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Ayurveda

India is a country where traditions have existed side by side with modern technological advances. In fact, the character of modern India is firmly rooted in a rich cultural past. This feature is evident in our ancient herbal healing system of Ayurveda, which continues to provide remedies to our ailments. India's herbal beauty aids are also a part of her social and cultural heritage. Many of the present beauty treatments have been handed down from generation to generation. These have been tried and tested through centuries of popular usage. Today, Ayurveda has found a prominent place in modern cosmetic care. Treatments that were lost in the mists of time have been revived and viewed in the light of modern scientific techniques. Today, along with the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Meditation, the world is looking at the holistic system of Ayurveda for health and beauty solutions. In fact, the interest in Ayurveda has prompted scientific research in many countries, to assess it in scientific terms.

Established 5000 years ago, by the great sages of India, Ayurveda is the oldest and most organized system of herbal healing in the world. Literally, Ayurveda means, "The Science of Life." Indeed, it is not merely a system of healing, but an entire way of life, which aims at helping man live in harmony with nature and also in harmony with himself. Ayurveda has never been more relevant than it is now, in terms of counteracting the degenerative processes, environmental pollution, toxic build-up and mental stress, all of which have become undesirable features of modern life.

Ayurveda is a holistic system of healing, which aims at activating the body's natural healing processes. Ayurveda is based on the theory of "Tridosha", somewhat like the "humours" of the Greeks. The three "doshas" represent combinations of the five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (or space), giving rise to the three basic constitutions of the human body. The three "doshas" are Vata (a combination of Air and Ether); Pitta (a combination of Fire and Water) and Kapha (a combination of Earth and Water). The three doshas not only determine individual constitution, but our physical form and other attributes, our mental make-up and even individual metabolic processes. Most constitutions, however, result from the combination of two "doshas", with one being more predominant. All traits and even individual metabolism can be classified under the 3 doshas. However, most of us belong to dual dosha types and have traits of both the doshas, although traits of one dosha may be more prominent.

According to Ayurveda, disease is the manifestation of negative influences and imbalances caused by a metabolic disbalance of the doshas. This is true of skin and hair problems too. When one dosha becomes predominant, an imbalance occurs. For example, in a constitution of Vata-Kapha, if Vata becomes excessive, the Kapha is reduced. When Vata is reduced through treatment, Kapha increases and a balance is restored. The aim in Ayurvedic treatments, therefore, is to restore the equilibrium, not only through herbal medication, but also through the diet and lifestyle. Over centuries of practical usage, Ayurveda has identified foods, herbs, minerals and other natural substances that help to balance an aggravated dosha.

In Ayurvedic healing, the elimination of toxins and wastes is an important part of the treatment, so that tissues are cleansed, pure and healthy. This not only promotes metabolic functions, but also activates the natural healing process, by opening the channels of both body and mind. Apart from alleviating physical complaints, such treatments have helped in reducing mental stress and stress-related problems. There is overall improvement in cellular functions, specially in the regeneration of new cells and in revitalising the entire system. Ayurvedic treatments, therefore, are not only for those who are ill, but for all those who wish to come closer to a state of perfect health. Similarly, Ayurvedic formulations for the skin and hair help both general care and maintenance, as well as the treatment of specific problems. Although mentioned in ancient texts, the ingredients are still popular in India.

Ayurvedic texts contain the details of a staggering number of plant products, minerals and other natural substances, along with their medicinal properties, their methods of collection and extraction, as well as specific combinations of complementary herbs. The specific processing methods and the well-known combinations enhance the efficacy of the treatment. In Ayurvedic prescriptions, the complementary herbs also increase the effectiveness of the main herb. An example of a popular combination of herbs is Chawanprash, which has more than 50 different herbs. Trifala is another popular combination, which contains 3 herbs. Most of the herbs that are used in Ayurvedic treatments are available only in India. Some are available in other Asian countries.

India has a great deal to offer the rest of the world, in terms of her herbal heritage of Ayurveda. With the current "total well-being" concept sweeping the world, Ayurveda is poised to become the healing system of the future.

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