Basic Myths and Facts about Ayurveda – You Need To Know
Ayurveda is associated with handful of myths and misconceptions. Though the treatment therapies of Ayurveda are widely sought after from around the world, people tend to have more delusions than proper awareness about this ancient treatment. As an adage goes ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’, Ayurvedic practices with inadequate awareness may do only harm than being beneficial.
10 Myths of Ayurveda
1. Ayurveda is herbal
Unlike many of us think, Ayurveda is not about herbs. Ingredients like milk, ghee, butter, honey, molasses, gingelly oil, rock salts, minerals, ashes and self fermented alcohol are commonly in many Ayurvedic preparations.
Also there are no tables
in Ayurveda that says disease A has Herb Q as cure or disease B has Herb Y as cure. Ayurveda is about medicinal preparations that include dozens or sometimes hundreds of constituents, some of which might be, of course, herbs. Usually,Ayurveda never preaches use of quick-fix single herbs.
2. Ayurveda is vegetarian
This is another common misconception. Apart from its extensive use of ghee, some Ayurvedic preparations include mutton extract and fish oils. Vegetarianism has never been an issue of gross proportions with Ayurveda. If a disease or debility demanded non-vegetarian medicines, ancient Ayurvedic practitioners always provided it. Remember, Ayurveda evolved in Vedic times, when meat and fish eating were considered normal.
3. Ayurvedic principles are not in tune with modern science
According to Ayurveda, diseases are thought to be due to the waxing and waning of the so-called ‘thridoshas’ viz. Vatha, Pitha and Kapha. These three elements cannot be seen as such in any part of the human body, but exist throughout the body. They are responsible for functions like power, motility, oxygen transport etc (Vatha), digestion, metabolism etc (Pitha) and body structuring, sustenance etc (Kapha). There have been several inspired attempts to map tridosha theory to knowledge about the body, as we know from modern medicine. Many of them were by practitioners, equally knowledgeable in Ayurveda and Allopathy. Some of them have been quite successful, especially the attempt made by Vaidyaratnam PS Varrier. However Ayurveda has an even better proof than all these – it works! The tridosha theory was evolved thousands of years ago, in BC, as a simple way of understanding human physiology.
That Ayurvedic medicines work is the best proof that this simple theory is not basically flawed. Of course, better theories have evolved since then. The best practitioners of Ayurveda acknowledge and incorporate these modern theories into practice.
4.Ayurvedic medicines lack clinical trials
Yes, many Ayurvedic medicines lack clinical trials. But ‘clinical trials’ only in the allopathic sense. In a more profound sense, all Ayurvedic preparations have been going through the most extensive clinical trials imaginable. Ayurveda’s real strength is its medicinal preparations that got perfected through the centuries, on experience and observation. This is why most traditional Ayurvedic preparations surprise you on the complexity of their ingredients and ratios. They are preparations that withstood the acid test- what works? What doesn’t? On millions of patients, male and female, of all possible ages and constitutions.
5. Ayurvedic medicines are slow in curing
Reality is that there are both slow acting and fast-acting Ayurvedic medicines. It depends on the underlying cause of the disease. Ayurveda doesn’t just treat the symptoms, as Allopathy often does. And if the underlying cause is formidable, Ayurvedic cures take time in challenging and overcoming it. However, many patients believe this to extremes and go on taking Ayurvedic medicines even if there is no improvement to their condition. This is erroneous, since a no-improvement-situation is almost always a symptom of faulty diagnosis.
6. Ayurveda can be self-taught and treated
Today, there are more people self-treating using Ayurveda than using any other medicine. However, this is ineffective at best, and dangerous at worst. The main reason is that, according to Ayurveda, different people have different physiological constitutions- what Ayurveda calls as one’s Prakrithi. A medicinal preparation that was prescribed for your friend might not be prescribed for you. Because, your friend’s and your Prakrithi (natural ratios of Vatha, Pitha & Kapha) might be quite different. What is good for her might be bad for you! The problem is, it takes a qualified and experienced Ayurvedic physician to determine your Prakrithi. However, it doesn’t hurt you to acquire knowledge about Ayurveda. But make sure such knowledge is from good sources. In any case, consult your physician before starting any Ayurvedic treatment.
7. Ayurvedic medicines are harmless
This is perhaps the most dangerous myth to be exposed. Since Ayurvedic medicines are thought to be from herbal and vegetarian sources, people assume that they are harmless. We already saw that Ayurveda is not purely herbal or vegetarian. Even if some Ayurvedic preparations are purely herbal or vegetarian, it doesn’t mean they are totally safe. Most herbs contain hundreds of molecules, some of them toxic. In fact, ancient practitioners of Ayurveda recognized this, and in preparations, some herbs were added just to offset the side effects of other healing herbs. They considered only a small number of herbs as totally safe or fit for prolonged use. Often, such herbs are more about curing through nutrition than about curing through drug-like molecules. Look for labels like, “To be taken under medical supervision”. The best manufacturers of Ayurvedic medicines often label their more serious medicines this way.
8. Ayurvedic massage is an important treatment
In Ayurveda, massage has never been touted as a cure-all. It is only useful against certain ailments and not all types of massages or activities like Dhara, Pizichil etc. are suitable for every one. Furthermore, most types of Ayurvedic massages require specialized, austere dietary regimens to accompany them. The trend of promoting Ayurvedic massage as a quick-fix tourist service is not in the right sprit of Ayurveda and may indeed prove to be harmful.
9. Proprietary medicines are better than traditional ones
Your best bet is traditional Ayurvedic medicine because it has survived the rigors of millions of real-life case studies, over the centuries. If a disease has a well-known traditional preparation in Ayurveda, it should be your first choice, if not your only choice. However, there are exceptions to this guideline. There are some proprietary preparations that have proved to be immensely useful in treating certain conditions. When it comes to proprietary preparations, the repute of the manufacturer is a serious issue to consider.
10. Ayurveda is another branch of medicine
Ayurveda is of course another branch, but it goes much beyond this. It is a lifestyle. For Ayurvedic medicines to be effective, all recommended life style changes should be done. Healthy eating, proper sleep, adequate exercise etc. are all pillars of Ayurveda. Many treatments require abstinence from sex, alcohol, smoking and drugs. Ayurveda is perhaps the first medical science that indicated about the mind-body connection in diseases and cures. As such, a stress-free mind is essential for the effectiveness of Ayurveda.
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