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Understand the common misconceptions about Ayurveda

Saturday, September 24, 2011 by: Dr. Jessica Vellela, BAMS
Tags: ayurveda, misconceptions, health news

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(NewsTarget) As the revival of traditional sciences becomes more popular in the West, there is a lot of confusion about how to position ancient systems of medicine like Ayurveda. Even though it is recognized as a "whole medicine system" by CAM, it unfortunately has not yet been represented in a way in which most people can understand it as a science in its own right. With fundamental principles that are structured completely differently from conventional medicine, it works as a versatile, adaptable science that accurately represents the diversity of life.

So the question is - what should we believe?

1. Ayurveda is a spiritual philosophy - not a science
Science is defined as "a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe." Ayurveda meets this definition in all aspects. Theoretically, it elaborates an intricately related system of unchanging universal laws of actions (Karma), properties (Guna), substance (Dravya) and balance (Samanya & Vishesha). Practically, it provides a framework to produce predictable, repeatable results for disease management when applied according to its system.

Unfortunately, many practitioners today sensationalize the spiritual foundations from which Ayurveda draws its theories, resulting in a widespread belief that the system is not scientific. Additionally, when it is treated as a "Complementary" practice and made to conform to the structure of Allopathy, the ability to understand it on its own terms is lost.

2. Ayurveda takes a long time to work
The time required to treat any disease depends on many factors - particularly the duration and severity of the disease. In acute illnesses like fever, cough and cold or when most diseases are managed correctly in their initial stages, Ayurveda shows results quickly and effectively, and it reinforces the general condition of the body. Common ailments are generally controlled within 24 hours in those who adhere to all aspects of treatment.

For long-standing illnesses, complete management may require weeks or months using a strict combination of Ayurvedic diet, lifestyle, medicine and treatment to revert the body back to its original condition. Considering that most long-term conditions are present in the body for years or decades, this actually seems quite reasonable.

3. Ayurveda has no side effects
Everything in the world can have side effects, and Ayurveda is no exception. The side effects of Panchakarma (Purification & Detoxification) may be severe, sudden, and even life-threatening. But when practiced carefully and classically under proper guidance, these side effects can be avoided altogether or be managed appropriately with experience.

Even with simple treatments of medicine and diet, mild side effects can occur if deeply embedded toxins are suddenly mobilized in the body, or if the potency of the medicine (Virya) contradicts with the patient's constitution (Prakriti).

4. We should try alternative therapies like Ayurveda only AFTER Allopathy fails
Unfortunately, after many years of typical, symptomatic Allopathic treatment or surgery, many diseases reach a level of chronicity. The effect of long-term prescription medications like steroids completely masks the underlying symptoms of the disease, alters the body's metabolism and completely distorts the body's natural protective reactions to the disease. Treatment at this stage becomes very challenging in any form, and requires even more enthusiasm from the patient to incorporate diet and lifestyle adjustments.

However, when Ayurveda is consistently used as the first line of treatment, we see excellent results as the treatments and medicines not only eradicate the disease from its root, but also enhance the body's level of health and immunity. This approach should always be coupled with diet and lifestyle adjustments to minimize the body's toxic load and maximize removal of wastes.

- Charaka Samhita, Sutra sthana & Siddhi sthana, Chowkhamba Publishers (Sanskrit text and translation by Dr. RK Sharma and Dr. Bhagawan Dash)
- Ashtanga Hrdaya, Sutra sthana, Chowkhambha Krishnadas Academy (Sanskrit text and translation by Dr. K.R. Srikantha Murthy)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science
- http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/

About the author

Jessica Vellela, BAMS, is a licensed Ayurvedic doctor in India. She was raised in Boston, MA and worked as an IT Consultant for over 10 years before making a life-changing decision to spend 6 years in India to study Ayurveda. She now applies the ancient Purification and Rejuvenation techniques (Pancha Karma and Rasayana) for patients in a classical, methodical and scientific manner to cure disease and greatly improve general health and immunity.
She is available for consultation by phone (617-930-1209), and in Boston, MA for basic treatments and medicines. She offers full Panchakarma at her center in India, AyurVillage Ayurvedic Retreats & Panchakarma Center.

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