Ayurveda: Healing Body and Soul

Ayurveda is an ancient study, more than 5000 years old, which describes many natural processes of healing and living a healthy life. Though its origin is in India it has now propagated throughout the world, acknowledged and adopted by many in their search for health and happiness. 

The word Ayurveda mturmeric roots in bageans sacred knowledge of life. In the word Ayurveda, “Ayu” means Life comprising the Body, Mind, Senses and Soul. In ancient India, knowledge was sourced from the 4 “Vedas”, scriptures written as guides for the path of life – namely the RIGVEDA, SAMAVEDA, YAJURVEDA and ATHARVAVEDA.

Ayurveda says that our Universe is made up of five elements – Air, Water, Fire, Earth & Ether. The Human Body represents these elements in three forms of energy or doshas namely Vata, Pitta, & Kapha. Every human body has it’s own unique composition of these three doshas. The composition defines not only the health of the human being but also the characteristics and temperament. Any imbalance in thesethree doshas generally lead to a lot of health issues – physical as well as mental.

Vata relates to air, and this energy mainly directs functions like Respiration, Circulation and Nerve Impulse. People who have Vata imbalance often suffer from dryness of skin and hair, mood swings, headaches, joint pain, bloating, constipation. 

Pitta relates to fire and water in Human body. “Fire” takes the form of Enzymes which are secreted in the stomach and liver which digest food, which is transformed in to Energy. The common symptoms of Pitta imbalance are aggression, loss of temper, acid reflux and ulcers.

Kapha is derived from the elements Earth and Water. When it is present in the right proportion it provides strength, stamina, immunity, and mental peace. Otherwise a person can experience lack of motivation, feel depressed, tired and lethargic and have abnormal food cravings.

Ayurveda says that every person should try to find their natural balanced state by modulating their behavior and environment. A person who has learned to balance all the three doshas is described as “Sushrut Samhita” in Ayurveda – which means he or she has a sound mind, healthy body and a content soul.

Is Ayurveda For You?

Ayurveda – “The Science of Life” or Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems. It began in India many thousands of years ago.

The basis of Ayurveda is the idea that health and wellness is dependent on a delicate balance of the mind, body, and spirit. The primary idea of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health preventatively, rather than battle illness after it arrives.

It is a simple concept that includes many intricate beliefs and practices.

balancing-the-doshas

If you are considering making Ayurveda a part of your life, we recommend a few great books:

“Ayurveda For All” by Murli Manohar

“The Healing Power of Herbs” by Michael T. Murray N.D.

“Practical Ayurveda: Secrets for Physical, Sexual & Spiritual Health” By Atreya & David Frawley

“Ayurveda: Science of Self-Healing: A Practical Guide” By Vasant D. Lad & Angela Werneke

“The Yoga of Herbs” by David Frawley and Vasant Lad

Ayurveda offers a body of wisdom designed to help people realize their full human potential using diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that “health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.”

The real question that lingers is this – Why wouldn’t one practice Ayurveda?

Tattva’s Herbs was founded in 2000 with the desire to deliver the finest quality products that Mother Nature has to offer. We do not cut any corners or spare any expense to bring you the ultimate in quality and signature Ayurvedic oils, supplements, creams, chyawanprash and more. We accept it as our personal responsibility to present the world of Ayurveda to you with great care and respect, and without adulteration. Everyone involved in Tattva’s Herbs is proud of what we do, and we are grateful to be able to share our gifts with you. Ayurveda is one of the world’s richest treasures and should be respected as such.

Ayurveda: “Ancient Philosophy, Modern Research

Interview With Hari Sharma, M.D., Interviewed By Daniel Redwood D.C.

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Hari Sharma, M.D., combines the clarity and rigor of a veteran medical scientist with the spiritual understanding of a wise elder. Dr. Sharmaâs establishment credentials are impressive. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Pathology, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Division of Prevention and Natural Products Research at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. He has published over 100 research articles in widely-respected professional journals including Free Radical Biology and Medicine, and Nutrition Research.

But it is his well-informed advocacy of Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of his native India, that has made him an internationally known figure. In his book Freedom From Disease — How to Control Free Radicals, and Major Cause of Aging and Disease, Dr. Sharma describes the beginnings of his research on Ayurveda. He was present at an international meeting of physicians, convened in India in 1987 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for the purpose of initiating research on the ancient herbal formula Amrit Kalash. The formula, provided by one of the top Ayurvedic physicians in India (where Ayurveda has governmental recognition), was a combination of dozens of herbs, prepared in a specific manner involving hundreds of distinct steps.

As Dr. Sharma listened to what he considered to be a series of amateurish research ideas, he grew steadily more impatient. Finally unable to contain himself, he let everyone know exactly what was wrong with their proposals, and laid out a proposal consistent with the university-based research protocols he was familiar with from his work at Ohio State. At that point the Maharishi said, “Good. Now you should do it.”

To his credit, Sharma followed through, creating one of the more impressive bodies of natural medicine research in existence. The initial findings demonstrated that Amrit Kalash possessed antioxidant power up to 1000 times greater than vitamins C and E.

Dr. Sharma is a frequent lecturer at conferences worldwide, and has presented his research findings to the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization.

For further information:

Hari Sharma, M.D.
Department of Pathology
Ohio State University
Room M368SL
320 West 10th Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43210

Hari Sharma Interview

Daniel Redwood: What principles form the foundation of Ayurveda?

Hari Sharma: Nature runs in cycles. Once there was a time of suffering and illness, and all the rishis [sages] got together. They wanted to find out how to eliminate the suffering, so they meditated together. When you meditate together you create a coherence, a transcendental coherent consciousness, and at that level of consciousness there is relationship between name and form. What it means is that if you ask a question, you have the answer. One of the rishis was named Bharadwaj, and he kept this question in his mind, about how to end suffering. And in this field of transcendental awareness, the whole thing was cognized.

DR: The entire body of Ayurveda emerged all at once?

HS: Yes. This knowledge of Ayurveda does not come through experimentation — it is cognized knowledge that was revealed in totality. It is not incomplete, where you then do some experiment here and there and change it. Itâs eternal knowledge.

Ayurvedas basic foundation is consciousness. Originally, consciousness is flat — nothing is happening. It is unbounded and infinite. Eventually consciousness creates fluctuations. It creates those vibrations, and the original vibrations it creates are the laws of nature. These laws of nature are the Vedas. Veda means knowledge. These laws of nature are structured in consciousness, they are not man-made. They are eternal, they are everywhere. These laws of nature function through the structure of DNA through different species.

DR: So each species is a unique expression of consciousness, manifest in matter.

HS: Different species are different languages . . . All DNA is basically the same, the same four bases that repeat themselves. But the majority of DNA is not active. The part which is active is activated through these laws of nature, through these vibrations, through these Vedas. Which will be different in different species. Then, as the consciousness is charging up the DNA, what happens? These vibrations, or fluctuations of consciousness, get materialized. That ultimately produces the body, whether it is an animal body, or plant body, or human body. Or the planets, the cosmos, or whatever. This is how it is produced, by the materialization of the fluctuations of consciousness.

Now, in the human body, different Vedas, or different laws of nature materialize at different rates, and that creates different structures. Like a liver, or a kidney. Each one of them is working at a different vibration. If these fluctuations or vibrations are distorted, and they are not in the right frequency, either due to psychic disturbances in the mind, or due to food, drink, the environment, or other influences — whatever it is — it distorts the vibrations of these organs.

I’m taking you one step higher now, okay? I’m talking on a different level. When the vibrations don’t work properly, that structure which was originally formed has different vibrations. Now it is not working at the same vibration, so it is diseased.

DR: So that the goal would be to restore the proper vibration?

HS: That’s right. And that is where this Vedic approach to health comes in. You’ve got 37 different areas of Veda and Vedic literature, with divisions and subdivisions. Each one of them has been identified with a certain area of physiology and anatomy in the human body. Similarly, the different cosmic counterparts — the planets, the constellations — each have been identified with certain areas of the system. So when the cosmic counterparts are not aligned properly, or the different areas of physiology are not working properly, disease is produced.

DR: If the principles of Ayurveda are eternal, has the practice of Ayurveda changed through the centuries?

HS: The practice of Ayurveda was distorted and dismembered, and was not used in totality. Foreign forces [the British and earlier invaders] asserted their own influence, and suppressed the old way of knowledge. But Ayurveda has been completely revived by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, with Vedic scholars and Ayurvedic scholars. That is why it is known as Maharishi Ayurveda.

When you talk about the human body, the primary thing is consciousness. Consciousness has to work properly. That is where meditation, Transcendental Meditation, comes in. All of the research on meditation shows so much profound benefit. Because when the mind functions properly, the physiology reflects that.

DR: The Transcendental Meditation movement has been noteworthy for its ongoing commitment to serious scientific research. To what degree do you feel that data about the beneficial effects of TM can be generalized to meditation in all its variety?

HS: You cannot do that.

DR: Not at all?

HS: It’s just like with different drugs for hypertension. You can’t say that because one drug decreases the blood pressure, then all the other drugs do. They don’t. The basic thing which meditation is trying to do is to make you transcend, and merge with the infinite. The mind, which is localized, becomes unbounded, infinite. And when it becomes that, it naturally imbibes, becomes part of, the laws of nature. They become part of the mind. Any meditation, if it can do that, if it can make you transcend, will achieve the same results.

It’s like the sun is shining. And the clouds are there. What we are doing is to remove the cloudiness, to go beyond that. Now there are so many meditation techniques. You can get trapped into these different levels of consciousness, which will not have the same effect. The real thing is to transcend all that, to go to the home of all the laws of nature. If anything can achieve that, it will surely show the benefit.

DR: In recent years there has been an increasing amount of scientific research on Ayurvedic herbal formulas, some of it done by you and your colleagues at Ohio State Medical School. Could you summarize your major findings?

HS: There are two types of formulas in Ayurveda. The first is the rasayanas, which are generalized rejuvenation and longevity enhancers. According to the texts, these rasayanas are supposed to suppress aging, enhance immunity, and create homeostasis. The second type involves special formulas for different disorders.

You can think of the rasayanas as vitamins, but they are much more than that. I have done research on some of these formulas, including Maharishi Amrit Kalash (MAK).

DR: When you did the first studies on MAK, what did you find?

HS: We took some human volunteers, and studied some of their blood to see if we could prevent excessive platelet aggregation, or clotting of blood, in vitro [test tube]. I had done a lot of work before that on platelets, so I knew the technique. It was amazing. MAK did inhibit excessive platelet aggregation, very quickly.

DR: So the wisdom of nature is greater than the wisdom of human chemists?

HS: All the time.

DR: Ayurveda seems to call for reexamination of certain aspects of the American health food diet. For example, Ayurveda seems to frequently recommend cooked food in preference to raw food, and utilizes butter and sugar to prepare certain herbal formulas. Do you feel that such a reexamination is necessary?

HS: Ayurveda is not really talking about butter, but about clarified butter, or ghee. You heat up the butter, and skim off the proteins from the top, and the filtrate that comes out is called clarified butter. It can be kept at room temperature. I have personally done experiments ghee, and found that [despite its fat content] it does not increase cholesterol. Ghee normally contains antioxidants, which enable it to stay at room temperature and not get spoiled like butter does.

DR: So in moderation, ghee can be health-giving?

HS: Anything in moderation. [Laughter] Too much, and it can be dangerous.

DR: What about the question of cooked food versus raw food?

HS: The human constitution has three main functioning physiological principles: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Pitta is the one which is concerned with digestion and metabolism. If somebody has a very strong Pitta constitution, he can easily digest uncooked food with no problem. But not everyone has that strong a digestive capacity. So if we eat too much uncooked raw food, we cannot digest it and we bloat with gas. Thatâs why Ayurveda says it is good to have cooked food.

The other thing is, the food should have all the different tastes. There are six tastes which have been identified [sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent], but the majority of what Americans eat is only sweet and salty. It’s very easy to take care of if you add a certain spicy mixture [churna] to your food. You just mix in some of that and all the tastes are satisfied. If the tastes are not satisfied, you can eat a lot of food, and the stomach will be bulging, but the hunger will not be gone. The reason is that all the different tastes, the different tastebuds, have not been satisfied.

DR: Do you feel that people can benefit from Ayurveda on a self-care basis, from reading the available books, or is professional care needed?

HS: They can get some information from books, but they can’t get all the information. Ayurveda is strongly prevention oriented. Many diseases are due to wrong eating habits, wrong daily routines, wrong seasonal routines. as well as eating at the wrong time, or eating the main meal at the wrong time [Ayurveda suggests eating the main meal at mid-day]. The same food is not good for everybody. The same food will be good for one person and damaging for another person.

DR: This idea of different people needing different foods is an insight that is conspicuously absent from most contemporary teachings on nutrition.

HS: You cannot have it where a particular food is good for everybody. There is nothing like that. Once you know your constitution, which is the predominately functioning principle in your physiology, then you know which foods match your body type, and you know how to balance it. So it takes a certain amount of knowledge and education, and then the majority of problems can be manipulated by daily routine and proper diet.

DR: Could you describe what an Ayurvedic practitioner learns from feeling a patients pulse?

HS: There are three different principles which govern the physiology of the body — Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata is basically activity; Pitta is metabolism, digestion, the endocrine system and the skin; and Kapha is structure and cohesiveness. These work at different sites in the body, and each one is divided into five subdivisions. Then there are different structures in the body, different tissues. Ayurveda identifies seven different transformations of the tissue. The plasma, blood, muscle fat, and so on.

When you take the pulse, the pulse is connected to the human heart. The information coming into the heart is translated into the pulse. Also, whatever is happening in the mind, those fluctuations of consciousness are also related to the pulse, because the pulse is related to the nerves. So basically, what is present in the body and mind is represented in the pulse. [The practitioner discerns] the functioning of the three principles — Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Which is predominant, which is balanced, which is not balanced. You can actually feel this in the pulse. Then you can find out how the subdoshas (the five different subtypes of Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are functioning, and how the different tissue transformations are functioning. So you can get a lot of information from these pulses. It takes training, and some time and experience, but once you have that experience and training, you can find out a lot just from taking the pulse. I have seen it. Itâs a very profound experience. Itâs not just the pulse rate.

DR: What goals do you have for the near future, or far future?

HS: My goal now in life is to educate physicians, chiropractors, osteopaths, psychologists and other professionals in the basic principles and practices of Ayurveda, and also to educate the public. Because health can be maintained and disease can be prevented. Though technology is advancing, people are still falling sick. Health care costs keep on increasing, and there is no way to reduce that unless you introduce prevention. The best prevention is Ayurveda, because it is a very comprehensive system. Since it is based on natural medicine, which is devoid of toxicity, how could it be better? The interest is rising, and they are now starting medical at medical colleges.

DR: There’s one more thing I wanted to ask. I finally got off coffee totally, a few months ago and I used Rajas Cup [an Ayurvedic herb tea] as a substitute to make the transition. I drink two cups a day. Is there any problem with that?

HS: None at all. It has very profound effects on the nervous system, and also it is very soothing to the stomach. You are doing just the right thing.

DR: Coffee is very widely used in our society. I have had patients who drink ten or twenty cups a day. Do you feel it is harmful to people?

HS: Overstimulation is harmful. Then you are working in high gear all the time, and you don’t even realize it.

Daniel Redwood, a chiropractor and writer who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the author of A Time to Heal: How to Reap the Benefits of Holistic Health. A collection of his writing is available on the WorldWideWeb at http://www.doubleclickd.com/danhome.html. He can be reached by e-mail at Redwoods@infi.net.

©1996 Daniel Redwood, D.C.

Ayurveda, Food, and You

Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman N.D., M.S.W., DHANP

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Ayurveda is a natural system of medicine, using diet, herbs, cleansing and purification practices, yoga, astrology and gemstones to bring about healing.This article focuses on the dietary principles of Ayurveda and how an ayurvedic diet can both prevent and heal disease. Ayurveda is from India and is at least 5,000 years old, and still as effective as when it was created by ancient sages known as Rishis. The Rishis, masters of meditation and observation, developed a remarkable system of healing based on the five basic elements of the universe, ether, air, fire, water and earth and their combinations, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, known as the doshas. Your dosha is your constitutional type. There are three main types and four combination types. By knowing your type, you have immediate access to useful information on what to eat, how to exercise, what to wear, how to cleanse and purify your body and how to prevent disease, as well as much, much more.
Contrary to most Western approaches to nutrition, Ayurveda does not prescribe one diet as best for everyone, such as raw foods, macrobiotics or the basic four food groups, but seeks to individualize and optimize nutrition for the individual, based on their constitutional type and the particular imbalances in the person which need to be corrected. Food is selected based on its elemental balance, its taste, its effects on the body, and qualities of the foods such as hot and cold, moist and dry, light and heavy, oily, rough, subtle, and others. The main intention of diet in the Ayurvedic system is to nourish the body’s tissues, known as the seven dhatus, ie. lymph, blood, flesh, muscle, fat, marrow, bone and sexual fluid. Each of these tissues, when it is fed, nourishes and forms the next in succession. In order to nourish the tissues, food must first be digested, which is the job of the digestive fire, or agni, which is seated in the stomach and small intestines. Food that is not properly digested, due to overeating, poor food combinations, imbalance of the elements, or toxins in the food creates a sticky, toxic substance known as ama, which coats the digestive tract and the tongue and which may also be deposited in the tissues, forming a breeding ground for chronic disease. Proper food nourishes without making toxic ama.

Ignoring the laws of correct living and allowing the accumulation of toxins in the body predictably results in disease. Ayurveda prescribes an individualized approach to the dietary and lifestyle practices which keep people healthy and promote longevity. Ayurvedic dietary and cleansing practices are among the simplest, but most profoundly effective in the world. By knowing your dosha and applying the principles of living prescribed by both the ancient Rishis and modern Ayurvedic practitioners, you can restore your health and live a long and happy life.

The three main doshas and their dietary principles are given below. A complete Ayurvedic examination includes pulse and tongue reading, your physical characteristics, your mental qualities and emotional temperament, and whatever symptoms you may be suffering from. Although the guidelines given below will probably be helpful for self-care, they are not intended to treat disease or replace the services of an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Vata. Vata is the principle of motion, and is responsible for everything in the body which moves. It is the combination of the elements air and ether (or space.) Vata is said to be mobile, light, dry, cool, rough, subtle, and clear. An excess of these qualities will aggravate Vata. Vata people tend to be thin, dark haired, wirey, fearful and nervous, with very active minds and bodies. They are often on the go (or on the phone!) Vata has its seat in the colon, and one of its main symptoms of aggravation is excess lower bowel gas. Vata is also prominent in the hair, nails, skin and joints and excess Vata will cause dry skin and hair, wrinkles, and cracking joints, and as you might guess, people become more Vata as they age.

The diet which balances Vata includes foods which are warm, moist, oily, heavy, mostly cooked, and emphasizing the sweet, sour and salty taste. Spicey foods are good for Vata people, because they increase the digestive fire. Dairy products help Vata in general unless there is an allergy to them. Although Vata is helped by the sweet taste, white sugar should be avoided. Yeasted products also may aggravate Vata. Many of the symptoms of Candida albicans infection are similar to a Vata imbalance in the colon. Vata people should avoid the cabbage/broccoli and nightshade (tomato, eggplant, green pepper and tomatoes) families of vegetables, and only eat raw vegetables if they are marinated or with salad dressing. Most beans aggravate Vata, but soy products like tofu or soymilk are okay. Regular meals are important.

Pitta. Pitta is the principle of heat. Pitta is composed of the elements fire and water, which may seem incompatible until you think of digestive juices like hydrochloric acid which is liquid, but also firey. Pitta people have a medium, often muscular build, ruddy complexion and often blonde or red hair. They tend emotionally toward anger, impatience and aggressiveness. They are the classic Type A’s. The seat of Pitta is in the small intestine, and it is responsible for digestion and assimilation. Pitta qualities are light (as in bright), oily, hot, mobile and liquid. Common Pitta conditions include skin rashes, ulcers, heart disease, fevers, inflammation and irritation.

The diet for pitta emphasizes foods which are cool, raw, green, soothing and emphasize the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Hot, spicey and acidic foods aggravate Pitta. Fruits, vegetables, grains and low fat dairy products are generally good for Pitta, if they aren’t too spicey or sour. Too much oil, salt, alcohol and red meat should be avoided. Pittas do well as vegetarians if they get enough protein.

Kapha. Kapha is the principle of groundedness and stability. Kapha is composed of the water and earth elements. Kapha qualities are cold, dense, oily, heavy, slow, slimey and static. Kapha people tend to be overweight, retain fluid, and are sluggish in general. They have a calm, jovial disposition, but can also be possessive or greedy. Kapha people need to lighten up and let go. The seat of Kapha is in lungs, and Kapha people often get lung congestion and excess mucus. They also are prone to diabetes, water retention, constipation, and depression.

The diet for Kapha emphasizes warm, light, dry foods, plenty of fresh, raw vegetables and fruits and foods with a spicey, bitter or astringent taste. Heavy, oily, creamy foods should be avoided. Wheat, rice and oats may create excess mucus, and fried foods and too much nuts and seeds are detrimental to Kapha people. Sweets (except raw honey), salty and sour foods will aggravate a Kapha person and make them gain weight. Citrus fruits, red meat and dairy products ahould also be avoided. Spicey foods are good for Kapha because they stimulate metabolism.

Try applying the dietary principles for your constitutional type. They are sure to make a difference in how you feel. We recommend Ayurveda, The Science of Self-Healing by Dr. Vasant Lad, The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai, and Prakruti, by Dr. Robert Swoboda as helpful references.

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206) 774-5599.