Ayurveda is a traditional form of medicine originating in India and dating back thousands of years.
You’ve likely heard of some popular Ayurvedic treatments such as tongue scraping and oil pulling, as these holistic treatments have grown in popularity among celebrities and wellness enthusiasts, but what does Ayurvedic medicine actually entail?
Dr Roopa Konanur, qualified Ayurvedic consultant and Panchakarma specialist at Ayurdhama, shares her insights and experience into what Ayurvedic medicine is and how it can help treat health concerns.
How does Ayurveda work?
“Ayurveda is a science of life, drawn from classical texts for thousands of years, which lays down principles for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and is not merely for treating ailments” said Dr Konanur.
Ayurvedic treatments are highly personalised to each patient, and despite being considered a complementary or alternative medicine, the practice has been adopted by populations around the world who appreciate its holistic approach and believe it can alleviate a range of health concerns including asthma, arthritis, eczema, and stress-related conditions.
“With the current increase of lifestyle disorders in the world, Ayurvedic principles of daily and seasonal regimens which include adaption to changing weather conditions, diet, exercise and rejuvenation can reduce the impact of diseases in the long run,” said Dr Konanur.
“It is so important that Ayurveda first speaks about prevention and then about treatment.”
Ayurveda is based on the principle that every person is made up of natural elements, which together make up a person’s main life forces or ‘body humours’ classified as the three ‘doshas’: Vata dosha (space and air); Pitta dosha (fire and water); and Kapha dosha (water and earth).
“The particular ratio of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha within each of us has a significant impact on our individual physical, mental, and emotional character traits. Hence, it is imperative for an Ayurvedic practitioner to assess their patients, understand their doshas, and guide them accordingly with appropriate medicines,” said Dr Konanur.
What happens in an Ayurvedic treatment session?
Ayurvedic medicine is holistic in nature, meaning it attempts to treat a whole person rather than a localised or specific ailment.
After determining the goal or concerns of a new client, Dr Konanur conducts a physical examination, takes vital signs, and administers a specific pulse examination to provide a complete picture of the individual’s doshas, or ‘prakriti’, a term originating from the Sanskrit word for nature.
“A great amount of time is also spent understanding the digestive power of the patient as Ayurveda considers gut health to be of prime importance, with many diseases strongly related to improper digestion,” said Dr Konanur.
Depending on the results of the examination, Dr Konanur then prescribes a tailored treatment plan of a range of Ayurvedic treatments referred to as Panchakarma (five actions), including yoga, massage, acupuncture, dietary intervention and herbal medicine.
How can Ayurvedic medicine help?
Herbal medicines are a key component of Panchakarma treatments, and include “an abundant range of classical single medicines or herbal combinations,” said Dr Konanur.
“These are derived from roots, bark, leaves, stems, flowers, fruits and various parts of a plant. These medicines have unique taste, and potency which can help alleviate or aggravate the doshas of our body.”
Dr Konanur stresses that whilst herbal in nature, Ayurvedic medicines should only be taken under strict supervision and in consultation with your healthcare professional due to their potent nature.
“With this being a personalised medicine, it is important patients do not self-prescribe or share medicines with others, as it can either cause a disturbance in their balance of doshas or gut health which can indeed be a trigger for newer ailments,” said Dr Konanur.
Is Ayurveda right for me?
Whilst most Ayurvedic practices are safe for everyone, and some like yoga are commonplace in many people’s lives, it is still important to always check with your doctor before introducing complementary medicine, to ensure the origins of herbal medicines are safe and avoid any negative side effects.
“Every system of medicine has its own limitations, and similarly Ayurveda will have limits to what it can offer,” said Dr Konanur.
Ayurveda is one of the most ancient medical sciences in history, with a focus on achieving balance, longevity and vitality of body, mind, and spirit.
With a focus on adding years to life and life to years, Dr Konanur states that with the right practitioner and a tailored approach, this ancient “science of life” is for everyone.
Curious to try it for yourself? Ayurvedic practitioners near you can be found via the Australian Association of Ayurveda.