Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
It is said that ‘Ayurveda is the mother of medical sciences’ and it is absolutely said right. Mankind never knew any medical system before Ayurveda. Thus Ayurveda holds the privilege of being the most ancient medical science ever known to the mankind.
Ayurveda has its own style, art, tradition and rules of healing. It is a science which believes more in preventing diseases rather than in curing or healing them.
Prevention of diseases needs a lot of discipline on our part with respect to how we manage our activities of daily living, choices of food, combating stress, adaptation to different geographies and conditions, our compatibility with ourselves, others and society, the pathway and ethics of our life and lot more.
Ayurveda advocates lot of preventive measures including Dinacharya (adaptation to diurnal changes), Ritucharya (adaptation to seasonal variations), Sadvritta-Sadachara and Achara Rasayana (social compatibility, ethics of living, circle of goodness, code and conduct of life and behavioural rejuvenation), Vega dharana and Vega Udirana (skilful handling of natural body-mind urges or reflexes at the right time) and lot more.
Ayurveda’s unparalleled success in treatment and management of many psycho-somatic disorders and diseases from time immemorial has surpassed the test of time through many generations. Many medical systems have taken their origin since then and have evolved scientifically. But even in this scientifically advanced medical era, Ayurveda and its principles of treatment and prevention hold strong ground.
The origin of Ayurveda looks like having its roots in an un-scientific era and primitive period. But Ayurveda is still a greatest science which is beyond the limits of understanding by many scientific parameters.
People from various corners of the globe are coming in refuge of Ayurveda and the time has started ticking back. We are coming to the point where we have started. People globally know that their health is safe, natural and secured in the abode of Ayurveda. People have started putting their trust and faith in this ancient system because Ayurveda is not only a treatment or medicine; it is in fact an experience of healing.
Millions of people who visit India, the land of origin of Ayurveda would never go back without having undergone an Ayurvedic treatment or without having consulted an Ayurvedic Vaidya (physician).
The global popularity of Ayurveda has reached unconquered heights in this millennium. Ayurveda has also taken its roots in many other countries. Many people, immaterial they are ailing or healthy are taking the benefits of Ayurveda and are getting healed as never before.
Ayurveda, thus has proved itself time and again that it is the best in the business of comprehensive health-care.
In spite of all these Ayurveda is facing lot of challenges. It is a pity that Ayurveda is still surrounded by many myths and false beliefs.
In this article I would like to focus upon some common myths related and linked to Ayurveda. At the same time, I would also like to clear off some doubts hanging around and try to put the facts in front of you all in a transparent way.
Below mentioned are some myths and realities adjoined to Ayurveda life science…..
Is Ayurveda a science?
Myth – Ayurveda is not a science at all?
Fact – Anything which works has its own science and operates on its own equations. Ayurveda is nothing different. Ayurveda is not only science but is beyond science. Many things in the core of Ayurveda are yet to be understood by the scientific world. Thorough reading, practise and understanding Ayurveda in its true unadulterated sense makes us realise that it is the greatest science that man has ever known.
Example, Ayurveda explains some pathological conditions like Avarana, Ashayapakarsha etc wherein the disease pathology is difficult to be tracked and diagnosed on the modern parameters. There may not be serious tissue or organ damages in these conditions but their presentation looks like a dangerous and complicated ailment.
There are many diseases which are not tracked by biological reports or radiological reports or by means of any clinical examinations. The disease will look like a physical one but structural damage is not tracked down in such cases.
Doctors might name them as psychological disorders and treat accordingly. But the patient might not get relieved in spite of taking the medicines for many years. Such cases fall under the category of Avarana etc wherein there is physiological disturbances rather than structural and that makes them impossible to get diagnosed.
It is only Ayurveda which can diagnose and treat these problems. Thus the other sciences need to emerge to the level of Ayurveda to understand it.
Ayurveda needs no research works to support its existence or efficacy. It is a time tested science. It is unparalleled in its approach towards healing and preventive aspects.
The principles of life and medicine which were written followed and documented thousands of years ago hold good even today and will be applicable even in future whereas we have seen many medical systems to be struggling in the varying waves of un-predictabilities and un-certainties.
We simply don’t tell that Ayurveda is the mother of all medical sciences.
Ayurveda is “by chance” medicine
Myth – Ayurveda is “By Chance” Medicine!
Fact – We have seen many people, allied medical sciences and the world of technology declaring that Ayurveda is “By Chance Medicine” Many are of the opinion that Ayurveda may act by default or that results provided by Ayurvedic medicines and treatments are based on how strong the people believe in that medicine.
This concept is wrong and a product of preoccupancy or fear of competition or inadequate information or habit of criticizing.
Ayurveda is not about chances, it is more scientific than any other medicines. The reality is that many concepts are beyond the reach of scientific analysis. Ayurveda basics are totally different from the other medical systems and naturally the treatment too will depend on the ancient basics.
These basics cannot be understood by any Tom, Dick and Harry. A thorough knowledge of the depths of Ayurveda is required to understand Ayurveda or its methodology and basics of treatment.
If Ayurveda were chance medicine than the rate of cure too should have been feeble. But the results provided by Ayurvedic medicines and treatments tell a different story. Ayurveda has, is and will be enjoying the privilege and status of providing the best remedies for many psycho-somatic illnesses and complicated diseases which have been rejected by other medical sciences or are beyond the scope of understanding.
As far as the medical sciences are concerned, ultimately it is the result of treatment that matters. It is the relief the patient gets it matters and not how the medicine or treatment acts. The ailing patient wants relief from disease and not lessons on how he or she has got the disease or what steps and methods it takes for his or her disease to be cured.
All medical systems have only one objective ‘heal the ailing’. Ayurveda might have fewer documents to prove its efficacy because the science is so ancient that the tools of documentation, grading the disease and relief etc were not available. This doesn’t make it a chance medicine.
The medicines, formulations, treatment line-ups, dietetic protocol, lifestyle advises etc written in Ayurvedic books are the experiences of constant practise done by ancient teachers, doctors and stalwarts of Ayurvedic science, which has survived the acid test of evolution and is still standing tall.They are nothing less than scientific documentation.
Is Ayurveda slow acting?
Myth – Ayurveda is slow acting?
Fact – We all have heard about the famous saying ‘Old is Gold’ but anything which is old need not be slow. This rule holds good for Ayurveda. People have a myth that Ayurveda is slow acting. Ayurveda might be the oldest documented medical science on the planet but it is not slow acting.
Some medicines and treatments need to act in a slow and steady manner. This makes sure that in the process of alleviation or destruction of disease pathology, the body tissues and organs are not damaged.
Slowness or quickness with respect to how a medicine acts depends on what type of medicine is chosen by the doctor and what type of morbidity is being attended.
Example, in a patient having good strength and immunity, with less morbidity we don’t need stronger medicines or quick acting ones. We just need a reasonable and effective medicine which halts the disease progression in a slow and steady manner. This need not be judged and branded as slow acting because in many cases slow acting medicines with a sustained effect is the choice of the physician and not always.
We can find the quickest acting formulations in the core of Ayurvedic treatises.
In the ‘Phala Shruti’ or uses and recommendations related to many formulations we can even find the Ayurveda stalwarts (Acharya’s) of the ancient day mention the ‘number of days’ the medicine or formulation need to be used or the ‘number of days’ in which the disease / symptoms will come down.
What better authenticated and practical science do we need?
It is possible that the same diseases and symptoms will not come down so quickly when the same formulation is given today because we have evolved through all the indiscipline of diet, lifestyle and ethics of life.
The human being, his or her immunity, the lifestyle, the quality of medicines and food, the happiness quotient (opposite of modern day stress), the physical and mental well being, the nature of diseases, the structure and manifestation of morbidity, the way the diseases respond to medicines, almost everything has evolved towards deterioration and downward surge of the graph of life.
Is Ayurveda free from side effects?
Myth – Ayurveda is free from side effects…!!!
Fact – Any medicines or treatment will have varied impact depending on how it is prescribed. Any medicine or treatment not prescribed with responsibility or administered by negligence can be harmful. This rule is also applicable to Ayurveda medicine.
At the same time negligence by the patient too plays a major part in failure of treatment or medicine. Improper timing and dosage of medicine, incomplete instructions, potency and strength of medicine & age, strength and immunity of the patient, gravity of the disease and prognosis not taken care of properly, all these can prove dangerous and produce side effects of varied proportions.
Ayurveda was the first health science to have given an explanation of comprehensive medical or hospital care in terms of ‘Chikitsa Chatushpada’ or 4 limbs of treatment. This includes Bhishak (doctor), Dravya (medicine), Upastha (nursing staff or caretakers) and Rogi (patient). The coordinated approach of all these 4 limbs and equal effort put by all these forms the basis for effective cure.
Each limb has equal contribution to give if the disease needs to be effectively cured. Failure of any limb towards giving their 100% will lead to failure of the treatment and also might give rise to side effects and complications.
Does herbal mean Ayurveda?
Myth – Anything which is herbal is Ayurveda!!
Fact – Ayurveda is essentially a medical science or system which relies on herbal remedies and preparations. Ayurveda believes that the same elements of nature which make up our body also make up the plants and herbs. Thus when any element increases or decreases in the body, it will lead to the manifestation of various diseases, tissue and organ damages.
When the elements increase, herbs having antagonistic element which can deplete the excessive element is administered. The same is the truth when particular element decreases in the body. The herbs having antagonistic element which can increase the depleted element is administered. Thus the health is restored by balancing the important elements in the body.
Ayurveda as a medical science and the term ‘Ayurveda’ itself is marketed in wrong terms now days. Ayurveda is a current, hot and happening global trend. Thus Ayurveda is used for heavy and non-ethical marketing. People are marking and branding ‘Ayurvedic Product’ for any package of nonsense because they know that the word ‘Ayurveda’ will sell their product.
It is a trend of marketing any famous product, brand or name which is getting the term Ayurveda to get into all wrong notions. Remember & Beware ‘Ayurveda is all herbal’ and ‘All Herbal may not be Ayurveda’.
Do Ayurvedic medicines expire?
Myth – Ayurveda medicines do not have EXPIRY!
Fact – Everything has an expiry date. Something does expire quickly and something’s late. Ayurveda was the first medical science which scientifically explained about the shelf lives and expiry of various forms of medicines.
According to classical reference some medicines do not have an end life. Some medicines get better and derive great healing properties as they get older. But the fact is, most of eh medicines have an expiry time.
Read related: Shelf life or expiration date of Ayurvedic medicine
Are traditional healers Ayurvedic doctors?
Myth – ‘Traditional healers’ are Ayurvedic Doctors?
Fact – Traditional healers gain wisdom of curing some diseases from familial practices. The art of healing is passed on through a system of hierarchy. The medicines or herbs used in these practices are kept secret.
Read related: Traditional Healer Vs Qualified Ayurvedic Doctor
They are not revealed to any others apart from the successor who has pledged to carry on the system ahead. These people collect medicines from the natural resources like forests etc and prepare the medicines.
Traditional healers are quite different from qualified Ayurvedic doctors though what they do and the way in which they have been practicing looks similar. Traditional healers may not be qualified or certified to call themselves or tag themselves with ‘Ayurvedic Doctor’ term.
Traditional healers too use a set of herbal medicines which have been carried over from familial knowledge and practise the same. Some traditional practitioners are equally successful.
Can it be brought over the counter?
Myth – Ayurvedic medicines are safe enough to be brought over the counter!
Fact – Any medicine taken without being prescribed by a qualified doctor is equal to poison. No medicine is universal and everything doesn’t suit everyone. The same medicine which has provided good relief in a given person can be reactive or lethal at some other instance. This rule is applicable to Ayurvedic medicines also.
Read related: Dangers Of Self Treatment With Ayurvedic Medicines – Two Live Examples
In fact no medicine should be brought on counter unless prescribed by a qualified and experienced Ayurvedic Doctor. It is always dangerous. Some medicines may be extremely safe but still you need to know what the medicine is for and whether it suits your constitution or not. You also need to know whether it can eradicate your illness.
Many products are marketed in news-papers and media and the advertisements are so appealing and attractive that common man falls into the temptation of procuring it especially those which decrease weight, anti-diabetes medicines, fertility medicines etc.
The online marketing has increased this trend of purchasing the medicines without prescription or following self-diagnosis. They are marked as ‘Ayurvedic medicines’ or ‘Herbal products’ and many may be unsafe, costly and limited to the value of advertisement.
Some things which are sold in the name of medicines are nothing short of business trends. Such products have really become a headache and challenge to the real traditional-holistic and pure form of Ayurveda.
Rigorous diet schedules
Myth – Ayurvedic doctors are stringent in advising tight and rigorous diet schedules!
Fact – Ayurvedic doctors do advice diet but they do not cut short the quality and quantity of food you have been taking. They may help you in keeping away from the food stuffs which might harm your constitution and cause health disturbances or aggravate an existing illness. They may also advice you to take something in excess which might suit you and also help in overcoming the disease process.
Read related: Health Benefits Of Vegetarian Diet – Ayurvedic Opinion
Ayurvedic doctors have no motive to make you starve. In fact I would suggest all the doctors, (not only Ayurvedic doctors) should advice diet corrections to their clients. Unless this, it doesn’t become a comprehensive medical care.
Ayurveda many times is stringent in advocating diet changes and in implementing diet restrictions.
So what’s the problem in it?
According to Ayurveda ‘Pathya’ or wholesome diet and life-style advises are an essential part of healing. They complement and supplement a properly administered medicine or treatment and enable in quick healing. Diet by itself is medication. In many sorts of illnesses the diet works more than the medicine.
Medicine and the action of medicines depend on the food we take. Light diet needs to be advised in some diseases like fever etc because the digestion will be sluggish. The diet itself helps in recovery from these conditions.
Ex, Medicines of lesser strength might need complementation of lighter diet because heavy food might mask the utilisation and distribution of medicines in the body.
Likewise, when stronger medicines are given it has to be followed or preceded by food in good quantity.
Some medicines need to be taken before food, some with food and some after food.
While we are administering medicines for Pitta related inflammatory diseases, we need to restrict hot and spicy foods, sour, salty and fried foods. This helps the medicines to act effectively.
There are many other rules and regulations which tag medicines to the food. Therefore along with prescription, the diet management too is essential.
I have seen people telling ‘I am reluctant to go to Ayurvedic doctor because they advise too much of diet’ I have even seen many of my patients tell ‘Sir kindly do not tell too many diet restrictions. We can’t do that’ and when taking appointment on phone or mail the question will be ‘Do you tell too many diet restrictions?’
What’s so fun in treating a case of gastritis or peptic ulcer without advising the patient to avoid spices and fried food? What’s the use of treating tuberculosis without restriction of smoking or a case of Liver Cirrhosis without alcohol restriction?
You can’t sail on two boat’s man!! You need to sacrifice something for your health. Here we are telling our clients to correct the quality, quantity and methods of taking food stuffs and helping them to recover quickly from their ailments, not making them starve.
Ayurveda tells ‘Sankshepataha Kriya Yogo Nidana Parivarjanam’ i.e. the best form of treatment is avoidance of causative factors. Isn’t it a beautiful concept!!
…And I feel not only Ayurvedic doctors; all good doctors would recommend good diet and life-style for their patients for the success of treatment. The question of stringent diet doesn’t arise. Ayurvedic doctor’s give advices regarding diet modifications for your good. Following it or not is your choice!!!
It is not a habit or obsession for us…Ayurvedic doctors to be strict with diet and we don’t do it unnecessarily. It is a part of protocol and is often necessary. The whole world is behind ‘wholesome diet’ now days and is following Ayurveda for it.
Eat better…live better..
Myth – Ayurvedic medicines are bitter and have horrible palatability…!!!
Fact – The million dollar question is what is important – health or taste of medicine? Bitter is always better. Not all Ayurvedic medicines are bitter or astringent. Most of them have bitter taste and are not palatable because of the herbal ingredients they have. It also depends on the combination of various herbs in the formulations.
Most of the herbs available in nature are naturally bitter with the exception of some fruits, grains and vegetables. Ayurveda too has worked on palatability especially when the medicines are related to kids like in Avalehas (Confections), some Churna’s (powder), Rasayana (Rejuvenators), Ghrita’s (Ghee preparations) etc wherein the medicines do not carry bitter or astringent taste and are palatable.
If we are looking for palatability, we will be left out with less or almost negligible options of herbs which can be used as medicines.
Does it increase body heat?
Myth – Ayurvedic medicines increase body heat!!!
Fact – This is another ridiculous myth surrounding Ayurveda. According to Ayurvedic principles, the body functions are governed and maintained by a balance between cold (Vata and Kapha) and hot (Pitta) factors (elements or humours). When there is a proportional imbalance between these factors, the equilibrium and rhythm of physiology of the body is disturbed which further sets a platform for manifestation of various diseases.
Ayurvedic medicines neither increase heat nor cold in the body, nor do they decrease them. Many times the medicines are given to correct the imbalances in heat and cold elements of the body and to restore them back to normal. In due process the temperature variations can take place for a limited time which also indicates recovery of the body from certain ailments.
Ex, in an inflammatory disease caused by high Pitta, medicines pacifying pitta also reduce body temperature. The body stats feeling cold and this is intentional. This has to be done in order to protect the body and mind from getting damaged as a result of excessive heat.
Similarly the medicines which are hot in potency are antagonistic to Vata and Kapha. While decreasing the excessive cold generated by Vata and or Kapha, the medicines also increase and restore the lost heat in the body. At this time, the patient might feel an increase in heat and it is quiet normal.
A few people might experience some heat related changes while consuming Ayurvedic medicines because of the metabolic changes as a response of the medicines but this may be temporary. This doesn’t happen always and with everybody.
Toxic chemicals, heavy metals
Myth – Ayurvedic medicines have toxic chemicals and heavy metals?
Fact – Ayurvedic medicines are available in the form of Herbal, Mineral or Herbo-Mineral forms. Rasa Shastra or the Indian Metallurgy (Study of Metals and Minerals) was the earliest science belonging to Ayurveda where the other form of Nature i.e. Metals and Minerals were used as medicines either individually or in combination with herbs.
At the same time care is taken to purify and sterilize each and every metal or mineral of its impurities and toxins and make them fit for human use. Such elaborate and extensive detoxification of metals, minerals and alloys explained in an era where the modern day scientific devices were absent is highly appreciable.
All medicines do not contain metals and the medicines which contain metals are devoid of toxicity due to purificatory measures being conducted over them. Thus the question of toxicity doesn’t arise. Having said so, the debate of quackery is haunting Ayurveda, People not being qualified or authorized are indiscriminately using metals in preparing medicines (so called) and are bringing bad name to this holistic science!
Anything which is used with utmost care and precaution will surely not act as a toxin. Ayurveda being a holistic and comprehensive health care system will have no intentions in harming the patient by using crude metals into the medicaments.
Ayurveda also tells that nothing in this world exists without having a healing property. Even the poison given with wisdom acts as a medicine and eliminates the disease. The art of prescription is the key. Rasa Shastra has in its belly many life-saving remedies. By not using this form of medicines provided by nature, we would be guilty of not saving many lives.
The question is why use them when we have many other options! That is true. But these minerals and or herbo-minerals are the only choices in combating certain diseases.
When it comes to restoring health and saving a life, yes we should use these priceless medicines. Because nothing is precious than a life and we can’t play with it.
Heavy hospital charges
Myth – Ayurvedic doctors and hospitals charge heavily…!!!
Fact – Blame it on popularity! Ayurveda is equated to a term called BUSINESS due to the selfish motives of a few doctors, hospitals and franchises where-in they are targeting the income (as a monthly target) rather than addressing health issues.
In the current trends of Ayurvedic practise and hospital management, people are misguided and heavily charged by money craving businessmen who are running the medical shows. Emphasis has been laid on preventive packages rather than curative measures. ‘Play safe’ is the key as prevention and relaxation packages are carried over on the body surface and provide moderate to good relaxation without causing harm.
Many ‘package treatments’ unknown to the ancient Ayurveda has been creeping up. But the modern day doctors would call it ‘Globalization’
People don’t hesitate staying in SPA’s and pay in lakhs for a day or 2 for relaxation packages. They also feel fit and fine after that. But the rule of the world is “If a buyer is ready to afford any price…the seller too will follow the trend”. The evolving human mind still believes ‘the costlier, the better’ concept.
Having said so, I am personally not in favour or against this concept. I would like to stay neutral as the world believes more and more in Ayurveda and those who can afford are making Ayurveda rich and happening.
On the other hand many Ayurvedic medicines and treatments include a lot of expenditure including the cost of rare herbs, time taken and methodologies of preparation, laborious work and lot more which makes the cost per unit of medicine and treatment high.
Many times medicines and treatment shall have to be planned only for a given patient. In such cases, the cost will be high. Some doctors do not prefer patent and marketed products. They prepare highly effective medicines on a small scale basis which again genuinely hikes the price per unit of the medicines.
Different forms of Ayurveda?
Myth – Ayurveda is many…!!!
Fact – Many people think that Ayurveda is many and has different forms. The fact is Ayurveda doesn’t exist in many forms…it is always SINGLE AYURVEDA at anytime.
People are confused to know if Ayurveda has regional forms, if medicines and treatments vary from region to region.
The answer is ‘No’. Ayurveda is the same but might have got many regional names. The same is the case with the names of medicines and treatments. There is nothing like a Kerala Ayurveda, Karnataka Ayurveda, Gujarat Ayurveda, Bihar Ayurveda etc.
Of course some regions like Kerala have built up a few formulations based on traditional practices and named them in their language. They have also made some changes on classical treatments and have named them in their language accordingly.
Their effort is appreciated and they have every right to name the medicines or procedures in colloquial language. These medicines and their references will not be found in classic Ayurveda texts. But the base, basics and foundation of these formulations and treatments is again the same Ayurveda. It is not a different science.
Just before finish…..
Ayurveda is the best time-tested medical science which was, is and will be available at the service of ailing mankind. It has time and again proved ‘Old is Gold’ saying. Ayurveda has given hope to hopeless, life to those with worst prognosis and fortified health and rejuvenation to those who want to maintain health.
Since it is a science at disposal for both healthy and ailing, it stands as a holistic and comprehensive health-care system. Just experience it and you will never complain for getting healthier, rejuvenated and fit like never before.
Just leave all the myths behind and forget them. Hopefully this article has helped you to get over the myths related to Ayurveda and learn the facts.
Spread the fragrance of this divine science to everyone in your circle..
If you are done with reading this, don’t forget to pass it on to your friends and family and help us in creating awareness about Ayurveda in its true, unblemished, uncontaminated and non-mythical form among the common people.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)