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Ayurvedic Medicine

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.

Vata Dosha

Vata dosha (space and air) is thought to be the most powerful of all three doshas. It controls very basic body functions, such as how cells divide. It also controls your:

  • Mind
  • Breathing
  • Blood flow
  • Heart function
  • Ability to get rid of body waste through the intestines

Things that can disrupt this dosha are:

  • Eating dry fruit
  • Eating too soon after a previous meal
  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Staying up too late

If vata dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Skin problems

Pitta Dosha

The pitta dosha (fire and water) controls:

  • Digestion
  • Ability to break down foods (metabolism)
  • Certain hormones linked to appetite

Things that can disrupt this dosha are:

  • Eating sour foods
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Fatigue
  • Spending too much time in the sun

If pitta dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop:

  • Anger and negative emotions
  • Crohn's disease
  • Heart disease
  • Heartburn a few hours after eating
  • High blood pressure
  • Infections
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