Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine

According to Ayurveda, each individual is considered a unique person made up of 5 basic or primary elements including air, water, space, fire, and earth. We derive these elements from nature. The weather or climate we live in and the food we eat are examples of the presence of these elements in nature.

When one or more of these elements are in an imbalance in the environment, they, in turn, create an adverse influence on our mind and body. Besides these five basic elements, there are certain other elements that seem to have the ability to create and support various physiological functions in our body.

The concept of three Doshas in Ayurveda

The 5 primary elements combine to form the three doshas or bio-energies, vata, pitta and kapha, which together form the base for the treatment in Ayurveda. Ayurveda believes that the functioning of all the nature’s creations including human beings, plants and animals can be understood as the interactions of these 3 basic doshas or energy complexes.

The three energies together signify the mobile or dynamic, non-material, transformative, energetic, intelligent, structural and physical aspects of nature.

Firstly, air and space combine to form what is called the Vata dosha in Ayurveda. The word ‘Vata’ stems from the Sanskrit word ‘Vayu’, which means ‘something that moves’.

Vata is considered the most influential dosha as it provides the moving force behind the other 2 elements, kapha and pitta. Vata also controls the principles of movement and is seen as a force that directs the bodily functions including circulation, respiration, nerve impulses, and elimination.

Vata energy tends to be more dominant in the people who are lively, and creative with a flair for innovation. The vata-dominant individuals are more alert, restless, and quick. They may talk, walk and think quickly and also show the signs of nervousness, fear, and anxiety.

When out-of-balance, this energy can cause joint pains, constipation, dry skin, and anxiety.

The other 2 elements - Fire and water - combine to form the Pitta dosha, which guides the process of transformation and metabolism. The term Pitta originates from the Sanskrit word ‘Pinj’, which means ‘to shine’.

Pitts dosha is believed to add more shine or luster to the eyes, hair and the skin. The conversion of food into nutrients that the body can use as an energy source is a perfect example of the pitta functions.

Pitta dosha is also responsible for carrying out metabolism in the tissues and organs. Pitta is also believed to control the endocrinal functions. People with pitta energy are intelligent, aggressive, high achievers, fiery in temperament, and fast-paced.

Pitta-dominant individuals also enjoy a higher appetite and an efficient metabolism. But, when this energy is out of balance, it can lead to inflammation, ulceration, anger, frustration, heartburn, digestive problems, irritability, and arthritis.

Finally, it is the water and earth elements that combine to form the Kapha dosha. The word ‘Kapha’ originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Shlish’, meaning ‘something that holds together’.

Kapha dosha governs the immunity and the processes of self-repair and healing. This dosha is responsible for the growth of structures in our body unit by unit. Kapha also offers protection to the body tissues.

For example; the cerebrospinal fluid, which protects the brain and the spinal column and the mucosal lining of the stomach that protects the gastric tissues are the forms of Kapha elements in the body.

It offers physical endurance and psychological strength while promoting human emotions like love, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, empathy, loyalty and patience. Kapha-dominant people tend to be tenacious yet calm, and strong yet loving. They are blessed with a wise tolerance. However, when this energy is out of balance, it can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, sinus problems, and gallbladder disorders.

Our body and mind are in balance when all these three doshas are in the right proportions. Optimal health is achieved when these doshas are in harmony with the soul, senses, and intellect.

The body of each person is comprised of a unique proportion of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This is the reason for why Ayurveda considers each patient as a different individual with a special mixture, which accounts for our diversity.

Hence, it designs a unique treatment protocol to specifically address a person’s health challenges. When any of these doshas becomes excessive, Ayurveda suggests specific nutritional guidelines and lifestyle habits to help the patient in decreasing the dosha that has accumulated. Ayurveda may also advise certain herbal medications to hasten the balancing process.

An imbalance can also occur when one or more of these elements are altered qualitatively. All kinds of situations that humans experience including a thought, the climate, an emotion, food or lifestyle can have an impact on the physiological functions of the body.

What is 'Panchakarma'?

 'Panchakarma' is the therapy of Purification. Panchakarma is recommended when there is an accumulation of harmful toxins in the body. It is a cleansing process that helps to eliminate these unwanted toxins. It is a five-fold purification therapy, which forms the classical method of treatment in Ayurveda. These specialized procedures comprise of the following:-

  • Virechan (Purgation)
  • Vaman (Therapeutic vomiting)
  • Basti (Enema)
  • Rakta moksha (Bloodletting or detoxification of the blood)
  • Nasya (Elimination of toxins through the nose)

What is Prakruti?

We have already learned that, in a human body, the three doshas interact in a harmonious and compensatory way in order to control and sustain life. Their relative expression in a person implies a unique proportion and balance of these bio-energies based on his or her DNA structure determined at the time of conception. This is called Prakruti or the body type of a person.

Prakruti is the specific constitution that people are born with. It can be viewed as a combination of physical, intellectual, emotional, and psychological characteristics that determine the way the person behaves and his body organs function.

Throughout life, the underlying Prakruti of an individual remains the same. However, it is constantly influenced by various internal and external factors such as seasonal changes, day and night, diet, and lifestyle choices.

Ayurveda places emphasis on the prevention of illnesses by maintaining health through lifestyle and dietary interventions, which help create balance.

The implication of Prakruti helps to explain why some patients react in a different way to the same things. The medical application of this is certain people have a natural sensitivity to certain medicines, which results in them developing side effects, while others react to the same medicines in a positive way leading to the complete cure of the illness.

The information contained in this blog post is intended solely to provide general guidance on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. Please consult your physician or other health care professional regarding any treatments for your health issues.

  • January 14, 2019
  • Aruntha Vijay