Ayurveda, or the science of life, is the traditional healing system of India. One of the oldest healing practices in the world, Ayurveda views a state of “dis – ease” as a lack of harmony between the person and the universal order. Consequently, its medicine primarily seeks to restore the missing harmony so the organism can function well.
In order to achieve this, energy, called prana , must flow freely along thirteen pathways, called srotas . To open the blocked srotas , Ayurvedic practitioners must first identify the “constitutional type” (or dosha ) of the patient.
There are three main doshas , determined by body shape and size, activity level, temperature preferences, sleep patterns, personality traits, and other physical, emotional, and even spiritual factors.
Once the dosha is determined, dietary recommendations and herbal remedies are used to nudge it back into the internal balance that leads to maximum health, tranquility, and optimism.
Ayurveda is derived from a complex system of cultural beliefs, but it is nevertheless becoming increasingly popular in the West. The herbal and dietary recommendations are easy to follow, and many of the healing herbs are simply incorporated into daily cooking, although others are taken in pills or teas. Many Ayuvedic herbs are available at health-food stores or Indian food markets.
Like Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on a belief system with the universal energy, called ch’i in Chinese, at its core. Ch’i circulates through the human body along twelve channels, called meridians, completing one full cycle in a twenty – four – hour period.
If physical, mental, or emotional illness leads to a blockage or an acceleration of energy, however, the ch’i is impeded. The flow must be restored before the body can reorganize itself and heal.
Very simply stated, that restoration is the goal of traditional Chinese medicine, and it is attained through diet, exercise, massage, breathing practices, and of course, the widespread use of healing herbs. In fact, Chinese herbology is considered by scholars to be the world’s most sophisticated form of cultural medicine.
Chinese herbs are prescribed by physicians after careful analysis of the condition of the patient’s tongue, the blood and organ pulses (of which Chinese doctors differentiate five), and the psychic and social history of the patient.
There are more than one hundred basic medicinal herb combinations, each consisting of up to a dozen herbs. Varying these according to the needs of the patient results in thousands of possible prescriptions.
Chinese herbs are commonly taken in the form of pills, liquid concentrates, and teas.