Natural Health Journals

The History of Ayurveda

Five thousand years ago in the magnificent Himalayas, one of the greatest sages of India, Srila Vyasadeva wrote down the Vedas for the first time, this included a branch which is called Ayurveda: “The science of Life” (Ayur means life and Veda means science).

The Vedas came from an oral tradition that reached back into antiquity. Srila Vyasadev entrusted the original copies of the texts with his most erudite and enlightened disciples, who, along with other great sages, inaugurated a very long sacrificial ceremony for hundreds of years for the purification and blessings of the entire world. Remember people lived for one to two thousand years back then. During that time, they studied and discussed these ancient texts with their own disciples, who wrote commentaries, and expanded and developed these original and eternal truths without ever altering them.

During the years after the conclusion of this sacrifice, copies of this perfect Vedic texts were placed in various temples and libraries throughout India. They were written down in the original Sanskrit language for the benefit of the general population. (Sanskrit is the father of Latin and most of the world languages).

As far as the science of life was concerned – Ayurveda – volumes of wisdom poured forth like the rains during the monsoon season. Beside Vyasadeva’s information about hundreds of herbal drugs in the Vedas, there were descriptions later on, by other sages like Sushruta, Charaka, etc. on how to perform prosthetic surgery to replace limbs, cosmetic surgery on the nose and elsewhere, caesarean section, and even brain surgery!

Everything was described in great detail and archaeological research has uncovered evidence that proves that some of these operations were performed successfully between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. The great sage Charaka has given information in Ayurveda about the development of the child within the womb week by week, month by month, limb by limb, from conception to birth, that equals our modern medical texts in accuracy.

There is information about atomic energy, gynecology, pediatrics, surgery, anatomy, herbal drugs, Ayurvedic dieting and nutrition. All are described in the most simple and profound manner so as to make it easy enough for any person to have a basic working knowledge of this great science of life – Ayurveda. I know this sounds incredible and you may be wondering, “How is it possible to have one system embrace all systems” How would it be applied? The answer is simple. The first step is to ascertain the individual’s “Biological Mode” , and than to treat the person accordingly.

Prakruti – The Unique Genetic Code of an Individual

Everyone knows that there are no two fingerprints alike. No two voice modulations and no two genetic codes are exactly alike. What makes anyone think we all have the same liver, lungs, kidneys, or anything else the same as the next person. Therefore to propose that we all eat the same foods, take the same drugs when we are ill, or perform the same exercise is more than ludicrous. It is unscientific! Ayurveda uses a system of historical analysis and physical examination done almost entirely by observation (with the exception of pulse reading), to ascertain one’s original nature and current imbalances.

A diet and health plan are given to the individual according to the needs to correct the imbalance. The basis for all other concepts in Ayurveda is Sankhya (the analytical study of the elements that comprise the universe). Although the modern physicist would delineate well over one hundred elements, Sankhya states there are twenty-four, of which five are the foundation of the gross world: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.

Dr. Robert Svoboda compares earth to everything which is solid in the table of the elements. Water is everything liquid, and air is everything gaseous. Ether is the field in quantum mechanics upon which everything rests, and fire is the transformer of one thing to another.

These five elements, when joined in different combinations, make up the three “doshas” or “biological modes” which are the “Prakruti” or nature of an individual and the nature of all things.

The combination of air and ether gives us Vata or the Kinetic Biological Mode. Vata is that which is electric in the body and causes all movement in and out of the system (breathing, urination, defecation, menstruation, etc.)

The combination of fire and water gives us Pitta or the Transformative Biological Mode. Pitta is that which mutates or transforms the outside elements of the macrocosm into the inside elements of the body (the microcosm). Pitta governs the digestion of physical, mental, and emotional elements.

Finally, the combination of earth and water gives us Kapha or the Structive Biological mode. Kapha is that which makes for both lubrication (mucus, synovial fluid) and structure (bones, muscles, fat, joints, etc).

Generally speaking most people are a combination of two modes. One is the primary and the other is the secondary. But there are those who are purely dominated by one mode, and in rare cases, those who are a mixture of all three. This elemental theory broken down into divisions of modes identifies not only body types for humans, but also for animals, vegetables, plants, herbs, geographical locations, times of day, seasons of the years, and activities performed.

Everything in the universe is categorized by this system. Ascertaining one’s Prakruti (nature of constitution) and imbalances is the service rendered by the Ayurvedic analysis using the processes stated earlier. Then the Ayurvedic practitioner constructs a diet and recommends herbs which would be helpful to regain balance with one’s original nature.

In Ayurveda different people with the same disease sometimes receive different diet and herb plans. The constitution, the imbalance, and the various nuances of the development of the disease in each individual must be studied to determine the nature of the imbalance whether Vata, Pitta, or Kapha for that disease.

For example: Two people have a history of weak lungs and chronic coughing. One is dominated by a Vata constitution with a Vata imbalance. The other is dominated by a Kapha constitution with a Kapha imbalance. The Vata has a tendency towards a dry hacking cough in which no mucus or phlegm is present or being expelled. The Kapha has a less frequent, but heavy wet cough which expels large quantities of mucus and phlegm.

For the Kapha dry, hot, spicy herbs and foods are what is necessary for burning up and drying up the excess mucus. Dry ginger, and long pepper are useful while all dairy, fruit juices, and cold food in general are to be avoided. But for the dry Vata cough, hot milk with turmeric is a great healer to soothe and calm the cough, while disinfecting and moistening the dry, hot lungs. Fresh curd with unleavened whole wheat bread (chapatis) and cooling fruit juices are also useful. So a cough is not just a cough according to ayurveda. But according to the constitution and imbalance, “One man’s food is another man’s poison”.

Unfortunately people will give up trying holistic health practices because good food was given to the wrong person. The secret of understanding the dynamics of food and which food is for whom is in the taste, therefore, the appropriate tastes with their elements will correct the imbalance of elements in one’s constitution if taken correctly.

The proof is in the tasting.

There are six taste according to Ayurveda: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, and Astringent. Each is comprised of two elements:

Sweet (earth and water) examples: wheat, sugar, milk, rice, dates;
Sour (earth and fire) examples: yogurt, lemon, tamarind;
Salty (water and fire) examples: sea salt, rock salt, kelp;
Pungent (fire and air) examples: onion, radish, ginger, chilly;
Bitter (air and ether) examples: dandelion root, rhubarb root, bitter melon;
Astringent (air and earth) examples: plantain, pomegranate, apples;

There are two other considerations in Ayurveda. First, whether a foods action is heating or cooling. The taste sweet, bitter, and astringent are cooling. Sour, salty, and pungent are all heating. The second is the post-digestive effect or how the foods “taste” to the tissues during and after assimilation. Sweet and salty are sweet in post-digestive effect. Sour is sour, and pungent, bitter, and astringent are pungent.

Taste, action, and post-digestive effect are known is Sanskrit as rasa, virya, and vipack respectively in Ayurveda. They are the keys to understanding food and herbs. With this knowledge, one can unlock the mysteries of the energetic dynamics of food and be able to make the right choices for oneself.

Raw Foods According To Ayurveda

Raw foods and juices are magnificent in that they are cleansing and energizing. Sprouts are especially wonderful because they contain large amounts of enzymes and nourishment which help with digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Some of the spicier sprouts help to destroy and eliminate toxins in the system known as ama in Ayurveda.

Fenugreek sprouts can even help in cases of seminal debility. But in general, raw food is very cold and hard to digest in the Vedic sense as it releases its Prana or nourishing life giving energy in the upper portion of the body between the mouth and the stomach. This gives quick, short-term energy, but not long-term tissue building nourishment. This is good for pittas, and some raw foods are good for kaphas, but this is not very good for vatas.

Cooking Foods According to Ayurveda

Well cooked grains, beans, and vegetables release their Prana in the colon. This provides long-term tissue building energy. However, these energies cannot be released from complex carbohydrates without the assistance of enzymes. A Clean intestinal tract is also essential for proper absorption.This coincides with two of the modern holistic health theories of colon cleansing and enzyme consumption. But the Ayurvedic approach again is practical and individualized. Which herbs for which constitution will produce the best colon cleansing varies. Therefore, some people find some of the standard colon cleansing products ineffectual or difficult for their bodies to tolerate.

Triphala (“the three fruits”), used in Ayurveda, is one of the best colon cleansers because it strengthens and tones the muscle action of the colon. It does not cause laxative dependency by doing the work for the colon. Similarly, the consumption of enzyme tablets will cause the digestive organs natural ability to produce enzymes for digestion to become suppressed and lazy and possibly lose their ability to function all together. Ayurvedic cooking uses certain herbs and spices to help stimulate the body to produce its own digestive enzymes.

The Secret of Spices in Ayurvedic Cooking

I can hear the sighs now as you read the subtitle and you are asking yourself, “Is he going to advocate eating that hot Indian restaurant style food?” Absolutely not! That is, unfortunately, only a bastardization of the original system. Spices used in small to moderate proportions according to the food being prepared and the person’s constitution will stimulate all the digestive organs to produce the enzymes required for total absorption and assimilation. This lets your organs do their work through nourishment without “putting them in a wheelchair” while the chemicals do it. Thus cooked food and spices are better for the poor digestion of kaphas and vatas. Pittas should use only mild spicing, as their “fire of digestion” is generally strong.

As you can see there is no good or bad food, just which food is your food. Once you understand your body type, you can structure a diet for yourself that will really work to make you feel totally balanced and harmonized. How soon you feel balanced, depends on how much you have abused yourself in the past. Generally, it takes month of healing for every year of abuse. That’s why the Ayurvedic practitioner asks many questions about your health history. It is very important to ascertain when the problem began and what emotional and mental imbalances preceded it, so that your diet and health plan can solve your health problem by going to the source.

Consciousness and Food

This is probably the most important aspect of Ayurveda: Your state of consciousness when you eat and when you cook. One of the great sages of India, Rupa Goswami wrote: “If you eat food prepared by the wicked, you will become wicked”. I’ m not calling anyone wicked, but rather I’m pointing out that if the person who is cooking has fears, insecurities, anger, jealousy, greed or any of many emotions we experience everyday, the chef will infuse that preparation with that emotion.

This is important to remember in eating – at home or away – that the consciousness of the cook is in the food. And the consciousness of the animal or vegetable one is eating is in there as well. So in Ayurveda, food preparation is considered a sacred act. Animal food is generally not recommended because of the extreme pain, agony, suffering, fear, anger and terror the animal experiences has gone into the food. Add the highly toxic chemical contamination of modern factory farming like hormones, steroids, antibiotics, pesticides, etc., and you have a prescription for death not life.

Vegetables have life also and they also feel pain and discomfort at being eaten. The great scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose showed through extensive research that plants are living, feeling beings that experience emotions like humans on their own level. The Vedas teach that each living being, from the king to the bacteria, has a soul and is therefore sacred. The kitchen is considered the extension of the altar in Vedic culture. In early Christianity, the people would bring their crops and lay them at the altar for sacrifice and blessing.

This was done much earlier in Ancient India, only there everything was prepared in the kitchen according to the principles of taste and elemental energetics and then offered with great devotion to the deities: Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, Radha-Krishna and others. Therefore, the act of cooking, the place of preparation, the act of offering, and the offering place were all sacred. The consciousness of the cooks was focused on how all the foods were to be prepared in elemental balance.

Knowing that they were also made of these same elements and the ability to balance them and prepare them were direct gifts from God, they offered back those elements and abilities to the Lord, and through spiritual consciousness cleansed the vegetarian foodstuff of all negative karma by bathing it in love and devotion.

You can do this at home by preparing your food with love according to Ayurvedic energetic principles and offering prayers and meditations of thanks and love to God. You will transform food into prasad or God’s mercy. Thus you will raise your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health to the highest possible levels. There is no greater nourishment than this in all the world.

The Right Food for the Right Person

As I think back to the 1985 Whole Life Expo, I can still see the bewildered looks of the crowd. I hope this article helps put things in proper perspective for the confused public. All foods are good, but not all foods are good for all people. You must eat the proper foods for your constitution in the proper consciousness if you want the best nourishment and optimum physical and spiritual health.

The Three Doshas: VATA

A Vata’s frame is usually tall or short, and always thin and low in weight with prominent bones and joints. They have thin skin which is rough and dry with a tendency to tan or be dark, with prominent veins and cold to the touch. They will have curly, kinky, coarse, dry hair that’s dark brown or blackish. Their teeth will usually be large, crooked and protrude. Both their head and eyes will be small, quick and unsteady. The eyes will also be dark brown or black, dry, thin and dull.

Vatas have variable and scanty appetites. They will be thin as children and have troubles gaining weight. They like sweet, salty and sour foods like cake, crackers, and pickles. Their thirst varies and they will nurse hot drinks to keep them warm. Their bowels are usually hard and dry, or constipated. They are hyperactive and can exhaust easily with restless minds that fantasize. They are extremely creative, artistic, and often musical, with extreme moods of joyfulness and fear, accomplishment and insecurity, and often anxious.

They are erratic and always unpredictable. Their faith is changed easily. Their memory is good if they study the night before the test. But a week later they will have forgotten everything. If they remember dreams at all, they usually are running, jumping and flying, or a nightmare full of fear. They are light sleepers with scanty, interrupted sleep patterns.

They usually speak in a high pitched voice faster than they think. They think and fantasize about sex often, but perform poorly having already expended their energy mentally. They generally spend money impulsively and so stay relatively poor. Their pulse is thin and feeble, and threads like a snake.


Pitta stands with medium build, height, and bone structure, with soft, oily skin, that’s warm to the touch. They have fair complexions, burning easily. The have a reddish or yellowish hue. Their hair is soft and oily and will bald and gray early. Until then it will generally be reddish or yellow-blonde. They have moderate size, yellowish teeth with soft gums that bleed easily. Their eyes are green or hazel, with a sharp, penetrating, lustrous look, set below a large forehead.

They have strong appetites and need large meals to be satisfied, but will not snack. They like sweet, bitter and astringent foods, like candy, green salads and bananas. This is washed down all day long with cold drinks. They have frequent bowel movements with soft, oily, loose, discharges. They must evacuate immediately when they feel the urge. They are moderately active, but with intensely competitive spirits.

They can be overly aggressive and assertive, highly intelligent and organized, with nearly photographic memories. They become teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, – and angry when not fed on time! They are easily irritated and can be dangerous when jealous, which happens often. They are fanatical about their faith.

They sleep short and deep, with fiery dreams of war and violence, or long conversations with exchanges of money. It’s always an epic. They are good orators, but can be sharp and cutting with their speech. They know how to save, but usually for the purchase of luxuries, that make a statement about their position in life and enhance their ego. When not too busy trying to organize the world, they can be roused to passion and perform competently. Their pulse is moderate, and jumps like a frog.


Kaphas are large, thick, big boned and strong. They stand not too tall, but often as the foundation of society. They have a tendency to be overweight and can become heavy by just looking at food! Their skin is thick, smooth, oily, and cool, with a tendency to be pale.

Their hair is thick, wavy, oily, dark black or light blonde with strong even white teeth. They seldom get a cavity. Their eyes are large and well formed with ample whites showing and deep blue irises, decorated with thick, long lashes. These are called the lotus eyes in India because they look like lotus petals and because they adorn the lotus face of the supreme Lord Krishna.

Kaphas have small appetites and eat slowly – many small meals a day – the big snackers of society.They like pungent, bitter, and astringent foods like spicy dishes, green salads, and pomegranates. But they especially like dry, crispy things. They rarely drink, and have one full and heavy bowel movement daily.

They are not very active and must study repeatedly to understand, but will never forget once they learn. Therefore they often prefer repetitious jobs where little innovation is necessary. They make good bankers, insurance agents, or factory workers. Kapha people in general are slow, steady and reliable.

They are good with money which they know how to conserve to an extreme. They can become overly greedy and attached. But they are extremely compassionate, forgiving, loving, and patient, becoming nurses, social workers, and the clergy of different religions. They have a deep, steady faith and highly developed spiritual feelings.

They sleep deep and long, dreaming of romantic settings by lakes and rivers, or swimming. They speak slowly in a monotonous voice, and are not sexually aroused easily, but perform most admirably once inclined. Their pulse is broad and slow like the swan.