Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine


Ayurveda is often considered one of the oldest forms of medicine. Originating in India over 3,000 years ago, Ayurveda combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). It is still one of the traditional health systems in India (1).

Ayurveda has two main guiding principles. The first asserts that the mind and the body are inextricably linked. The second says that nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind. According to traditional Ayurvedic belief, disease avoidance involves expanding personal awareness, balancing it, and then extending that balance to the body (2). Ayurveda offers guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior, and the proper use of the senses to help people stay vital while recognizing their full human potential (3).

According to Ayurvedic belief, to maintain a healthy body and mind, nourishing foods should be eaten. There are six “tastes” in Ayurveda: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent. To maintain a healthy diet, these six tastes must come from a variety of fresh foods eaten with every meal. Dark blue, purple, red, green and orange colored foods are believed to boost immunity and improve health.

Ayurveda teaches that a healthy body depends on its ability to process nutritional, emotional and sensory information. Agni (fire) is digestive energy. When agni is vigorous, the body produces a subtle essence called ojas – the source of human vitality. Ojas is considered the source of clarity of perception, physical strength and immunity. If agni is weak, however, digestion is incomplete and a toxic residue known as ama builds up. It is the origin of the disease, because it obstructs the flow of energy, information and food.

Ayurvedic herbs
Ayurvedic herbs are used to maintain overall health, boost immunity, improve digestion, support mental clarity, support the innate healing process, defend the body from toxins, and encourage detoxification. Here are just a few:

Ashwagandha the roots have been used to promote intellectual and cognitive development, increase strength and recovery, rejuvenate the body, and promote sleep. They promote energy and endurance without stimulating the heart.

Turmeric is often added to many recipes, but it’s more than just a delicious spice. It is known for its anti-inflammatory effects without the gastric complications seen with other anti-inflammatory agents like aspirin. Additionally, regular consumption of turmeric can dramatically increase plasma vitamin E levels within 90 days.

Holy basil is also known as Tulsi and is considered sacred throughout India. It has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic actions. The various oily compounds fixed in the plant exhibit antimicrobial and antifungal activity and have been used against Escherichia coli and Candida albicans. It was traditionally used to remove “excess moisture from the lungs”.

Triphala is a combination of three plants: Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki. It provides detoxification and digestive correction by promoting peristalsis and providing specific anti-inflammatory action to organs in the lower gastrointestinal tract. It is used to relieve bloating, slow digestion, food sensitivities, post-meal fatigue, and constipation (4).

Traditional Chinese Medicine
Originally from China, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses bodily and mental practices and herbal remedies to treat and prevent health problems. It is a complement to modern medicine. TCM teaches those who practice it how to live a life of balance, well-being and harmony.

TCM has four main principles, similar to Ayurveda:
1. The body is an integrated whole.
2. You are connected to nature.
3. You were born with a natural capacity for self-healing.
4. Prevention is the best medicine (5).

TCM maintains that food has qualities beyond physical characteristics such as calories and protein. Food has a special “healing essence” which works in the body at an energetic level. TCM practitioners will often prescribe foods whose energy is directed to a specific organ. TCM practitioners take an eat to heal approach and believe that food is real medicine.
TCM urges people to select foods that are in season to support the organ system. Each season has a particular taste that must be followed. Summer tastes bitter, winter tastes salty, spring tastes sour, and fall tastes spicy. Foods at the peak of the season help nourish and energize the body the most at this precise moment (5).

Traditional Chinese herbs
Herbal medicine is an important healing tool in TCM. It uses thousands of herbs to work on body, mind and spirit in various ways. TCM combines herbs to create substances more potent than the sum of each individual herb (5).

Astragalus (huangqi) is one of the most commonly used herbs in China today. The long taproots of astragalus are used to normalize the immune response, improve digestive function, and treat skin disorders such as burns. It also promotes the function of certain other herbs like tang-kuei and salvia. It can be used alone as a liquid extract or combined with other herbs like tea, pills or tablets.

Tang-kuei (danggui) is considered a blood nourishing agent and is heavily used by women to regulate the flow and contraction of uterine blood. When used in complex formulas, it is used by both men and women to nourish the blood, moisten the intestines, calm tension, and relieve pain.
Ginseng (renshen) is believed to prevent disease, preserve life, calm the mind, nourish the viscera, and help gain wisdom. It has been used to normalize blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, and increase oxygen utilization. Traditionally, it is taken as a tea alone or combined with other herbs.

While Ayurveda and TCM have been used for centuries as forms of medicine, there aren’t many modern, well-controlled clinical trials to prove this approach is beneficial. It is important to consult a doctor before starting a dietary supplement regimen. WF

The references

  1. “Ayurvedic medicine: in depth”, https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm Accessed April 20, 2018.
  2. “What is Ayurveda? ” https://chopra.com/articles/what-is-ayurveda Accessed April 20, 2018.
  3. “What is Ayurveda? ” https://www.ayurvedichealing.net/ayurveda/ Accessed April 20, 2018.
  4. “Six Ayurvedic Herbs Every Doctor Should Know” https://www.holisticprimarycare.net/topics/topics-oz/traditions/1137-six-ayurvedic-herbs-every-doctor-should-know.html Accessed April 27, 2018.
  5. “Methods of curing TCM” https://www.tcmworld.org/what-is-tcm/healing-modalities/ Accessed May 14, 2018.
  6. “An Introduction to Chinese Herbs” http://www.itmonline.org/arts/herbintro.htm Accessed May 14, 2018.

UPDATE 07/11/2018, 10:30 PM: A previous release included ma huang, an ingredient that has been banned in the United States. We regret the error.


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