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What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a whole-body (holistic) system of medicine. It began in India more than 3,000 years ago. It takes a natural approach to physical and mental health.

Ayurveda is based on the idea that each person has certain life forces (doshas), and that everything in the universe is connected. Any imbalance leads to disease. This approach uses lifestyle interventions and natural treatments. These help to balance the body, mind, spirit, and environment. Ayurveda is very focused on overall health. But treatments can be directed at certain diseases.

Treatment aims to get rid of impurities, reduce symptoms, increase disease resistance, reduce stress, and create more harmony in life. Herbs and other plants are often used. These include oils and common spices.

Ayurvedic treatment starts with an internal cleansing (purification). This is followed by a special diet, herbal medicines, massage therapy, yoga, and meditation.

Ayurvedic providers

In India, Ayurveda is considered a medical system. It is equal to conventional Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine, and homeopathic medicine. Ayurveda providers in India go through state-recognized educational training.

Before working with any Ayurvedic providers, check their training and background. Currently, Ayurvedic providers are not licensed in the U.S. And there is no national standard for Ayurvedic training or certification. But a few states have approved Ayurvedic schools.

Is it safe?

Many Ayurvedic materials have not been fully studied. Ayurvedic medicines are regulated as dietary supplements in the U.S. They are not regulated as medicines. So they are not required to meet the same safety standards as conventional medicines. Some Ayurvedic medicines contain herbs, metals, minerals, or other materials. These can be harmful if not used correctly. Some Ayurvedic medicines may also contain toxic materials. These include lead, arsenic, and mercury. In addition, any herb, mineral, or metal used in this type of treatment may work against Western medicines.

Talk with your healthcare provider before using any Ayurvedic treatment. This is even more important if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

  • Are thinking of using Ayurvedic therapy to treat a child

  • Have ongoing health conditions

  • Are an older adult

  • Take prescription medicines

Any diagnosis of a disease or condition should be made by a healthcare provider with conventional medical training. The provider should also have a lot of experience managing that disease or condition.

Some studies show that Ayurveda can have positive effects for certain conditions when used with standard, conventional medical care. But it should not replace standard medical care. This is even more important if you have a serious health condition. Or if you are from a high-risk group such as those listed above.  

Tell all of your healthcare providers (conventional or complementary) about the health approaches, supplements, and medicines you use. This will give them a full picture of your health. It will help ensure safe, effective, and coordinated care.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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