4 Common Mythconceptions about Ayurveda
Authors: Puja Patel, ALC and Meera Patel, AP
Ayurveda is a system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. It is based on the ideology that disease is due to an imbalance in the body, mind, and/or spirit. To regain balance between these three, Ayurveda encourages certain diet and lifestyle interventions, along with herbal and natural therapies.
Due to the ancient tradition of Ayurveda and its roots in the East, it is often not appreciated in its entirety due to the lack of proper awareness and various misconceptions. Ayurveda is a time-tested system of medicine with origins dating back to 5,000 years ago. In order to gain a deeper insight and bring further clarity about Ayurveda, a few myth busters are explained below.
Myth #1. Ayurveda is Not a Science
The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Ayurveda is in essence the science of life, encompassing far more than merely medicine. Ayurveda has doctrines and systems proved on a scientific basis. It is not regarded as science by many as it did not develop inside any laboratory; however, today many laboratories are studying and confirming the health benefits of various aspects of Ayurveda from herbs to therapies which have been known and practiced for over 5,000 years. For example, the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health has over 6,500 science-based research articles on Ayurveda. Ayurveda have similar branches as found in modern medicine. They are: Surgery (Shalya-chikitsa), ENT+ (Shalakyam), Internal Medicine (Kaaya-chikitsa), Psychiatry (Bhuta vidya), Pediatrics (Kaumarabhrtyam), Toxicology (Agadatantram), Rejuvenation/Anti-Aging (Rasayanam), Aphrodisiacs (Vajikaranam); in total there are eight branches of Ayurveda known as Ashtanga Ayurveda.
Myth #2. Ayurveda Uses Only Herbs
Herbs are selected as an additional tool by Ayurvedic Practitioners/Doctors due to their potency and ability to act faster on the body. Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine which emphasizes that diet and lifestyle are also very important factors to correct imbalances. Easily procurable herbs like those found on akshar.org can be used to address symptoms of temporary conditions. Ayurveda also has a unique set of effective body therapies which include: Abhyanga (tandem rhythmic warm oil massage), Shirodhara (rhythmic flow of oil on forehead), Kati/Janu Basti (back/knee treatment with a pool of warm oil). Ayurveda is a highly personalized system of medicine, and therapies and treatments should be practiced as prescribed by your Ayurvedic Practitioner.
Myth #3. Ayurveda Lacks Clinical Testing
Ayurveda is actually the first system of Evidence-Based Practice in the world, which recognized that evidence is a convergence of three sources of knowledge: Sruti (Statements of Authorities), Yukti (Rationale), Anubhava (Experience). The most common definition of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) is from Dr. David Sackett. EBP is “the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of the individual patient. It means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.” (Sackett D, 1996) The National Library of Medicine (pubmed.gov) has 6,500+ articles on various aspects of Ayurveda, including systematic reviews, meta-analysis, and clinical trials. In India, to uphold the integrity of Ayurvedic herbs, under the Drugs & Cosmetic Act of 1940, the Standard Operating Procedures and Good Manufacturing Practices for Ayurvedic medicines are made mandatory.
Myth #4. Ayurveda is a Cure
In Ayurveda, one of the main treatment principles is to identify and remove the causative factors that lead to disease. That is why Ayurveda is often referred to as a lifestyle that promotes maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit rather than being limited to a system of medicine. An Ayurvedic lifestyle encompasses daily & seasonal routines, detoxifying procedures, meditation, yoga, and a diet that best suits an individual’s dosha or prakriti (individual genetic makeup). When looked at holistically, Ayurvedic practices offer a state of balance, helping attain physical strength along with mental and emotional wellness.