Ayurvedic Medicine is also called Ayurveda. It is a system of medicine that originated in India several thousand years ago. The term Ayurveda combines two Sanskrit words: ayur, which means life, and veda, which means science or knowledge. Ayurveda means "the science of life."
Ayurveda is a whole medical system which integrates and balances the body, mind, and spirit (thus, it is considered "holistic"). This balance is necessary for contentment and good health. Ayurveda also proposes treatments for specific health problems. A primary aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to cleanse the body of substances that can cause disease. This helps re-establish the harmony and balance necessary for optimal health.
Ayurveda has long been the main system of health care in India. About 70 percent of India's population lives in rural areas; about two-thirds of rural people use Ayurveda and medicinal plants to meet their primary health care needs. In addition, most major cities have an Ayurvedic college and hospital. There are 587,536 registered traditional medical practitioners, 2,860 hospitals providing Ayurvedic treatment, and 22,100 dispensaries for traditional medicine in India. This allows over 500 million people in India to rely solely on Ayurveda today.
Ayurveda and variations of it have also been practiced for centuries in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Tibet. The professional practice of Ayurveda in the United States began to grow and became more visible in the late 20th century.
Practitioners of Ayurveda have various types of training. Some are trained in the Western medical tradition (such as medical or nursing school) and then study Ayurveda. Others may have training in naturopathic medicine, a whole medical system, either before or after their Ayurvedic training. Many study in India, where there are more than 150 undergraduate and more than 30 postgraduate colleges for Ayurveda. This training can take up to 5 years.
Reliance on Herbs
According to World Health Organization report, over 80% of the world population relies on plant-based traditional medicine for their primary healthcare needs.
In Ayurveda, the distinction between food and medicine is not as clear as in Western medicine. Food and diet are important components of Ayurvedic practice, and so there is a heavy reliance on treatments based on herbs and plants, oils (such as sesame oil), common spices (such as turmeric), and other naturally occurring substances.
Currently, some 5,000 products are included in the "pharmacy" of Ayurvedic treatments. Historically, plant compounds have been grouped into categories according to their effects. For example, some compounds are thought to heal, promote vitality, or relieve pain. The compounds are described in many texts prepared through national medical agencies in India. The following are examples of commonly used herbs:
- The spice turmeric has been used for various diseases and conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and wound healing.
- An extract from the resin from a tropical shrub (Commiphora mukul, or guggul) has been used for a variety of illnesses. In recent years, there has been research interest in its use to lower cholesterol.
- The essential oil extracted from Holy Basil is used as counteract depression and mental stress.
India has 16 agro-climatic zones, 45,000 different plant species, and 15,000 medicinal plants. The Indian Systems of Medicine have identified 1,500 medicinal plants, of which 500 species are mostly used in the preparation of drugs. These medicinal plants contribute to 80% of the raw materials used in the preparation of Ayurvedic Medicine.