I was recently reading a book about balancing hormones and it mentioned something called Ayurveda. I had never heard this word before and after reading more about it I thought it was fascinating topic. If you love the idea of holistic medicine then I thought you might find it interesting as well.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that comes from “Ayuh” meaning life and “Veda” meaning knowledge. So basically it is “Science of Life”. Ayurveda is a 6000 year old science that originated in India that is known as the world’s oldest comprehensive health system. If you believe in the mind, body, spirit connection, much of that philosophy came from Ayurveda. The belief is that we need a balanced mind, body, and spirit for true health and wellness. In our world today you will often find people constantly on the go, stressed out, getting little sleep, and eating a highly processed diet. In the world of Ayurveda, this type of lifestyle is causing “toxic” build-up and imbalances which can cause any number of problems. From health issues to skin conditions.
What are the Doshas?
According to Ayurveda, everything is composed of five elements: air, water, fire, earth, and space. These elements combine to form the three doshas: vata, kapha, and pitta.
The vata dosha is a combination of space and air. It controls movement and is responsible for basic body processes such as breathing, cell division and circulation. Vata body areas are the large intestine, pelvis, bones, skin, ears, and thighs. People with vata as their main dosha are believed to be quick-thinking, thin, and fast, and are susceptible to anxiety, dry skin, and constipation.
The kapha dosha represents the elements of water and earth. Kapha is believed to be responsible for strength, immunity, and growth. Kapha body areas are the chest, lungs, and spinal fluid. People with kapha as their main dosha are thought to be calm, have a solid body frame, and are susceptible to diabetes, obesity, sinus congestion, and gallbladder problems.
The pitta dosha combines fire and water. It is thought to control hormones and the digestive system. Pitta body areas are the small intestines, stomach, sweat glands, skin, blood, and eyes. People with pitta as their primary dosha are thought to have a fiery personality, oily skin, and are susceptible to heart disease, stomach ulcers, inflammation, heartburn, and arthritis.
An imbalance of doshas is thought to disrupt our natural energy flow which can then impair digestion and build up toxins.
How to Improve Balance?
An Ayurveda practitioner will develop suggestions for more balanced doshas based on your individual needs and what dosha (or doshas) you are most like. Changing your diet is usually recommended as a way to get more balance. A special diet may include avoiding certain foods, cooking with more spices like ginger, cumin, and turmeric, avoiding cold foods, or avoiding large amounts of raw foods, again depending on your dosha. Recommendation may also change based on the season. I love that they focus on good nutrition as a way to heal. We can’t always say that about traditional medicine.
A practitioner may also recommend cleansing or detoxes, yoga, meditation, exercise, massage, or a herbal medicine regimen created specific to your needs. All of this in an effort to balance the body, mind, and spirit. Ultimately what I see as the message of Ayurveda is to relax, take care of yourself, and eat nutritious foods to improve health. This they have known for thousands of years.
Now I am not suggesting that Ayurveda should be used in lieu of traditional medicine. I just thought this was an interesting topic and if you are looking for a more holistic approach to health and wellness then it may be something to look into. The studies available regarding the benefits of Ayurveda is very limited. One study I found did suggest Ayurvedic medicine can be helpful to type 2 diabetics. “There were significant glucose-lowering effects with the use of some herbal mixtures.”
Another study found some benefit with some herbs in patients with osteoarthritis. The use of certain herbs may also improve acne. There are many suggested benefits but these are just a couple examples I found.
One thing I particularly like about this practice is that a key component of Ayurveda is the use of spices like turmeric. I have discussed before how studies show spices like turmeric can play a key role in preventing and treating chronic inflammatory diseases. Gotta love that! Again back to the food is medicine philosophy.
**I suggest talking to your doctor or finding a qualified Ayurveda practitioner in your area to find out more and to discuss if this option is right for you and your needs. I would not recommend trying to practice Ayurveda on your own or buying your own herbs.**
This is a delicious recipe of Mung Bean Stew with Turmeric Broth honors some of the principles of Ayurveda. A warm stew made with lots of digestion friendly spices. Whether you believe in this practice or not this stew is quite tasty and can be adapted to your needs. Replace the beans with pasture chicken for a paleo friendly meal or swap out the vegetable for whatever you enjoy or have on hand.
I am curious what your thoughts are on this ancient practice? Have you tried Ayurveda before?
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
- 4 stalks peeled carrots, diced
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 1 cup mung beans (soaked overnight in water and rinsed)
- 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- juice 2 lemons, about 1/4 cup
- 1 head kale, stems removed and sliced or cut into 1 inch pieces
- Parsley or cilantro, minced (optional garnish)
- In a large stock pot over medium heat melt the ghee or oil.
- Add the cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds until you hear them pop.
- Add the diced carrots, celery, and beans.
- Cover with water and add the spices on top plus lemon juice.
- Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer.
- Cook until the beans are soft and the veggies are tender about 20-30 minutes.
- Add the shredded kale a cook for 1-2 minutes until lettuce is wilted.
- Garnish with minced parsley or cilantro.
- Store in an airtight container for up to one week or freeze for up to one month.
*choose organic ingredients when possible.
Great with shredded chicken, ground beef, add any vegetable you like or use any bean you have on hand.