Ayurveda – the Science and Wisdom of Life
The FasTrak HerbClip included in this issue concerns an herbal formula based on the traditional medicine of India, Ayurveda. As Ayurvedic medicine gains more popularity within Western cultures, it is important to recall the roots from which it stems. Ayurveda is considered to be the oldest form of medicine. Transmitted orally from one generation to the next, the principles of Ayurveda finally took written form between 4000-6000 BCE in books known as the Vedas. The Rig Veda contains over 60 preparations that could be used for various ailments. However, the Ayurvedic system of medicine involves much more than simply healing a person's physical ailments. Drs. David Frawley and Vasant Lad, authors of The Yoga of Herbs, state that the very basis of Ayurveda is "the spiritual knowledge of the ancient seers of India and the cosmic consciousness in which they lived."
In most traditional medicines, the spirit is not divorced from the body – both are seen as one – and the process of healing involves restoration of the unification of body, mind, and spirit. Healing entails the reuniting of a person with their community and environment as well.
Dr. David Crow in his book, In Search of the Medicine Buddha, states that "Ayurveda…is the art of preventing illness with a healthy lifestyle." In this system, doctors are educators who teach self-care and individual responsibility for health. Ayurveda focuses on how life is lived daily – not doing too much or too little, but cultivating equilibrium. Years ago, when I apprenticed with Dr. Crow, he stressed that living a balanced life – meaning right livelihood, right conduct, right thinking, proper sleep cycles, appropriate diet, and nurturing relationships – was fundamental to proper health. Ailments have underlying causes (usually an imbalance in one or more of the six areas listed above) which must be removed from a person's life before treatment can be effective.
Ayurvedic treatments – from herbal formulas to purification through pancha karma – have become important additions to how Complementary and Alternative Medicine is practiced in Western society. The fundamental principle of Ayurveda – a balanced life lived from wise choices – is the foundation on which these treatments can effectively generate holistic health.