Thirty years ago, traditional medicine, with its strong reliance on the healing power of plants, was considered pretty much obsolete by most Canadians.

How things change! Traditional medicine systems from around the world now flourish here. The gap between traditional and mainstream medicine is narrowing, with MDs running clinical trials of traditional remedies and reputable traditional practitioners modifying their practices in the light of new scientific evidence.

A current issue of great concern to practitioners, consumers, and government is the need to set and enforce standards of quality for both practitioners and the products marketed as traditional medicines. Normal 0 false Read More

Thirty years ago, traditional medicine, with its strong reliance on the healing power of plants, was considered pretty much obsolete by most Canadians.

How things change! Traditional medicine systems from around the world now flourish here. The gap between traditional and mainstream medicine is narrowing, with MDs running clinical trials of traditional remedies and reputable traditional practitioners modifying their practices in the light of new scientific evidence.

A current issue of great concern to practitioners, consumers, and government is the need to set and enforce standards of quality for both practitioners and the products marketed as traditional medicines.


© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Hemant Kumar Gupta

Doctor of Medicine

(Ayurvedic)


St. John’s, Newfoundland

Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives


Ayurved is a Sanskrit word. "Ayur" means lifespan and "ved" means knowledge, or science, so ayurveda is literally the science of life and longevity, in which lifespan is defined as a balanced union of body, senses, mind, and consciousness. Ayurveda is a "consciousness-based" holistic approach that simultaneously focuses on these four components of life.
Ayurved is a Sanskrit word. "Ayur" means lifespan and "ved" means knowledge, or science, so ayurveda is literally the science of life and longevity, in which lifespan is defined as a balanced union of body, senses, mind, and consciousness. Ayurveda is a "consciousness-based" holistic approach that simultaneously focuses on these four components of life.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Ayurveda has a comprehensive method of diagnosis and treatment that emphasizes prevention, heath care, and disease control. The distinguishing feature of Ayurvedic treatment is that it offers a personalized health plan, customized according to an individual's body-mind type (prakriti). It addresses specific imbalances in an individual through diet, herbs, lifestyle, Ayurvedic detoxification programs (panch karma), yoga, and meditation. So Ayurveda treats the person as a whole and treats disease in full consideration of a person's individual physiology.
Ayurveda has a comprehensive method of diagnosis and treatment that emphasizes prevention, heath care, and disease control. The distinguishing feature of Ayurvedic treatment is that it offers a personalized health plan, customized according to an individual's body-mind type (prakriti). It addresses specific imbalances in an individual through diet, herbs, lifestyle, Ayurvedic detoxification programs (panch karma), yoga, and meditation. So Ayurveda treats the person as a whole and treats disease in full consideration of a person's individual physiology.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

It is the oldest system of medicine known to mankind. There's a saying in Ayurveda that goes "As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm." In other words, Ayurveda is based on the study of nature in its totality, and therefore its fundamental principles are universal. Ayurveda, discovered as nature's gift to suffering mankind, is based on fundamental laws of nature and is receiving more attention for its insight and practicality in modern times.

It has provided founding principles for Tibetan and Chinese medicine, early Arabic, Unani, and Greek systems of medicine. It was influential in all of these places.

It is the oldest system of medicine known to mankind. There's a saying in Ayurveda that goes "As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm." In other words, Ayurveda is based on the study of nature in its totality, and therefore its fundamental principles are universal.

Ayurveda, discovered as nature's gift to suffering mankind, is based on fundamental laws of nature and is receiving more attention for its insight and practicality in modern times.

It has provided founding principles for Tibetan and Chinese medicine, early Arabic, Unani, and Greek systems of medicine. It was influential in all of these places.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Comiphora mukul

Himalaya Drug Co.

© 2002 Himalaya Drug Co.


Today Ayurveda is part of the primary health care system on the Indian subcontinent. There, most universities offer five years of undergraduate study in Ayurveda, including a one-year internship, and many have a three-year postgraduate degree (MD Ayurveda) recognized by India's university grant commission. Some universities and colleges in Europe, Russia, North America, and Japan have started offering adjunct courses of Ayurveda in medical schools.
Today Ayurveda is part of the primary health care system on the Indian subcontinent. There, most universities offer five years of undergraduate study in Ayurveda, including a one-year internship, and many have a three-year postgraduate degree (MD Ayurveda) recognized by India's university grant commission. Some universities and colleges in Europe, Russia, North America, and Japan have started offering adjunct courses of Ayurveda in medical schools.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Withania somnifera

Himalaya Drug Co.

© 2002 Himalaya Drug Co.


Ayurved differs in its fundamental approach in using herbs. Because Ayurveda understands the individual person as a whole it advocates the use of whole herbs instead of isolating, extracting, and administering active ingredients of an herb. Ayurveda does not support the reductionistic approach to studying physiology, nature, or herbs.
Ayurved differs in its fundamental approach in using herbs. Because Ayurveda understands the individual person as a whole it advocates the use of whole herbs instead of isolating, extracting, and administering active ingredients of an herb. Ayurveda does not support the reductionistic approach to studying physiology, nature, or herbs.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Terminalia arjuna

Himalaya Drug Co.

© 2002 Himalaya Drug Co.


Ayurveda has a common basis of understanding for human physiology, cosmic physiology, and herbs. This understanding is based on five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These five elements each have functional significance in our bodies, including structuring (body tissues, for example), binding and moistening (bodily fluids), transforming, digestion, and metabolism (enzymes and hormones), moving/circulation, transportation, and communication (the nervous and circulatory systems), and spacing (all macro- and micro-channels).

These five elements manifest themselves in human physiology as three doshas (biological humours or biometabolic principles). They are Vata (space+air), Pitta (fire+water), and Kapha (earth+water).

Vata performs functions of circulation, transportation and communication and represents all macro and micro channels (such as the nervous system, circulatory system, etc.)

Pitta is transforming or metabolizing. It represents enzymes and hormones. Kapha comprises all structures and represents body tissues (bones, muscle tissue, nervous tissue, fat tissue, etc).

Ayurveda has a common basis of understanding for human physiology, cosmic physiology, and herbs. This understanding is based on five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These five elements each have functional significance in our bodies, including structuring (body tissues, for example), binding and moistening (bodily fluids), transforming, digestion, and metabolism (enzymes and hormones), moving/circulation, transportation, and communication (the nervous and circulatory systems), and spacing (all macro- and micro-channels).

These five elements manifest themselves in human physiology as three doshas (biological humours or biometabolic principles). They are Vata (space+air), Pitta (fire+water), and Kapha (earth+water).

Vata performs functions of circulation, transportation and communication and represents all macro and micro channels (such as the nervous system, circulatory system, etc.)

Pitta is transforming or metabolizing. It represents enzymes and hormones.

Kapha comprises all structures and represents body tissues (bones, muscle tissue, nervous tissue, fat tissue, etc).

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Tinosphora cordifolia

Himalaya Drug Co.

© 2002 Himalaya Drug Co.


Ayurveda recognizes that the same five elements constitute plants, the human body, and everything else in the universe. Ayurvedic herbology (Dravya Guna Vigyan) describes the action of foods and herbs through five fundamental principles: 
 
Taste (Rasa), such as sweet, sour, bitter, salt, pungent, astringent

Qualities (Gun), such as heavy, light, cold, hot, dry, oily

Potency (Veerya), i.e. effect on a system or organ.

Post-digestive action (Vipak), such as sweet, sour, and pungent.

Specific effect (Prabhav)

These five factors of herb action take effect through a dominant element or a combination of the five elements. Knowing this combination is the basis for determining the effect of foods and herbs on body-mind and consciousness. The idea is to use proper foods, herbs, lifestyle, and routine in order to create and maintain a balance (Swa-stha) of vata, pitta, and kapha, bodily tissues, digestion and metabolism, as well as to clear channels and foster happy senses, mind, and consciousness. All these are part of the holistic definitio Read More

Ayurveda recognizes that the same five elements constitute plants, the human body, and everything else in the universe. Ayurvedic herbology (Dravya Guna Vigyan) describes the action of foods and herbs through five fundamental principles: 
 
Taste (Rasa), such as sweet, sour, bitter, salt, pungent, astringent

Qualities (Gun), such as heavy, light, cold, hot, dry, oily

Potency (Veerya), i.e. effect on a system or organ.

Post-digestive action (Vipak), such as sweet, sour, and pungent.

Specific effect (Prabhav)

These five factors of herb action take effect through a dominant element or a combination of the five elements. Knowing this combination is the basis for determining the effect of foods and herbs on body-mind and consciousness.

The idea is to use proper foods, herbs, lifestyle, and routine in order to create and maintain a balance (Swa-stha) of vata, pitta, and kapha, bodily tissues, digestion and metabolism, as well as to clear channels and foster happy senses, mind, and consciousness. All these are part of the holistic definition of a healthy individual.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Tribulis terrestris

Himalaya Drug Co.

© 2002 Himalaya Drug Co.


At the beginning of all ancient systems there were only organically grown foods and herbs. Much later, we added chemical pesticides and fertilizers and so on to change them or make them grow faster. As a result, today we sometimes find that herbs that have been effective for thousands of years don’t have the same effect they’re supposed to because of the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Now, in India and every other place, it is very well recognized that plants must be grown organically. Governments pay special attention to making sure there is full control over the environments the plants are grown in. They want to ensure that Ayurvedic medicines are made from organically grown, handpicked herbs.

At the beginning of all ancient systems there were only organically grown foods and herbs. Much later, we added chemical pesticides and fertilizers and so on to change them or make them grow faster. As a result, today we sometimes find that herbs that have been effective for thousands of years don’t have the same effect they’re supposed to because of the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Now, in India and every other place, it is very well recognized that plants must be grown organically. Governments pay special attention to making sure there is full control over the environments the plants are grown in. They want to ensure that Ayurvedic medicines are made from organically grown, handpicked herbs.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

There are more than 500 herbs. Ayurveda recommends the use of Single herbs that are used based on their action on the three Doshas, bodily tissues, or specific systems or organs, and on that herb's effect as an analgesic, nerve tonic, laxative, anti-asthmatic, or anti-inflammatory

Herbal formulas based on a combination of primary herbs, herbs that enhance bioavailability, herbs that eliminate or minimize side effects and maximize side benefits, herbs that facilitate the elimination of metabolic wastes and toxins, and herbs that have immunomodulating effects.
Some of the most commonly used single herbs are Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) for heart care; Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)which is particularly good for the nervous system, anxiety, or depression - think of it as Indian ginseng; Guggul (Commiphora mukul) which is most commonly used for high cholesterol and joint inflammation, stiffness and joint pains. Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is very good as an immunomodulator, for skin diseases, liver problems, and hyperacidity. Gokshur (Tribulus terrestris) is commonly used Read More
There are more than 500 herbs. Ayurveda recommends the use of
  • Single herbs that are used based on their action on the three Doshas, bodily tissues, or specific systems or organs, and on that herb's effect as an analgesic, nerve tonic, laxative, anti-asthmatic, or anti-inflammatory


  • Herbal formulas based on a combination of primary herbs, herbs that enhance bioavailability, herbs that eliminate or minimize side effects and maximize side benefits, herbs that facilitate the elimination of metabolic wastes and toxins, and herbs that have immunomodulating effects.

Some of the most commonly used single herbs are Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) for heart care; Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)which is particularly good for the nervous system, anxiety, or depression - think of it as Indian ginseng; Guggul (Commiphora mukul) which is most commonly used for high cholesterol and joint inflammation, stiffness and joint pains. Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is very good as an immunomodulator, for skin diseases, liver problems, and hyperacidity. Gokshur (Tribulus terrestris) is commonly used for urinary problems, kidney stones, or prostate problems. Nirgundi (Vitex nirgundo) is also very good for joint pains, sciatica, and disorders of the nervous system.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Vitex negundo

Himalaya Drug Co.

© 2002 Himalaya Drug Co.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • familiarize himself with the vocabulary used in traditional medicine;
  • describe the distinguished feature of Ayurvedic;
  • compare the way each Canadians portrayed in this learning object collection uses plants to heal and/or maintain health.

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