for part -1 of this series, please visit at Medical Cults of World – Part 1 (Homeopathy)
Proponents state that ayurvedic medicine originated in ancient time, but much of it was lost until reconstituted in the early 1980s by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Its origin is traced to four Sanskrit books called the Vedas-the oldest and most important scriptures of India, shaped sometime before 200 B.C.E. These books attributed most disease and bad luck to demons, devils, and the influence of stars and planets. Ayurveda’s basic theory states that the body’s functions are regulated by three “irreducible physiological principles” called doshas, whose Sanskrit names are vata, pitta, and kapha. Like astrologic “signs,” these terms are used to designate body types as well as the traits that typify them.
Like astrologic writings, ayurvedic writings contain long lists of supposed physical and mental characteristics of each constitutional type. Vata, for example, is said to “govern all bodily functions concerning movement” and to accumulate during cold, dry, windy weather. According to Chopra’s Time/Life Video guidebook: vata individuals are “usually lightly built with excellent agility” and “love excitement and change”; balanced vata produces mental clarity and alertness; and unbalanced vata can produce anxiety, weight loss, constipation, high blood pressure, arthritis, weakness and restlessness.
Ayurvedic proponents have claimed that the symptoms of disease are always related to the balance of the doshas, which can be determined by feeling the patient’s wrist pulse or completing a questionnaire. Some proponents claim (incorrectly) that the pulse can be used to detect diabetes, cancer, musculoskeletal disease, asthma, and “imbalances at early stages when there may be no other clinical signs and when mild forms of intervention may suffice.” Balance is supposedly achieved through “pacifying” diets and a long list of procedures and products, many of which are said to be formulated for specific body types. Through various combinations of vata, pitta, and kapha, ten body types are possible. Somehow, however, one’s doshas (and therefore one’s body type) can vary from hour to hour, season to season, and questionnaire to questionnaire.
This ridiculous beliefs of Ayurveda such as their fundamental notion that everyone has three “doshas”, and imbalances in these doshas cause basically all disease. Imbalances in the first dosha – can make a person susceptible to “skin, neurological, and mental diseases” or with a second dosha, to heart disease and arthritis, and the third causes diabetes, ulcers, and asthma. All the doshas can be upset by eating certain types of food.
Finally we come to what should be point number 1: “Does Ayurveda work?” The answer is, simply, “No.” Actually this cult was slowly developed to suck money from illiterate people who NEVER read those sanskrit scriptures in their life time, nothing else. e.g. In current days, the person who is making tall claims of aurvedic medicine for cancer & aids is unable to cure his own eyes but able to purchase an island to live alone (with all his young followers – no CD please) and do “research” on plants (or implants)
The fact remains that only very few rigorous, controlled scientific studies have been carried out on Ayurvedic practices. In India, the government began systematic research in 1969, and the work continues till date. So they are trying to suggest that this needs more study – a common ploy of pseudoscience practitioners.
A quick primer: in Ayurveda, all of the body’s functions, including health, sickness, and so on, are regulated by three “doshas”, which are really quite meaningless from a scientific point of view. For example, the dosha called vata “governs all bodily functions concerning movement” and accumulates during cold, dry, windy weather. Is there any basis for this? No. What’s worse is that Ayurveda “medicines” (I have to put that word in quotes here) contain well-known toxins such as mercury, arsenic, and lead. In fact, a scientific study in the Journal of the America Medical Association (Saper et al., JAMA (2004)292:2868-2873) found:
One of 5 Ayurvedic HMPs [herbal medicine products] produced in South Asia and available in Boston South Asian grocery stores contains potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic. Users of Ayurvedic medicine may be at risk for heavy metal toxicity, and testing of Ayurvedic HMPs for toxic heavy metals should be mandatory.