Ayurveda is a form of alternative and ancient medicine that puts a focus on the use of herbs and other natural substances to provide optimal health and wellness. Its associated teachings and practices originated in the subcontinent of India. Ayurveda is still practiced by millions, and its many medicinal techniques and principles have been informing traditions, health, and wellness for centuries.
According to translations, Ayurveda, which is a Sanskrit word that combines “ayur” (life or longevity) with “veda” (study of science.) Ayurveda is, therefor, the science of a long life. So, what should we know about Ayurveda for beginners, particularly about Ayurveda’s use of herbs?
Herbs and Ayurveda
Herbs are vitally important within Ayurveda, as are various exercises and meditation practices. As many practitioners of Ayurveda will tell you, this system of medicine is concerned with a holistic approach to human life, rather than focusing on certain aspects of it. Where western medicine might ignore a patient’s lifestyle and personal philosophy, treating only their adverse symptoms with medicines, Ayurveda seeks to address all aspects of the way we think and live.
Herbs, therefore, should be taken into consideration with this in mind. Unlike western medicines, which are meant to be taken every day, without much consideration for any other habits, and which are typically synthesized from chemicals, ayurvedic herbs are consumed as food and are part of a balanced practice of health and wellness.
Ayur-Triphala from Douglas Laboratories, for example, contains three of the most important plants in ayurvedic medicine: Terminalia chebula, Terminalia belerica, and Emblica officinalis. These ingredients might not be familiar to some readers, but they are fruits that are commonly found in south India. With optimal nutritional value, the combination of these three fruits creates “triphala”, which is a medicinal concoction that is a starting point to create countless delicacies. Feel free to add other fruits and herbs to your triphala. Some triphala recipes and products contain nearly a hundred different ingredients!
Next, it’s important to consider that ayurvedic herbalism was never supposed to be applied apart from general wellness and fitness practices. Ayurveda, for example, constantly impresses on the practitioner the importance of walking as a form of exercise. Narayana calls it a form of meditation, and encourages the practitioner to walk after eating. Traditional Ayurveda would see walking, not as a cure for a specific ailment, but as a way to nourish multiple body systems, from the digestion and respiratory systems, to the posture of the spine.
Therefore, when taking ayurvedic herbal medicines, such as DopaBean Mucuna Prurien from Solaray or Ayurvedic Digestive Formula from Terry Naturally, it’s important to incorporate them into a general practice of wellness and fitness, which can include many different forms of exercise. In other words, don’t expect the herbal practices to do all the “heavy lifting” in your relationship with your own body. They can work wonders to help you along in your practice of healthy living, but they are not a cure in and of themselves if you aren’t willing to help them along.
In a similar way, Ayurvedic herbs can’t be expected to have the same “boom” effect that Western medications have. Prescription medications often work fast, with effects being felt sometimes just minutes after swallowing a pill. Ayurvedic herbalism has its own heavy hitters, but these herbs are more commonly felt subtly, with benefits accumulating over the course of weeks and months. In this way, Ayurvedic herbalism is much gentler than Western medicine, which is one reason why the Indian practice is associated with longevity and healthy living over many decades,
At the end of the day, Ayurvedic herbalism may be of enormous benefit to you, if you understand how to use it within your daily life, and have other healthy disciplines already in place to work alongside it.