The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit words “ayus,” meaning life and “veda,” which refers to knowledge. Ayurveda was developed in India and has been used for more than 3,000 years, making it the oldest health system in the world. In India and some parts of Southeast Asia, it is still widely used today. In a survey of complementary and alternative medicines in the United States, 200,000 American adults claimed they used Ayurveda in 2006. In Ayurvedic medicine, the prevention of illness and the maintenance of wellness is promoted through diet, herbal remedies, and techniques such as yoga, meditation, and massage.

Elements of Therapy

Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to health and wellness, meaning that it views the body, mind, and spirit as one entity. The goal of Ayurveda is not only to treat physical symptoms of disease, but also to improve the patient’s overall quality of life and sense of well-being through changes in lifestyle. One of the key concepts of Ayurvedic philosophy is interconnectedness of the universe, people, and health. Prakriti refers to the constitution of the body and five elemental aspects of nature, including space, fire, water, air, and earth, that combine in the body to form three doshas. The doshas each relate to specific bodily functions and balance is necessary for optimal health. The doshas are as follows:

  • Vatta is formed through the combination of air and space and controls movements, respiration, and the heartbeat. Vatta also controls functions of the nervous system, such as fear, anxiety, and emotional pain.
  • Pitta is comprised of a combination of fire and water. It controls metabolism, intelligence, skin color, and digestion. Pitta may also control certain negative emotions, including jealousy, rage, and hate.
  • Kapha is formed by earth and water. It includes the physical makeup of the body, including the bones and skin tissue. The immune system is also governed by Kapha. Emotions controlled by Kapha include love, greed, forgiveness, and tranquility.

Woman having Ayurvedic body  spa massage.


Ayurveda may be used as a philosophy for maintaining health. Specific goals, such as reducing stress or anxiety, increasing flexibility, strength, or endurance may also be achieved through Ayurveda. Yoga and meditation are two types of Ayurvedic therapies that have been used widely in the United States and continue to gain popularity. Research has found that these therapies may be effective at treating high blood pressure, arthritis, and asthma. Proper diet is a key element of treatment, but herbal medicines may be prescribed according to the identified dosha imbalance. Very little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of Ayurvedic herbal remedies in treating specific illnesses.

traditional indian ayurvedic oil foot massage


An Ayurvedic practitioner cannot obtain a license to practice in any state. However, some states have identified a list of approved schools that teach Ayurvedic medicine. Quite a few Ayurvedic practitioners have licenses in other areas, such as massage therapy, naturopathy, or midwifery. In these cases Ayurvedic practice is almost always prescribed as a complementary form of treatment.


Ayurvedic medicine is generally considered safe to combine with conventional Western medical treatments. However, it is important to consult your physician before taking an Ayurvedic remedy, as it may cause side effects or interact with other medications. It is not recommended to use Ayurvedic or other alternative medicine as a replacement for conventional treatment.