Everything You Need To Know About Using Ayurveda for Mental Health

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Although modern medicine is responsible for many of the incredible advancements that have helped us effectively tackle illness, healthcare professionals believe our current approach to physical and mental health fails to consider one crucial aspect of human existence, spirituality.

In fact, both doctors and mental health experts have recently begun to understand the importance of approaching mental health and well being from a holistic and integrative approach.

In other words, authentic healing begins when healthcare professionals cease to look at their patient as “broken machines” that need fixing and start addressing health related problems from a physical, mental, and spiritual perspective.

And this is where Ayurvedic Medicine comes into play, providing a holistic perspective that allows healthcare professionals to deliver top results.

What is Ayurvedic Medicine?

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In a way, we could say that Ayurveda represents the science of life, as it’s deeply rooted in the philosophic and religious principles of ancient India.

As for Ayurvedic Medicine, this system is a collection of medical practices that involve various procedures and herbs which are believed to promote health and well being.

But unlike other approaches, Ayurvedic Medicine takes into account both the physical and mental aspects of health, as well as the spiritual aspects of human existence. As a result, this approach can help struggling patients overcome illness, pain, and suffering on all levels.

Does Ayurvedic Medicine work?

In recent years, researchers have gained a keen interest in Ayurvedic Medicine as an alternative and complementary treatment option for patients with arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even cancer. [1]

In fact, some patients with cancer use practices from Ayurvedic Medicine, aromatherapy, herbs, massage, to cope better with the symptoms associated with this condition. However, experts advise that such methods should only be used after consulting a medical professional, as they may interfere with other ongoing treatment plans. [2]

Although some researchers believe the positive results of Ayurvedic Medicine may be nothing more than a placebo, results are promising enough to hold this approach as a potentially viable alternative to modern medicine. [3]

Overall, it seems that despite criticism, this holistic approach to health and well being may have the potential to revolutionize the way we understand healing.

The fundamentals of Ayurvedic Medicine:

Aside from health related practices and herbs that are generally used in many other systems of medicine, practitioners of Ayurvedic Medicine believe spirituality also plays a crucial role in our overall sense of health and well being.

Each of us is born with a unique constitution, made up of a personalized blend of the three vital forces, vata, pitta, and kapha, known as the doshas.

Vata

Those belonging to vata tend to have a fragile body. Some of the physical traits that characterize this type include narrow hips, small bones, darker skin, small breasts (in women), and visible veins. Furthermore, their hands and feet tend to be cold.

They are generally perceived as ‘gentle souls’ with a rich imagination and an avid taste for travel. They also tend to get bored quickly, shifting from one activity to another, often exhibiting mood swings.

Chaos often characterizes their actions and thoughts, which can cause a lot of stress and stress related problems.

Pitta

Those in the ‘pitta’ category often enjoy taking charge and being the leaders of their group. With intelligence, good oratory skills, and solid self confidence, they quickly capture the attention of an entire room.

Physically, they usually have an athletic figure and a healthy metabolism. They enjoy eating, and their digestive system works flawlessly. Regarding appearance, many of them have green, grey, or blue eyes and darker hair.

Kapha

The ‘kapha’ type is generally described as relaxed, warm, and loving. Even though their energy levels are high most of the time, they tend to be quite reserved when it comes to wasting resources on pointless and ‘chaotic’ activities.

Even though many of them are slow learners, they tend to retain information for longer periods. They also tend to be possessive with people and objects.

Physically, the ‘kapha’ type is massive and imposing. Their metabolism is slow, they tend to build up fat deposits relatively fast, and their hair is thin. Many of them enjoy sleeping, and they’re usually the kind of individuals who perform well in long and boring tasks.

Implications for mental health:

In the context of mental health, Ayurvedic Medicine offers a wide array of practices designed to help people overcome various mood disorders and develop resilience.

We know for a fact that eating nourishing foods and physical activity can significantly improve both our physical and mental health. In a way, we could argue that the practices promoted by this approach serve as viable preventive measures against illness.

In fact, there are a couple of principles which clearly explain how the Ayurvedic approach can impact the mental and emotional aspects of your existence.

Practitioners of Ayurvedic Medicine believe that true beauty, health, and well being derive from our personality. Once you discover your vital force (dosha), you will be able to cultivate significant changes in your overall physical, mental, and spiritual state.

Even though your dominant traits cannot be changed, you can still influence them through a series of practices. Once again, Ayurveda proves to be a valuable set of practices that promote mental health and well being.

Concerns and Limitations of Ayurvedic Medicine:

As you can imagine, the fact that Ayurvedic Medicine takes spirituality seriously has determined some healthcare professionals to look at this approach with a skeptical eye. In general, Western researchers and mental health professionals tend to reject Ayurvedic Medicine, as it fails to ‘fit in’ with modern approaches.

Another concern regarding this system of medicine is the lack of empirical data. But since Western researchers have only recently begun to explore the impact of Ayurvedic practices, time is still a factor that may determine the fate of this approach.

All in all, Ayurvedic Medicine has helped countless patients overcome physical and mental illness, thus proving itself a viable alternative and complementary approach to health and well being.

If you are struggling with a mental health condition, finding a therapist near you or online can be important for a well rounded approach to your mental health care.


References:
[1] A. Chauhan, D. K. Semwal and R. B. Semwal, “Ayurvedic research and methodology: Present status and future strategies,” Ayu, vol. 36, no. 4.
[2] n.a., “
Ayurvedic medicine” Cancer Research UK, 4 February 2015.
[3] M. Niemi and G. Ståhle, “The use of ayurvedic medicine in the context of health promotion, a mixed methods case study of an ayurvedic centre in Sweden,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016.

By Haley Neidich, LCSW.
With nearly 5000 years of history, Ayurvedic Medicine may hold the secret to robust mental health and well being. Haley Neidich, LCSW is a licensed mental health professional and the director of clinical development for ThriveTalk.com.