When conventional medicine fails to cure, the tried-and-tested science of ayurveda delivers hope. Woman This Month gives you a glimpse of this age-old practice, its philosophy and procedures.
If the word ‘ayurveda’ brings to mind ancient Indian sages concocting strange potions using herbs and medicaments unheard of, think again. It is, in fact, the ultimate weapon used by celebrity divas Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, Madonna and the likes to maintain their beauty, health and vitality.
‘Ayurveda’ literally means the science of life. Regarded as the oldest form of healthcare in the world, this system of natural healing has won popularity in the Western world, and is increasingly being turned to as a holistic way of life in this age of poor health and nutrition.
Still skeptical? Well, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises ayurveda as a traditional system of medicine. In fact, the public health arm of the United Nations adapted its formal definition of health from ayurvedic teachings.
Bahrain has a number of centres offering authentic ayurvedic consultation, medicines and treatments. We speak to expert practitioners in the field to de-mystify this powerful branch of medicine and reveal how it helps us live a more wholesome life.
The basics of ayurveda
Our expert: Dr PK Abjith, The Indian Ayurvedic Medical Centre
Simply put, Ayurveda primarily rests on the concept of ‘tri-dosha’. Every individual has three doshas or energies: vata, pitta and kapha. These primary forces have varying proportions in every body and they shape our mental and physical characteristics.
“The doshas maintain the equilibrium for sound health. An imbalance between them result in an unhealthy body,” says Dr Abjith.
Each one of us is born with a unique mix of doshas, and has either one or two predominant ones. Every patient is assessed for the predominant dosha to prescribe an appropriate treatment plan as it could aggravate and needs to
“These days, practitioners lay more emphasis on symptomatic treatment rather than balancing the doshas. Patients today are always in a hurry and want to see speedy results,” he says.
“Earlier, ayurvedic physicians felt the patient’s pulse to determine the dominant dosha and pinpoint the root of the ailment. But today, we rely on X-rays, blood tests and MRI scans to come to a more accurate diagnosis.”
Dr Abjith blames the modern lifestyle for the energies to be thrown off balance and for disorders like cholesterol, diabetes and cardiac trouble to arise. Additionally, climatic and seasonal changes, and the environment affect the harmony between the doshas.
“Modern research reveals that ayurvedic herbs can cure more serious illnesses, like cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Here in Bahrain, I have a lot of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, whose conditions have improved thanks to Ayurveda,” he adds.
Ayurvedic medicine and its efficacy
Our expert: Dr Smitha, Kotakkal Ayurvedic Centre
“Ayurvedic medication is completely natural and contains no synthetic substances,” says Dr Smitha. “Unlike allopathy, it uses a combination of herbs to cure the root cause of ailments.”
The effectiveness of the correct combination of natural herbs is unchallenged. Certain herbs can cure persistent problems like ovarian cysts, fibroids and menopausal discomfort. Ayurvedic drugs have no serious side effects and generally do not contain any lead, mercury or arsenic. This art of holistic living not only cures, but also prevents.
“There are effective medicines that help to maintain optimal health. Children can be given supplements to boost immunity against common illnesses, especially those caused by climatic changes that we experience here,” Dr Smitha explains.
Beauty buffs can rely on natural ayurvedic supplements for a healthy complexion and to ward off signs of ageing. The primary dictum here is that when one is internally healthy, external beauty radiates.
“Indian gooseberries, neem and turmeric are potent herbs that help to cleanse the body and keeps one looking and feeling youthful,” she notes.
Ayurveda recommends certain dietary and lifestyle changes to help the herbs do their magic more effectively.
“Patients might be advised not to exert themselves or eat particular foods. In other cases, specific exercises might be prescribed,” says Dr Smitha.
Ayurvedic massage and external treatments
Our expert: Dr Geethika Nagalakshmi, Bahrain Wellness Resort & Hospital
“An Ayurvedic massage is completely different from other popular forms. The techniques of massage and the composition of the oils to treat various disorders are unique to ayuveda,” says Dr Geethika.
It’s not only about relaxation and rejuvenation. It can also be pain relieving and therapeutic.
A full body massage, called ‘abhyangam’, is known to release stress, loosen toxins and bring about a typical lightness to the body. Done regularly, abhyangam can prevent serious disorders like osteoarthritis.
“Massages prevents the synovial fluid from drying up, ensuring constant lubrication of joints. It is beneficial for blood circulation and the skin,” Dr Geethika explains.
“Stress is the main cause for premature ageing and disease. Abhyangam, along with shirodhara, where medicated oil is gently poured over the forehead, is effective in preventing this.”
Dr Geethika mentions different types of treatments for a varied number of ailments. Kizhi involves the use of a warm poultice after a massage. The unctuous nature of oil and the warmth of the poultice is an effective pain reliever. Kizhi helps muscoskeletal disorders tremendously. Udvartanam is a massage done with medicated powders. The strokes are in the opposite direction of hair growth and help to remove adipose tissue, excess fat, from the body. So, here is a completely natural way to lose weight too.
The expert tells us a recent success story of a lady who had suffered a stroke due to which she was completely bedridden.
“After four months of religious massage treatment, she walks with a walker today. Treatments like shirodhara and pizhichil helped the numbness and muscle stiffness, giving internal strength,” she says.
Scores of patients suffering from spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and gout have seen their conditions alleviated with ayurvedic treatments. Like other branches of medicine, ayurvedic therapies have the potential for adverse effects. This can, however, be ruled out with honest communication between the patient and a certified and experienced practitioner.