Ayurveda: The Oldest Medicine on Earth
My first exposure to Ayurveda was in 1984 at The Natural Products Expo in Atlanta. I was working for a (human) nutritional supplement company that sold products through independent health food stores. Standing in the trade booth on the first day of the expo, I saw two Sikhs walking by. My eyes followed them to a booth at the end of the aisle. On a break, my curiosity propelled me toward that booth. Spread out on the table were packages of small yellow beans, and herbs that I had never heard of: amalaki, guggulu, dashamula, boswellia, ashoka.
“What is this?” I asked politely.
“These are some of the medicines of Ayurveda,” one of the Sikhs said softly.
I had no idea what “Ayurveda” meant. I had never heard the word before. A few Chinese herbs from TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) had inched into the health food business in the early 1980’s: herbs such as ginseng, ma huang, astragalus, and ginger. In complete ignorance I said, “Are these new Chinese herbs?”
“The medicine of Ayurveda is older than that,” the other Sikh said. “It is the oldest medicine on earth.”
The ancient philosophy of Ayurveda is so named for “life knowledge”: ayur means life, and veda means knowledge. It arose in India thousands of years ago. The great seers of India came to understand and reveal the deepest truths of human physiology and health through deep meditation and spiritual practices. These truths and practices were passed down orally until they were compiled and organized into an elaborate system of sacred texts recorded in the Vedas—the world’s oldest existing literature, written in Sanskrit more than 5,000 years ago. By 400 AD, the Ayurvedic texts had been translated into Chinese, and by 700 AD Chinese scholars were studying Ayurveda in India. Among many other topics, these texts include information on the care, health management, and disease treatment of the animals.
Balance of mind, body, spirit
The fundamental root of Ayurveda is the idea that health is the balanced and dynamic integration of environment, body, mind, and spirit. In Ayurveda, it is all connected.
There are five elements in Ayurveda: space, air, fire, water, and earth. The term “space” refers to what was once called “ether”, and in the ancient philosophies was thought to be prevalent in the heavens but inaccessible to humans.
There are three basic energies that govern the inner and outer environments of movement, transformation, and structure. These energies are derived from the five elements and are referred to as doshas. When a dosha becomes out of balance, various physical conditions can result.
|nervous system, bodily movements
|anxiety, dry skin, constipation, difficulty focusing
|metabolism, digestion, vision
|indigestion, ulcers, inflammation, skin rashes, diarrhea
|structure, lubrication, stability
|weight gain, sluggishness, indigestion, slow or suppressed metabolism, lymphatic congestion, prediabetes
There are times when more than one dosha can be out of balance, as in the case of an overweight horse with gastric ulcers. This would indicate an imbalance of both the Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha.
Cooling, warming, neutral
Similar to traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda focuses on foods, herbs, plants, and spices that are categorized as cooling, warming, or neutral. For example, a horse with gastric ulcers would be seen as having an imbalance of the Pitta dosha. Since Pitta is derived from fire, an ulcer would signify too much fire in the GI tract. The Ayurvedic approach would be to support the horse with foods such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, a probiotic bacteria from milk, which is cooling. A yeast probiotic would not be recommended because active yeast is warming; if we already have too much fire in the GI tract, we don’t need to add more heat.
Examples of neutral foods include almonds and hemp seeds.
Tridoshic foods for horses
These are foods and plants that are tridoshic—that is, balancing for all three doshas: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia, flax, almonds, coconut (in small amounts), blueberries, pomegranate, alfalfa, cabbage, kale, seaweeds, quinoa, rice (in moderation), ashwaganda, holy basil, black pepper, amla (Indian Gooseberry), turmeric, oregano, mung beans, mung dal (split yellow beans), fennel, parsley, carrots, dandelions, squash, the green algae chlorella, and the blue-green algae spirulina.
BioStar and Ayurveda
From the moment I met the Sikhs at that Natural Products Expo many years ago, I was drawn like a magnet to Ayurveda. The philosophy of balancing the whole body system rather than pieces of the body system resonated with me. This would be in conflict with the Western (allopathic) nutrition training I had, until I learned how to use both Ayurveda and Western nutritionism together.
In the past 30 years, more scientific research has been conducted on various plants used widely in Ayurveda, and studies have proven the wisdom in the old Ayurvedic Sanskrit texts. Although the ancients didn’t have the same methodology, they did in fact have a profound understanding of the relationship between food, plants, environment, and health.
BioStar’s supplements are formulated using a combination of Ayurvedic and Western nutritionism principles, and several BioStar formulas are totally Ayurvedic: True Balance, Thera Calm, Tri Dosha, Cool Star, Thermal, Bio Flora, Bio Yeast; and for the dogs, Buckaroo’s Cooling Stew, Buckaroo’s Warming Stew, and Terra Biota.