The premise of Ayurveda or Ayurvedic Medicine is that a body in balance will not become sick. This is not essentially a healing art but a preventative one dating back millennia, although ancient wisdom built into this practice is also used to treat illness. Ayurveda originated in India. Today’s alternative practitioners are drawn to its whole-body approach.

Oldest Healthcare in the World

Ayurveda could be the most ancient of healing arts but it is not one North Americans are too familiar with. They are more accustomed to hearing about Chinese medicine and holistic treatment such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and naturopathy. The majority of people on the Indian subcontinent, however, use Ayurvedic medicine or at least some of its principles in their daily lives.

Principles of Balance

A whole-body approach is at the root of Ayurvedic medicine. A person is seen as a blend of body, spirit, and mind. Balance between them and the five elements of space, fire, water, air, and earth can be maintained by eating well, getting enough exercise, following spiritual practices, and being part of a healthy community. They are thrown off course by interference from disease and injury, regular and typical disturbances.

In spite of interruptions throughout life, a person maintains a certain type of energy from birth to death. Practitioners seek to establish the elements of a person’s energy in order to improve or promote overall good health. In other words, this is a highly individualized approach to health care.

How to Approach the Whole Person

A doctor usually takes your pulse, reads clues in blood specimens; perhaps checks your eyes, nose, throat, and blood pressure. She might ask questions about your emotional state but only if there is time in her busy schedule. An Ayurvedic doctor considers the patient’s social and physical life, diet, and activity. Her approach changes with annual and personal seasons.

Visiting an Ayurvedic Practitioner

If you can find a professional skilled in this ancient art, her intention is to customize her approach to each patient. Her dual focus is on the person and the pathology. These together inform treatment, but in a perfect world the body will heal itself. Ayurvedic medicine calls upon the body’s natural defenses to do the work, not synthetic drugs or surgery.

Patients don’t even undergo x-rays. This system of healing is much the same today as it always was back when there were no CT scanners or MRI machines. Application of oils, nutrition, massage, and herbs forms part of the Ayurvedic approach to healing and realignment.

Detoxification or cleansing sets the body up to receive treatment and absorb new types of nutrients. A diagnosis is based partially on the patient’s history, diet, and lifestyle but also on the results of physical exams, particularly those relating to body rhythms (pulse). Ultimately, a patient is encouraged to adopt a whole lifestyle, not just a short-term regimen to cure illness.

Practitioners also help patients proactively establish healthy rhythms and habits. In so doing, their patients believe they can prevent sickness such as cancer, Dementia, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Detoxify the Ayurvedic Way

Health food stores sell teas and tablets that promote bowel evacuation: completely emptying your body of waste products. They call it a “cleanse” and it’s common to undergo a “cleanse” every spring. This is not an easy process since many people complain of headaches while they forgo caffeine and stomach cramps as stools loosen.

Side effects of a store-bought detoxification program, however, are nothing compared to an Ayurvedic detox. Patients might be encouraged to go through a similar process, but they could also be subjected to blood letting and vomiting. Massage and steam treatments are among the gentler approaches to an Ayurvedic cleansing, but those are prescribed before the patient changes his diet according to a strict new plan to overcome any one of many types of diseases and ailments. Your whole menu could be thrown out the window and that’s not easy.

Some resorts and retreats are wholly dedicated to this form of healing and rejuvenation. Enthusiasts of alternative medicine take their holidays in these locations which are also popular as rehab locations for wealthy individuals seeking to overcome drug addiction.

How to Seek Help through Ayurveda

As you can see, some of the practices involved in Ayurveda can be hard on the body. Is it safe to visit a doctor who might prescribe bleeding or vomiting followed by a regimen of herbs which might cause detrimental side effects? In the wrong hands you could be a guinea pig and wind up in a Western-style hospital hooked to IV and being pumped full of the drugs you wanted to avoid.

If your Ayurvedic practitioner is trained and licensed, you are probably in good hands. Ask to see credentials but first prepare yourself to know what they mean. A specialist should have received qualifications from a training center. Visit the ISAH or International Society for Ayurvedic Health for listings of recognized schools. Check the price and what that includes. Find out if a practitioner also holds a medical degree, which would be safest given that some conditions are best treated in a hospital and some treatments can lead to serious side effects.