FDA Warning: The presence of heavy metals in some Ayurvedic products makes them potentially harmful. Studies have found detectable levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic. Labeled as "Indian" or "South Asian," these products are sold online and in stores. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review or approve Ayurvedic products, which can be especially harmful to children. For more information, read the FDA's warning.

Ayurveda, the ancient healing system of India, is one of the great healing traditions of the world. Like traditional Chinese medicine, with which it has many historical connections, Ayurveda is a holistic medical system grounded in a comprehensive philosophical/spiritual view of life.

Ayurvedic treatment is highly individualized and incorporates a wide range of methods, including dietary changes, herbal therapy, exercise, massage, meditation, and numerous special procedures such as cleansing of the nasal passages. Although the scientific base for Ayurveda is not yet strong, some of its methods have undergone meaningful scientific evaluation, and worldwide interest continues to increase.

The roots of Ayurveda lie in the ancient Sankhya school of Indian philosophy, developed many thousands of years ago. The first major classic of Ayurveda, the Caraka Samhita, was written between the second and fourth centuries BC, but it is believed to be based on a much older oral tradition.1 This text sets out all the fundamental principles of Ayurveda but concentrates most of its attention on digestion (described as internal fire, or agni). Another early classic, the Susruta Samhita, focuses on surgical techniques. The Astanga Hridayam, written in about 500 AD, sets out most of the detailed principles of Ayurveda, including the dosha and subdosha. (See The Principles of Ayurveda for more information.)

Ayurvedic thinking exerted a strong influence during the formation of traditional Chinese medicine, which in turn influenced Ayurveda’s further development. The Ayurvedic technique of pulse-taking may have been derived from Chinese medical theory. Furthermore, translations of Ayurvedic texts influenced Islamic and European medicine.

In modern India, Ayurveda is one of three widely available forms of medicine, along with homeopathy and conventional medicine. It has become increasingly popular in the West as well, largely through the work of Deepak Chopra, Vasant Lad, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the founder of transcendental meditation, or TM).