The Healing Power of Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional Indian practice that relies on a holistic approach to physical and mental health. This article discusses the evidence available to date on the safety and efficacy of this type of care.
What is Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurveda (science/knowledge of life) originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. The ancient people believed stress or imbalance in a person’s consciousness could cause disease. Ayurveda encourages natural therapies to regain a balance between body, mind, spirit, and the environment(1).
Ayurvedic medicine treatments typically include internal purification, diet, herbal medicines, massage therapy, yoga, and meditation (1,2).
The main goal of the treatment is to eliminate impurities, reduce symptoms, prevent diseases, and gain more harmony in life(1).
What is it good for?
Ayurvedic medicine is still one of India’s health care systems. Despite the small number of clinical studies, Ayurvedic medicine may be beneficial as a complementary therapy in combination with conventional medical care(1).
The available clinical studies describe the use of Ayurvedic medicine in the management of:
- Cognitive and memory function
- Viral infections
- Mental health and mood problems
- Inflammatory conditions
- Chronic pain
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High cholesterol
- Sleep problems
- Skin conditions
Ayurvedic medicine’s effectiveness
A few studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Ayurvedic medicine in treating inflammatory joint conditions such as knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis investigated the effectiveness and safety of different Ayurvedic interventions in patients with osteoarthritis. The study included 19 randomized and 14 non-randomized controlled trials with 2,952 patients. The researchers observed improved pain and improved function with some herbal preparations. They observed no severe adverse events(3).
Turmeric, often present in Ayurvedic preparations, may ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. A 2017 study suggested that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, acts as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory in rheumatoid arthritis at doses as low as 250 mg twice daily(4).
Outcomes from a 2011 systematic review indicate that some compounds commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine may help lower blood sugar levels. The most common side effects were drug hypersensitivity, low blood sugar, and gastrointestinal upset(5). To date, researchers have been unable to conclude on the effectiveness of Ayurvedic medicine for diabetes due to a lack of high-quality evidence(2).
Some Ayurvedic preparations contain metals, minerals, or gems that may harm human health(2). A 2015 survey showed that of those who use Ayurvedic preparations, 40% had elevated blood levels of lead(2). Additionally, one-fifth of Ayurvedic supplements sold online contain detectable levels of toxic metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic(6).
Ayurvedic medicines don’t follow the same regulatory requirements as other drugs in the United States since they are dietary supplements. Nevertheless, they can interact with other medications and change their effect on the body(1).
Therefore, consult a doctor or health care professional before starting any treatment with Ayurvedic medicine(1,2). Also, choose a reliable company the dietary supplements you need to support your treatment.
There is some evidence of the effectiveness of compounds and practices used in Ayurvedic medicine, especially in the management of arthritis. Scientists believe that Ayurvedic medicine can serve as a complementary practice to conventional medicine. It’s always best to seek medical advice before starting any treatment.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. What is Ayurveda? https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/ayurveda.
- NIH. Ayurvedic Medicine: In Depth. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurvedic-medicine-in-depth. 2019.
- Kessler CS, Pinders L, Michalsen A, Cramer H. Ayurvedic interventions for osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Rheumatol Int. 2015;35(2):211–32.
- Amalraj A, Varma K, Jacob J, Divya C, Kunnumakkara AB, Stohs SJ, et al. A novel highly bioavailable curcumin formulation improves symptoms and diagnostic indicators in rheumatoid arthritis patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, two-dose, three-arm, and parallel-group study. . J Med Food. 2017;20(10):1022–30.
- Sridharan K, Mohan R, Ramaratnam S,, & Panneerselvam D. Ayurvedic treatments for diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, . 2011;(12).
- Saper RB, Phillips RS, Sehgal A, Khouri N, Davis RB, Paquin J, . . . &, et al. Lead, mercury, and arsenic in US-and Indian-manufactured Ayurvedic medicines sold via the Internet. JAMA. 2008;300(8):915–23.