What is Ayurveda? Principles, Practices Benefits and Risks

What is Ayurveda? Principles, Practices Benefits and Risks

Ashwagandha Expert is a project that offers the most accurate information in an accessible, understandable and applicable way so that readers can make the best...Read more


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Ayurveda, originating from ancient India, is a holistic health system. It’s all about balancing energies (doshas), customizing diet and lifestyle, and using herbs like Ashwagandha and yoga for overall well-being – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Ayurveda is an ancient health system from India that’s been around for more than 5000 years. The name comes from two Sanskrit words: “Ayur,” meaning life, and “Veda,” meaning knowledge. So, Ayurveda is basically the “science of life.”

This system is all about keeping a balance in the body’s three doshas—Vata (linked to air and space), Pitta (linked to fire and water), and Kapha (linked to earth and water). Ayurveda believes that if these doshas are out of control, you could get sick, and the goal is to get them back in balance.

What’s cool about Ayurveda is that it looks at everything—your body, mind, emotions, and spirit. It uses stuff like diet, herbs, yoga, meditation, massages, and cleansing techniques (Panchakarma) to keep you healthy and prevent sickness.

Ayurvedic treatments offer simple solutions for well-being:

  • Improve your diet and lifestyle.
  • Try herbs like ashwagandha and turmeric.
  • Benefit from oils, tinctures, and detox methods.
  • Enjoy rejuvenating massages.
  • Experience nasal cleaning (Nasya treatment).
  • Indulge in floral or botanical baths and steams.
  • Relax with warm oil poured on the head (Shirodhara).

Even though Ayurveda is popular in India, it’s catching on worldwide as more people look for different ways to stay healthy. But remember, while Ayurveda has good ideas, be careful and talk to qualified experts, especially if you’re thinking of using it with regular medicine.

What is Ayurveda good for?

Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health, focusing on the big picture. It provides personalized lifestyle tips and diet advice for overall balance. 

Lowers your stress level

According to the Ayurvedic approach, stress occurs when your body gets overwhelmed by too much sensory input, too much food, and too much busyness. Everyday activities like multitasking, exposure to too much news, and facing many stress triggers can make stress worse. 

Ayurveda helps your body handle stress better and brings down stress levels by suggesting changes in your diet, lifestyle, and incorporating activities like exercise, yoga, and breathing exercises. It also recommends using nutritional supplements such as Ashwagandha.

Promotes your overall sense of well-being

Ayurveda promotes overall well-being by focusing on your body, mind, and emotions. It suggests personalized lifestyle choices, a balanced diet, and stress management. 

Ayurveda is an approach based on natural solutions. Ashwagandha plant, which is frequently used in the Ayurvedic approach, focuses on improving our general health. Ashwagandha is used as an adaptogen, herbs that improve your body’s response to stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

[READ: What Are Adaptogens? Popular Herbs, Types, Benefits & Risks]

In a study, college students who took 700 milligrams of ashwagandha root for a month felt more energetic, mentally clear, and slept better than those who didn’t.

Choosing Ayurvedic diets also makes a real difference for your gut health and overall well-being.

Prevents diseases

Ayurveda is all about keeping your body safe. Research suggests it can cut the risk of heart disease by preventing artery walls from getting thick. Atherosclerosis, a slow and tricky disease, is when cholesterol and other stuff build up in your arteries, forming plaque that might lead to a heart attack or stroke.

[READ: What is Ayurveda? Principles, Practices Benefits and Risks]

Ayurveda is also great for handling stress. It helps you resist stress-related inflammation, depression, anxiety, and changes in your brain.

It includes different diets and fasts, helping with stomach and intestinal health, making your body stronger, and keeping your blood sugar balanced.

Combining yoga with specific Ayurvedic herbs and breathing exercises offers effective relief for conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain. Experience a positive impact on your well-being by integrating these practices to alleviate fatigue and enhance overall health.

Ayurvedic herbs exhibit potential in addressing various health conditions, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Painful menstruation
  • Herpes
  • High blood pressure
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Perimenopausal issues
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

The new meaning of eating

In Ayurveda, eating is a therapeutic act, akin to taking medicine. Optimal well-being is achieved by understanding the right nourishment for body, mind, and overall health.

As the famous Ayurvedic proverb goes, “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”

Contrary to modern beliefs, Ayurveda avoids labeling food as good or bad. The focus lies on how different foods impact our bodies. The Ayurvedic diet tailors food choices to individuals, ensuring a harmonious balance within.

For instance, those grappling with chronic heartburn or reflux should steer clear of alcohol, coffee, and cayenne pepper. Similarly, individuals with low sweet tolerance are cautioned against excessive sweetness, which can lead to demotivation and lethargy.

Ayurvedic dietary recommendations are personalized, recognizing the unique effects each food has on individuals.

Working Principle of Ayurverda

Ayurveda’s healing principles center around prakriti and three doshas. They teach us that each person has a unique constitution, known as prakriti. This determines how individuals respond to medicine, surroundings, and food.

Ayurveda describes three fundamental bio-energetic forces or doshas that govern various physiological and psychological functions in the body. These doshas are derived from the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and space—and are categorized as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Here’s a brief overview of each dosha:

  • Vata, linked to air and space, controls movement like breathing and circulation. In balance, it sparks creativity and agility, but imbalance may lead to anxiety and digestive issues.
  • Pitta, tied to fire and water, manages metabolism and digestion. Balanced, it supports intelligence and digestion, but imbalances can result in irritability and inflammation.
  • Kapha, rooted in earth and water, brings structure and stability, fostering calmness and strength. Imbalances might lead to lethargy and respiratory issues.

According to Ayurvedic philosophy, each individual has a unique constitution or Prakriti, which is determined by the predominance of these doshas in their nature. Maintaining a balance among the doshas is considered crucial for overall health and well-being, and Ayurvedic practices aim to harmonize the doshas through lifestyle choices, dietary recommendations, and therapeutic interventions.

What the Science Says About the Safety of Ayurvedic Medicine

In India (Bharat), Ayurveda is considered a formal system of medical care equivalent to traditional Western medicine.  About 80% of the country’s 1.2 billion population use Ayurvedic medicine. Numerous government and private Ayurvedic schools, clinics, and hospitals contribute to its widespread availability. Ayurveda holds a significant place in Indian culture, reflecting its deep-rooted traditions. 

But outside India (Bharat), Ayurveda is just a system of alternative medicine. 

Yet, the yoga, breathing exercises, and stress management techniques within Ayurveda find support in modern medicine.

Scientific studies have delved into the impact of Ayurvedic plants on human health. Notably, research confirms the Ashwagandha plant’s positive effects, reducing stress, treating chronic stress, alleviating anxiety, and enhancing testosterone levels.

Despite its historical roots, Ayurveda now stands as an alternative medicine. The plants it employs, however, are no longer recognized as conventional remedies.

The results of some scientific studies on Ayurveda:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions that the presence of metals in some Ayurvedic products can be potentially harmful.
  • Studies have shown that 20% of Ayurvedic medicines contain metals that are toxic to the body.
  • In a 2015 survey of Ayurvedic users, 40 percent showed elevated blood levels of lead, with some also having increased mercury levels. Approximately one in four tested supplements had high lead levels, and almost half exhibited elevated mercury levels.
  • A 2015 case report from the Center for Disease Control linked a 64-year-old woman’s elevated blood lead levels to Ayurvedic products purchased online.
  • Ayurvedic products may lead to arsenic poisoning.

Are there any risks?

Ayurvedic therapies like pranayama and rasayana can be beneficial for mental well-being, especially for those with serious mental health issues. It’s important to consult a knowledgeable psychiatrist or psychologist when incorporating these practices.

Be cautious when buying Ayurvedic products online, as some may contain harmful substances. Choose trusted sources and opt for tested herbs like Ashwagandha, supported by scientific studies for safe use in moderation.

Explore Ayurveda for enhancing overall well-being, reducing stress, and achieving balance. However, for specific illnesses, rely on modern scientific medicine.

Ashwagandha Expert is a project that offers the most accurate information in an accessible, understandable and applicable way so that readers can make the best possible decisions about the Ashwagandha plant and its use.

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