Ayurveda Day 73: Diagnosis

In Ayurveda we have the ability to diagnose people’s conditions. However, this doesn’t manifest in the way we are used to, ie via western medical names. And quite rightly so, we are not MD’s and cannot diagnose medical conditions.

How we approach things is from the perspective of Ayurveda in regards to the 5 elements: Earth, water, fire, air, and ether.

We look at things in this way:

– Doshas are the cause of the disease

Dhatus and Srotas (tissues and channels of the body) are the site of the disease

– Doshas enter the body via our diet and lifestyle, get circulated by the fluids of the body and can eventually manifest as a “western medical” disease name. We also have imbalances based on our karma, but we always have a choice as to how we wish to live our lives within that karma.

In a western medical diagnosis, typically the root cause of a problem may not be addressed. The whole body may not be considered, and side effects merely listed as a necessary evil. But western medicine is great at diagnosing it’s illnesses, and for acute conditions and emergency situations.

Where Ayurveda steps in is through prevention, holistic symptomatic relief, and dealing with chronic conditions.

So in Ayurveda, we diagnose conditions from that perspective. You might come to a CAS and say,

“I have constant diarrhea”

What the CAS will hear is:

Ah. So this patient has pitta dosha vitiation in their annavaha srota (digestive system). The excess heat is depleting the rasa dhatu (fluids and tissues).

From this perspective, we can now decide to use cooling herbs to assist in symptomatic relief, and then address the larger issues of their diet and lifestyle and how it is contributing to excess pitta (heat) in the body.

No matter what condition you come to a CAS with, this is the thought process they will have. They have to translate what you are experiencing into Ayurvedic terms so as to best help you. Some things are red flags for us and we will always refer you to a doctor for. But how do we figure out what is going on?

In Ayurveda, there are 5 parts to Diagnosis:

1 – Nidana – What is the cause of the disease?

2 – Purvarupa – Early symptoms that serve as indicators to potential ongoing larger problems

3 – Rupa – Full manifestations of the symptoms

4 – Samprapti – The pathology of the disease; how it unfolded and came to be

5 – Upashaya – Testing the diagnosis with a treatment plan that is flexible

The last one, upashaya, is where the patient really is involved the most. This is where we might prescribe that herbal tea, or oleation therapy, or meditation practice, etc. If it’s not working for you, then we can now narrow it down to other doshic possibilities and adjust the dosage, herbs, treatments, etc. Just as when you go see a doctor and they may adjust your dosage or medications, we too will check in on you and make sure things are going properly.

Once we have found the right treatment for you, it becomes chikitsa or your treatment. If it works, it works. We won’t keep you on the same herbal tea for years if you still have the same problem – clearly the medicine isn’t addressing the issue. Based on the patient’s response we are able to cater and craft a treatment that is ideal for them as an individual.  Ayurveda has the ability to step in and really spend the time with a person to work on their lifestyle, to support whatever western healing they may be undergoing.

Hospitals and doctors today are overworked and lack the time and tools to help a patient in this long term way. And patients have come to expect magic one pill solutions. No solution will ever solve the problem if ultimately a person is not willing to take ownership of their own role in continuing to enable the disease. That patient will continue to come back, again and again, for a solution. But even in Ayurveda, it is so easy to come in and just expect a magic tea. The pill has now become the drink, and the real issue is being ignored.

It is from this realization that we must understand something quite simple:

It is not the treatment that heals the person. It is the person’s openness and commitment to healing.

Remember: Ayurveda is a science of personal responsibility.

With gratitude



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