Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of medicine that originates from ancient India. It is a considered a type of alternative medicine.

This time-honored therapy focuses on maintaining the balance of body, mind, and spirit to preserve health and wellness. Ayurvedic medicine revolves around the belief that any imbalance in these three facets results in health complications, emphasizing disease prevention and health promotion rather than only disease treatment.

The term ayurveda, also spelled āyurveda, is derived from two Sanscrit words: āyus and veda. The first word (āyus) means life or longevity, while the second one (veda) means knowledge. The term can therefore be roughly translated into “knowledge of life and logevity”.


The basics

In Ayurveda, every person is considered unique, having a specific constitution referred to as ‘Prakriti’. Complementing this uniqueness, there are three clear ‘doshas’ that form the basis of Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These doshas represent the bio-physical aspects within us and in nature, indicating our physical, mental and spiritual balance. 

1. Vata Dosha: Controls basic body functions like cell division, heart function, mind activity, and waste elimination. An imbalance can lead to anxiety and diseases related to the nervous system.

2. Pitta Dosha: Governs digestion, metabolism, and certain hormones linked to appetite. An imbalance may cause ulcers, inflammation, anger, and heart diseases.

3. Kapha Dosha: Controls growth in the body and supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system. Kapha imbalance can lead to obesity, diabetes, sinus issues, and gallbladder disorders.

These doshas guide each individual’s treatment plan, helping to restore their natural state of balance. Ayurveda also identifies personal dietary recommendations, lifestyle changes, and self-care practices based on one’s dosha type.

Components of Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine employs a holistic approach to healing, using various components like herbs, dietary changes, meditation, yoga, and body therapies. Ayurveda practises have varied and evolved for over more than 2,000 years. Examples of common components are herbal medicine, dietary changes, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, massage, laxatives, enemas, and oil application. Certain ancient ayurvedic texts also include information about how to carry out certain types of medical procedures we today normally seek out a hospital surgeon for, such as sutures, rhinoplasty, and the extraction of kidney stones.

1. Herbal Medicines: Herbs form an essential part of Ayurvedic treatment. They’re prepared and administered in several ways, including powders, tablets, decoctions, or medicated oils and ghee.

2. Dietary Changes: Ayurveda promotes a natural, balanced diet based on one’s dosha. It encourages the consumption of fresh, seasonal, and locally available foods.

3. Yoga and Meditation: Practices like yoga, meditation, and pranayama (breathing exercises) are integral to Ayurveda as they aim to bring harmony between the body and mind.

4. Ayurvedic Therapies: Therapies like Panchakarma, Snehana, Swedana, and Virechana help cleanse and rejuvenate the body, following a process of detoxification and restoration.

Scientific Validation and Modern Application

Despite being centuries old, certain aspects of Ayurveda are supported by modern scientific research. The American Cancer Society, for instance, acknowledges the positive effects of meditation, yoga, and certain herbs on improving patients’ quality of life. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology found Ayurvedic treatments to be beneficial for managing rheumatoid arthritis.

The global acceptance and practice of Ayurveda have grown significantly over the years. The World Health Organization even recognizes Ayurveda’s potency for improving global health. The challenges of chronic diseases, rising healthcare costs, side effects from conventional medicines, and the urge to maintain wellness have all contributed to the global resurgence of Ayurveda.


Just because something is marketed as ayurvedic, it doesn’t guarantee that it is good for us. There is a for instance a growing concern regarding high levels of certain metals in preparations marketed as ayurvedic medicine, especially led, mercury, and arsenic.

In 2005, the Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) issued a warning for the ayurvedic preparation Ayu 69 Shaktiton, as samples of this preparation had turned out to contain dangerously high levels of led. The following year, a follow-up investigation by the agency unveiled that Ayu 69 Shaktiton was not an isolated case and that for many ayurvedic products, a person taking one of them in accordance with the recommended dosage would exceed WHO´s daily recommended maximum intake of led. A person using several such preparations in combination would, of course, reach an even higher intake.

In 2008, a research paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that many of the investigated ayurvedic preparations, which had been purchased online in 2005, contained high levels of toxic metals. (Source: Robert B. Saper; Russell S. Phillips; Anusha Sehgal; Nadia Khouri; Roger B. Davis; Janet Paquin; Venkatesh Thuppil; Stefanos N. Kales, (2008). Lead, Mercury, and Arsenic in US- and Indian-Manufactured Ayurvedic Medicines Sold via the Internet. The Journal of the American Medical Association.)

Final words

Ayurvedic medicine provides an alternative approach to well-being and overall health, promoting natural healing methods, and a balanced lifestyle. By understanding our unique abilities and needs, Ayurveda aims to help us live healthier, happier and more balanced lives. It is a testament to the timeless wisdom of ancient sages and an invaluable inheritance for future generations. As scientific exploration continues, we may find even greater depth and applicability in the tradition of Ayurveda. At the same time, it is important to take into account that many of the ayurvedic practises are not supported by science, and some ayurvedic preparations have turned out to include harmful substances.