Ayurvedic Medicine

This is a long post.  But well worth reading and incredibly interesting.  I would actually suggest that everyone read this post, you may find beneficial information, especially in the area that speaks of food and balancing foods.  You may want to get a cup of coffee now, sit back, relax and read.

This is an art of healing that started in ancient India.  Ayurvedic means ‘knowledge of living’ (Sanskrit:  ‘ayur’ means life/living and ‘veda’ means knowledge.)  Dating back at least 5,000 years ago, ancient India practiced this and it is even mentioned in the Vedas.  The Vedas is an ancient philosophical/religious text which states that enlightened men used Ayurvedic principals to live harmoniously mentally and spiritually while maintaining the physical body in optimal health.  In fact, historians of the medical field believe that the development of Chinese medicine was a direct result of the Indian beliefs coming to China.

Using detoxification, purification, yoga, breathing exercises, massage, meditation, healthy diet along with herbs and mineral therapy, Ayurvedic medicine is practiced extensively in modern India and constantly gaining a large following in the Western world.

If you want to learn about Ayurvedic treatment, you need to first understand how that system understands the body to be.  The body has ‘prana’ (the basic life force of the body – similar to ‘chi’ the Chinese belief).  There are 5 basic elements that contain ‘prana’:  Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether.  (note:  other belief systems and philosophies also include these as a basis of belief including but not limited to alchemy, ancient Greek, ancient Egyptian, Tibetan, Native American and many many more)

These elements interact and correspond to the body as three main areas or principals that control all bodily functions, known as doshas.  The three doshas are ‘vata, pitta, and kapha’.  Every person has their own combination of doshas which is unique to them, which is termed ‘prakriti’.  When a person has an imbalance in one or more of their doshas, the Ayurvedic doctor will try and balance them or bring them into adjustment by using any variety of techniques.

Kapha dosha is associated with earth and water.  People who tend to be heavy or larger people with oily skin, or who are slow or peaceful or calm are considered kapha dosha.  Disorders of the kapha present as emotional (greedy, possessive) and physically (obese, chronic fatigue, bronchial problems and sinus issues).

Pitta dosha is associated with fire and water.  In bodies, the pitta regulates metabolism and digestion.   Characteristics of pitta are fair skinned, good concentration, medium build and strong in digestion.  Imbalances present as stress, aggression, anger and physically in stress related illness like ulcers, hypertension and gastritis.

Vata dosha is associated with air and ether.  It promotes flowing, lightness and movement in the body.  Vatas are generally small physically, being light and thin.  Very peppy and filled with energy.  Sometimes restless.  If the vata is unbalanced you’ll find insomnia, headaches, pain in the lower back, nervousness and even hyperactivity.

Disease indicates an imbalance in the dosha system in Ayurvedic Medicine.   A doctor will diagnose using interviews, questionnaires and physical and mental histories.  They will also inspect fingernails (many things can be learned from looking at your nails!), eyes, tongue, face, lips, eyes, and pulse to get a better understanding for other problems in the body’s system.  Many use lab tests in diagnosing.

Treatments include cleansing and detoxifying the body before any other methods can be administered.  This is under the belief that the other methods will work more effectively.   Detox and cleansing can take days or weeks depending on the method used.  After this is complete the doctor may use minerals and herbs to balance the body as these doctors are extremely knowledgeable in this field.

Certain eating practices should be followed.  Eat slowly and calmly and chew many times.  Have a clear head when you eat.  Do not over eat and eat a good combination of foods.  Foods also should correspond to the persons dosha type and certain foods should be eaten to correct certain issues in the dosha.  Alternatively, certain foods can aggravate certain doshas.  For instance, Sour and salty foods can increase pitta, while sweet and sour can decrease problems in vata while increasing them in kapha.

Although the Ayurvedic diet is mostly vegetarian, there are meats included.  Foods are also eaten during optimal times, for instance:  cooling foods in the summer and heating foods in the winter, but always according to the requirements of the individual dosha.  The heaviest meal of the day should be during lunch time and eating dinner should always be earlier so as to allow for complete digestion before going to sleep.

This is NOT a complete list, but here are some ideas regarding which foods are good for which doshas:

VATA
Balancing Foods
Fruit – Apricots, Avocado, Bananas, Berries, Dates, Fresh Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Kiwi, Lemons, Mango, Melon, Oranges, Papaya, Peaches, Pineapple, Plums, Strawberries. Sweet fruits are balancing. (No dried fruits).

Vegetables – Artichoke, Asparagus, Beets, Carrots, Cucumber, Green Beans, Leeks, Mustard Greens, Okra, Olives, Onion, Parsnip, Potato, Squash, Watercress, Zucchini. Cooked vegetables are most balancing. (Avoid raw vegetables).

Grains – Amaranth, Oats, Rice, Wheat, Wild Rice

Legumes and Nuts – Adzuki beans, Almonds, Black lentils, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Flax, Hazelnuts, Mung beans, Peanuts, Pecans, Pine Nuts, Pistachios, Pumpkin, Red lentils, Sesame, Soy cheese, Soy milk, Sunflower, Tofu, Walnuts

Meat – Beef (occasionally), Chicken or Turkey (white meat), Duck, Eggs, Freshwater Fish, Seafood, Shrimp

Herbs, Spices, Condiments – Brown Rice Syrup, Honey, Maple Syrup, Molasses, other sweeteners than White Sugar, Allspice, Almond Extract, Anise, Basil, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Caraway, Cardamom, Cayenne, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Coconut, Cottage Cheese, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Ghee, Ginger, Mustard, Nutmeg, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Peppermint, Poppy Seeds, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Spirulina, Tamarind, Tarragon, Thyme, Pickles, Salt, Seaweed, Soy Sauce, Turmeric, Vanilla

Dairy – in moderation:  Buttermilk, Cow’s Milk, Cheese, Goat’s Milk, Goat Cheese, Yogurt.

PITTA
Balancing Foods
Fruit – Apples, Avocado, Berries, Dates, Figs, Grapes, Mango, Melons, Pears, Pineapples, Plums, Pomegranate, Prunes, Raisins, Watermelon. Sweet fruits are balancing. Sour fruits are aggravating.

Vegetables – Artichoke, asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, brussell sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, green beans, leafy greens, mushrooms, okra, parsley, parsnip, peas, potatoes, squash, sprouts, zucchini. Sweet and bitter vegetables are balancing.

Grains – Barley, Cooked Oats, Basmati Rice, White Rice, Wheat, Wheat Bran, Wheat Granola are balancing. Amaranth, Buckwheat, Millet, Oat granola, Quinoa, Brown Rice and Rye are aggravating. Legumes and Nuts – All beans except black and red lentils are balancing, such as adzuki beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, soy beans, split peas and tofu. Coconut, psyllium, pumpkin and sunflower are balancing. (Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Chia, Filberts, Flax, Macadamia Nuts, Peanuts, Pecans, Pine Nuts, Pistachios and Sesame can aggravate)

Meat – Chicken white meat, turkey white meat, egg white, freshwater fish, shrimp (in moderation) are balancing. Beef, egg yolk, duck, lamb, pork, venison and seafood other than shrimp are unbalancing.

Herbs, Spices and Condiments – Maple Syrup, Fruit Juice Concentrate, Barley Syrup, Brown Rice Syrup, and other sweeteners except for honey and molasses, Coconut, Coriander, Cumin, Dill Fennel, Ghee, Mint, Orange Peel, Peppermint, Saffron, Seaweed, Spearmint, Sprouts, Turmeric, Wintergreen are balancing. Chili peppers, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Ketchup, Mustard, Lemon, Mayonnaise, Onions, Pickles, Salt, Sesame Seeds, Soy Sauce and Tamari are aggravating.

Dairy – Butter (unsalted), Cottage Cheese, Mild Soft Cheeses, Ghee, Cow’s Milk, Goats Milk are balancing. Salted butter, Buttermilk, Hard Cheese, Feta Cheese, Sour Cream and Yogurt are aggravating.

KAPHA
Balancing Foods
Fruit – Apples, Apricots, Berries, Cherries, Cranberries, Dried Figs, Mango, Peaches, Pears, Pomegranate, Prunes, Raisins. Sweet fruits such as bananas and dates are aggravating, as are sour fruits such as lemons, sour oranges and grapefruit.
KAPHA
Balancing Foods
Vegetables – Asparagus, Beets, Beet Greens, Bell Pepper, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Eggplant, Garlic, Green Beans, Horseradish, Leafy Greens, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Okra, Onions, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Spinach, Sprouts, Turnips, Watercress. Raw, pungent and bitter vegetables are balancing. Sweet, juicy vegetables are aggravating.

Grains – Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, Granola, Millet, Oats, Oat Bran, Quinoa, Basmati Rice, Rice Cakes, Rye and Wheat Bran are balancing. Cooked Oats, Brown or White Rice, and Wheat are unbalancing.

Legumes and Nuts – Adzuki beans, Black-Eyed Peas, Chickpeas, Flaxseeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Lima Beans, Navy Beans, Pinto Beans, Red Lentils, Split Peas, White Beans are balancing,  while Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashew, Coconut, Macadamia Nuts, Peanuts, Pecans, Pine Nuts, Pistachios, Psyllium, Sesame, Black lentils, Mung Beans, KIdney Beans, Lentils, Soy Beans, Tempeh, Walnuts and Tofu are aggravating.

Meat – Chicken dark meat, Turkey dark meat, eggs are balancing, while Beef, Duck, Freshwater Fish, Lamb, Pork, Seafood, Shrimp, and Venison are aggravating.

Herbs, Spices and Condiments – allspice, Anise, Basil, Black Pepper, Caraway, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Mint, Mustard Seeds, Nutmeg, Onion, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Peppermint, Poppy Seeds, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Star Anise, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric, Wintergreen are balancing.

Dairy – Goats Milk and Yogurt diluted 1:4 yogurt:water (balancing). Butter, Cheese, Buttermilk, Cow’s Milk, Ice Cream, Sour Cream and Yogurt (aggravating).
You can check online for Ayurvedic physicians and costs for treatment.

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