Ayurveda and herbal medicine

Introduction to Ayurveda: Ancient medicinal healing methods

5 minutes to read

Kate McCullough

BA (Ayurveda Wellness and Integrative Health)

Note — The article was checked and updated July 2023.

With an increase in mental health issues, we are becoming painfully aware that to be in perfect health, we need to look after our body, and our mind. There has to be a balance. It seems that many hundreds of years before us, some were already aware of that. 

Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient holistic system and approach to health and wellbeing. It focuses on the mind, body and spirit, and it consists of specialized nutrition and diet, herbs and oils, meditation, yoga and other important health contributing habits.

In the article today, we will learn more about its history, as a first step in our journey, and then slowly get into more details as to why most of us should incorporate ayurvedic teachings into our daily lives.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a comprehensive, natural, and complete health system covering all aspects of life including 

  • Nutrition
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Daily routines
  • Astrology
  • Spirituality
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Breathing techniques
  • Environment [1]

It is one of the oldest traditional medical systems that is rooted in Hindu physiological teachings and is the basis of many other Asian healing systems.[2]

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, Sanskrit being the language that Ayurveda was traditionally written in. ‘Ayur’ means life/longevity and ‘Veda’ means sacred knowledge/science. 

Ayurveda means “the science of life”

It roughly translates that it is an art and science on how to live life and maintain health.[3,4]

Ayurveda helps to restore health and balance on all three levels – mind, body, and soul. It is also used to promote healthy aging and longevity through seasonal cleanses and following specific diets according to each individual and the changing seasons.[4]

Ayurveda is the perfect alternative that provides people with natural and safe ways to heal from many acute and chronic conditions such as 

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Headaches
  • IBS
  • Bloating
  • Insomnia
  • Skin issues
  • Fatigue
  • Obesity
  • Allergies
  • Addictions
  • High blood pressure 

and many other health concerns.[4]

RELATED — Ayurvedic medicine and commonly treated health conditions 

Ayurveda is not a quick fix. It is a change in lifestyle and habits that promotes a healthy and harmonious body for the long-term.[5]

Origins of Ayurveda

The knowledge of Ayurveda has a rich history. It was originally shared as an oral tradition, then transcribed into Sanskrit around 5000 years ago.[1]

Ayurveda is looked upon as a divine source of sacred knowledge and healing that is known to come from Brahma, the Hindu God who is the creator of the universe in Hindu traditions.[2]

There are 3 main classical texts that cover the fundamental principles of Ayurveda. These are

  • Ashtanga Hridaya (foundational and most comprehensive of the Vedic texts)
  • Charaka Samhita (focuses on internal medicine)
  • Sushurta Samhita (focuses on surgery)[2]

These classical texts were written in Sanskrit and are the foundations of Ayurveda, and while not as commonly known, they are the source of Ayurveda’s knowledge and teachings.

Western Ayurveda vs. Maharishi Ayurveda

Over hundreds of years, the knowledge of Ayurveda has become fragmented and lost, including an integral part of traditional ayurveda, which is the consciousness aspect.[6]

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi restored the knowledge of Ayurveda with consciousness through reintroducing specific techniques such as transcendental meditation, known as TM.[3]

Transcendental meditation is a natural, and effortless meditation technique that allows the mind to go inwards and experience the most quiet and peaceful level of our own awareness.[7]

The importance of bringing back the knowledge of consciousness through techniques like TM is that to be in true health, one needs to be whole, and one cannot be whole without knowing the Self. 

Daily meditation and yoga practices are a great place to start integrating consciousness and getting to know the Self.

RELATED — The Origins of Yoga: History, Development and Modern Times

Maharishi Ayurveda is also different to western Ayurveda in that it is a complete revival of traditional Ayurveda from the ancient Vedic Civilization in India. 

It is also combined with modern medicine and includes aspects of Chinese Medicine and Homeopathy. Maharishi had Vaidyas meet traditional healers from other cultures to exchange ideas.[4]

Ayurvedic medicine and Modern medicine

Many people turn to Ayurveda as a natural alternative to modern medicine. While modern medicine has its time and place, it does lack effective protocols for preventing disease. 

Ayurveda focuses at treating disease without drugs that come with an array of side effects.[3]

Ayurveda looks at the body as a whole unit

It acknowledges the mind-body connection and knows that addressing one without considering the other would not be a complete healthcare approach. Ayurveda can help people heal from an array of different mental and physical conditions at the same time, since they generally have the same root cause. 

The root cause being an imbalance of one or more of the 3 doshas that govern our mind and bodies functioning.[4]

Ayurveda, yoga and meditation

Another thing that makes Ayurveda different from modern medicine is that it not only focuses on curative care of disease, but also strongly focuses on preventative care (maintenance of good health).[8] 

In Ayurveda there are 6 stages of disease, where allopathic medicine only picks up on the last 2-3 stages, when disease has already started to arise. 

For instance, using the pulse reading technique (Nādī Vigyān) Ayurveda can detect imbalances in an individual’s body before any symptoms are seen, and therefore before disease has arisen.[3]

Maharishi Ayurveda supports western medicine but offers a more integrated approach that combines the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda with the best of modern medicine.[3]

If you are interested in learning your own mind-body type (dosha), there are many great online quizzes you can take such as Dosha Quiz.  

What does research say about Ayurveda?

While there has not been a lot of modern research done on Ayurveda and its principles, the original Ayurveda is very evidence based.[9]  

The evidence is based on logic, actual and direct observations, and experimental wisdom from experts.[9] All the classical texts in Ayurveda were written based on this evidence.

Modern medicine has started to acknowledge the wisdom of ayurveda, and some research has now been done of the powerful benefits of some commonly used herbs and medicines in Ayurveda

Some of these herbs include 

  • Ashwagandha – for enhancing the functioning of the brain and nervous system and creating an anti-stress effect[10]
  • Triphala – which is commonly used for gastrointestinal health to promote proper digestion and absorption of nutrients[11] 
  • Curcumin – Turmeric is seen as tri-doshic, meaning it is good for all three mind-body types, it kindles the digestive system, can help to remove ama (toxins) and it’s anti-inflammatory.[12] 

Related Questions

1. What are the 3 Ayurvedic mind-body types?
The 3 Ayurvedic mind-body types (doshas) are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which are made up of the 5 elements in nature: air, space, fire, water, and earth. 

Vata is air + space, Pitta is water + fire, and Kapha is water + earth. These doshas give us all a unique mind-body type that explain many of our our bodies functioning and personality traits.[2]

RELATED — Kapha imbalance: Are you suffering from lethargy, allergies and excess weight?

2. What is the difference between Ayurveda and Unani medicine?
The main difference between Ayurveda and Unani Medicine is that Ayurveda is a traditional medicine system based in Hindu philosophy and originates from India.

While Unani is an ancient medicine system that is based on teachings of Hippocrates and Greek philosophers and originates from the Middle East.[13] 

3. What are Vata’s personality Traits?
Vata is made up of air and space which correlates with cold, dry, light, quick, and moving qualities, so its personality traits are a reflection of these elements. 

  • Quick thinking and moving
  • Creative and imaginative
  • Quick to grasp new information, but also quick to forget
  • Dislikes cold weather 
  • Enthusiastic 

RELATED — Vata imbalance: are you always worried, anxious and cold

If someone is experiencing a Vata imbalance they are likely to experience anxiety, worry, constipation and bloating, dry skin, insomnia, cold hands and feet to name a few. 

For more information and articles on ayurveda, please see our Natural Medicine page.

Kate is currently studying for a Bachelors in Ayurveda from the Maharishi International University. Her passion for holistic and alternative health modalities started when she was 18 and already experiencing an array of health issues that the doctors had no answers for. This led Kate down the path of studying the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda to regain her health and vitality again.

Kate’s focus is on gut and mental health, sleep, and exercise where through pulse readings, diet, daily routines, seasonal cleansings, yoga, and meditation we can create a balance. 

Kate is a part of the Content Team that brings you the latest research at D’Connect.


(1) Amala, G. (n.d.). Where Does Ayurveda Come From? Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/where-ayurveda-come-from

(2) Neerumalla, P. (2021, May 9). The Evolution of Ayurveda. ArcGIS StoryMaps. Retrieved from https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/a269b5cbe5ec4f88ba3757d81d7ba0d5

(3) Lad, V. (2006). The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies: A comprehensive guide to the ancient healing of India (New Ed). Piatkus.

(4) Wallace, R, K. (2019). Chapter 1: Introduction to Maharishi Ayurveda. [PDF]. Maharishi International University.

(5) Khanna, A. (2019, December 5). 7 things you must know before taking Ayurvedic medicine. Maharishi Ayurveda India. 

(6) Dhru, D. (n.d.) How can Ayurveda Help you? Chair Department of Ayurvedic Sciences Bastyr University. Retrieved from https://bastyr.edu/sites/default/files/images/pdfs/Ayurveda.pdf

(7) Maharishi Foundation. (n.d.). How does TM work? TM.Org. Retrieved from https://www.tm.org/transcendental-meditation

(8) Frontline/World India. (n.d.). A Second Opinion: Ayurveda 101 | PBS. PBS.Org. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/india701/interviews/ayurveda101.html

(9) Bhushan, P. (2015). Evidence-Based Medicine and Ayurveda. Science Direct. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/ayurveda

(10) Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5S). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5s.9

(11) Peterson, C. T., Denniston, K., & Chopra, D. (2017). Therapeutic Uses of Triphala in Ayurvedic Medicine. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 23(8), 607–614. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2017.0083

(12) Maharishi Ayurveda Product Private Limited. (2018, December 14). Countless Benefits of Turmeric. Maharishi Ayurveda India. 

(13) Anuradha. (2022). What is the Difference Between Ayurveda and Unani. Pediaa. Retrieved from https://pediaa.com/what-is-the-difference-between-ayurveda-and-unani/#:~:text=The%20main%20difference%20between%20Ayurveda,Greek%20philosophers%20Galen%20and%20Razes 

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