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Home arrow News arrow Latest Ayurveda related news arrow Ayurveda, the health giving alternative medicine
Ayurveda, the health giving alternative medicine PDF Print E-mail

Those looking for an Asian alternative to traditional Chinese medicine might consider India and its ancient healing system called ayurveda, media reports said Wednesday.

    Like traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda is a complex and sometimes insightful regimen for healthy living developed thousands of years ago. But perhaps even more so than its Asian rival, ayurveda can border on the bizarre, for it is deeply rooted in astrology and outdated beliefs.

    While Europe stagnated for several centuries after the fall of Rome, India was developing an advanced civilization. Indian doctors knew how to suture wounds, drain fluids, remove kidney stones and perform basic surgery. This is documented in the Susrutha Samhita, the oldest known surgical text.

    That doesn't mean ayurveda didn't and still doesn't have serious flaws. Similar to China's yin and yang and medieval Europe's four humors, ayurveda is based on the concept of imbalances. With ayurveda there are three forces, or dosha, called vata, pitta, and kapha. Imbalances cause disease, the story goes.

    Ayurveda beyond the borders of India was made popular by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, famed multi-millionaire guru to the Beatles, and by Deepok Chopra, whose best-selling books and lectures on the subject speak of reversing the aging process, levitating and improving your golf game. They are quite popular with the jet set. Chopra was earning 25,000 U.S. dollars per lecture by the end of the 1990s.

    At best, ayurveda is a healthy lifestyle that promotes a vegetarian diet and relaxation. As with traditional Chinese medicine, its insight into herbal cures is keen. Some of these herbs are being studied by Indian scientists and turned into reliable medicines. Herbs, after all, are the basis of conventional pharmacology.

    At worst, ayurveda is a billion-dollar business of sham cures based on astrology, gem healing, psychic healing, mantras and pop culture, spun through either fraud or naiveté.

    One concern is the herbal concoction given for treatment. Heavy metals have long been part of the ayurvedic tradition, and a 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found 20 percent of herbal remedies sold around Boston had harmful amounts of lead, mercury or arsenic.

    Another concern is the diagnosis, which is based on unconventional methods of pulse-taking and other bodily signs to determine the levels of vata, pitta, and kapha. The treatment, depending on your healer, will likely take into effect the position of the planets, because Mars is related to blood and the liver, and Venus, you may have guessed, is tied to impotency.

    Fortunately when you buy ayurvedic soap, you're not really tapping into the most bizarre and potentially harmful aspects of ayurveda; you're just buying soap at twice the price.

    At its most basic level, ayurveda's emphasis on a balanced diet with exercise, such as yoga, could help prevent chronic diseases plaguing the United States. That's not too shabby. But caution is needed once you begin treating cancer and serious diseases based on the alignment of the moon in Aquarius.

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