People seem to try Ayurvedic herbs for a few weeks and don’t notice anything. They don’t know whether to continue or not. They also may not be fully aware of the preventative nature of Ayurveda. Perhaps they haven’t bought into the concept of the doshas or haven’t yet experienced a change in their lifestyle and how powerful that can be.
Plants are the sacred healers of our planet. Their power is to gently guide you back to health, nurturing body tissues and supporting the proper functioning messed up with poor lifestyle and food choices. But herbs cannot be the only focus of a holistic Ayurvedic practice.
As a practitioner for more than 20 years, I have seen plenty of clients who are looking for Ayurvedic herbal support. Usually they have tried something on their own and have had little to no results after taking it for a couple weeks. They come to me looking for something stronger, something that will bring about a dramatic change in the way they feel. But actually, I don’t want to see a dramatic change.
A gradual improvement based on sensible, realistic changes in food and lifestyle is what I am looking for. When I do see this, it doesn’t mean that symptoms of imbalance linger. In fact, issues such as gas, indigestion, headaches and anxiety often clear up quickly when the right supportive practices are in place. Signs of gradual improvement mean my client has begun to embrace the holistic aspect of Ayurveda.
Herbs play a very important role in my practice, but not one that overshadows other Ayurvedic “medicine”. Chewing food to liquid, eating and sleeping at regular times, eliminating or minimizing stimulants and preparing balanced meals of augmenting and extractive foods. Often, these changes are enough.
The effectiveness of an Ayurvedic lifestyle and diet alone without herbal support depends on the extent of the imbalance of the doshas and the condition of the agni.
When symptoms are interfering with life or a diagnosis is present, then herbs – taken consistently over time, in combination with these other practices – can result in an incredibly powerful treatment. The body naturally wants to heal itself and the herbs support the subtle life-giving energies for it to do so.
It’s easy enough to do some research and learn which herbs are effective for digestive issues or which are helpful to support menstruation. But without looking at the whole picture of health, it can be tricky to determine dosage. Too little renders the herbs useless and people think they aren’t working. Too much and they can contribute to the problem. This is where working with an experienced practitioner makes a big difference.
But even if someone got the right dosage, there is often inconsistency in how they take their herbs. They may forget to take their vata-balancing formula (perhaps because vata imbalance makes them forgetful). Or they may take a formula for a short time and give up when they don’t see immediate results. In all aspects of Ayurveda, consistency is the key to maintaining good health.
Ayurveda is a holistic science. Practitioners don’t treat symptoms. We look for the root cause of imbalance and support the doshas to rebalance and agni to strengthen. This alleviates the symptoms, but only because we are allowing the body to return to its natural state of health and wellness.
Symptoms are signs that the body or mind are in distress, which is why we talk about them during a consultation. What I am looking for when I ask about symptoms is a pattern within the body and mind that can tell me which doshas need balancing and the best way to go about it. This might mean herbal support, but it is just as likely to mean asking the client to put away her phone and magazines during meals.
Each of my clients is an individual with a unique constitution and a unique path to imbalance. The approach to healing and wholeness, including when to use herbs, must be just as unique.
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