Introduction to Ayurveda
Over the years, there has been a growing use of traditional forms of medicine as people, particularly in the West, seek more natural ways to re-balance and heal the body. Modern terminology refers to ancient systems of medicine as ‘alternative’, however they were once pillars of health in the civilizations they developed in.
‘Ayurveda’ is roughly translated as the science of life in Sanskrit and embodied the collected wisdom of sages. It has been the traditional form of medicine and preventative healthcare in the Indian subcontinent for over 5000 years. Ayurveda encourages a state of balanced awareness with oneself, with one’s lifestyle habits, and this is what creates a higher state of health and being.
The essence of Ayurveda is that everyone has a specific, unique pattern of energy, a Prakuti which translates as a mind-body type, consisting of unique blends of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics. An individual’s Prakuti is made up of different proportions of Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Doshas have 3 basic functions and nature needs all of them present, to build and maintain a human body:
- Vata Dosha controls movement (think; circulation, breath, digestion)
- Pitta Dosha controls metabolism (think; processing food, air throughout the system)
- Kapha Dosha controls structure (think; bone, muscle)
Just as there are three Doshas, there are three basic types of human constitutions in Ayurveda, depending on which of the Doshas are dominant. Upon assessment, an Ayurvedic practitioner provides a unique plan, that suits and optimises the natural combination of the Doshas.
The body is a highly intelligent, complex being, and according to Ayurvedic teachings, the body knows what is good for it, and what to avoid. Not just in terms of food, but also activity, habits and environments to name a few. Preserving this natural balance is key to ensuring one’s ideal state of health. These are due to nature’s innate inclinations and tendencies to seek balance, which unfortunately we have become dissociated from.
However, there are ways to incorporate Ayurvedic herbs in our daily lives. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has long been recognised for its medicinal properties with the polyphenol Curcumin being the active component. It aids in greatly reducing oxidation by scavenging free radicals, and inflammation – 2 major contributing factors to chronic dis-ease states and disbalance in the body. Anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation are properties that need to be centred in our daily food and supplement choices to shield the body against the pervasive cellular stresses found in daily life.
Curcumin has also shown impressive results in a plethora of studies assessing a variety of conditions such as in reducing depression and anxiety, relieving joint pain in arthritic patients, in reducing exercise-induced inflammation, provides neuroprotective effects, and delays cellular aging.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), is a revered tonifying herb in Ayurveda, also referred to as “Indian Ginseng”. The root is specifically used as a nervine tonic, or adaptogen which helps the body’s resilience against stress, by stabilising physiological processes and promoting the body’s natural state of balance called homeostasis.
It also has a cognition promoting effect and has shown positive effects in studies of neurodegenerative diseases due to its potent anti-oxidant effects, as well as reducing anxiety, improving reproductive health and improving mitochondrial health. It is commonly available as a fine powder, that can be mixed with water, ghee or honey.
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