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Dating back over 5,000 years, Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world. However, the holistic health practice is far from remaining in ancient times. Ayurvedic medicine exists as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the US, but according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), 80 percent of India’s people practice Ayurveda on its own or in addition to Western medical practices, and India has a total of 180 colleges teaching Ayurvedic medicine today.
Literally, the word Ayurveda means “science or knowledge of life” in Sanskrit. Ayurvedic medicine takes into account all aspects of life to create harmony among the mind, body and spirit. Once individuals are in complete harmony, they possess a strong well-being and are less likely to contract illnesses, leading to an overall longer and happier life.
The Five Elements
In Ayurveda, the entire universe is considered to be composed of five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. Besides existing in the outside physical world, the five elements also exist and function as part of the human body. The five elements react outside and inside the body to create balance in the world.
Eattasteheal.com explains how although humans eat foods produced by the earth to survive, they ultimately become one with the earth after death. Making up almost 75 percent of the human body, water is necessary for life. Fire also supports human life because it warms the body and is produced during all chemical, inner-body procedures. While air is necessary to breath oxygen, it also causes all of the body’s actions due to its inner and outer body circulation. Lastly, space serves as the backbone and environment for the other four elements to interact and function.
The concept of life’s three energies or doshas (Tridosha) is another important idea of Ayurveda. Every dosha contains a combination of the five elements, and the energies control all actions on both the universal and physiological levels. According to NCCAM, when doshas become imbalanced, the body develops illnesses.