anything eaten in excess or eaten without following rules or not eating can result in certain conditions. To rectify those conditions, you may have to avoid/limit certain kind of food. Once the condition is rectified, you can go back to regular healthy diet … you can indulge sometimes….but lets not insult the body.
Is Ayurveda slow acting?
- Ayurveda is based on scientific principle of cause and effect. It does not work to hide the symptoms like some of the modern things does. If there is a fire in the house and alarm goes off, we should put out the fire and then rectifying the damage and take measures so that fire does does not happen again. Ayurveda relies on this principle. Modern day cure of “Pop a Pill” “Pap — evil deed “ relies more on stopping the alarm, does not focus on causative or preventive measures and hopes that because we don’t hear the siren, the fire does not exist.
- Lets come to the question now, is it slow acting ….if a good analysis is done and right herbs are taken, then results should show in 24 hours and lot of times much faster. Quick results also depends on the type of condition we are dealing with … lot of instant results are seen in constipation, headache, pain, acidity …etc but in certain cases like skin disease it may take a longer time.
Is it Science?
- Before i answer the question, i think we should be clear on what is the definition of science. In my opinion, science is something that explains the logic on how things work. As long as it is logical and the logic can be repeated over and over again, it can be called as science. Also, this logic can be applied to practical things, then it becomes a practical science
- If we agree on the above definition, then Ayurveda is both science and it is practical. For example, Ayurveda says that cold causes constriction of channels. This is a behavior you observe outside everyday. Same thing happens when you eat cold stuff. The channels inside the body are constricted. All the food and herbs have properties and they act inside the body with this logic and principle
- I find it amazing that there are many who consider themselves as science based and still hope that the conditions will go away just by popping the pills. Its like , can I keep doing the same things and expect different results … Einstein …. considered by many as the formidable scientist said that this is Not science but Insanity
Can Ayurveda treat All diseases?
- Ayurveda is a science and they also realize that there are certain diseases or certain conditions in some diseases that cannot be treated. A good vaidya after analysis should be able to make the following analysis
- Is it easily treatable
- Is will take long time to treat
- it can be controlled but never treated. In such conditions, the herbs has to be taken life long
- It is not treatable
Is Ayurveda only herbs and no surgery?
Modern science has made lot of progress in surgery. You will be surprised to know that the father of modern Surgery is Sushruta. Who is Sushruta ? Well, he is the father of Ayurvedic Surgery. His scientific and practical research, procedures and types of instruments are still highly regarded.
There is bad press about Ayurveda
As one of friend says, there is lot of speed to wrong information or rumour. However, the moment the truth rises, the wrong information or rumour dies. I think the science of Ayurveda is finally being realized and the wrong information will soon disappear.
What about the over the counter Ayurveda supplements?
- There are lot of Ayurveda supplements available over the counter these days. Since science of Ayurveda is based on the principle that every individual and its situation is unique, i would not take them over the counter and instead consult somebody first. For example, if you want to increase your brain power, there are several supplements that can do the job. However, first thing to consider is that there can be multiple reasons why the mental focus is not present. It might be related to food, thinking, lifestyle. When we say intelligence, it is comprised of 3 basic functions and it might be possible that either 1 of them or all 3 are not functioning properly. Ok, what are these 3 functions –
- ability to grasp information
- ability to hold the information
- ability to recall the information at right time
- What is the personality of the person. A lazy person might require a different herb versus a child who is not able to focus
Does herbs have side effects?
Every thing that we take inside the body has effect in some form or other. Same thing applies to herbs. They command the body to do certain things. Since herbs come from the natural world, it don’t have side effects. However, anything that is used without rules or abused can produce side effects. As i sometimes say, as long as we use them as side dishes, there should not be any
Is Ayurveda and Homeopathy same?
They are totally different lines of thoughts on how to treat certain conditions. Their principles are different. I have no knowledge of Homeopathy.
Does Ayurveda has treatment for modern conditions like Cancer, Heart Disease, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Diabetes ?
The principles of a science are eternal. For example, even though Newton discovered Gravity 300-400 years back, it’s principle are still applied today to solve today’s problem. Similarly, even though the science of Ayurveda was written and tested thousands of years ago, its principles are valid for any age. There have been several new kinds of diseases that came into existence since this science was explained and those diseases were understood and treated using Ayurvedic principles and got treated. Is not same question arise for modern medicine ? There will always be new ways now disease manifest as time and causative factor changes. So yes, a good vaidya can treat modern day conditions using Ayurveda.
Is genetics described in Ayurveda or does Ayurveda believe in Hereditary?
- When i started exploring Ayurveda, my initial thoughts were that it will probably talk more about do’s and don’ts and focus mainly on keeping healthy. I was so wrong… Soon i realized that it was a complete science and very vast and most importantly the journey is interesting. This is unique science in the sense that people with even some basic knowledge can benefit from it. Right from my first readings, to first days of classroom learning, i could apply the principles and see the benefit.
- Lets go to the original question. Ayurveda totally believe in Genetic and inheritance. It has done extensive research in this and not only it relies on genetics, but it went in length in describing what body organs have a leaning towards mother side and which part has more influence from the father side. This information is used to assess one’s risk of disease. For example, as per this science, Heart is coming from mother’s side. That means if there is family history of Heart issues on Mom’s side, then i will be more worried, than if it were from the father’s side. As per this science, this is what comes from which side
- Back side
- any other soft organs
- Reproductive capabilities
Note: Interesting thing is how this gets transferred and what does it mean. As per this science, people inherit the vulnerability to these diseases but not the diseases itself. Lets take an analogy, its like a building having vulnerability to flooding. However, the flooding will not happen till the water comes. If the water can be stopped from reaching the building then even though the vulnerability is there, the flooding never happens. Similarly, if somebody’s mom has heart issue, however the child can avoid heart disease by using only those food/lifestyle conditions that support heart ( based on Ayurvedic Principle ) and will most likely not get this disease or will get it much later stage in life or with lesser severity …. did you realize how powerful this knowledge can be. You can use this to help your next generation as well.Similarly if father has a receding hair line in early life, child can use that info of this vulnerability and delay the onsetting of hair loss
What about Virus, Bacterias?
Louis Pasteur came up with the idea that the diseases are caused by bacteria. When one of the person in the audience drank the liquid with disease causing bacteria ( the quantity was way more than that was required to create the disease), everybody thought he will cause a disease, but to everyone’s surprise including Mr pasteur, nothing happened to the man. The conclusion was derived that there was more than just a bacteria responsible for health and disease — Ayurveda does not describe health in terms of bacteria/virus …which can be seen through microscope, but more at a level how things work, what are causative factors to keep them healthy, what can cause malfunction of those, what are the symptoms, pre-symptoms, how to bring it back to normal.
Is there a Concept of Vitamin?
So called “Vitamins” does not have independent existence in nature. There are no plants or fruits that just have one vitamin or just consists of vitamins. All the natural substance is a combination of several things. Ayurveda looks at those substances as a whole and describes their scientific properties. Ayurveda describes how each of these can be helpful or not useful in certain conditions. Ayurveda also describes what are good food and lifestyle habits to maintain certain specific organs like eyes, ears ..etc
Can i eat Chawanprash?
Chawanprash is probably more popular than Ayurveda. More people know Ayurveda because of Chawanprash. This Ayurvedic supplement is a mixture of many herbs and considered a very good supplement to be taken on a regular basis. It is generally good for most of the people, but still few exceptions might apply. Generally, it is recommended to be used more in winter than summer