Over the past few weekends I’ve had the chance to experience India’s traditional medical practice, Ayurveda. As one of my gen-eds, I have already been taking a course through CIEE on Ayurveda. I am by no means pre-med, but I think there is value in having basic medical knowledge. And between the class field trips I have been taking for my class and going out to try a few treatments for myself (more on that next week), I certainly have learned a thing or two.
In brief, instead of focusing on curing diseases as they come, Ayurveda tries to prevent diseases before they can take root. Because of this, Ayurveda is more of a philosophy and lifestyle than medicine in the West. There is something prescriptible for almost every aspect of a person’s way-of-life. For instance, depending on your constitution and current life situation, ayurvedic doctors will suggest exactly what you should eat, what time you should wake up, and more. More often than not, these suggestions are non-intrusive and rely on natural, easy-to-find remedies.
To see how natural remedies play such a big role in Ayurveda, I went to the Telangana State Forest Academy on a class field trip. I had been excited to visit the academy; it had been awhile since I last went on a real class field trip and the academy is essentially just acres of beautiful forest. It is a center that maintains a forest of hundreds of plants local to the area. While the TSFA isn’t specifically an ayurvedic forest, there is a complete overlap between the native plant life in Hyderabad and the plants used in ayurvedic medicine.
As we walked around the forest, I was so impressed by how much our guides knew. Again, there were hundreds of plants in the academy. Still, our guides could name every single one and, for many of the plants, they knew a little about their histories and medical uses. I know nothing about plants so seeing them list off all this specific botanical knowledge was incredible. But, more impressive than that, I was struck by how much more ayurvedic doctors need to know. Not only do they have to know the plants, they also have to know medicine preparation recipes, dosages, and how one plant might react to another. My class might not be able to teach me all of that, but I’m glad I got to see all that goes into the practice of Ayurveda.