So What Exactly is Ayurvedic Medicine?

Ayurvedic Medicine, or Ayurveda, is a holistic system of medicine that has been around in India for over 3,000 years. It is now gaining some traction in the Western world as an alternative way of looking at whole body well-being. Although it has been around for a long time, research so far has only evaluated certain treatments used by ayurveda.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient medical system that takes a whole-body approach to physical and mental health. The word ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit words meaning life and knowledge.

It is based on the idea that each person leans towards one of three specific life forces called doshas. In order to stay healthy, your dosha needs to remain in balance with your body and the universe. Any imbalance in your life energy is the cause of disease.

Based on the type of imbalance you are experiencing and your individual dosha, treatment will involve prescribing natural remedies and lifestyle interventions to restore balance to the mind, body, and spirit. Interventions may include herbs, yoga, meditation, dietary changes, oils, and massage. The goal of the treatment is to get rid of impurities, reduce stress, and increase harmony.1,2

In India, practitioners of ayurveda undergo a state-recognized educational program, similar to a Western doctor in the United States. More than 70% of Indians use ayurveda as their primary form of medical treatment.3  It is less common in the United States and there is no licensing or educational criteria for providers.

In the United States, ayurveda is a considered a type of complementary alternative medicine (CAM), meant to be used in combination with Western medical treatments. It is one part of integrative medicine, which seeks to combine both CAM and Western treatments.4

    Does Research Support Ayurveda?

    There are no published studies that have evaluated ayurveda as a whole system of medical care, but some of the common treatments used are backed by research. A few studies have found that ayurveda may be beneficial for:

    • Delaying the onset of Parkinson’s disease.5
    • Reducing pain and mobility for those with osteoarthritis.6
    • Improving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.7
    • Turmeric, commonly used in ayurveda, may reduce the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.8
    • Improving the quality of life of cancer survivors.9
    • May help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.10

    It is important to note that there have been a few instances of lead and heavy metal poisoning from the use of dietary supplements recommended through Ayurveda, so it is best to speak to your doctor before taking them and always purchase them from a reliable source.11

    Research supports that certain ayurveda treatments can have positive effects for your health when used as a complementary treatment to standard medical care.



    1. Ayurvedic Medicine: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
    2. Ayurveda. John Hopkins Medical Center Health Library.
    3. Ayurveda 101 and related links. Frontline, PBS.
    4. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2010; 1(1): 13–15.
    5. J of Alt and Comp Med. 2013;19(7):644-9
    6. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013;52(8):1408-17.
    7. J Clin Rheumatol. 2011;17(4):185-92.
    8. Altern Med Rev. 2011;16(2):152-6.
    9. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America. 2008;22(2):343-353.
    10. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;7;(12):CD008288.
    11. JAMA. 2008;;300(8):915-23.

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