Ayurveda > Ayurvedic Treatment
By Dr. Satish Kulkarni
When consulting an Ayurvedic doctor for treatment, you get much more than a 5
minute consultation and below you can discover how an Ayurvedic doctor
treats a patient.
Major beliefs underlie Ayurveda?
Here is a summary of major beliefs in Ayurveda that
pertain to health and disease.
Ideas about the relationships among people, their health,
and the universe form the basis for how Ayurvedic
practitioners think about problems that affect health.
Ayurveda holds that:
- All things in the universe (both living and nonliving)
are joined together.
- Every human being contains elements that can be found
in the universe.
- All people are born in a state of balance within
themselves and in relation to the universe.
- This state of balance is disrupted by the processes of
life. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual,
or a combination. Imbalances weaken the body and make the
person susceptible to disease.
- Health will be good if one's interaction with the
immediate environment is effective and wholesome.
- Disease arises when a person is out of harmony with
Constitution and Health
Ayurveda also has some basic beliefs about the body's
constitution. "Constitution" refers to a person's general
health, how likely he is to become out of balance, and his
ability to resist and recover from disease or other health
problems. An overview of these beliefs follows.
In summary, it is believed that a person's chances of
developing certain types of diseases are related to the way
doshas are balanced, the state of the physical body,
and mental or lifestyle factors.
- The constitution is called the prakriti. The
prakriti is thought to be a unique combination of
physical and psychological characteristics and the way the
body functions. It is influenced by such factors as
digestion and how the body deals with waste products. The
prakriti is believed to be unchanged over a
- Three qualities called doshas form important
characteristics of the constitution, and control the
activities of the body. Practitioners of Ayurveda call the
doshas by their original Sanskrit names: vata,
pitta, and kapha. It is also believed that:
- Each dosha is made up of one or two of the
five basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth.
- Each dosha has a particular relationship to
body functions and can be upset for different reasons.
- A person has her own balance of the three doshas,
although one dosha usually is prominent.
Doshas are constantly being formed and reformed by
food, activity, and bodily processes.
- Each dosha is associated with a certain body
type, a certain personality type, and a greater chance
of certain types of health problems.
- An imbalance in a dosha will produce symptoms
that are related to that dosha and are different
from symptoms of an imbalance in another dosha.
Imbalances may be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle or
diet; too much or too little mental and physical
exertion; or not being properly protected from the
weather, chemicals, or germs.
Concepts about the three doshas:
The vata dosha is thought to be a combination
of the elements space and air. It is considered the most
powerful dosha because it controls very basic body
processes such as cell division, the heart, breathing, and
the mind. Vata can be thrown out of balance by, for
example, staying up late at night, eating dry fruit, or
eating before the previous meal is digested. People with
vata as their main dosha are thought to
be especially susceptible to skin, neurological, and
- The pitta dosha represents the elements fire
and water. Pitta is said to control hormones and
the digestive system. When pitta is out of balance,
a person may experience negative emotions (such as
hostility and jealousy) and have physical symptoms (such
as heartburn within 2 or 3 hours of eating). Pitta
is upset by, for example, eating spicy or sour food; being
angry, tired, or fearful; or spending too much time in the
sun. People with a predominantly pitta constitution
are thought to be susceptible to heart disease and
- The kapha dosha combines the elements water and
earth. Kapha is thought to help keep up strength
and immunity and to control growth. An imbalance in the
kapha dosha may cause nausea immediately after eating.
Kapha is aggravated by, for example, sleeping
during the daytime, eating too many sweet foods, eating
after one is full, and eating and drinking foods and
beverages with too much salt and water (especially in the
springtime). Those with a predominant kapha dosha
are thought to be vulnerable to diabetes, gallbladder
problems, stomach ulcers, and respiratory illnesses such
How an Ayurvedic practitioner decides
on a person's dosha balance
Practitioners seek to determine the primary dosha
and the balance of doshas through questions that
allow them to become very familiar with the patient. Not all
questions have to do with particular symptoms. The
- Ask about diet, behavior, lifestyle practices, and the
reasons for the most recent illness and symptoms the
- Carefully observe such physical characteristics as
teeth, skin, eyes, and weight
- Take a person's pulse, because each dosha is
thought to make a particular kind of pulse
How an Ayurvedic
practitioner works with the patient
In addition to questioning, Ayurvedic practitioners use
observation, touch, therapies, and advising. During an
examination, the practitioner checks the patient's urine,
stool, tongue, bodily sounds, eyes, skin, and overall
appearance. He will also consider the person's digestion,
diet, personal habits, and resilience (ability to recover
quickly from illness or setbacks). As part of the effort to
find out what is wrong, the practitioner may prescribe some
type of treatment. The treatment is generally intended to
restore the balance of one particular dosha. If the
patient seems to improve as a result, the practitioner will
provide additional treatments intended to help balance that
How an Ayurvedic practitioner treats health problems
The practitioner will develop a treatment plan and may
work with people who know the patient well and can help.
This helps the patient feel emotionally supported and
comforted, which is considered important.
Practitioners expect patients to be active participants
in their treatment, because many Ayurvedic treatments
require changes in diet, lifestyle, and habits. In general,
treatments use several approaches, often more than one at a
time. The goals of treatment are to:
- Eliminate impurities. A process called
panchakarma is intended to be cleansing; it focuses on
the digestive tract and the respiratory system. For the
digestive tract, cleansing may be done through enemas,
fasting, or special diets. Some patients receive medicated
oils through a nasal spray or inhaler. This part of
treatment is believed to eliminate worms or other agents
thought to cause disease.
- Reduce symptoms. The practitioner may suggest
various options, including yoga exercises, stretching,
breathing exercises, meditation, and lying in the sun. The
patient may take herbs (usually several), often with
honey, with the intent to improve digestion, reduce fever,
and treat diarrhea. Sometimes foods such as lentil beans
or special diets are also prescribed. Very small amounts
of metal and mineral preparations also may be given, such
as gold or iron. Careful control of these materials is
intended to protect the patient from harm.
- Reduce worry and increase harmony in the patient's
life. The patient may be advised to seek nurturing
and peacefulness through yoga, meditation, exercise, or
- Help eliminate both physical and psychological
problems. Vital points therapy and/or massage may be
used to reduce pain, lessen fatigue, or improve
circulation. Ayurveda proposes that there are 107 "vital
points" in the body where life energy is stored, and that
these points may be massaged to improve health. Other
types of Ayurvedic massage use medicinal oils.
Plant products used in Ayurvedic treatment?
In Ayurveda, the distinction between food and medicine is
not as clear as in Western medicine. Food and diet are
important components of Ayurvedic practice, and so there is
a heavy reliance on treatments based on herbs and plants,
oils (such as sesame oil), common spices (such as turmeric),
and other naturally occurring substances.
Currently, some 5,000 products are included in the
"pharmacy" of Ayurvedic treatments. In recent years, the
Indian government has collected and published safety
information on a small number of them. Historically, plant
compounds have been grouped into categories according to
their effects. For example, some compounds are thought to
heal, promote vitality, or relieve pain. The compounds are
described in many texts prepared through national medical
agencies in India.
Below are a few examples of how some botanicals (plants
and their products) have been or are currently used in
treatment. In some cases, these may be mixed with metals.
- The spice turmeric has been used for various diseases
and conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis,
Alzheimer's disease, and wound healing.
- A mixture (Arogyawardhini) of sulfur, iron,
powdered dried fruits, tree root, and other substances has
been used to treat problems of the liver.
- An extract from the resin from a tropical shrub (Commiphora
mukul, or guggul) has been used for a variety of
illnesses. In recent years, there has been research
interest in its use to possibly lower cholesterol.
Ayurvedic practitioners trained and certified
If you are considering using Ayurveda
Practitioners of Ayurveda in the United States have
various types of training. Some are trained in the Western
medical tradition (such as medical or nursing school) and
then study Ayurveda. Others may have training in
naturopathic medicine, a whole medical system, either before
or after their Ayurvedic training. Many study in India,
where there are more than 150 undergraduate and more than 30
postgraduate colleges for Ayurveda. This training can take
up to 5 years.
Students who receive all of their Ayurvedic training in
India can earn either a bachelor's or doctoral degree. After
graduation, they may go to the United States or other
countries to practice. Some practitioners are trained in a
particular aspect of Ayurvedic practice--for example,
massage or meditation--but not in others, such as preparing
Consumers interested in Ayurveda should be aware that not
every practitioner offering services or treatments called
"Ayurvedic" has been trained in an Ayurvedic medical school.
Services offered at spas and salons, for example, often fall
into this category. If you are seeking Ayurvedic medical
treatment, it is important to ask about the practitioner's
training and experience.
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- If you have an ongoing medical condition that is being
treated by another doctor;
- It is advised to advise your regular doctor
- It is advised to tell the Ayurvedic doctor of any
- Be aware that modern medicine and Ayurvedic medicine
can conflict to cause harm.
- Be aware that many modern medical doctors are opposed
to Ayurveda and other healing systems for a variety of
- They are biased against any other medical system for
- They want to retain control over their patients
- They want the economic gain from patients
- Ask about the practitioner's training and experience.
- An Ayurvedic doctor may advise stopping any current
medication for a variety of reasons, by principally as
modern medicines most often suppress symptoms and
interfere with the bodies natural healing process which
Ayurveda seeks to stimulate.
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