go beyond is as wrong as to fall short,
a wise man once said. Wise people throughout the ages from every corner of the
earth have praised the virtues of balance and moderation, and it is not
difficult to understand the necessity of balance in action and the freedom that
it brings. Just like standing, walking, or riding a bicycle, all of life
requires balance, without which we are often powerless to move, act, and enjoy
what life has to offer. Ayuveda is a
science of life that is founded on this principle, that balance bears health
and health bears freedom. Whether it be freedom from bodily disease and
discomfort, or freedom from depression and anxiety, this freedom is the realm
of true and complete living, and it is found in a healthy and balanced
lifestyle. This may be easy enough to say, but is often much more difficult to
accomplish, especially for the body, which often operates in mysterious and
misunderstood ways. So, how does one restore balance to the body?
Ayurveda is founded upon another
principle, that all is one. Everything and everybody is an integral part of the
whole of existence, and everything shares its fundamental nature with the rest
of existence. This common fundamental nature is first expressed in the Five
Great Elements, Ether (space), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Every person, every
plant, animal, rock and spec of space dust is constituted by some particular
combination and organization of these fundamental elements. Changes in the constitution
of a thing are the expression of changes in the ratios and organization of
these elements within the thing. Similarly with the human body, changes in the
constitution are changes in the proportions and organization of these elements.
It is from this fact that Ayurvedic medicine acts to restore balance to the
treatments can take forms as vast and variant as life allows, but the
central science of treatment in ayurvedic medicine focuses on the use of
healing herbs to subtly affect the body’s constitution and move it towards a
balanced state. Ayurvedic
herbs are understood through their taste, energy and post-digestive effect.
These qualities are the results of the combination of the fundamental elements,
and through them we can know how herbs will affect the body. Ayurvedic herbs
have one or more of the six tastes, and these taste share basic qualities with
the fundamental elements.
The actions of Yarrow are a good
example of how the elemental properties of herbs work to bring balance in the
body. Yarrow has a pungent taste. The pungent taste is hot, dry, and light.
Fire also has these qualities, and the pungent taste increases the fire
principle in the body. Yarrow, however, bears the uncommon combination of a
pungent taste and a cooling energy, therefore it also works to increase the air
and ether principles in the body, which are likewise cool. This renders yarrow
a great ayurvedic herb for the treatment of fevers.
A fever is the result of the
internal principle of fire moving from the center to the surface of the body, causing
both an unhealthy level of body heat and a lack of appetite, for it is the
internal fire that digests food. Yarrow with its pungent taste and effect
ignites the internal fire but simultaneously cools the body with its cool
energy, thus both reducing the effects of a fever, and eliminating its cause. Through
such a process balance is restored to the body.
treatments are designed to work in such ways. Imbalance in the body is the
result of both excess in one regard and a correlating lack in another. Through
the combination of ayurvedic herbs and anupanas,
or vehicles, a treatment can treat the root cause of the imbalance and the
symptoms simultaneously. Ayurvedic treatments utilize the immense variety of
healing herbs the world provides to render the most appropriate blend for each
and every condition.
The world is abounding with all
manners of plants bearing innumerable varieties of healing qualities, and
although there are many ayurvedic herbs, there is still much more to be learned
and discovered about what the world has to offer. With time and attention our understanding
herbs will grow more encompassing and empower ayurvedic treatments more
able to bring balance to the lives of humanity and the world. However, getting
to know an herb is a slow and careful process, as they must be respected. We
must seek patience and balance in everything to bear the fruit of health. For
as an old Hindu proverb warns, even nectar is poison if taken to excess..