Ayurvedic medicine is a system of alternative medicine that descends from ancient medical techniques of Hindu society in Ancient India. There are three principal early texts on Ayurveda: the Charaka Samhita, the Sushruta Samhita, and the Bhela Samhita. Ayurveda is one of the few systems of medicine developed in ancient times that is still widely practiced in modern times. As such, it is open to the criticism that its conceptual basis is obsolete and that its contemporary practitioners have not taken account of the developments of modern medicine.
It is based on the idea that the body has three elements, and that disease is the result of elemental imbalance.[note 1] Proponents of the practice of Ayurvedic medicine claim to cure almost anything, in this case by supposedly getting your bodily systems in line with one another and with the alleged elements of the Earth. This is achieved by many treatments including yoga, herbal remedies, pastes made by herbs and oils, panchakarma, which is described as a 5-step program for therapeutic cleansing, and rasa shastra, a system involving treating diseases with metals including mercury and lead.
Panchakarma is an Ayurvedic treatment which supposedly clears the body of toxins and balances the body's "energy" (whatever that means). It's recommended to be done every year as a "tune up". It consists of five parts: Vomiting, purging, enema, herbal inhalation therapy, and bloodletting, as well as a "pre-treatment" consisting of oil massage and essential oil ingestion. The vomiting is used to balance the body's kapha, the purging is for clearing the body of toxins, the enema is used for various things, the herbal inhalation balances the body's prana, and the bloodletting "purifies" the blood and clears it of toxins (again).
Bloodletting is used for excessive drowsiness, baldness, urticaria, rash, eczema, acne, scabies, leucoderma, chronic itching and hives, enlarged liver, spleen, gout, tumors, and genital infections.
Vomiting is supposedly good for "cough, cold, symptoms of asthma, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, anemia, poisoning, skin diseases, diabetes, lymphatic obstruction, chronic indigestion, edema (swelling), epilepsy (between attacks), chronic sinus problems, and for repeated attacks of tonsillitis." It has been recommended for Kapha Dosha (qualities reflecting water and earth) disorders, including "bronchial asthma, allergic bronchitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, migraine, hyperacidity, indigestion, anorexia, obesity, overweight, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, acne vulgaris, psoriasis, eczema, urticaria". Yes, vomiting has been claimed to prevent anorexia!
Heavy metals/rasa shastra
Rasa shastra is an ancient body of medical folklore in Ayurvedic medicine. It holds that it will do you good to eat mercury, lead, and arsenic, but only if they've been purified by baking them in burning cow shit. Not recommended; while mercury and arsenic do have some rare real medical uses (e.g. chemotherapy and treating certain parasitic diseases), they do so in the form of being put in various compounds that make them safer, not boiling them in yogurt.
In Ayurvedic medicine, arsenic, lead and mercury are thought to be effective remedies. Accordingly, about 20% of Ayurvedic herbs sold on the Internet (by both Indian and American companies) contain dangerous amounts of substances such as lead, arsenic, and mercury. In one study, researchers bought imported Ayurvedic herbal remedies from several stores in the Boston area, and 20% of those products also contained dangerous levels of the same heavy metals. In another study, about 20% of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese remedies sold in the Netherlands also contained dangerous amounts of heavy metals. However, not all of this is due to rasa shastra; some of the heavy metal content is likely due only to unintentional contamination. And, these are not just trivial amounts of toxins that are say slightly over the legal limit — Ayurvedic medicine was associated with lead poisoning in 5 US states between 2000 and 2003.
Ayurvedic practitioners opposed a global ban on mercury trading on the grounds that the element is a very important component of Ayurveda; some went as far as to say that Ayurveda "may collapse" if the ban goes through.
Ayurvedic medicine promotes the use of unproven and sometimes toxic plants. Toxic plants include birthwort (Aristolochia indica), betelnut (Areca catechu), and madder root (Rubia tinctorum).
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