What is Ayurveda?

What is Ayurveda?

  • Arna Van Ravestein

Ayurveda - an ancient herbal system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. Globalized and modernized practices derived from Ayurveda traditions are a type of alternative medicine

Ayurveda is a traditional Hindu system of medicine and healing that has been used for more than 5000 years. It originated in India and has exploded in popularity in the Western world. Why the sudden interest in Ayurveda? The answer may surprise you.

Society has made many advances over the years: technology, automation and our overall standard of living have greatly improved compared to previous generations. While most would say our overall health and physical well-being have increased, others would say it’s not as much as we’re led to believe. The average American lifespan has increased to a record high of 78.8 years, but has the quality of life increased as well?

Even though annual healthcare spending reached a record 3.8 trillion dollars in 20141, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer rates have skyrocketed. In 2015, the American Diabetes Association announced that diabetes is “growing at an alarming rate” in the United States, with 30 million Americans having the disease.2

As a result of statistics like these, many question the effectiveness of modern medicine and are turning to alternative methods like Ayurveda for treatment.


How Ayurveda Works

Ayurveda is considered the opposite of Modern Medicine. Western medicine focuses on treating health issues after a person becomes ill. For example, if a person does not feel well, they may take an over-the-counter medication or see a physician for treatment. Oftentimes, these medications prescribed attempt to alleviate their symptoms, not the actual cause of the ailment.

On the other hand, Ayurveda focuses on prevention and practicing healthy lifestyle habits. This approach is designed to decrease the probability of getting sick in the first place, thus lessening the need for medications. It also seek to identify and treat the cause of the condition, not just the symptom.


The Ayurveda Philosophy

Practitioners of Ayurveda believe the body has the ability to heal itself naturally, if it is given the chance. Many health experts believe the foods we eat, the lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking are contributing factors to disease and illness. When we are sick, the body is thrown out of balance, but Ayurveda seeks to restore that balance. This is accomplished by concentrating on the three basic energy types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, also known as the Ayurvedic Principles of the body:


Vata. Vata controls all the movements in the body and mind. This includes, breathing, thoughts, blood flow and the elimination of waste. Vata is considered the most important of the three principles.


Pitta. Pitta is the “fire” in the body that controls how we digest foods, produce energy and metabolism. It also controls our perceptions of what’s right versus what’s wrong. 


Kapha. Kapha controls weight, growth, and overall lubrication of the joints, lungs, body and mind. It also controls the formation of the blood, muscles, fat, bones, marrow, and reproductive organs.


Finding Your Balance

Unlike Western medicine, there is no “one size fits all” treatment in Ayurveda. It is understood that while everyone has all three Ayurvedic Principals, each person is different, meaning one principal can be dominant over the others. Treatment is individualized, and based on a person’s unique levels of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in their body.

If a person experiences an imbalance in their body, they may become more susceptible to illness and disease as a result. Ayurveda treatments are used to keep the body balanced, and rebalance it as needed. These treatments include the following:

  • Eating a healthy diet with no snacks
  • Eliminating junk food from the diet
  • Decreasing (and effectively handling) stressful situations
  • Increased water consumption
  • Getting adequate rest


Benefits of Ayurveda

Ayurveda has been used for centuries to help with the following conditions:

  • Inflammation
  • Weight Loss
  • Recovery from illness and disease
  • Lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Decreasing levels of stress and anxiety
  • Assisting with hormonal balance
  • Encouragement of healthy eating and less processed foods

As the rates of many diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis increase, many people are seeking alternative methods of treatment for relief. Ayurveda may be just what the doctor ordered. 



1National Health Expenditures 2014 Highlights. https://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/downloads/highlights.pdf

2Statistics by State: American Diabetes Association®. 


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