In recent times, we have seen a major change in the population outlook towards health. Most people have started looking into preventive healthcare as the only sustainable solution for the ever-increasing healthcare burden. A systematic diet, active lifestyle, and mindfulness can be considered as the pillars of health. Globally, people have started realizing the importance of natural solutions on account of their practice over generations providing a strong base of evidence, holistic approach, safer and sustainable solution for prevention as well as cure of all acute and chronic disorders.
When it comes to natural systems of medicines, Ayurveda and Naturopathy are very widely appreciated and practiced globally. However, we hardly have a clear idea about these wonderful practices. Many times they are considered as alternatives of each other, but do they have any common ground of principles? Are they the same or is there any difference? Are they capable of tackling the overall healthcare burden in society? We will try to dig into these questions and try to explore these systems.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is considered one of the most ancient systems of medicines across the globe. It is estimated to have originated in the Vedic Period (1500 – 2000 BC). It can be considered as the longest practiced system of healthcare management for over 5000 years. The term Ayurveda is derived from two words, Ayu– life and Veda – science or knowledge, meaning the science of life. It is principally focused on “maintaining the health of a person and cure of his diseases”. So, the prevention of diseases is the primary objective of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda, in contrast to the common belief, is not only about herbal or natural medicines but is a more diverse science. It is divided into eight limbs called Ashtanga – Internal Medicine, the science is of diseases specific to the supra-clavicular region, i.e., otorhinolaryngology (ENT) + ophthalmology, surgery, toxicology, psychiatry, paediatrics, the science of rejuvenation, and the science of sexual medicine.
A detailed guideline on your diet, the ideal lifestyle, behavioral practices, thought processes, and procedures can help in maintaining a balanced state of body and mind. Along with these preventive guidelines, the benefits of more than 800 herbs, 10000 formulations, hundreds of surgical tools and techniques, body and mind purification procedures are explained in detail in the Ayurvedic texts which are still successfully practiced.
What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy is a science of preventing and managing different health issues by the use of natural remedies. Sebastian Kneipp (1821), a German Catholic priest is considered one of the forefathers of the naturopathic medicine movement. He propounded the “Kneipp Cure” form of hydrotherapy, which includes the application of water through various methods, temperatures, and pressures for different healing effects.
However, the core principles of Naturopathy are going, staying, living, and sustaining close to nature. It is believed that our body, just like all other objects in the universe, is made up of 5 basic elements. The proper balance of these elements defines health and the imbalance due to dietary, seasonal, or psychological reasons results in diseases. To cure this imbalance, it is necessary to reach out to nature again and restore the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Different procedures like exposure to dietary and lifestyle changes, stress reduction, herbs, and other dietary supplements, homeopathy, manipulative therapies, exercise therapy, practitioner-guided detoxification, psychotherapy, and counseling are generally prescribed by naturopaths for achieving this.
So, are they the same or different?
To summarise the understanding Ayurveda is a science that focuses on balancing the body system with a holistic approach. Naturopathy mainly encourages the body’s natural immune system to heal the body. This is achieved through diets, lifestyle changes, yoga, herbal supplements, and some detoxification procedures. Both the systems focus on the root cause of the diseases rather than merely treating the symptoms.
Diet is a core concept in both Naturopathy and Ayurveda. Diets as per Naturopathy allow more raw vegetables and organic meats whereas the Ayurvedic diet is focused on the Agni (individual digestive capacity). Both these systems agree that a healthy diet has the potential to help build balance in our body system and prevent as well as cure most of the diseases. Avoiding excessively processed foods, synthetic drugs, use of harmful chemicals are unhealthy lifestyle remains key to health as per both the systems.
When it comes to differences, the first difference is Ayurveda is a subjective science where it is believed that every person is different and hence the disease management should differ too. All the preventive and treatment modalities in Ayurveda are woven by a central concept of Doshas. However, when it comes to Naturopathy, it is a bouquet of multiple therapies like hydrotherapy, yoga, massage, homeopathy, herbal supplements, colour therapy, etc. which are focused on healing. Many of these therapies claim to be beneficial in almost all diseases, however, scientific validation is strongly missing.
Take Home Message
It becomes imperative for us to look into our health to prevent future health hazards. Going back to nature is the most sustainable approach we can adopt to achieve this goal. Natural organic foods, an active lifestyle, a stress-free mind, and the use of herbal supplements wherever necessary would help us build a balance in our mind and body and build a natural ability to fight different diseases.
Ayurvedic principles would help us understand ourselves better through the concepts of Prakriti and its impact on our health. This will guide us in planning a customized diet as well as lifestyle for holistic health.
Author: Dr Omkar Kulkarni (INFS Faculty)
- Patwardhan K, Upadhyaya W. Arthedashmahamooliya Adhyaya. In: Dwivedi R.B., Deole Y.S., Basisht G., eds. Charak Samhita New Edition. 1st ed. Jamnagar, Ind: CSRTSDC; 2020. https://www.carakasamhitaonline.com/index.php?title=Arthedashmahamooliya_Adhyaya&oldid=39131. Accessed January 10, 2022.
- Naturopathy. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/naturopathy [Accessed January 19, 2022].