Ayurveda is a pseudoscientific system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. Globalized and modernized practices derived from Ayurveda traditions are a type of alternative medicine.

Ayurveda is the oldest holistic medical system in the world. Its timeless teachings and methods enable us to lead healthy, fit, and happy lives – even today. In Ayurveda, the primary focus is on the human being and his/her individual needs.

What is Ayurveda?

The Sanskrit word Ayurveda literally means the “knowledge of life” and is often translated as “the science of a long and healthy life.” The holistic medical system was developed over 5,000 years ago on the Indian subcontinent. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized Ayurveda as “traditional medicine” in 1976.

Ayurveda encompasses a variety of prophylactic (preventive) and healing (curative) methods. The emphasis is on proper nutrition and dietetics, purification and drainage procedures, massages and manual treatments as well as yoga and meditation. The effectiveness of many of these methods has been scientifically proven by Western standards.

In addition, Ayurveda includes comprehensive herbal medicine, which was applied in ancient India and is also still prevalent in India today. In the European Union and South Africa the sale of such Ayurveda products is permitted only as nutritional supplements or food products.

What Are the Principles of Ayurveda?

The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is the balance between inner and outer or – in other words – of body, mind, soul and environment. When we are balanced, we are and remain healthy and productive. In order to achieve this, the ancient Indian art of healing treats each human being in accordance with his/her personal conditions.

Vata, pitta, and kapha are each essential to our physiology in some way, so no one dosha is better than, or superior to, any other. Each of them has a very specific set of functional roles to play in the body. That said, when the doshas are out of balance, they can wreak havoc on our health. But before we get into the specifics of each of the three doshas, it is helpful to understand their elemental composition, and their broader role in the natural world.

In Ayurveda, the most basic building blocks of the material world are the five elements: ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth.

  • Vata is characterized by the mobile nature of Wind (Air) energy.
  • Pitta embodies the transformative nature of Fire energy.
  • And Kapha reflects the binding nature of Water energy.

All Ayurvedic treatments are based on the innate, individual, physical, mental, and emotional constitution of the patient.

This expresses itself as the relationship of the three doshas, which can be translated as “bioenergies”: vata (air and ether), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water) – the so-called Ayurveda type – are distinct in every human being.

The Qualitative Nature of the Vata, Pitta, Kapha Doshas

The dosha is characterized by a collection of qualities that support its particular energetic:

Vata – Dry, Light, Cold, Rough, Subtle, Mobile and Clear.
Pitta – Hot, Sharp, Light, Liquid, Spreading and Oily.
Kapha – Heavy, Slow, Cool, Oily, Smooth, Dense, Soft, Stable, Gross and Cloudy (Sticky).

Each dosha has a unique personality determined by its particular combination of elements and qualities.

Each dosha naturally governs specific physiological functions:

Vata – Primary Functions is Movement and Communication
Pitta – Primary Functions is Digestion and Transformation
Kapha – Primary Functions is Cohesiveness, Structure, and Lubrication

When one of the Doshas is dominant, the constitution is either Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. The following combined forms are also possible: Vata-Pitta or Pitta-Vata, Vata-Kapha or Kapha-Vata, Pitta-Kapha or Kapha-Pitta as well as the balanced Vata-Pitta-Kapha (Tri-Dosha).

See the list below:

Medical treatment in Ayurveda does not begin only after symptoms of illness become apparent. It is also not just about “fighting” a disease. Instead, Ayurvedic methods aim to eliminate the causes of diseases. These causes are often due to an unhealthy diet and bad habits.

Ayurveda’s holistic view on the emergence of health and illness also means that the person is always considered within his/her personal environment, as personal development is only truly possible when we live in harmony with ourselves and our environment. Therefore, Ayurveda also provides tips on many aspects of everyday life, from architecture to cohabitation.

Understanding Imbalances in the Doshas

Imbalances in the doshas are generally caused by unsupportive diet and lifestyle choices, as well as stress or emotional trauma. These disturbances tend to upset the natural state of internal equilibrium represented by one’s constitution. When the doshas become aggravated, each of them disrupts the body in its own unique way. Therefore, vata, pitta, and kapha are each associated with a particular set of health challenges and tendencies toward disease.

While we are all susceptible to an excess in any of the three doshas, we also tend to be somewhat predisposed to imbalances in our predominant doshas. In other words, vata-pitta predominant individuals will usually tend toward vata and pitta imbalances before kapha imbalances. If you are just becoming familiar with how the doshas affect your day-to-day life, this awareness can be very helpful.

Why Is Ayurveda So Suitable for the Modern World?

Health in private and working life, personal fitness, and increasing mindfulness are among the largest trends of our time. Ayurveda offers solutions for all these needs, which have been successfully tested for 5000 years: without dogmas, placing the individual at the forefront, and simultaneously considering the totality.

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Ayurvedic methods can be easily integrated into everyday life. Constitution-based nutrition, meditation, yoga, and balancing dietary supplements are understandable and applicable to everyone.


The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.