Since we are continuing with this cycle, I have decided to look specifically into two more kinds of alternative medicine. This week, I will look into Ayurveda, what it is, how it works, what it is used to treat, and how it does so. In the next two weeks, I will either be looking into naturopathy or other specific areas such as massage therapy or chiropractic medicine (or all of these!!), depending on how much time I have for research. Finally, I will outline some myths/controversies for each branch of alternative medicine, as you may already know that these are quite controversial aspects of medicine.
To begin, Ayurveda is an Indian holistic alternative medicine. This means that it treats physical symptoms by viewing the well-being of the body as a whole. So, it encourages the adoption of lifestyle choices that engage the mind and the body in order to be healthy. To be free from any illness, this practice of medicine explains that we must first balance our awareness of ourself, then expand this awareness to our entire body in order to distribute its healing properties.(1)(2)
Ayurveda states that the five elements of nature are what keep the components of our body healthy and balanced. These elements are air, space, water, fire, and earth. Here is what each represents:
- Air & Space: muscle movement, nervous system, breathing, heartbeat.
- Fire & Water: digestion, metabolism, emotions, and intelligence.
- Earth & Water: the immune system.
It is believed that, if one of these components is not in balance in the body and in the mind, this is when illness results. (2)
In order to restore this balance and essentially "cure" the illness, diet, herbal treatments, and a detoxifying of the body are necessary. This means eating a balanced diet, taking pills/oils/teas infused with herbs, and taking certain treatments that make you sweat/vomit in order to cleanse your body and rid it of whatever disease it is fighting. Finally, Ayurveda highly encourages meditation and yoga to regain this balance of the body. It increases spiritual awareness, which in turn helps regain that connection with your mind and your body, then helping to restore those 5 elements mentioned above and fight off any pathogens. (3)
What Ayurveda does is it relieves stress and anxiety, mainly through forms of meditation. Yoga aids in those suffering with arthritis, high blood pressure, and asthma, therefore it is very beneficial in minimizing pain and symptoms for those. (2)
However, only a small number of clinical trials have been run to test the effectiveness of Ayurveda treatments, making it more of a controversial alternative medicine. It has actually proven to minimize symptoms of pain and increase mobility in patients with osteoarthritis, but little studies have explored its credibility in regards to other health issues. Also, the herbal treatments (pills and oils) involved in the Ayurveda philosophy can actually cause allergic reactions and potential side effects depending on the patient and depending on the treatment, just like homeopathy. This makes it not completely reliable, and is just another controversy to keep in mind when deciding to take this route as a complementary therapy (2)(4)(5).
Lastly, I just wanted to share some clinical trials that debate the effectiveness of Ayurveda. In 2013, two plant extract treatments (glucosamine sulphate, natural product, and celecoxib, a drug) were given to 440 people who had knee osteoarthritis, and the results proved to have a reduction in pain. Meanwhile, other trials and studies have been trying to test the impact of 5 Ayurvedic herbs on patients with type 2 diabetes, but the results were inconclusive. In sum, many clinical trials have been run to study the effects of this medicine on illnesses and conditions, but with many inconclusive results and unsupported conclusions, some proving to alleviate pain, and some proving to have no effect at all. (4)
I hope you learned a few new things with this research round, as I surely did. I think it's really cool how something so simple -- exercising mind and body connection -- can have such a positive impact on our well-being. In my opinion, I am not very convinced on the efficacy of Ayurveda against pathogenic diseases, however I do believe that it is extremely important to have a balance of exercise, proper nutrition, and connectedness to our soul and mind in order to be a healthy person.
For next week's round, as I mentioned, I will be introducing and explaining another kind of alternative medicine (I have yet to decide which one), and some of its controversies. If you already know or are interested in one of them, please let me know and I'll be sure to look into it! Thanks for reading!