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The ancient system of Ayurveda is seeing a resurgence in popularity all over the world. Is it advisable to get on the bandwagon? Is there something that we have missed?

Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that comes from the Indian subcontinent. The basic concept behind Ayurveda is that every disease is caused by an imbalance. This balance between the body and nature — or even the universe as it were — is what leads to the manifestation of disease.

Ayurveda and Ayurvedic medicine is growing in poularity, with over 200 universities around the world teaching courses about the Ayurvedic system of healing. The United States recognizes Ayurveda as a form of complementary and alternative medicine.

Proponents of the system claim that it has answers to the growing scourge of food allergies as well as many auto immune diseases. Is there truth to these claims? Does Ayurveda stand up to scientific scrutiny?

Basic Principles Of Ayurveda

The Ayurvedic system divides the body into seven tissues consisting of plasma, blood, fat, bone, muscles, semen and marrow. It also presumes that the five basic elements of Earth, fire, water, air and ether combine to form these tissues.

Apart from this, Ayurveda also names three doshas, which need to be in balance with each other otherwise diseases will afflict the body. These three different doshas are said to be found in different proportions in the human body, and are determined by the temperament and characteristics of the body.

Similarly, a detailed methodology for the diagnosis of treatments is given based on the observation of changes in urine, vision, speech, tongue, pulse and appearance. There are books written on surgery as well, some scholars argue that they were even more advanced than the western systems of healing in place at the time and that very well might be true.

Some of the instruments of surgery described in these texts were later modified for use in western medicine. Some procedures like Rhinoplasty were also described in detail in these texts and were referred to by western scholars centuries later.

The treatments are meted out using plant based substances, purified and even fermented to bring out their healing properties. Opium was one of the substances that was used in Ayurveda, however its well known pain reducing and sedative properties are not mentioned, instead is advocated for increasing sexual potency and for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

Does Ayurveda Work?   

Ayurveda can be best described as an ancient system of medicine that held a lot of promise and seemed to be founded on the principles of observation and understanding. Every ancient system of medicine made assumptions based on religion, spirituality and a higher power that we now know not be true. The same is true for Ayurveda. 

A lot of herbs and concoctions were used for therapeutic purposes, and in hindsight some of them were excellent decisions. Had study continued to evolve in the system, better and more predictable systems of treatment could have evolved.

However, the truth of the matter is that Ayurveda is no better or effective than any other system of ancient medicine. Every major civilization has had a system of medicine, but none of them eventually continued on the path of scientific discovery and observation.

As it stands today, not willing to accept the tenets of scientific measurement, observation and standardized tests of its components, Ayurveda is nothing but a pseudoscientific system of healing.

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