How Western Medicine and Ayurveda are Different

ayurveda basics May 28, 2019

If you are wondering the difference between Western medicine (a.k.a. Modern medicine, Allopathic medicine) and Ayurveda, you've come to the right place. 

You can listen to Episode #14 on Bringing Ayurveda to Life podcast.

If you are wondering the difference between Western medicine (a.k.a. Modern medicine, Allopathic medicine) and Ayurveda, you've come to the right place. 

The philosophies behind Ayurveda and Western medicine are very different, almost opposite, without much overlap, so it is important to keep them in separate buckets.

We can easily get confused when learning Ayurveda because of our current knowledge of how our western medicine works. 

So right now, let go of what you think you know about your health and be open to learning from an Ayurvedic perspective — you're gonna love it :) 

I prefer to view Ayurveda and Western medicine as complements rather than competitors because both have their place. Ayurveda is great to use daily and in the home for prevention of disease and Western medicine is great for emergencies.

Let's go through the main philosophies of each so you can see how they truly differ.

1) Let's start with the human being.

Western medicine sees our physical body and all its functions. The human being is made of two eyes, a nose, a heart, a brain, some blood, some cartilage, and you know the rest. Because of this focus on the physical body, all bodies are treated the same.

There is no mention of the mind or spirit. Western medicine addresses the brain but not the mind — in Ayurveda the mind pervades the entire body, it's not just our brain — two very different things.

According to Ayurveda, treating the mind, body and spirit as a whole is key to healing and living a balanced, harmonious life.

Ayurveda says that while we have all the same parts, the parts are not the same size or shape in any any of us. How many people do you know with identical bodies?

Our eyes are different shapes and colors, our noses are different, too. Based on those subtleties, we are not the same at all.

Based on these unique differences between us as human beings, Ayurveda says that we all have different capacities for stress, emotions, food, exercise, and so on — we are each completely unique.

2) Let's look at the Main Focus.

Western medicine treats the symptoms so that we feel better as soon as possible. They will treat the disease and/or manage the symptoms, but they probably won't dig deep to find and fix the root cause of the problem.

Ayurveda often calls Western medicine as "disease care" because their focus is treating the disease, instead of the individual/unique person. In Ayurveda, two people could have the same health concern and the causes and cures might be completely different.

Ayurveda advocates disease prevention or “health care” as a lifelong practice. Ayurveda works to understand the individual person while uncovering and fixing the root cause of the problem, so it doesn't happen again in the future. 

Health is not something we run to like a finish line and high five when it’s over. Not even close. True health care is daily, consistent, individual and intentional.

3) Let's talk about the differences in Diagnosis.

Western medicine uses tests. They test our vitals, swipe a swab or take a blood test. Once they get the test results, they will give a diagnosis. The diagnosis is based on what the numbers say on the tests, regardless of who the individual person is. 

Ayurvedic consultations in the U.S. are lengthy (1+ hours is common) as the practitioner gathers info to form a full picture about the individual including, physicality, the state of the mind, health concerns, diet, routine, lifestyle habits, etc., 

Before making a diagnosis, the goal in an Ayurvedic consultation is to uncover a) who the patient is as an individual b) what is the imbalance and c) what is the root cause.

4) Let's look at the differences in Treatments

Western medicine uses a single approach by either removing the part that doesn’t function well or by giving a prescription drug. We may, or may not, have to take another drug to combat the side-effects of the first drug.

Ayurvedic treatments are a multiple approach, covering many facets of our life. A revised diet, breathing techniques, exercise recommendations, herbal therapy, aromatherapy, and meditation could be prescribed.

Ayurveda will treat the symptoms too, but at the same time will seek to fix the root problem. The patient will need to create real changes in their diet/lifestyle to prevent the problem from coming back. In Ayurveda, it is critical to have participation of the client in order for the therapies to work.

Therapies in Ayurveda are natural — made from plants, spices, flowers, fruits, animal parts, minerals and metals — and therefore easily accepted and digested by our body. As a bonus, plant-based treatments improve the quality of our cells and tissues as we heal. That said, nature is a powerful influencer so there are contraindications for any herbal remedy. Just because Ayurveda uses natural ingredients, doesn’t mean we can experiment willy nilly.

5) And finally, the connection to nature.

Western (modern) medicine does not recognize our connection to nature. 

Ayurveda emphasizes that nature is part of us, and we are part of nature, we are governed by nature.

Therefore Ayurveda uses all natural remedies (including our food) to help re-balance our health.

Can Western Medicine and Ayurveda coexist?

Totally! As we work on empowering ourselves with the right diet & lifestyle regimen based on Ayurveda, there is definitely place for both sciences to coexist. 

The recommendation is to practice Ayurveda daily as a lifestyle and to prevent imbalance (that's on US, you guys!).

If we get sick or need emergency care, we see a doctor for help! Western medicine is crucial for emergencies (Ayurveda is not good for this at all!!) — anything that could be life-threatening. Modern medicine can save your life.

In the eyes of Ayurveda, true healthcare is where we manage most everything ourselves and leave the emergencies or chronic conditions to a doctor’s expertise. 

As it is, our MDs are overloaded with patient appointments, only able to spend a short while with each of them, which means they have to come up with a quick solution and move to the next patient.

But! If we use Ayurveda correctly, our trips to the doctor may be slim to none!

As you can see the two sciences are quite different. However, within their differences is where each science excels. 

I hope this sheds some light on the differences between the two. 

If we start using Ayurveda in the home as prevention, with proper diet and lifestyle according to the individual, we will have powerful ownership over our own health and well being! 

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