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Ayurveda

By

Denise Millstine

, MD, Mayo Clinic

Reviewed/Revised Dec 2023
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Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, originated > 4000 years ago. It is based on the theory that disease results from an imbalance of the body’s life force (prana). It aims to restore balance within the body. The balance of prana is determined by equilibrium of the 3 bodily qualities (doshas): vata, pitta, and kapha. Most people have a dominant dosha; the specific balance is unique to each person. (See also Overview of Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine Overview of Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine Integrative medicine and health (IMH) and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) include healing approaches and therapies that historically have not been included in conventional, mainstream... read more .)

Evidence for Ayurveda

Ayurveda has been studied, including in allergic rhinitis (1 References Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, originated > 4000 years ago. It is based on the theory that disease results from an imbalance of the body’s life force (prana). It aims... read more ), mental health (2 References Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, originated > 4000 years ago. It is based on the theory that disease results from an imbalance of the body’s life force (prana). It aims... read more , 3 References Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, originated > 4000 years ago. It is based on the theory that disease results from an imbalance of the body’s life force (prana). It aims... read more ), neurologic conditions, pain, arthritis (4 References Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, originated > 4000 years ago. It is based on the theory that disease results from an imbalance of the body’s life force (prana). It aims... read more ), and diabetes (5 References Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, originated > 4000 years ago. It is based on the theory that disease results from an imbalance of the body’s life force (prana). It aims... read more ). These trials have not been conclusive. As with other studies of whole medical systems, high-quality research is difficult to conduct (6 References Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, originated > 4000 years ago. It is based on the theory that disease results from an imbalance of the body’s life force (prana). It aims... read more ).

Uses for Ayurveda

After determining the balance of doshas, practitioners design a treatment specifically tailored to each patient. Ayurveda uses diet, herbs, massage, meditation, movement, and therapeutic detoxification (panchkarma)—typically with enemas, oil massages, or nasal lavage—to restore balance within the body and with nature.

Possible Adverse Effects

References

  • 1. Jongbloed WM, Brown SM: Allergies and natural alternatives. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 55(5):965-982, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.otc.2022.06.005

  • 2. Agarwal V, Abhijnhan A, Raviraj P: Ayurvedic medicine for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (4):CD006867, 2007. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006867

  • 3. Kulamarva K, Shivakumar V, Chikkanna U, et al: Role of Ayurveda in the management of psychotic disorders: a systematic review of clinical evidence. J Ayurveda Integr Med 14(3):100720, 2023. doi:10.1016/j.jaim.2023.100720

  • 4. Kessler CS, Pinders L, Michalsen A, et al: Ayurvedic interventions for osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Rheumatol Int 35(2):211-32, 2015. doi: 10.1007/s00296-014-3095-y

  • 5. Chattopadhyay K, Wang H, Kaur J, et al: Effectiveness and safety of Ayurvedic medicines in type 2 diabetes mellitus management: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Pharmacol 13:821810, 2022. Published 2022 Jun 8. doi:10.3389/fphar.2022.821810

  • 6. Patwardhan B: Bridging Ayurveda with evidence-based scientific approaches in medicine. EPMA J 5(1): 19, 2014. doi: 10.1186/1878-5085-5-19

  • 7. Saper RB, et al: Heavy metal content of Ayurvedic herbal medicine products. JAMA 292(23):2868–73, 2004. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.33.2868

  • 8. Martena MJ, Van Der Wielen JC, Rietjens IM, et al: Monitoring of mercury, arsenic, and lead in traditional Asian herbal preparations on the Dutch market and estimation of associated risks. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess27(2):190–205, 2010. doi: 10.1080/02652030903207235

  • 9. Mukhopadhyay S, Abraham SE, Holla B, et al: Heavy metals in Indian traditional systems of medicine: a systematic scoping review and recommendations for integrative medicine practice. J Altern Complement Med 27(11):915-929, 2021. doi:10.1089/acm.2021.0083

  • 10. Gair R: Heavy metal poisoning from Ayurvedic medicines. BCMJ 50(2):105, 2008.

  • 11. Mikulski MA, Wichman MD, Simmons DL, et al: Toxic metals in Ayurvedic preparations from a public health lead poisoning cluster investigation. Int J Occup Environ Health 23(3):187-192, 2017. doi: 10.1080/10773525.2018.1447880

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