Ayurveda & Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Ancient Healing Systems
Ayurvedic Herbalism is still widely practiced in India and is an integral part of mainstream life in Indian society. The translation for Auyrveda is a combination of two words, ayus, meaning life, and veda meaning study. I have joked for years that I was not in line when they passed out the "How To" manual for basic living. Finally the instruction manual has been found! Apparently it has been around for quite a while.
Ayurveda is the oldest uninterrupted system of healing that is still largely in practice. As a result there is profound wisdom and guidance available to us that is thousands of years old and very well documented. Promoting longevity, vitality and pain free healthy living are the primary goals of Ayurvedic herbalism. In India herbs are taken daily, either incorporated into the dishes served for individual family members and or taken in a yogurt drink called a lassi. This is a very sensible way to maintain health by incorporating these practices into a daily routine without much effort or expense.
Ayurveda was possibly the first healing system that was developed and explored on our planet. It is said that the system was delivered by divinity and conveyed through the vedic chants that have been handed down generation to generation for millennial. This wisdom taught that there were five elements that were identified as states of existence that make up all matter and life on the planet. These elements are Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. The basis for the differential theory in Ayurveda sprang from the Hindu stories of creation featuring Shiva and Shakti. Shiva embodying the masculine God of creation or Yang principle and Shakti as the female Goddess of creation possessing Yin energetic aspects. This was the first holistic medicine, that included great care and attention for body, mind and spirit. As we evaluate the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda we can see the similarities between it and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The identified life force, similar to Qi (pronounced chee) is Atma in the Ayurvedic system. Within the Ayurvedic elemental system there are three consistent metabolic constitutions that manifest in human form and developed the Tridosha theory. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. With the idea that each of us is a combination of these three and in order to maintain health and vitality the balance must be maintained not only from an elemental view point taking into consideration Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, but also the metabolic constitution of the Doshas. Much like Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic theory is based on a differential system that seeks to balance common elements, energies and metabolic constitutions possessed by the individual in order to maintain homeostasis and promote blissful longevity and happy living while inhabiting these earthly bodies.
Traditional Chinese Herbal Theory (TCM) compares our bodies to nature and views each one of us as a unique landscape. Again we see the concept of five elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, Wood, very similar to the Ayurvedic elemental philosophy of Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth. Each person considered as an individual, as body, mind and spirit powered by the same life force apparent in nature known as Qi. Our bodies, these unique landscapes, susceptible to weather changes, elemental and energetic imbalance and alterations from external forces, all of which may cause illness, pain or discomfort and emotional suffering. The theory of Yin and Yang states that two opposite forces with equal and formidable power are interconnected and interdependent, that each possesses qualities and components of the other to form the whole. This is reflective of the Shiva and Shakti paradigm in Ayurveda, the opposite and powerful forces of creation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, also a differential assessment system further mapped channels of energy in the body known as meridians which are the pathways for the flow of Qi to tissue, muscle, organ, skin, bone, and every cell in the body. It is said that where there is Qi, there is no pain. The job of the herbalist is to assist the flow of Qi and to maintain equilibrium in all systems, much like a gardener would care for their plants, with meticulous and intimate attention throughout the year, employing a deep knowledge and understanding of temperature, season changes, moisture requirements, nourishment of the soil, plenty of sunshine, adequate minerals, and pure air.