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According to Ayurveda, there are three primary energies, or Doshas. The Doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These Doshas regulate all physical and psychological behaviors, from basic cell structure to the most complex mental functions. The Doshas are found in unique proportions in every individual. This singular combination of the Doshas is called our constitution or Prakriti, and it will determine our basic physical appearance, preferences, behaviors, and emotional tendencies. When the Doshas are in their natural balance with one another, our physical and mental states are at optimum health. When the Doshas fall out of balance, disease may manifest. Ayurveda seeks to return the Doshas to and maintain them at their natural balance in our individual constitution. About the Doshas
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Physically such people are either very tall or very short, non- muscular, with thin and bony limbs and have a quick gait with short fast steps. Skin is generally thin, darkish and cool. The hair is thin, dark, coarse and either kinky or curly. The face is usually long and angular, often with an underdeveloped chin. The neck is thin and scrawny. Nose is small and narrow. May be long, crooked or asymmetrical also. Eyes tend to be small, narrow or sunken, dark brown or gray in color, with dull luster. The mouth being small, with thin, narrow or tight lips. Teeth are irregular, protruding, or broken, set in receding gums. And while the voice is weak, low or cracked, speech is fast with interruptions.

Vata people have restless minds and weak memories. They avoid confrontation. Have active and sensitive natures and express themselves through sport and creative pursuits. Likely to be artistic and creative with a good imagination, they will sometimes overindulge in pleasures. And are sexually the most active. Fearful, worrisome and anxious they are into questioning, theorizing and over-analysis. Often dissatisfied with and unable to sustain friendships, they spend money quickly, often on trifles. With light, interrupted sleep of 5-7 hours a day.

Vata is known as the moving force. Vata is mainly concerned with the nervous system and all bodily movement. It chews and swallows food, moves nutrients into and wastes out of cells, circulates blood and air, and retrieves and stores memories. About the Doshas
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Physical Appearance of Vata
physique: thin, very tall or very short, little muscular development
skin: cool, dry, rough
hair: dark, curly, dry
eyes: small; brown, grey, or slate blue       

Temperament of Vata
mental: nervous, fluctuating moods, quick but short memory, creative
physical: irregular appetite, irregular elimination, prone to constipation, light sleeper
energy: comes in bursts, active, poor stamina

Remedies for Vata
Foods: nourishing, well-cooked, warm, mildly spiced, moist
Tastes: sweet, sour, salty
Exercise: regular, gentle, moderate
Single Herbs: Ashwaganda, Shatavari, Haritaki, Bibhitaki
Herbal Supplements: Chitrakadi, Triphala, Brahmi, Chandra Prabha, Guggulu, Vasavaleha
Rasayanas: Arjuna, Ashwaganda, Haritaki, Gokshura, Shatavari
Skin Care: Tridosha Cleanser, Tridosha After Shave Gel, Vata Hydrating Tonic Lotion, Vata Moisturizing Cream, Vata Nourishing Cream, Vata Body Oil About the Doshas
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Pitta governs biological fire. Pitta is mainly concerned with the body's balance of kinetic and potential energies. Pitta's processes involve digestion, whether it be digestion of food and nutrients or digestion of thoughts and theories in the mind.

A moderately well developed physique with muscular limbs and a purposeful, stable gait of medium speed. With a loud, strong voice and precise, convincing speech. The skin is fair, soft, lustrous, warm, and tends to burn easily in the sun – has freckles, many moles, and a tendency to rashes. And the bodies are hot and sweaty. Characterized by fine and soft, either fair or reddish hair that tends to gray soon. Face is heart-shaped, often with a pointed chin. While the neck is proportionate and of average size. A neat, pointed, and average sized nose matches the average sized eyes that are either light blue, light gray or hazel in color, with an intense luster which get red in summer or after bathing. The mouth being medium, with average lips and medium-sized, yellowish teeth.

Pitta's have an intellectual and precise disposition due to a very alert, focused mind. Sharp and knife-like in anger, they are irritable, jealous and aggressive by nature. Discriminating and judgmental, they are articulate, learned and proud. With a developed sense of responsibility, they can take decisions and organize affairs well. Argumentative, but with a sense of humour, their selectively excellent memory makes them fast learners. Moderately passionate in their sexual pursuits, they spend moderately, usually on luxuries.

Physical Appearance of Pitta
physique: medium, good muscular development
skin: warm, oily, prone to reddening or blemishes
hair: light colored, straight, fine
eyes: sharp, lustrous, bright blue or light brown

Temperament of Pitta

mental: easily irritated, goal oriented, organized, good memory
physical: must eat regularly, quick digestion, regular elimination, sound sleeper
energy: moderate, average stamina, enjoys physical activity

Remedies for Pitta
Foods: cool to warm, mildly spiced
Tastes: sweet, bitter, astringent
Exercise: moderate, non-competitive, involving water and winter
Single Herbs: Haritaki, Brahmi, Neem, Shatavari, Bhringaraj
Herbal Supplements: Samsamani, Triphala, Punarnavadi, Kaishore Guggulu, Vasavaleha
Rasayanas: Nimba, Ashoka, Pitta Chyavana Prasha, Haridra, Brahmi, Gokshura, Shatavari
Skin Care: Tridosha Cleanser, Tridosha After Shave Gel, Pitta Soothing Tonic Lotion, Pitta Soothing Cream, Pitta Purifying cream, Pitta Body Oil


Kapha gives us substance and support. Kapha is mainly concerned with providing the physical field for the Vata and Pitta energies. It governs cell structure, bodily secretions, and gives the mind stability.

A thick, broad, well-developed frame and large, long limbs go well with a pleasant, deep and resonant voice with low, slow, rhythmic speech. The skin is usually thick, oily, pale or white and cold. Plentiful, thick, wavy, lustrous and generally brown hair is set on a large, rounded and full face. The neck is solid, with a near tree-trunk quality. A large, rounded nose and large, attractive, blue or light brown in color eyes are found in a mouth that is large with big, full lips. Teeth too are big and white and set in strong gums.

Kapha predominated people are calm, steady, considerate - stable, patient personalities they are slow to anger. Not easily provoked, once angry they do not calm down easily. They are honorable, true to their word and avoid lies. Loyal, forgiving and understanding, they can be lethargic, even lazy, if not driven by others. Learning may be slow but memory will be strong. Excellent in logical analysis, they take time before reaching conclusions. Long hours of deep sleep and a strong, enduring sex drive come naturally. While they do save money, it does get spent on food. And there can at times be an element of dullness, given that a kapha mind is usually too content to seek fresh mental stimulation.

Physical Appearance of Kapha

physique: large, rounded build, good muscular development
skin: cool, smooth, moist
hair: thick, wavy
eyes: large, attractive, brown

Temperament of Kapha

mental: calm, tranquil, compassionate, thorough, rarely forgets
physical: steady appetite, slow digestion, regular elimination, deep sleeper
energy: steady, lethargic, good endurance

Remedies for Kapha

Foods: warm, dry, light, spicy
Tastes: pungent, bitter, astringent
Exercise: regular, vigorous
Single Herbs:
Herbal Supplements: Lasunadi, Triphala, Brahmi, Chandra Prabha, Guggulu, Vasavaleha
Rasayanas: Kapha Chyavana Prasha, Haridra, Sage, Shatavari
Skin Care: Tridosha Cleanser, Tridosha After Shave Gel, Kapha Energizing Tonic Lotion, Kapha Energizing Cream, Kapha Body Oil.

The Trigunas

Just as the doshas are the essential components of the body, the three gunas - Satva, Rajas and Tamas - are the three essential components or energies of the mind. Ayurveda provides a distinct description of people on the basis of their Manasa (psychological) Prakriti (constitution). Genetically determined, these psychological characteristics are dependent on the relative dominance of the three gunas.

While all individuals have mixed amounts of the three, the predominant guna determines an individual's mansa prakriti. In equilibrium, the three gunas preserve the mind (and indirectly the body), maintaining it in a healthy state. Any disturbance in this equilibrium results in various types of mental disorders.

Satva, characterized by lightness, consciousness, pleasure and clarity, is pure, free from disease and cannot be disturbed in any way. It activates the senses and is responsible for the perception of knowledge. Rajas, the most active of the gunas, has motion and stimulation as its characteristics. All desires, wishes, ambitions and fickle-mindedness are a result of the same. While Tamas is characterized by heaviness and resistance. It produces disturbances in the process of perception and activities of the mind. Delusion, false knowledge, laziness, apathy, sleep and drowsiness are due to it.

Rajas and Tamas, as with the doshas, can be unbalanced by stress and negative desires as kama (lust), irshya (malice), moha (delusion and halucination), lobha (greed), chinta (anxiety), bhaya (fear) and krodha (anger). Each of these three properties is also comprised of sub-types and the particular sub-type to which one belongs to determine the qualities of that individual.

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Ayurvedic medicine

Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine by Douglas Dupler



Ayurvedic medicine is a system of healing that originated in ancient India. In Sanskrit, ayur means life or living, and veda means knowledge, so Ayurveda has been defined as the “knowledge of living” or the “science of longevity.” Ayurvedic medicine utilizes diet, detoxification and purification techniques, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and massage therapy as holistic healing methods. Ayurvedic medicine is widely practiced in modern India and has been steadily gaining followers in the West.


Ayurvedic medicine originated in the early civilizations of India some 3,000-5,000 years ago. It is mentioned in the Vedas, the ancient religious and philosophical texts that are the oldest surviving literature in the world, which makes Ayurvedic medicine the oldest surviving healing system. According to the texts, Ayurveda was conceived by enlightened wise men as a system of living harmoniously and maintaining the body so that mental and spiritual awareness could be possible. Medical historians believe that Ayurvedic ideas were transported from ancient India to China and were instrumental in the development of Chinese medicine.

Today, Ayurvedic medicine is used by 80% of the population in India. Aided by the efforts of Deepak Chopra and the Maharishi, it has become an increasingly accepted alternative medical treatment in America during the last two decades. Chopra is an M.D. who has written several bestsellers based on Ayurvedic ideas. He also helped develop the Center for Mind/Body Medicine in La Jolla, California, a major Ayurvedic center that trains physicians in Ayurvedic principles, produces herbal remedies, and conducts research and documentation of its healing techniques.


According to the original texts, the goal of Ayurveda is prevention as well as promotion of the body’s own capacity for maintenance and balance. Ayurvedic treatment is non-invasive and non-toxic, so it can be used safely as an alternative therapy or alongside conventional therapies. Ayurvedic physicians claim that their methods can also help stress-related, metabolic, and chronic conditions. Ayurveda has been used to treat acne, allergies, asthma, anxiety, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome , colds, colitis, constipation, depression, diabetes, flu, heart disease , hypertension, immune problems, inflammation, insomnia, nervous disorders, obesity, skin problems, and ulcers.

Ayurvedic physicians seek to discover the roots of a disease before it gets so advanced that more radical treatments are necessary. Thus, Ayurveda seems to be limited in treating severely advanced conditions, traumatic injuries, acute pain, and conditions and injuries requiring invasive surgery. Ayurvedic techniques have also been used alongside chemotherapy and surgery to assist patients in recovery and healing.


Key ideas

To understand Ayurvedic treatment, it is necessary to have an idea how the Ayurvedic system views the body. The basic life force in the body is prana, which is also found in the elements and is similar to the Chinese notion of chi. As Swami Vishnudevananda, a yogi and expert, put it, “Prana is in the air, but is not the oxygen, nor any of its chemical constituents. It is in food, water, and in the sunlight, yet it is not vitamin, heat, or light-rays. Food, water, air, etc., are only the media through which the prana is carried.”

In Ayurveda, there are five basic elements that contain prana: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These elements interact and are further organized in the human body as three main categories or basic physiological principles in the body that govern all bodily functions known as the doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each person has a unique blend of the three doshas, known as the person’s prakriti, which is why Ayurvedic treatment is always individualized. In Ayurveda, disease is viewed as a state of imbalance in one or more of a person’s doshas, and an Ayurvedic physician strives to adjust and balance them, using a variety of techniques. About the Doshas
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The vata dosha is associated with air and ether, and in the body promotes movement and lightness. Vata people are generally thin and light physically, dry-skinned, and very energetic and mentally restless. When vata is out of balance, there are often nervous problems, hyperactivity, sleeplessness, lower back pains, and headaches.

Pitta is associated with fire and water. In the body, it is responsible for metabolism and digestion. Pitta characteristics are medium-built bodies, fair skin, strong digestion, and good mental concentration. Pitta imbalances show up as anger and aggression and stress-related conditions like gastritis, ulcers, liver problems, and hypertension.

The kapha dosha is associated with water and earth. People characterized as kapha are generally large or heavy with more oily complexions. They tend to be slow, calm, and peaceful. Kapha disorders manifest emotionally as greed and possessiveness, and physically as obesity, fatigue, bronchitis, and sinus problems.


In Ayurvedic medicine, disease is always seen as an imbalance in the dosha system, so the diagnostic process strives to determine which doshas are underactive or overactive in a body. Diagnosis is often taken over a course of days in order for the Ayurvedic physician to most accurately determine what parts of the body are being affected. To diagnose problems, Ayurvedic physicians often use long questionnaires and interviews to determine a person’s dosha patterns and physical and psychological histories. Ayurvedic physicians also intricately observe the pulse, tongue, face, lips, eyes, and fingernails for abnormalities or patterns that they believe can indicate deeper problems in the internal systems. Some Ayurvedic physicians also use laboratory tests to assist in diagnosis.


Ayurvedic treatment seeks to re-establish balance and harmony in the body’s systems. Usually the first method of treatment involves some sort of detoxification and cleansing of the body, in the belief that accumulated toxins must be removed before any other methods of treatment will be effective. Methods of detoxification include therapeutic vomiting, laxatives, medicated enemas, fasting, and cleansing of the sinuses. Many Ayurvedic clinics combine all of these cleansing methods into intensive sessions known as panchakarma.

Panchakarma can take several days or even weeks and they are more than elimination therapies. They also include herbalized oil massage and herbalized heat treatments. After purification, Ayurvedic physicians use herbal and mineral remedies to balance the body as well. Ayurvedic medicine contains a vast knowledge of the use of herbs for specific health problems.

Ayurvedic medicine also emphasizes how people live their lives from day to day, believing that proper lifestyles and routines accentuate balance, rest, diet, and prevention. Ayurveda recommends yoga as a form of exercise to build strength and health, and also advises massage therapy and self-massage as ways of increasing circulation and reducing stress. Yogic breathing techniques and meditation are also part of a healthy Ayurvedic regimen, to reduce stress and improve mental energy.

Of all treatments, though, diet is one of the most basic and widely used therapy in the Ayurvedic system. An Ayurvedic diet can be a very well planned and individualized regimen. According to Ayurveda, there are six basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Certain tastes and foods can either calm or aggravate a particular dosha. For instance, sweet, sour, and salty decrease vata problems and increase kapha. Sour, salty, and pungent can increase pitta. After an Ayurvedic physician determines a person’s dosha profile, they will recommend a specific diet to correct imbalances and increase health. The Ayurvedic diet emphasizes primarily vegetarian foods of high quality and freshness, tailored to the season and time of day. Cooling foods are eaten in the summer and heating ones in the winter, always within a person’s dosha requirements. In daily routine, the heaviest meal of the day should be lunch, and dinner should eaten well before bedtime, to allow for complete digestion. Also, eating meals in a calm manner with proper chewing and state of mind is important, as is combining foods properly and avoiding overeating. About the Doshas
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Costs of Ayurvedic treatments can vary, with initial consultations running anywhere from $40 to over $100, with follow-up visits costing less. Herbal treatments may cost from $10 to $50 per month, and are often available from health food or bulk herb stores. Some clinics offer panchakarma, the intensive Ayurvedic detoxification treatment, which can include overnight stays for up to several weeks. The prices for these programs can vary significantly, depending on the services and length of stay. Insurance reimbursement may depend on whether the primary physician is a licensed M.D.


Ayurveda is a mind/body system of health that contains some ideas foreign to the Western scientific model. Those people considering Ayurveda should approach it with an open mind and willingness to experiment. Also, because Ayurveda is a whole-body system of healing and health, patience and discipline are helpful, as some conditions and diseases are believed to be brought on by years of bad health habits and require time and effort to correct. Finally, the Ayurvedic philosophy believes that each person has the ability to heal themselves, so those considering Ayurveda should be prepared to bring responsibility and participation into the treatment.


An Ayurvedic practitioner should always be consulted.

Side effects

During Ayurvedic detoxification programs, some people report fatigue, muscle soreness, and general sickness. Also, as Ayurveda seeks to release mental stresses and psychological problems from the patient, some people can experience mental disturbances and depression during treatment, and psychological counseling may be part of a sound program.

Research & general acceptance

Because Ayurveda had been outside the Western scientific system for years, research in the United States is new. Another difficulty in documentation arises because Ayurvedic treatment is very individualized; two people with the same disease but different dosha patterns might be treated differently. Much more scientific research has been conducted over the past several decades in India. Much research in the United States is being supported by the Maharishi Ayur-Ved organization, which studies the Ayurvedic products it sells and its clinical practices.

Some Ayurvedic herbal mixtures have been proven to have high antioxidant properties, much stronger than vitamins A, C, and E, and some have also been shown in laboratory tests to reduce or eliminate tumors in mice and to inhibit cancer growth in human lung tumor cells. In a 1987 study at MIT, an Ayurvedic herbal remedy was shown to significantly reduce colon cancer in rats. Another study was performed in the Netherlands with Maharishi Ayur-Ved products. A group of patients with chronic illnesses, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, hypertension, eczema, psoriasis, constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, and non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus , were given Ayurvedic treatment. Strong results were observed, with nearly 80% of the patients improving and some chronic conditions being completely cured.

Other studies have shown that Ayurvedic therapies can significantly lower cholesterol and blood pressure in stress-related problems. Diabetes, acne, and allergies have also been successfully treated with Ayurvedic remedies. Ayurvedic products have been shown to increase short-term memory and reduce headaches. Also, Ayurvedic remedies have been used successfully to support the healing process of patients undergoing chemotherapy, as these remedies have been demonstrated to increase immune system activity.

Training & certification

In the United States, there is no standardized program for the certification of Ayurvedic practitioners. Many practitioners have primary degrees, either as M.D.s, homeopaths, or naturopathic physicians, with additional training in Ayurveda.

Key Terms

  • Dosha

  • One of three constitutional types, either vata, pitta, or kapha, found in Ayurvedic medicine.

  • Meditation

  • Technique of calming the mind.

  • Panchakarma

  • Intensive Ayurvedic cleansing and detoxification program.

  • Prakriti

  • An individual’s unique dosha pattern.

  • Prana

  • Basic life energy found in the elements.

  • Yoga

  • System of body and breathing exercises. About the Doshas
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  Vata Pitta Kapha
Physical characteristics Thin Prominent features Cool, dry skin, Constipation, Cramps Average build Fair, thin hair Warm, moist skin Ulcers, heartburn, and hemorrhoids, Acne Large build, Wavy, thick hair, Pale, cool, oily skin, Obesity, allergies, and sinus problems, High cholesterol
Emotional characteristics Moody, Vivacious, Imaginative, Enthusiastic, Intuitive Intense, Quick,  tempered, Intelligent, Loving, Articulate Relaxed, Not easily angered, Affectionate Tolerant, Compassionate
Behavioral characteristics Unscheduled sleep and meal times, Nervous disorders, Anxiety Orderly Structured sleep and meal times, Perfectionist Slow, graceful, Long sleeper and slow eater, Procrastination

Further Reading


  • Gerson, Scott M.D. Ayurveda: The Ancient Indian Healing Art. Boston: Element Books, 1993.

  • Lad, Dr. Vasant. Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. Wisconsin: Lotus Press, 1984.

  • Lad, Dr. Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. Minneapolis: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

  • Tiwari, Maya. Ayurveda: A Life of Balance. Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1995.


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