Andrew Johnson mAMH. mBANT. NTCC. CNHC. Herbalist & Nutritional Therapist

Traditional Medicine Systems and Ayurveda

I have for over twenty-five years studied some of the worlds major traditional medical systems, including the Ayurvedic (Indian), Greek, Chinese and Druidic (Celtic), and I call upon the wisdom from these traditions in my work when appropriate for modern day people.

I have found that these traditions all have more in common than they have differences. These things are fundamental and represent universal principles. They all for example share a similar perennial philosophy which is a holistic one.

Our modern Western culture has created new and unnatural influences that did not exist when these traditional medical systems were developed. I have found that by using modern Nutritional Therapy to help with these new influences works well in conjunction with the traditional medical models.

I think the advantage of using traditional models of understanding people is that they all tend to consider the person as a whole, so they tend to look for deeper underlying imbalances that can be significant. They also all consider the qualities or characteristics of a person and their condition, such as whether they tend to be excessively hot or cold, dry or moist, or have conditions that are characterized by these qualities. The advantage of this is that when choosing a mixture of herbs for someone it can be adjusted to also help these qualities.

Traditional medical systems tend to assess these characteristics in people, which is generally known in the West as their constitution. In Ayurveda it is known as the persons Prakruti, or nature. When a person lives according to their constitution or nature they are considered to be less likely to develop diseases. When someone has symptoms they are considered as an imbalance of these qualities (such as hot/cold, dry/moist etc), and advice is given regarding diet, lifestyle, herbs and so on to redress the balance.

About Ayurveda

The name Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit words: ‘ayus’ meaning life and ‘vid’ meaning knowledge, which is often translated to mean ‘the science of life.’

Ayurveda originated in India many thousands of years ago and is still used extensively today. The earliest literary references to Ayurveda are around 500 BC, although it is thought that it existed for a long time before that. It is a holistic system primarily based upon the use of diet, herbs and naturopathic techniques, along with adjusting lifestyle influences. Ayurveda is closely linked to the Indian Vedic and Yogic traditions and philosophy and is sometimes used in combination with Yoga therapy.

Ayurveda considers the universe to be composed of five basic elements, which are: ether, air, fire, water and earth. These five elements all have specific qualities and they combine in certain ways to create the three doshas within the human body. These three doshas (known as vata, pitta and kapha) are the primary constitutions that each have a centre, and unique set of qualities and function in the body-mind. They are interrelated and when in a balanced state maintain the integrity and normal physiological functioning of the human body-mind. The differing ratios of the doshas are what make up a persons prakruti (nature) or constitution. So a person may have more of one dosha, and less of the others for example.

In Ayurveda the individuals constitution (prakruti) and their current condition (imbalance), is assessed through a variety of techniques, including observation of body structure and form, facial features and traditional tongue diagnosis, questioning, touch (including the use of traditional pulse reading), an in-depth assessment of diet and lifestyle, mental and emotional tendencies as well as a medical history.
Recommendations are designed to balance the doshas, and can include traditional herbal formulae, dietary and lifestyle advice, and sometimes panchakarma, which is a combination of specific naturopathic cleansing techniques. Once panchakarma is complete then tonics are often recommended.

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