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Ayurvedic Medicine

(continued)

Kapha Dosha

The kapha dosha (water and earth) controls:

  • muscle growth
  • body strength and stability
  • weight
  • immune system

Things that can disrupt this dosha are:

  • daytime sleeping
  • eating after your stomach is full
  • eating or drinking items that have too much salt or water
  • eating too many sweet foods
  • greed

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

  • asthma and other breathing disorders
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • nausea after eating
  • obesity

The Ayurvedic Visit

There are a few state-approved Ayurvedic schools in the U.S. However, the U.S. has no national standard training or certification program for Ayurvedic practitioners.

Some practitioners may have a great deal of training or experience, others may not. Do your homework when choosing an Ayurvedic practitioner. Ask about his or her training and experience.

In India, Ayurvedic training can take five or more years. Graduates receive either a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) or Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (DEMS) degree.

At your first visit, the practitioner will examine you and try to determine your primary dosha and the balance among the others. The exam will include:

  • checking your weight
  • examination of urine and stools
  • feeling your pulse (each dosha theoretically creates a unique pulse)
  • listening to your speech and voice
  • looking at your eyes, teeth, tongue, and skin

You will be asked questions about your:

  • ability to recover from an illness
  • behaviors
  • diet
  • lifestyle
  • medical history, including recent illnesses

Ayurvedic Treatment

Treatment depends on your unique prakriti, your primary dosha, and the balance between all three of them.

A main goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to cleanse your body of undigested food called ama, which can stick to the inside of your body and make you sick. This cleansing process is called panchakarma. It is used to reduce any symptoms and reestablish harmony and balance.

Panchakarma may include:

  • blood purification (either by removing blood from the body or with special teas)
  • massage
  • medical oils given through the nose
  • methods to make you vomit
  • use of enemas, laxatives, or purgatives to cleanse your intestines

Other treatments may also be recommended to:

  • restore balance
  • improve spiritual healing
  • boost your immunity
  • reduce symptoms

The treatments may include:

  • aromatherapy
  • breathing exercises
  • diet changes
  • herbs, vitamins, minerals, and metals
  • plant-based oils and spices
  • lifestyle changes
  • meditation
  • stretching
  • yoga

Studies on Ayurvedic Medicine

Some research has shown that meditation works very well in relieving stress and reducing the risk for heart disease risk factors. Other studies are looking into the ability of Ayurvedic herbs to treat cancer.

Recently, scientists have reported that Ayurveda may be a valuable tool in managing obesity and diabetes. However, a Cochrane review found there is insufficient evidence to recommend Ayurveda for the routine treatment of diabetes.

The FDA has warned that one in five Ayurvedic medicines contain toxic metals, including:

  • lead
  • mercury
  • arsenic

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that several Indian-manufactured Ayurvedic products could "result in lead and/or mercury ingestions 100 to 100,000 times greater than acceptable limits."

Lead, mercury, and arsenic are heavy metals. They can cause life-threatening illness, especially in children.

The FDA does not review or approve Ayurvedic products. But the agency has put an import alert on certain Ayurvedic products since 2007. This prevents the products from entering the country. However, many customers purchase the products over the Internet. Such sales are harder to monitor.

Always tell all your doctors about the medicines you take, including herbs, supplements, minerals, spices, and other products. They can sometimes interact with each other, increasing your risk for serious health problems.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on July 06, 2012
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