Ayurvedic therapies are a complete treatment, which address the whole person, not just a disease or a set of symptoms. Your therapist will try to re-balance your body, which can improve your vitality, promote longevity and strengthen digestive process. Ayurvedic therapies are designed to seek balance, as outlined in the Vedas, between virtuous living (dharma), prosperity (artha) and pleasure (kama), which can bring an individual into the ultimate goal of spiritual liberation or moksha.
These are other components of ayurvedic healing:
• Ausadha or medicinal treatment with herbs and such
• Panchakarma or purifying and cleansing techniques
• Dietary therapy
• Pathya or lifestyle modification
• Message therapy and yoga
You can also use a number of self-help techniques such as rejuvenation, fertility enhancement and personal hygiene. These treatments can also be divided into other categories; reasoning, sacred and character. Treatments based on the ‘reasoning’ are ausadha, panchakarma, dietary therapy and pathya. Treatments based on the ‘sacred’ are prayers, mantra reciting, wearing sacred items, going on pilgrimages or carrying out fasts. ‘Character’ treatments are related to cultivating integrity and moral qualities, as well as avoiding bad attitudes, drugs and alcohol.
Spices, fruits, flowers and leaves are commonly used in ayurvedic medicines; other components could be honey, beeswax, animal fats, ghee and even ground gemstones. These medicinal materials are classified to their:
• Pungent, bitter, salt, sour, sweet or astringent quality
• Cooling or warming properties
• Specific healing effects
Healing materials are prepared carefully and prescribed according to both modern and ancient techniques to ensure the highest effectiveness. Practitioners may use fresh or dried ingredients, processed with different methods such as heated, juiced, soaked, boiled or ground. The medicines can take form as medicated oils, decoctions, juices, pastes, powders or pills. Rejuvenation elixirs and herbal teas are also highly popular as OTC remedies. However, often combinations of properties and tastes are used based on individual characteristics.
It consists of five techniques for purifying and cleansing the body as well as well as re-balancing the body. A careful preparation should be performed before performing this technique. The first phase usually involves oil therapy application, which can be massaged on the skin, given as enema or taken orally. This step may help to soften your skin and get rid of wastes that may accumulate in your organs, especially intestines. The next step is the sweating therapy or svedana whereby your body is exposed to heat from external sources such as hot packs or sweat baths. Other methods of generating heat are swaddling in blankets or performing intense exercise. Sweat is especially useful for removing toxins from fat layers.
After both phases are completed, five components of panchakarma can be chosen:
• Vamana Honey, rock salt and some herbs are used to induce vomiting reflexes, which is useful for clearing the digestive system up and relieving mucus. This treatment is often used for rhinitis, bronchitis and nasal congestion.
• Virechana: Purgative and laxative herbs are used to cleanse our body. It is especially effective for treating skin diseases, intestinal worms and fevers.
• Vasti: It is essentially bowel cleansing therapy using enemas. This treatment is useful for fatigue, nervousness, irritable bowel, and dry skin.
• Nasya: This treatment cleanses the nostril through the use of steam, powders and medicinal oils. It is useful for treating nasal congestion, headaches, sinusitis and blocked nasal passages.
• Raktamoskshana: The treatment involves the use of surgical instruments and leeches to extract some blood. It is believed to encourage the production of new blood cells and helps the blood flow. It can treat skin diseases, abscesses and boils. The treatment is prohibited for people with anaemia and those who are pregnant.
Panchakarrma treatment should be followed up with proper dietary program, enough rest and other related therapies. Because the treatment can be complex and must be performed correctly, it should be done by experienced and qualified practitioners. In India, Panchakarma is only performed in clinical settings and hospitals.
Ayurvedic dietary therapy
In ayurvedic treatment, foods is on the same level as medicinal herbs, and also classified according to their tastes, cooling or warming properties, and post-digestive effects. It is advised to eat in calm setting, chew slowly and only in moderation.
Lifestyle modification (pathya)
It is recommended to live according to the seasons. It means you not only need to wear warm clothes during cooler seasons, but also eat warm foods to balance your body. In warmer seasons, you need to wear lighter clothes, drink enough water and eat cooling foods. It should be combined with positive habits such as proper sleeping, cleaning, and eating. You should also perform daily spiritual activities, meditation and regular exercise. One important thing is to listen to your body; you shouldn’t suppress natural urges such as urination, yawning, sneezing, thirst and hunger. Pathya also includes good behaviors such as being patient, compassionate, generous and honest.
Exercise and massage therapy
Yoga is important to keep our body supple, mental concentration focused and muscle toned. Those with “wind disturbances” (vata) should use stationary yoga poses and perform gentle exercise, those with “bile disturbances” (pitta) should combine breathing exercises, yoga and moderate exercises, while people with “phlegm disturbances” (kapha) should combine an energetic form of yoga and vigorous aerobic exercises. Massages are performed with the feet or hands using heated linen pads. An oil type may have cooling or warming effects based on the dosha types.
Prayer, recitation of mantras and yoga breathing exercises can help us to purify karma, calm the mind and make a connection with the divine. Vatta people may find that it is difficult to sit still, which mean walking meditation could be more appropriate. Pitta people should develop seated meditation, which incorporates calming breathing techniques. Kapha people should perform active mantra chanting.
Deciding whether you should perform Ayurvedic therapies
In Sri Lanka and India, Ayurvedic treatments are used for treating respiratory problems, skin problems, digestive problems, joint pain and arthritis. Some cancer patients and those who just completed a surgery may also choose ayurvedic therapies. When you’re still using normal modern medicine, talk with your doctor if you want to try Ayurvedic medicine, to avoid possible complications between these treatments.
Does Ayurvedic Medicine Work?
Unfortunately, there are only very few reliable researches on general Ayurvedic therapies. As the result, their effectiveness in treating various health problems remains mostly unproven, although they have been extensively performed for many centuries. However, there has been some encouraging result on individual herbal remedies, for example, the effectiveness of neem leaves to treat head lice and infections, triphala to treat constipation, ashwaganda to treat fatigue and stress, guggul to treat cholesterol, shavatari to treat menopausal symptoms and so on. Even so, a large proportion of the evidences are anecdotal and we need more well-designed clinical trials to cover ayurvedic treatments, which are both broad and complex.