Saturday, February 13, 2010

Healing Through Ayurveda

As with Chinese medicine, Indian Ayurvedic medicine was developed by a culture using a plant-based diet of whole, fresh, seasonal, and regional foods. Its purpose was to promote health and to prevent disease. An interesting difference between Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine arises from the fact that India is predominantly a subtropical region and China is a predominantly temperate region. As a result of such a dramatic climactic difference, Ayurvedic cuisine uses more sweat inducing spices and is overall a more cooling and cleansing diet. The five elements in Ayurveda correspond closely to the old European system of the humors. They are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. People are a combination of these elements and can be described as one of the three doshas, or types, which are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each person is a combination of these three doshas. A person's constitutional dosha as well as his or her current condition is considered in formulating a treatment. Foods described as "tridoshic" are balancing to all conditions.

Vata is a combination of air and ether elements that embody the very essence of life energy. And is considered dry, light, cold, clear, hard subtle, and mobile. It relates most directly to the nervous system but also rules respiration, movement, will, and sense acuity. Foods that reduce an excessively vata condition are nurturing, soft, soothing, warm, and have a sweet flavor.

Pitta, the fire element, governs internal heat, digestion, hormones, circulation, thirst, courage, and intelligence. Foods that reduce excess fire are drying, soothing, and cooling. They have bitter, astringent, and sweet flavors.

Kapha, the water and earth element, is cold, wet, heavy, and slow. It builds the body and fosters peacefulness and patience. Foods that reduce excess Kapha are drying, warm, and cleansing, with spicy, bitter, and astringent flavors.

If we look at something as common as coffee, it can affect each dosha in a different way. It over stimulates the already overly mental vata type and is too exciting for the already excitable Pitta person. For the lethargic Kapha person, however, a cup of coffee can provide a useful start up of energy, if that's what you are into. One of my favorite books right now is called Eat, Taste, Heal by Thomas Yarema M.D. He is the director of The Kauai Center for Holistic Medicine. It is a beautiful read, it breaks down just about every aspect of Ayurveda, clean and simple. You can also determine your dosha. There is also a recipe section that gives different recipes for each. If you would like further info before picking up the book, please check his site Be Well.....

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