How It Works
In Ayurvedic philosophy all of creation is made up of the five essential elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements are also the subtlest aspects of human life. Each person is made up of a combination of these elements, establishing their basic constitution or dosha. This is the level on which Ayurvedic healing works. When the elements are strong and balanced within a person, they support healthy functioning on the concrete physiological level. Illnesses are regarded as aggravations of the doshas in the human body. An Ayurvedic practitioner will look to see what part of the patient’s life is creating the imbalance, be it diet, lifestyle, work, emotional states, etc. Based on the nature of the imbalance, there are several basic therapeutic strategies employed.
For quantitative changes in the doshas, such as gas, hormones, mucus and calcifications, elimination therapies (Panchakarma) are used. When there is excessive material present, Panchakarma eliminates these factors directly. A metaphor for how and why this works has been offered in the ancient classics: by eliminating these excess substances from their sites of production and accumulation, an emptiness in the home site is created and the body is able to naturally rebalance itself.
Qualitative changes, addressing localized occurrences such as a sprained ankle or carpal tunnel syndrome, are treated by applying opposites (pacification) through diet, lifestyle changes, herbs, etc. The general role of pacification is subordinate to the elimination therapies in Panchakarma but it is still necessary for physiological balance to be achieved. Panchakarma utilizes both strategies simultaneously.
In the case of toxicity, detoxifiers and digestives are employed. Disorders of the mind and spirit require mental and spiritual specific medicines in addition to bodily specific medicines. These include mantras, pujas (rituals and recitations), and other spiritual practices. Be in the company of the wise is one such behavioral prescription. These techniques operate directly on the soul/consciousness itself; hence they are effective for this purpose.
When To Use It
The field of expertise of Ayurveda is broad and deep, as is its pharmacopoeia. It is valid for the chronic, sub-acute, acute, symptomatic and asymptomatic. The central premise that no disease occurs except through the operation of the governing principles (vata, pitta, kapha), and that each can be manipulated by even diet only, makes all diseases amenable to successful treatment by Ayurveda. This does not imply that Ayurveda can cure all disease in all stages of progression. Some diseases may be managed only, such as congenital defects, dormant poliomyelitis, etc. The science of drugs is complex but extensive. This field embraces the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms.