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Herbal Traditions of Ayurvedic Medicine: The Five Elements

When it comes to Ayurvedic medicine, you will find that they follow a system that strays from the traditional four elements (fire, earth, water, and air) by adding a fifth called ether. In this article, you will learn how Ayurvedic practitioners view the concept of energy and what exactly is the meaning of ether.

Centered on the interaction between the body, mind, and spirit, Ayurvedic medicine takes into account the mind, body, and spirit of an individual. To better understand Ayurveda, you should know that this system sees the origin of all aspects in life as either consciousness or pure intellect. Believers see energy and matter as one thing.

The five elements of Ayurvedic medicine include ether. All of the elements together are seen as forming the foundation of all matter. In the body, ether is present in the cavities of the mouth, stomach, digestive tract, lungs, and thorax. Ether is the lightest of the five elements and is sometimes referred to as ‘space.’ It also represents the emptiness between matter.

Water is found in the digestive juices, salivary glands, blood, mucous membranes, and cytoplasm. This element is believed to hold everything together. Earth is present in the nails, hair, skin, and throughout the bones, cartilage, tendons, and muscles. It is also considered matter itself.

Air is associated with the movements of the muscles, the heartbeat, the nervous system, digestive tract, and when the lungs move in and out. It is believed to set all the other aspects of creation into being.  Fire is associated with the metabolism, digestive system, body temperature, vision, and intelligence. This element is known to produce essentials in life, such as heat and light.

The five elements also coincide with the five senses. Working together, they are believed to make it possible for us to perceive the things going on around us, as well as interact with our surrounding environment. In Ayurveda, the following senses correspond to the elements below:

·    Ether , Sense of hearing
·    Air , Sense of touch
·    Fire , Sense of sight
·    Water , Sense of taste
·    Earth , Sense of smell

A couple of herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine include holy basil and turmeric:

Holy Basil: Decorating the temple courtyards throughout India, holy basil is often planted as an herb for Ayurvedic medicine. While it has always been seen as a way to protect the heart, more recent studies have revealed that it can also lower high blood pressure. The juice of holy basil can be transformed into a treatment for skin infections. Decoctions containing holy basil can be used as a tonic, as well as lower a fever. The powder of turmeric can ease the pain of canker sores.

Turmeric: Turmeric is used for much more than the traditional Ayurvedic remedy for jaundice. Native to India and the southern parts of Asia, turmeric has proven itself a valuable remedy for skin conditions and arthritis. A great deal of research has been done on the use of the rhizome, including Chinese clinical trials involving cholesterol levels and research studies on its anti-inflammatory powers. The fresh rhizome is bright orange in the inside and is carefully removed from the ground and broken into sections that are boiled and steamed before going through a drying process.