FAQs about Ayurveda

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1. What is Ayurveda?
    Ayurveda, the knowledge of life and longevity, is the oldest, most comprehensive scientific discipline, a complete health care system or healing system that was preached, practiced and documented in the ancient times by omniscient sages. This knowledge was revealed to them in their spiritual pursuits. Closely associated with the Indian thought process, the origin of this system can be traced to the Vedas, the earliest codified knowledge body, which deals with all aspects of the universe. This ancient knowledge was then dissipated to mankind around 5,000 years ago by sages and seers for the well being of mankind.
2. What does the word Ayurveda mean?
    Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word. The word Ayurveda literally means the science of Life. Notice, that Ayurveda is not merely the compendium of ‘Disease’ and its management. Life is a vast and an all encompassing phenomena which includes death. On one end Life is a celebration of birth, growth, child bearing, youth and sexuality; on the other end, life also brings forth disease, decay, aging, and loss of vigor. Ayurveda is that ancient art and science that helps us understand this very ‘life’ with all its different shades and colors; understand how best we can undertake this journey and how we transition through its different phases; for example, from teenage to adulthood to maturity, etc. Following the principles of Ayurveda brings about a profound understanding of the inner ability to have sound body, mind and spirit.
3. What are the origins of Ayurveda?
    Ayurveda originated in the hearts and minds of Indian sages, enlightened seers also known as Rishis thousands of years ago. Evidence supports Ayurveda to be at least 5,000 years old. That is a long time. The fact that Ayurveda is still alive not only in India but all over the world speaks for its power to deliver consistent positive and predictable results. According to the writings of India’s great sages, there never was a time that Ayurveda was not present in this universe in some form or the other. Maybe not in a tangible form like books and active clinics but present in the collective consciousness of this universe as eternal principles of unity between all things of the universe, of unity between man and nature, of the changeable but rhythmic nature of the universe, and of the unity between body and mind and that both are vehicles or tools for the one that is eternal – the spirit. Thus, Ayurveda originates from the creative intelligence behind this universe, the same intelligence that makes a flower bloom, a baby smile and planets revolve around the sun.
4. What are the basic principles of Ayurveda?
    Ayurveda’s laboratory was the entire universe, its ingredients simply the basic building blocks of this universe itself: the great 5 elements (panch maha bhutas) – Space (Akasha), Air (Vayu), Fire (Tejas), Water (Aap) and Earth (Prithvi). Shake up the 5 elements and you have the recipe for creating this universe in all its entirety and variety. Man is a part and parcel of this universe and can hardly be considered in isolation. The pancha maha bhautik Sharira (body) along with manas (mind) and atman (soul) constitutes you and me, the Purusha (the living, breathing, feeling self) in constant interaction with the outer universe (loka). The self of the person (Purusha) is a continuum of the universal self while the physical body composed of pancha maha bhutas (five great elements) originates from the pancha maha bhautik seed and derives nourishment from food and drinks of similar composition. Hence equilibrium and non antagonism between the internal and external milieu of man is essential for the maintenance of the living body. Since the individual human being is the miniature replica of the universe; the individual (purusha) and the universe (loka) stay in constant interaction with each other and also derive and draw materials from each other in order to maintain their normalcy and homeostasis. This interaction and exchange continues in a normal way such as by breathing the air, eating foods available in nature, etc. So long as this interaction is wholesome and optimum, the man is in optimum health. When this harmonious process breaks down, a disease state starts. Hence in Ayurveda the main principle of treatment will be to restore the harmonious exchange between Purusha (individual) and Loka (universe).
5. What are the doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha?
    In a living being, when the five elements combine to become forces that help a living being ‘live’ then these forces are known as doshas. Air and space combined to form the force of Vata which is responsible for all movement in the body, and it governs mainly all nervous functions. There are 80 kinds of possible disturbances due to Vata. Pain, stiffness, paralysis, and hypertension, heart diseases – all these are caused by Vata. Fire and water combine to form the force of Pitta. Pitta governs mainly enzymes and hormones. Pitta is also responsible for digestion, pigmentation, body temperature, hunger, thirst, sight, courage etc. There are 40 kinds of possible disturbances due to Pitta. Burning sensations, excessive body temperature, blue moles, jaundice, and pharyngitis are examples of disorders caused by Pitta. Water and earth combine to form the force of Kapha. Kapha regulates the other two. Kapha is responsible for the connections of joints, the solid nature of the body and its sustenance, sexual power, strength, patience etc. Among the 20 possible disturbances due to Kapha are anorexia nervosa, laziness, mucus expectoration, hardening of vessels, obesity, suppression of digestive power etc. In Ayurveda, we not only recognize these forces (the Tridoshas) but we also learn to harness them and develop an optimum food and lifestyle program that balances the three doshas. When doshas are in balance the individual is disease free and when in imbalance – disease begins to grow.
6. What do you mean by Prakriti or Ayurvedic constitution?
    Prakriti means innate nature, character, physical constitution or disposition of a person. According to Ayurveda, from birth to death, doshas influence the health status and physical constitution of a man, either positively or negatively. The concentration levels and preponderance of each dosha in an individual is believed to be genetically determined. Therefore, doshas in different permutations and combinations constitute the very nature/disposition of a man. This is known as Prakriti / Sharira Prakriti.
7. What is Ayurvedic viewpoint of human body functioning?
    The Universe and human body are made up of five basic elements collectively called Panch Mahabhoota. These are Aakasha (Ether), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Aapa (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). The sixth most essential component of life is Atma (soul) which is responsible for life process. The human body is made up of Doshas (Bio-humours), Dhatu (Body matrix) and Malas (extractable products). Vata, Pitta and Kapha, known as Tridoshas are physiological entities of the body which are responsible for carrying out all the functions of the body. Dhatu are the structural entities of the body. These are Rasa (Plasma), Rakta (Blood cells), Mamsa (Muscular tissue), Meda (Fatty tissue), Asthi (Bony tissues), Majja (Bone marrow) and Shukra (Hormonal and other reproductive fluids). Agni (Metabolic fire) is in thirteen different forms and carries out all the metabolic activities. The waste products of the body which are extractable are produced in the body as bye-products of metabolism. These are known as malas which include pureesha (faeces), Sweda (sweat) and Mutra (urine). All bio-transformations within the body occur through Srotases (body channels) which are the sites for action of agni.
8. What is the basic philosophy of health, disease and treatment in Ayurveda ?
    As per Ayurveda, ‘Health’ is a state of equilibrium of normal functions of doshas, body tissues (dhatus), excretary waste products (malas) and metabolic activities Agni with tranquil body, mind and soul and distortion of this equilibrium results into diseases. Erratic lifestyle is believed to be one of the basic causes behind the failure of mechanism of maintaining equilibrium. Treatment either with or without drugs and application of specific rules of diet, activity and mental health and use of medicine or procedures to balance doshas.
9. How is diagnosis done in Ayurveda?
    Diagnostic procedures in Ayurveda are two pronged; one is aimed to establish the stage of pathology and second to decide the mode of treatment to be applied. The former implies examination of the patient and make different investigations to diagnose the disease entity. The second type of examination is to assess the strength and physical status of the individual so that accordingly the type of management required could be planned. For this examination of Prakriti (Body constitution), Saara (Tissue quality), Samhanana (physique), Satva (Mental strength), Satmya (specific adaptability), Aaharashakti (diet intake capacity), Vyayaama shakti (exercise capacity) and vaya (age) is done. Similarly, Ashtavidha Pariksha (Eight-fold examination) is followed for the examination of the patients viz. Nadi Pariksha (Pulse examination), Mutra Pariksha (Urine examination), Mala Pariksha (Stool examination), Jihva Pariksha (Tongue examination), Shabda Pariksha (Voice examination), Sparsh Pariksha (Skin examination), Drik (Eye examination), Akriti (General appearance examination).
10. What are different treatment modalities of Ayurveda?
    The principles of treatment are Shodhana (purificatory eg. Panchkarma), Shamana (palliative and conservative), Nidan parivarjan (avoidance of causative and precipitating factors of disease) and Pathya Vyavastha (do’s and don’ts regarding diets and lifestyle). Shodhan therapy includes Vamana (medically induced emesis), Virechana (medically induced laxation), Vasti (medicated enema), shirovirechana (administration of medicines through nose) and Raktmokshan (Blood letting). These therapeutic procedures are collectively known as Panchkarma. Before executing Panch karma treatment Snehan (olation) and Swedan (perspiration) are to employed first. These are called Purvakarmas.
11. Whether Ayurveda has specialities?
    There are eight divisions of Ayurvedic therapeutics, namely Kayachikitsa (Internal medicine), Shalya (Surgery), Shalakya (Otorhinolaryngology and Opthalmology), Kaumar Bhritya (Paediatrics, Gynaecology and Obstetrics) Agad tantra (Toxicology), Rasayana (Gerentorology), Vajikaran (Aphrodisiacs) and Bhoot Vidya (Psychiatry). Therefore it is also called as Astanga Ayurveda.
12. Are Ayurvedic medicines free of side effects?
    If the medicines are prepared as per the prescribed procedures and administered as per the expert advice they are safe.
13. Does Ayurvedic treatment take a long time to heal ailments?
    No. This is a common misconception regarding Ayurveda. The question you have to ask yourself is: are you looking for a quick fix or mere suppression of symptoms or are you actually seeking to dissolve the deep rooted cause of the imbalance and rejuvenate deeply? We recommend if you are looking for a quick fix or a quick suppression then Ayurveda is not the right modality for you. But if you are looking to get to the bottom of your imbalance then Ayurveda, in a relatively short time (you will be surprised) will begin to offer its benefits. In reality, the time to heal any imbalance depends on various factors – age, type of disease, degree of imbalance, whether it is acute or chronic, how many doshas, tissues, organs and channels are involved in the disease process. If the disease is newly formed and is with a single dosha and tissue involvement, then Ayurveda can balance this condition very quickly. On the other hand if the condition is formed with the aggravation of two or three doshas, and if more organs and channels are involved, and it has become somewhat chronic then naturally, the treatment takes longer time to restore this imbalance.
14. Where do raw materials for manufacturing Ayurvedic medicines come from?
    They are either from the wild or from cultivated sources. Majority of plant material is from wild source. About 60 raw drugs are also imported.
15. Which are the authentic texts, on which these health care products are based?
    Ancient classical texts of Ayurveda Caraka Samhita, Susruta Samhita, Astanga Sangraha, Astanga Hridayam, Sarngadhara Samhita, Bhaishajya Ratnavali etc. are the treatises of effective practices and formulations and these form the basis of Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals.
16. Why should Ayurveda be the choice of therapy?
    Ayurveda is highly scientific, logical, safe, quick and extremely effective method of healing. It offers long lasting to permanent cure, treating the disease from its roots, for most of the ailments. Ayurveda is the most rational science with respect to its concepts of health, disease and cure. Ayurveda does not treat superficially by just driving away the symptoms but heals the patient from within. Undoubtedly, Ayurveda was the medicine of past and is of the future.
17. How is Ayurveda a Holistic Medicine?
    The concept of disease in Ayurveda is that disease is a total affection of mind and body, the disturbance of the whole organism. Individual organs are not the cause of illness but disturbance at the inner level (disturbance of the life force, the vital energy of the body) is the cause of illness. Therefore Ayurveda does not believe in giving different medicines for different afflicted parts of body but rather give constitutional remedy after detoxification, which will cover the disturbance of the whole person. Ayurveda treats the patient as a whole and not just the disease. Medical philosophy is coming more and more to the conclusion that the mere treatment of symptoms and organs can only help temporarily and that it is the healing power of the body as whole that has to be enhanced. Ayurveda believes in holistic, totalistic and individualistic approach
18. Is Ayurveda Ideal for Infants and Children?
    Yes, most of the children ailments like Cold, Cough, Fever, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Dysentery, Colic, Tonsillitis, Bronchitis, Asthma, Measles, Chickenpox, Mumps, Dentition problems, etc., could be very effectively and quickly treated with Ayurveda without producing any side effects whatsoever. Unlike antibiotics and other such medicines, Ayurvedic remedies do not hamper digestion, or lower body's resistance. Neither do they cause any allergies nor cause any damage even if taken over a long period. Besides, Ayurveda is effective also in temperament and behavioral problems seen commonly in children like irritability, obstinacy, temper-tantrums, fears, phobias, destructiveness, thumb- sucking, nail biting, bed-wetting as well as in mentally & physically backward children.
19. Is Ayurveda a better substitute to Antibiotics?
    Ayurveda is an effective alternate to antibiotics in infectious diseases, producing no toxic side effects and bringing about rapid recovery. Ayurveda has definite treatment for most of the infectious disease such as Sinusitis, Tonsillitis, Bronchitis, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Meningitis, Otitis media (pus from ear), Gastroenteritis (vomiting-diarrhea), Dysentery, Urinary Infections, etc.
20. Does Ayurveda offer treatment for Viral infections?
    Viral infections such as common cold, influenza, measles, Chickenpox, mumps, viral hepatitis (jaundice), viral meningitis etc. are very well treated with Ayurveda. Allopathic system has no curative treatment for viral diseases except infusing antibiotics under the pretext of preventing secondary bacterial infection.
21. Does Ayurveda offer Surgery?
    Ayurveda does not recommend resorting to the knife at the first instance. It advocates simple parasurgical measures like blood-letting, application of warm and cold poultices of drugs, cauterization with alkalies and fire. These are best suited to persons unfit for surgery, and for non-emergency diseases. Many a time these act as supplements to surgery, help to avoid surgery and even complementary to it. Ayurveda expounds the concepts and skill in surgery from ancient times. Infact, Susruta the founder of Ayurvedic School of Surgery is rightly called as ‘Father of Surgery’. All surgical techniques such as incising, excising, scraping, puncturing, probing, extracting, draining and suturing are carried out even today. Surgical treatments for difficult diseases like Haemorrhoids, fistula-in-ano is offered. A unique method of treating rectal fistula by plugging it with a thread processed with vegetable alkalies (ksarasutra) has been found very satisfactory by modern surgeons and is becoming popular in western countries.
22. Does Ayurveda have an answer to Allergic diseases?
    In modern life infections have diminished and various allergic disorders have grown rampant. Ayurveda offers very effective treatment in all allergic diseases such as various skin diseases like Urticaria, Eczema, Contact Dermatitis, as well as gives unbelievably miraculous results in Asthmatic Bronchitis.
23. Can one take Ayurveda Medicine with modern medicines?
    If not indicated otherwise by the attending physician, Ayurveda Medicines can generally be taken along with allopathic medicines. Moreover, Ayurveda Medicines are used as adjuvant to allopathic medicines in most of chronic and degenerative diseases.
24. Who is a qualified Ayurveda practitioner?
    Any Ayurveda doctor having such degree/ qualifications as mentioned in 2nd, 3rd and 4th schedules of Indian Medicine Central Council Act, (IMCC) 1970 is a recognized medical practitioner. BAMS and MD (Ayurveda) degrees of new pattern and equivalent qualifications of the time before the enactment of Central Act are recognized qualifications for the purpose of registration and practice of Ayurvedic Medicine.
25. How safe is to buy Ayurveda Medicines over the counter?
    Medicines are safe if the manufacturer is licensed Pharmacy and the label of the container specifically describes date of manufacturing, expiry date, batch number of the medicine, dose and indications along with ingredients of the medicine and necessary precaution.