Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine originating from the Indian subcontinent, developed more than thousands of years ago, and has eight branches for different fields of medicine. The word Ayurveda is a combination of ayus meaning life and veda meaning knowledge. Ayurveda therefore means knowledge of life, in terms of body, organs, senses, mind and soul.
Ayurvedic treatments and Chinese medicinal practice have a lot in common. In fact, around half of the herbs used for treatment in both therapies is the same, or have similar characteristics and treat similar diseases. Just as Chinese medicine describes medicinal properties in terms of yin and yang, Ayurveda describes them in terms of three characteristics, namely kapha (water and earth), pitta (fire with water), vata (also called vayu means air), which represents the three elements that control our physiological and chemical bodily functions. A balance of these three elements or tridosha is necessary to maintain health. Since these three elements are different for each person, Ayurvedic treatments vary for each person. Diagnosis is done by observing the tridoshas for each person, using direct examination, questionnaires, and Ayurvedic knowledge learnt from the ancient texts. It is important to seek advice and prescriptions from well-known authentic practitioners.
Ayurvedic treatments derive medicines from an assortment of sources, such as plants, animals and minerals. Medicines are made or mixed as per individual needs, depending on the illness to be cured and the balance of tridoshas within the body. Therefore, one medicine will not cure all, or might not be suitable for all individuals. Medicines are usually made by mixing a variety of herbs derived from plants. Additional ingredients such as metals, minerals or animal-origin extracts, purified before usage, might also be added. There are some concerns about the inclusion of metals and minerals in Ayurvedic medicines, so check with your doctor before consumption. Ayurvedic medicines derived from plants are mostly safe, and lack any side effects.
Ayurvedic medicines have reduced intensity or healed a variety of old age diseases since centuries. Here are a few commonly used Ayurvedic herbs for common ailments:
- Neem: This leaf has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is useful for treating skin disorders, purifying blood and boosting immunity
- Guggulu: This herb has anti-spasmodic properties. It is useful as a stimulant, purifying blood and healing chronic wounds.
- Himalayan Birch or Bhurjapatra: This herb has anti-toxin and anti-obesity properties. It is useful for treating ear and bile disorders and anomalies in the blood.
- Deodar Cedar or Devadaru: This bark is used to treat skin disorders, blood anomalies, arthritis, joint pain and swelling.
- Lemon or Nimbaka: Lemon is used to increase hunger and taste, and enable digestion.
- False Black Pepper or Vidanga: This fruit has diuretic, laxative, purgative properties, and can help remove flatulence, parasitic worms, abdominal wind, skin disorders and rheumatism.
- Fennel or Shatapushpa: Fennel is beneficial for reducing mental weakness, vision flaws, appetite loss, cardiac disorders, blood anomalies, skin disorders, abdominal pain, dysentery, fever, abdominal wind, flatulence, vomiting, nausea, weakness, piles, bronchitis, cough and pulmonary disorder.
- Tea Tree or Kayaputi: This is useful for treating skin disorders, diarrhea, dermatitis, cough, bronchitis, joint pain and muscular pain.
- Honey or Madhu: Honey is known to be beneficial for the heart, raw wounds, obesity, asthma, diarrhoea and bronchitis.