Ayurvedic medicine is the traditional medicinal system of the Indian subcontinent, comparable to TCM in China. This five-thousand-year-old system, thought to be the oldest in the world, holistically combines yoga, meditation, diet and herbal remedies. Spices are of particular importance, and their use is both culinary and medicinal.
One of the key concepts of Ayurveda, which means “the science of life,” is that of the doshas, three body types or constitutions with differing physical and emotional elements. Each of these types, known as Vata (air), Kapha (earth), and Pitta (fire), are aggravated or pacified by different foods. An individual may have one or more primary doshas, and herb and spice mixtures are often used to treat imbalances in the doshas. Lethargy and depression are associated with kapha imbalance, worry and hypersensitivity to vata imbalance, and irritability and impatience with pitta imbalance.
In recent years, Ayurvedic medicine has become increasingly popular in the West. Most Ayurvedic remedies contain a combination of herbs to work with a particular function or system of the body. Among the best-kown Ayurvedic herbs are ashwaganda, an adaptogenic herb, used to alleviate stress and regulate the hormonal system; bitter melon, prescribed to control blood sugar levels; boswellia, used for joint support and immunomodulating effects; and neem, an anti-inflammatory and healing agent used for acne and other skin conditions.