Busted! 7 myths about Ayurveda

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian form of medicine, while being popular, is shrouded in myths. We clears some of the more prevalent ones

Curing with ayurveda

While Ayurveda has captured the fancy of many, it is mostly in the areas of personal care and superficial complaints. If we let go of our reservations towards this system of healing, it can do a lot more for us.  Here we address some common myths surrounding Ayurveda.

Myth 1 Ayurvedic medicines are dangerous as they contain heavy metals

A lot of people would like to take Ayurvedic medicine but don’t because they are apprehensive about the heavy metal content in them. A few Ayurvedic preparations [herbo-mineral medicines] have heavy metals in them but these medicines are not dangerous in any way. The metals are made to undergo certain procedures to make them organic before they are incorporated in the medicines. Some of these metals are heat-treated to nullify the heaviness and toxicity. The medicines pass through a wide range of tests before they are declared safe for human consumption. The heavy metals, when converted, act as catalysts to carry the herbs to the desired site of action in the body.

Myth 2 Ayurvedic medicines do not have any side effects

It’s unfair to say this about any system of medicine. Though Ayurvedic medicines have fewer side effects, you can’t say for sure that they never cause any. For instance, when the detox procedures are not done properly, their counter-effects could be life threatening. One can develop symptoms like loose motions, constipation, digestive disturbances, rashes, boils, and fatigue. It is always advised to take the medicines under the supervision of a qualified Ayurvedic physician. Yet, there is always a tiny chance that you may develop some adverse reaction to a certain medicine.

When the detox procedures are not done properly, their counter-effects could be life threatening

Myth 3 There are more food restrictions while undergoing Ayurvedic treatments than other forms of treatments

Any treatment, whether allopathic or Ayurvedic will have certain dietary restrictions. And in order to treat an illness, at times certain foods need to be avoided. This is decided by your Ayurvedic physician after assessing your doshas. Since allopathy does not treat the disease as a whole and only treats the symptoms individually, there are not as many dietary restrictions as in Ayurveda or any other form of complementary therapy.

Myth 4 Ayurveda only means oil massages

Even though there is an increased awareness about Ayurveda, at a global level many people still consider Ayurvedic treatment to be consisting of application of different oils and massages. Ayurveda does not mention anywhere that oil massage is the only remedy for an ailment. It has to be understood that there are many conditions, as well as certain body types, where the application of oil could, in fact, aggravate the health problem. While oil massages are popular for the relaxing effect they produce, they are rarely used to cure diseases.

Myth 5 Ayurvedic medicines require a lot of grinding and pounding

Ayurveda has a wide range of preparations from pills, powders and decoctions to infusions, oils, and herbo-mineral preparations. Thanks to modern mechanical processes, ready-to-use medicines are now available. Even the bitter khashayams [decoctions] are now available in tablet form.

While oil massages are popular for the relaxing effect they produce, they are rarely used to cure diseases

Myth 6 Medicinal formulations are kept a secret

The main purpose of Ayurveda is to prevent the occurrence of diseases and to offer relief to the existing ones. There is nothing secretive about Ayurveda. Because most of the text, formulas and processes are in Sanskrit, they need to be translated. But, one can find many commentaries and translations in book stores these days. There are even universities that offer short- and long-term courses to understand Ayurveda.

Myth 7 Ayurveda is well-practised only in Kerala

There is no doubt that Ayurveda has flourished in Kerala, the land of the ashta vaidyas [the famous family traditionally serving people with their knowledge of Ayurveda]. When India was under British rule, Ayurveda was banned, but in the South it was still practised in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. After independence, when Ayurveda was legalised and recognised, many universities, colleges and hospitals started teaching and practising it. Today it is practised all over India and we find treatment centres from Jaipur to Jamnagar and the rest of the country.

Ayurveda is more than just treatments and medications; it is a lifestyle. The principles of Ayurveda,when practised properly, not only keep away diseases but also enhance our mental stability and brings about spiritual enlightenment. It is a holistic system suited for people from all walks of life.


A version of this article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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