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    Ayurvedic medicine -- also known as Ayurveda -- is one of the world's oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems. It was developed thousands of years ago in India.

    It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease. But treatments may be recommended for specific health problems.

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    In the U.S., Ayurveda is considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

    Ayurveda Concepts

    According to Ayurvedic theory, everything in the universe -- living or not -- is connected. Good health is achieved when your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe. A disruption of this harmony can lead to poor health and sickness.

    For followers of Ayurveda, anything that affects your physical, spiritual, or emotional well-being can cause you to be out of balance with the universe. Some things that can cause a disruption include:

    • Genetic or birth defects
    • Injuries
    • Climate and seasonal changes
    • Age
    • Emotions

    How your body works to keep you healthy and your unique physical and psychological characteristics combine to form your body's constitution, or prakriti. Your prakriti is believed to stay the same for your entire life. However, how you digest food and eliminate waste can influence it.

    Every person is made of a combination of five basic elements found in the universe:

    • Space
    • Air
    • Fire
    • Water
    • Earth

    These elements combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called doshas. They control how your body works. The three doshas are:

    • Vata dosha (space and air)
    • Pitta dosha (fire and water)
    • Kapha dosha (water and earth)

    Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. One dosha is usually more dominant. Each dosha controls a different body function. It is believed that your chances of getting sick are linked to the balance of your doshas.

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