Received date: December 03, 2018; Accepted date: December 11, 2018; Published date: December 14, 2018.
Ayurveda dates back to more than 3 to 5 thousand years from now! It is difficult to give an exact time reference because it was in practice even before there were any methods of documentation. Teaching and learning were carried out by oral recitation and memorization during those olden days. When a system is so old, how is it possible to be applicable even in this modern era and how is it showing results in disease conditions or preventive measures? Why are people opting Ayurveda more and more for their health problems and lifestyle advices?
Is Ayurveda a Science?
What is science? By definition, science is that which proves its principles at all instances. Ayurvedic principles when understood properly and applied can be proven at all instances. Hence, it is definitely a science. It would be beyond this article’s capacity to explain each and every principle and their applications. So, let us look into some of the basic principles and their applicability in different conditions.
Panchamahabhuta / Five Basic Elements
Ayurveda believes in five elemental theory to explain structural make up of creations in the universe, including all living beings. That is, all the creations are made of ether (space), air, fire, water and the earth elements in different combinations and proportions. For example, the earth element is highly dominant in all those solid structures like wood or bones. Liquid structures like lymph and saliva represent dominance of the water element. Heat and metabolism (transformation) represent the fire element. Gasses and gaseous molecules represent the air element. All the empty spaces / cavities represent the space element. Thus, when the bone is strong, heavy and dense then it is dominant in the earth element. When that element is replaced by space and air elements then it becomes lighter, porous and fragile, for example, in osteoporosis! In the outside world also, wood is strong and solid but can become fragile, porous and light by degenerative changes from exposure to wind, rain and other factors. Try to apply this principle in different aspects and objects and see how logical it is. Isn’t it amazing and scientific?
It is not that the air or earth or water are seen as it is and combined as it is. It should be considered based on their qualities or properties. We can see that the space is only energy with no matter in it. The air is sparse matter with no bonding and spread out freely and moving all around. The fire is a state of transformation of matter into energy. The water is more matter but still not bound very tightly so that the fluidity is still maintained and it can move and change shape freely. The earth is very dense and tightly bound matter and it is more heavy, strong and stable.
Tridosha / Three Humors or Energies
Five elements make up the structural aspects. Whereas, at a functional level, the same five elements combine to form three basic energies or the functional humors. They are Vaata (air energy), Pitta (heat energy) and Kapha (liquid energy). Vaata is the combination of space and air; Pitta is the combination of fire and water and Kapha is the combination of water and earth.
They exist in every living being and carry out their normal or physiological functions when they are normal and well balanced. For example, Vaata is required for all sensory and motor functions of the body, to keep us alive, for all movements like blinking of eyes, intestinal movement, muscle contraction and so on; Pitta is required for digestion, metabolism, body temperature, colour, complexion, intelligence etc; Kapha is required for binding, lubrication, growth, strength, vitality, immunity, sleep and so on.
When these doshas go out of balance then they can cause disturbed physiological functions (temporary) or health problems. Disturbed physiology can be like a temporary fluctuations and health problems start when such a disturbance or imbalances occurs repeatedly or for long time with or without their expression. For example, aggravated Vaata can cause dry skin, constipation, restlessness, fatigue, disturbed / shallow sleep etc; Pitta can cause acidity, diarrhea, inflammation, anger, intolerance to heat, burning sensation, thirst etc; Kapha can cause lethargy, weight gain, fluid accumulation, drowsiness, low appetite, lack of taste and so on.
Prakruthi / Personality Types
Moreover, these doshas will decide on what we are and how we are! They influence on our personality types which is something like a genetic type of a person. It is called as Prakriti or body-mind type. For example, a Vaata dominant person will be thin built, easy to lose weight and difficult to gain, hyperactive body and mind, talkative, sleep is shallow and disturbed, tendency to have dry skin and constipation, prefers warm and moist climate; a Pitta dominant person will be perfectionist, intolerant to errors, intolerant to heat, sweats more, aggressive, sensitive bowel-skin-emotions, easy to have diarrhea or will have soft and loose bowels, medium built etc; a Kapha dominant person will have heavy built, big frame, easy to gain weight-difficult to lose, slow, steady, calm, sleeps well and easy, tolerant, good stamina/energy levels, consistent patters, good immunity, tendency to develop congestion and water retention is observed. However, people can be various combinations of these and then will be called by that combination of dominant dosha/s like Vaata-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha etc. This is a natural balanced state of doshas in a person and our aim will be to maintain that balance and to see that the doshas are not provoked by our diet, lifestyle or seasons.
Ama / Toxins
Apart from all the above, there can be accumulation of unwanted materials or toxins in our body which are collectively terms as Ama (Aama) which means unprocessed or uncooked material. This will impair the optimal functioning of digestive abilities, circulation or metabolism etc. at different levels. So, it is recommended to do regular cleansing just like periodic maintenance of a machinery.
Treatment Principles and Methods
In a nutshell, Ayurveda treatments, herbs, diet and lifestyle advice will be to achieve the following,
1. Cleanse the waste accumulated over the time- Panchakarma (cleansing)
2. Reduce the waste or process it properly and optimize the Agni (fire / metabolic & digestive capacity) by procedures like fasting.
3. Bring back the balance of the doshas to their natural levels.
4. Maintain the Prakriti (natural balance of doshas).
5. Repair and rejuvenate the tissues if they are worn out or damaged.
When we go through all the above details, it is quite clear that Ayurveda is a science with its own principles and methods which are time tested, validated by practice. It still holds good and replicated as mentioned and described without any changes in the basics, proving that it is purely a science and not fiction.
What are the Myths and Truths Associated with Ayurveda?
• Ayurveda is only massage.
• Ayurveda is only herbs.
• Ayurvedic medicines have heavy toxic metals.
• Ayurveda is slow in action.
• Some “good” herbs / medicines should be taken by all, always!
• Panchakarma is massage!
• Ayurveda can cure all diseases.
• Ayurveda is an art and science about healthy living and it includes all this.
• Not toxic in oxide or compound form if prepared classically.
• Depends on several factors and it can be slow or fast as per natural process.
• Should be taken under supervision and only when needed.
• Panchakarma is a set of cleansing processes, not just varieties of massages.
• Ayurveda classifies diseases into possible and impossible categories, indicating that not all diseases and conditions are curable. Even some possible conditions may turn impossible if neglected or mistreated.
Modernized equipment are available and are being engineered regularly for convenience and standardization. Eg. Nadi / pulse diagnosis devices, shirodhara device
New software, apps are being introduced to support documentation, propagation etc.
Ayurvedic logical thinking is very much computer friendly!
Ayurveda is getting more global and popular.
Need to spread the real message and reduce negative propagation or false claims.
What needs to be done?
More scientific validation to understand better (not to prove).
Proper training and setting of standards.
Strict regulations on herbs/medicines preparation.
Integrated research with engineering / technology use etc.
Integrated treatments for the patients’ benefits. “No rivalry between systems!”
How Should We Do Research in Ayurveda?
Clinical trials should be based on Ayurvedic symptomatology and classifications in the selection criteria and assessment. That will avoid false results.
More literary and laboratory research should focus on identification of right herbs.
Preparations should follow classical methods and then analysis of compounds should be done.
In conclusion, Ayurvedic principles and methods are valid even in the present day due to its time tested nature and scientific applications of all the basic principles. Only, some modifications to suit present day understanding and requirements will be needed to make it more accessible, standard and for documentation purposes. Current health problems are mostly lifestyle and diet related and hence, Ayurveda will be the best answer to treat them if understood and implemented in the right direction.
About The Author
Dr. Prasanna Kakunje was born and brought-up in small towns of Karnataka, India. He grew up surrounded by plenty of greenery and hence became a nature lover. He obtained his graduation in Ayurveda (BAMS) from ALN Rao Memorial Ayurvedic Medical College, Koppa and pursued MD in Ayurvedic general medicine (Kayachikitsa) from Government Ayurveda Medical College, Mysore, India. He works as Ayurveda medical officer, consultant, teacher, spa/hospitality consultant and is an entrepreneur too. He runs Kakunje Ayurveda Center in Moodbidri, India and teaches to MD students as Associate Professor at ALN Rao Ayurvedic Medical College, Koppa. His clinic website is www.kakunjeayurveda.com