Over the last several years I had the good fortune to be exposed to the wise and ancient science of Ayurveda through my former partner studying to become an Ayuveda Practitioner. As well as regular downloads on what she was learning, and the experience of living an Ayurveda lifestyle, I had the great fortune to meet the Vaidya (Ayurveda Physician) she was studying under, an internationally recognised Professor. The health and vitality of her Vaidya was an incredible testament to the value of living an Ayurveda lifestyle. The Vaidya is a private man, and all I wish to say is that the relationship between his age and his vitality was staggering and had a huge impact on me, and my understanding of how profoundly powerful Ayurveda is in actually creating positive health.
AYURVEDA IN SIMPLE TERMS
So for those who haven’t been exposed to Ayurveda, here comes a quick synopsis.
Ayurveda dates back to 3,500BC from a time when ancient civilisations were demonstrating levels of knowledge and wisdom far greater than many intervening periods.
The term literally means ‘Science of Life’.
Ayurveda approaches health and medicine with an extraordinarily thorough analysis of an individual’s health, and provides a prescription for lifestyle, body, mind, and spirit that is tailored to creating optimal health, and which includes suggested diet, use of herbs, and suggested activities including physical and spiritual. It is also flexible enough to accommodate the needs of the individuals life and their preferences and can be adjusted so that the prescriptions are such that the person can master the regime.
Ayurveda teaches that all disease comes from an imbalance between the body, the mind, and the spirit. When all are in balance the individual is protected by a strong net of bodily systems which act like a suit of armour. When the system is out of balance there are chinks in the armour and the individual is more exposed to disease.
Ayurveda works proactively to create wellness and balance that helps prevent disease. In a new patient it acts to restore balance, and in a sick patient it acts with greater urgency and more drastic measures to restore balance while working hand in hand with modern medicine as necessary to determine what other interventions might be appropriate if the body cant be brought back into balance quickly enough relative to the severity of the condition.
THE ROLES OF AYURVEDA AND WESTERN MEDICINE
Western medicine has achieved remarkable things in many areas, and there are many passionate clinicians and scientists who have created extraordinary results for western medicine. Ayurveda practitioners in general see themselves as partners with western medicine Doctors.
When a patient has allowed their body to reach a stage of severe imbalance and disease, while Ayurveda can play a powerful role in reinstating the bodily systems that can support a recovery, very often conditions are too severe to rely on such a path alone, and drugs or surgery may be necessary to bring a situation back within control so as to avert death or serious long term damage.
The real strength of Ayurveda is a source of extraordinary health and longevity, and as an eliminator of disease. As well as creating wellness Ayurveda also includes detoxing processes designed to remove toxins that accelerate ageing and disease.
AYURVEDA & LONGEVITY
A core focus of Ayurveda is longevity. When the body gets a diet with all of the appropriate nutrients, herb supplements that enhance longevity and remove toxins, and is supported by a physical and spiritual lifestyle that enhances balance it is capable of lifespans rarely seen in the west, and with a much stronger quality of life. I have seen this first hand.
The following paper ‘Brain Enhancing Ingredients from Āyurvedic Medicine: Quintessential Example of Bacopa monniera, a Narrative Review’ by Hemant K. Singh provides an excellent outline of Ayurveda, and at section 2.1 explains that Ayurveda looks to an expected longevity of 116 years.
Many in the western world look to science to validate the value of an area of medicine or a treatment. There is some very sound evidence in the scientific literature for Ayurveda, but sadly not as much as there should be due to ignorance and bias.
Having worked as a CFO/COO for 7 years in Medical Diagnostics, 5 years in Medical Devices, and for 4 years in Water Science I have a great respect for the value of the scientific method, but balanced by an understanding of its limitations the way it is applied in our western world. Here are some of the reasons why science should not be treated as a single point of truth:
a) Most scientific research is funded either fully or in part by commercial parties whose products are part of the study. That relationship taints the value of a great many studies and potentially impacts study design, sample selection, treatment of outliers, and exclusion of competing technologies.
b) Most science is oriented towards technologies backed by substantial enterprises who have influence such as major drug companies. Such influencers can have a very strong role in shutting down lines of research that could impact the business of the influencer, who may suddenly feel less inclined to pay for a new building wing.
c) Many scientists build themselves into a defender of a position, and their science can be based on defending a position more than seeking truth.
d) A great many senior academics have consulting contracts with commercial partners, and those contracts hamper their independence even among the most well intentioned, and on the other end of the scale can completely preclude independence.
For another perspective on the problems in science, and the story of a man who has made it his life’s work trying to identify the issues in how scientific studies are approached, this is an excellent article that can be very helpful in appreciating that science needs to be reviewed with an understanding of context, and not accepted as a single point of truth.
Science is not an efficient market, it cant be assumed that if there is a promising field that is good for the world that Science will necessarily do the work to validate it. In fact vested interests can ensure the opposite is true.
However, I dont wish to argue that science does not have value. It does, but the context in the industry and field of endeavour needs to be understood. In the Water industry which in most countries is a service and a cost management, ‘not for profit’ model I have seen far less disfunction in the science. In the field of Medicine its very different because of the profit motives, and the need for certain players to protect their positions.
So understanding that science comes with certain limitations, and needs to be understood in context, lets look at the status of the scientific literature on Ayurveda. The west is only in the beginnings of recognising the immense wisdom in Ayurveda, so the studies are limited, and indeed recognise that more research is called for in the west in a science that shows promise.
Following are a number of studies that demonstrate the value of Ayurveda and which support a positive call for more research with an expectation for positive results:
a) A review of Ayurveda by the Ohio State University Centre for Integrative Medicine on the health promotion, and disease prevention and treatment:
- Part 1 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18047449
- Part 2 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18166127
b) A literature review by Oregon Health and Science University on Ayurveda in treating Diabetes:
c) A review by Abstyr University in Seattle of a Pharmacologist Practitioners perspective on Ayurvedic herbalism and the role it can play:
d) A literature review by the Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion at the NYU College of Dentistry criticises the 45 clinical trials reviewed involving comparison of Ayurveda diagnostic criteria with others for rarely using more than 2 of the 23 Ayurvedic diagnostic criteria, and calls for more fulsome studies.
That there are not hundreds of positive studies on a 5.5 thousand year old well documented science in Ayuveda speaks to the insular attitudes of Western Science and Medicine, and the fact that science in the west follows the money trail of drugs and surgical intervention.
It is to be hoped that in spite of the monied interests that control science in the west, that the pure scientists with a genuine desire to validate science that can help humanity will hear the calls to more properly document the immense benefits of Ayurveda that are apparent to anyone who properly investigates it.
Ura P Auckland
Advocate and Advisor : Conscious Commerce & Conscious Governance