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Ayurveda | GHIS
integrative medicine

AYURVEDA

Ayurveda means “the science of life”.  Ayur means “life” and Veda means “knowledge or science”.   Ayurveda is dated to be anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 years old.  It is the oldest known medicine in the world.  The Ayurvedic paradigm demonstrates how the mind, body and spirit interactions enable us to live gracefully and in harmony.  Ayurveda has already donated the drug reserpine and the discipline of plastic surgery to modern medicine (Svoboda, p.13, 2004). Reserpine is from the plant sarpagandha (Rauwolfiaserpentine) and prescribed as an anti-hypertensive and anti-psychotic drug. Another efficacious plant resin Guggul (Commiphora mukul) binds to cholesterol in the gastro-intestinal tract and has been used an anti-cholesterol medication. Plastic surgery ideas were taken from Sushruta Samhita, Ayurveda’s text (Svoboda, 2004).

“Into its ancient well of profound healing wisdom, some of the greatest doctors and sages have poured their finest insights and discoveries. Yet to fully appreciate the nectar of the Eastern healing wisdom, Westerners need to overcome their literal and linear process of thought to enter into a non-linear reasoning approach. Therefore, a perspective grounded in an intuitive vision of the whole rather than the microscopic view of contemporary science is necessary.” Terra M., The Yoga of Herbs.

In Ayurveda, the definition of disease is as follows. If disease is correctly understood, disease does not occur as an arbitrary phenomenon but for definite reasons.  In understanding this correctly, disease can be prevented from recurring.

History of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is part of the Vedas. The Vedas are known as the oldest sacred texts, dating to approximately 1700-1100 BC.  The common known Vedas are Rig Veda and AvarthaVeda. From the youngest of the Vedas, the Atharva Veda, Ayurveda was developed. At the turn of the first millennium BC the treatise known as Charaka Samhita (the first and most important of all Ayurvedic texts) was written.  Around this time Ayurveda’s most famous surgical text , the Sushruta Samhita was also compiled.  The belief that exists in Ayurveda: nothing exists in the world that cannot be used as medicine.

Indian medicine found its way into Greece when Alexander the Great’s invaded northern India. In the 3rd century BC, Asoka, the emperor of northern India built charitable hospitals, surgical, obstetric and mental facilities for both human and animals throughout his kingdom.  With the spread of Buddhism, as the Buddha himself was a strong supporter of Ayurveda, the holistic practice of Ayurveda soon spread to Sri Lanka.  Two other famous texts are Ashtanga Sangraha (7th century) and AshtangaHrdaya (8th century).  These two texts are condensations of the work of Charaka and Sushruta.

With the Islamic invasion of India, Ayurveda text and libraries and universities were destroyed. The survivors who fled to Nepal and Tibet carried with them Ayurveda texts. Till today some Ayurveda text are preserved only in Tibetan language. Ayurveda survived in India. The Muslim/Arabic physicians combined Ayurveda with Greek medicine and it is called Unani.  In Southern India the traditional medicine is known as Siddha medicine. It is dedicated to the 18 Siddhas or “seers”. There are similarities between Ayurveda and Siddha but they are not entirely the same system of medicine.

Ayurveda is a fluid system of body constitution, humor, metals and mineral medicine, herbalogy, external and internal cleansing, gem therapy, astrology, Yoga, mantra, meditation and prayers.  It is an extensively developed science that gives humans the tools to live in harmony with the nature and connection with the universe.

Principles of treatment

In all branches of Indian medicine, Ayurveda or Siddha, medical treatment is divided into eight (astanga) branches.

1. Kaya chikitsai (general medicine)

5. Saya chikitisai (surgery

2. Bala chikitisai (pediatrics

6. Visha chikitisai (toxicology

3. Graha chikitsai (treatment of mental and neurological diseases)

7. Rasayana chikitisai (geriatrics or gerontology

4. Urdvanga chikitisai (eye, ear, nose, throat and head)

8. Vajeekarna chikitsai (aphrodisiacs)

Ayurveda treatment consists of broadly of two parts:

Samana treatment (palliative) and Sodhana treatment (radical).

Five Sodhana treatment or eliminative treatments are mentioned below. Before treatment is administered a person has to be prepared to undergo these sessions with discipline.

Vamana-emetics

Virechana-purgatives

Sneha Vasthi-medicated oils, enemas.

Raktamokshanam-blood letting

Nasyam – herbal oils in nasal passage

Watch Nasyam treatment here

The Three Main Forces

Most people familiar with Ayurveda have heard of the distinct or dominant body types. While this is one minor component of Ayurveda, it is not all of Ayurveda.  The Rishis (ancient seers) recorded three forces, tridosha in the basic existence of life in human. These three forces are a condensation of the five elements.  The five elements are fire, earth, water, air and ether.  These five elements make up all matter in the universe. The human body is a microcosm of the macrocosm.  A person can be one of these elements or a combination of two or three with one of the elements dominating the other.  All these five elements are energy in different forms. The tridosha influence our state of health.

In Ayurveda, energy is never destroyed, but evolves into different levels of vibration. Energy is constantly moving, changing, gives direction, force. Depending on the levels of vibration it can transmute to light, heat and cold. All living things in Ayurveda are viewed as static or dense energy constantly evolving.  We are matter which seems solid to the naked eye but we are in actual subtle moving forces of atoms, molecules in motion.

Prana is the name for life force that inhibits all living things.  Prana is also referred to as Purusha or Primal Force.  Unlike other livings things humans are gifted with the highest form of consciousness and most important of all, the conscious will. In Chinese and Japanese medicine , prana is known as Chi  and Ki.

Dosha or biological humor is defined as impurities, decay or waste products, that arisesout of process of the body metabolism.  When doshas predominate or become out of balance, disease arise.  From the five elements arise vata from air and ether, kapha from water and earth, pitta from fire and water.  Air is the predominant factor in vata, water in kapha, and fire in pitta.

Vata, kapha and pitta

Vata is also referred to as wind or air.  It attributes are dry, light, cold, changeable, mental clarity, calmness. Vata is the most important of the three humors. It directs the other two humors.  It has the potential to affect the mental and physical self.  When aggravated or disturbed vata can cause mental agitation, insomnia, dizziness, constipation, anxiety, nervousness, depression, retard fetus growth to name a few.

Kapha is also refered to as water or phlegm.  It unites earth and water.  It supports the other two humors. It holds things together. Its attributes are coldness, dampness, denseness, soft & firm, and oily.  It has the potential to affect mobility, lubrication and stability in emotions.  When kapha is aggravated it can cause lethargy, weight gain, cough, paleness, dehydrated effect, breathing difficulties, etc.

Pitta is otherwise known as fire or bile.  It properties are slightly oily, digestion/heat, lustre/glow, viscosity, etc.  When pitta aggravated it can cause thirst, difficulty sleeping, yellowing of skin, eyes, stool and urine, inflammation, fever, flushed complexion.

Location the biological humors

In Ayurveda the disease is treated at the sites at which the humors reside. By treating the specific location(s) where the imbalance has accumulated the dis-ease is treated it becomes chronic. Vata is located in the brain, heart, ears, bones, lungs, thighs, and colon. Kapha is located at head, nose, mouth, joints, tongue, throat, lymph system, fat, and stomach. Pitta is at liver, spleen, sweat glands.

Types of tridosha

Types of Vata: In Ayurveda there are 5 types of vataair or wind.  If you have practiced Yoga breath work, and the Bandras, you will be familiar with directing the different types of air through the chakras.  The five types are called Prana, Udana, Samana, Vyana, and Apana.

These are upward and down ward moving air currents within the human body.  To briefly define these five currents.  Prana is the main life force which directs all other vata. Udana is the upward moving air. Samana is the equalizing air.  Vyana is the diffusive air. Apana is the downward moving air. (Refer to Siddha Vayu chart in Siddha section). Here is a site for learning various Ayurveda  term and definition.  

Types of Kapha:  By connecting the water element of kapha to its attributes and location, the function of the five types of water will make sense to the reader. Sleshakais related to lubrication (synovial fluid) with the joints.  Tarpaka is related to contentment.  Kledaka is for moisturizing.  Bodhaka is for perception and Avalambaka is for support.

Types of Pitta: As with vata and kapha, fire also has it different functions depending where it is located. Sadhaka pitta for reality. Pachaka for fire that aids digestion. Bhrajaka governs skin glow or lustreRanjaka gives color to internal organs and liquid medium in the body. Lastly, Alochaka for visual perception.

Tissues, lustre and aura

The Tridoshas influence their actions through the tissues and waste products in the body.  In Ayurveda the human body has seven Dhatus or tissue layers.  They are: rasa (plasma or liquid), rakta (blood), medas (fat), asthi (bone), majja(marrow) and shukra (semen or reproductive essence). Rasa is the nectar that bathes each cells in the body. 

Ojas is the purest or refined nectar, that the body reproduces and it resides in the bone marrow. Ojas is also connected to the sexual fluids or shukra. Ojas enhances the immune system and boost digestion and contributes to the health glow or lustre.  The aura is the external glow that permeates from a person’s complexion and radiance.

Sex and illness

As ojas is connected to shukra (semen or reproductive essence) which is connected to sexual fluids, that is a direct link between depletion of body’s energy and sex during any illness.  When sex is initiated, the mind identifies with the sex organs, sexual excitement increases blood flow to the sexual organs.  During sex shukra is moved from its stored location, the spinal cord, depending on each person’slevel of awareness. In practice of Tantra yoga, the various meditation and/or breathing techniques are used to bring the sexual energy up the spine via the chakras to the crown to achieve a heightened state without orgasm. It is by charging the sexual energy up the spine through the chakras without ejaculations as the primarily goal of sex, if one is disciplined to achieve it. In ejaculation or orgasm, the ojas is disturbed and the shukramoves downward.  Excessive sex and /or masturbation robs the body of these energies, breaks down ojas and shukra, depletes the physical system, weakens immune system, increases vata and apana (down ward moving air). 

Ayurveda believes if an individual engages in excessive sex then one has to learn how to restore the energy by Yogic practices or satvic (pure) foods. In summary  the principles of Ayurveda/Siddha and sexual practice is rather a complex modality of health that is challenging to write in a western linear view of the human body, sexual behavior and sexual health.

Channels of flow or Srotas

In Ayurveda the various channels throughout the body nourish the tissue with nutrients or remove waste products. When these channels flow fluidly, all is in harmony. Problems arise when these channels are blocked, or there is an excessive flow, decrease flow, knotted or flow out into wrong channel.  There are a total of 16 channels.  The first three are Prana channel (Pranavah Srotas), food channel (Annavah), water (Ambhuvah).  These three are connected with nutritional intake and the environment.  The next seven channels are: rasa (Rasavah), blood(Raktavah), muscle (Mamsavah), fat (Medavaha), bone (Asthivah), marrow (Majjavaha), and reproductive (Shukravah).

The next three are connection to the external world.  They are: sweat(Svedavaha), feces (Purishavaha), and urine (Mutravah).  Two additional channels are for females; menstruation (Artavavaha) and breast milk (Stanyavaha).  The last and one of the most important channels is the Manovaha Shrotas.  This channel connects to the nervous system and reproductive system.

Constitution or body types

Besides the genetic make-up of  individuals,  the ethnicity and geographic locations of birth determine our body types, other subtle forces are at play that determine our overall mental, physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual make-up.  Tridoshas affect the constitution that we are predisposed with.  However, we are in control of altering the doshas that cause imbalances in our systems with a little discipline.

This table below should help you determine your constitution. When you visit aAyurveda practitioner this knowledge will help you to work in partnership with the practitioner.  In addition you may have a clearer knowledge of why they expect you to moderate certain foods and beverage in your diet. Once you have determined your body constitution, you can make necessary changes to counteract the dominanttridosha by diet, massage, exercise, or cleansing as per seasons.

The table below has been adapted from Ayurvedic Healing/David Frawley and Ayurveda: Life, Health and Longevity/Robert Svoboda.
 

Attributes

Vata

Pitta

Kapha

Built/frame

thin, tall, short

medium

stout, broad, heavy

Weight

hard to gain, low

moderate

gains easily, heavy

Skin

thin, dry, tans deeply, 
cold, rough

light, freckles, acne, warm, sunburns easily

soft, smooth, cold, thick, medium tan

Complexion

dull, dark

red, flushed

white, pale

Hair

dry, coarse, wavy, dark, scanty

fine, gray or balds easily, straight, soft

oily, lustrous, brown, thick

Head

small

moderate

large

Forehead

small, narrow

moderate with folds

large 

Eyes

unsteady, small dull

piercing, medium

wide, attractive

Eye color

violet, gray tones

green, blue, hazel

brown, blue

Eyebrows

fine, thin

moderate

thick, bushy

Eyelashes

dry, firm, short

short, thin, fine

long, thick

Nose

small, crooked, thin

medium

oily, thick, big

Lips

thin, small, dry

soft, red, medium

thick, firm, large

Teeth and gums

small, crooked

medium, pink, bleeds easily

thick, firm, large

Shoulders

thin, small

medium

broad, firm

Chest

narrow, small

medium

broad, firm

Arms

thin, small

medium

well developed ,thick

Hands, feet and  joint

 small, dry, cold, thin

warm, medium

large, firm

Calves

small

loose, soft

round, firm

Nails

small, dry, rough

soft, pink

thick, smooth, white

Urine and feces

erratic, colorless, gas, constipation

regular, loose motion, burning sensation 

slow, whitish, solid, mucus in stool

Sweat/body odor

no smell

strong smell, heaty

cold, pleasant smell

Appetite

variable

medium

regular

Energy/stamina

poor, over exert

medium

good, under exert

Voice/speech

low, weak/quick, erratic, talkative

high, sharp/argumentative

pleasant, good tone, slow, not talkative

Weather

likes warm

likes cool

likes season

Mental

quick, indecisive

intelligent, critical

slow, emotions

Memory

poor, learns easily but forgets quickly

sharp, good memory

learns slowly & forgets slowly

Emotions

fearful, nervous

irritable

calm, sentimental

Sleep

variable, often light

moderate

deep

Faith

erratic

determined

constant

Dreams

restless, nightmares

colorful,  passion

few dreams

Sex drive

variable

intense

steady

Resistance to disease

poor

medium

good

Disease  tendency

nervous system, mental, arthritis

infections, inflammatory

respiratory

Side effects of medications

quick, nervous reaction

medium

slow, reacts to high doses usually

Pulse

rapid, irregular

moderate

deep, slow or steady

A person can be a combination of two humors, while one is dominant. Download Tridosha chart here.

First you have to determine your constitution to balance the humors.  The humors are not only the causes of disease but also the site of the disease.  An excess humor will migrate to another site once it has damaged its own site.  The humors affect each other and as the disease becomes chronic, treatment become very complicated.  The goal is know the attributes of the humor and not to be caught up with the name of the disease.   In Ayurveda and Siddha there  are no new disease just different degrees of a disease or disease causing factors. 

It is not all about the pathogen

In Ayurveda, Siddha medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tibetan medicine, immune suppression is not viewed as an illness due to a pathogen. The problem is immune weakness and how to build immune strength within the body. If the environment is not conducive to the host pathogen, the disease does not flourish. The treatment procedure for cancer, HIV and other consumption disease is in reverse to other diseases.

Immune weakness is aggravated by taking in more nutrients than you digest,  excessive indulgence in improper diet, sex, alcohol and recreational drugs. This excess fills the system with Ama (toxins) and aggravates kapha and vata.  This directly depletes Ojas (life force).

The usual cause of action for balancing the doshas are to removal of the cause, purification to eliminate excess doshas, balancing the dosha and rekindling the digestive fire, rejuvenation to rebuild the organism. For disease of consumption such as cancer, HIV, the procedure is as follows: rejuvenate first to preserve life. Next balance the dosha, to strengthen the patient and weaken the disease. Purify the system by using Panchakarma if its benefit outweighs the risk, and finally remove the emotional cause of the condition, if and /or when the patient is ready for it.

The gastro-intestinal tract

Ayurveda’s emphasis is on the health of the colon. Over 70 per cent of our immune cells is in our gut. In Ayurveda medicine, the enteric system has as many neurons as the spinal cord.  Gut health is crucial to maintain mental and emotional well-being. More research is documenting our gut has more impact on our mental well-being. “Technicallyknown as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.” (Hadhazy, 2010)

Excess nutrition (which is not absorbed or digested) blocks the pathways for Dhatunutrition and obstructs the proper movement of nutrients, which is controlled by Vata. The insufficient intake of nutrients to replace an excess outflow of energy, directly disturbs Vata, whose qualities exhaust the Dhatus. This robs the Dhatus of nourishment, decrease Ojas, and weaken the immunity, permitting pathogens to colonize the system.

The Ayurvedic approach involves whittling away at the strength of the disease while rebuilding a the individual’s immune power in which nature can cure.  Whatever the therapy, rejuvenation is essential to invigorate the Dhatus and revitalize the organism.

Massage /oil baths

Oil baths and massage are a strong component of Ayurveda and Siddha medicine.
Oil is most specific for vata disorders, but also used for other disorders plus general health maintenance. For general health, Ayurvedic oil is warmed and/or mixed with herbs, and massaged  into the skin. This is left on for an hour minimum to enhance penetration of oil followed by a hot bath.  Use 3/4 cup of warmed oil, rub from head to toe. Coconut and sesame is used commonly. Coconut oil  has cooling properties. Sesame is said to have the strongest penetrating properties compared to other oils. 

Vatas constitution should use sesame oil.  Pittas use coconut or sunflower oil. Kaphasuse corn oil.   

Incense

First, only purchase incense that have natural essential oils not additives.  Incense areused for calming of the mind, meditation and mental clarity. Chose scents that appeal to you or to impart particular goal.

Gem therapy and Astrology

In East Indian cultures, Vedic Astrology)  plays a strong component of an individual’s  life.  When a child is born their astrological chart is calculated according to time of birth and planetary positions. Vedic astrology treats subtle body or mind.  Each person has a particular gem stone that enhances or minimizes the effect of planets.

Gem therapy, can also be used for internal use. Gem stones, or gold, copper, silver  isboiled in water, cooled and drank. This is done to very specific formula.  It can be compared to extraction of flower essences.  Gems are worn externally as rings or pendants (they must be aligned with the heart or throat chakra).  To acquire benefits of gem stones the light should be able to reflect right through the stone to touch the skin (the back of the ring or pendant should not be covered in metal).

Meditation, Prayers and Mantra

In Ayurveda and Siddha the above three are intertwined and prescribed.
Meditation is an art, of becoming aware of your thoughts, observing it, allowing it to go on till you achieve mastery over your thoughts.   An important part of meditation is listening to your spirit, higher self or God and to be aware of your breathing.  When you are in sync with your breathing you enter a different realm of consciousness.

When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still.” Hatha Yoga Pradipika

“Breathing correctly means breathing through the nose, keeping the mouth closed, and involves a full inhalation and exhalation which brings the whole of your lungs into play.  When you exhale , the abdomen contracts and the diaphragm moves up, massaging the heart; when you inhale, the abdomen expands and the diagram moves down, massaging the abdominal
organs”
Ramana Maharishi

What is the difference between meditation and prayers? In prayers you ask your spirit, higher self or God for guidance.  In meditation, you listen to the answer, hence clearing the clutter of your mind.  Out of half an hour of meditation, you would achieve a minute or two of utmost silence.  In a given hour, there are around 300,000 thoughts that go through your mind.  In meditation, you learn to merge with the word, action and to be one -pointed. With meditation you cultivate mindfulness.  This comes with practice and discipline. There are no shortcut or instants meditation techniques.  Every action that you perform can be a form of meditation such as painting, writing, watching a sunset, etc.

Mantras are vibration sounds that you repeat to be become part of your consciousness.  Mantras are NOT meaningless words.  Words have a sound vibration in the ether, andbecomes etched in your consciousness.  Repeating a mantra in mediation calms the minds and allows one a glimpse of bliss. The most potent and simplest mantra is OM.  In the research by Bormann, A Burnout Prevention Tool, the researcher provides a many options of mantrams.   

Two studies below examined the impact of mantram on cortisol level, PTSD and stress reduction.

Bormann, J.E., Aschbacher, K., Wetherell,J. L.,Roesch, S., Redwine, L. (2009). Effects of faith/assurance on cortisol levels are enhanced by a spiritual mantram intervention in adults with HIV: A randomized trial. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66 (2), 161-171. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.09.107

Bormann. J.E. A “Burnout Prevention” Tool for Improving Healthcare Providers’

Health and Wellbeing: Mantram Repetition. Retrieve here 

Reference and recommended reading

Anandkumar. A., Narayanswami, V. Introduction to the Siddha System of Medicine

Allison.M.D. (2017).Quizlet. Retrieved at https://quizlet.com/debbie_mooreallison

Frawley, D. Yoga and Ayurveda. (2008). Self Healing and Self Realization. MotilalBanarsidass Publishers, Delhi.

Frawley, D. Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide. Motilal BanarsidassPublishers, Delhi.

Frawley, D., Lad, V., (1998).  The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi.

Hadhazy, A. (2010).  Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

Haas. N. (2015). Health and consciousness through Ayurveda and Yoga.

Murti. S. G. The Science and Art of Indian Medicine. 

Ridaura. V., Belkadi, Y. (2015). Gut Microbiota: The Link to Your Second Brain. Volume 161, Issue 2, 9 April 2015, Pages 193-194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2015.03.033

Svoboda, R. (2004). Ayurveda: Life, Health and Longevity. Ayurvedic Press; 1st edition.  Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/344949361/Ayurveda-Life-Health-and-Longevity-Robert-Svoboda

Svoboda, R. (2005). Prakriti. Your Ayurvedic Constitution
.
Vedic Global  www.vedicaglobal.org

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