By Fiona Ferde (Ayurveda Counselor Student)
Ayurvedic herbalism focuses on addressing the person’s constitution and Agni and removing hetus. Western herbalism is mostly focused on treating symptoms. Ayurvedic herbs can be used to maintain good health whereas other than vitamins and minerals, Western herbalism is used for treating symptoms and diseases.
Ayurvedic Practitioners use sodhana, purification method such as burning or cooking which extracts the therapeutic qualities from a poisonous or toxic dravya. In the West, herbs that contain compounds that can be potentially toxic are not typically purified using sodhana practices, but rather completely banned or highly restricted by the FDA.
Most Western herbal combinations or formulations contain at most two or three herbs limiting their scope of treatment, an Ayurvedic herbal formulation can contain a combination of up to 40 to 50 herbs allowing for a combined action that can bring the body into total balance.
Western herbology focuses on extracting as much as possible of the active compound from the herb. In comparison Ayurvedic herbalism considers the energetics and the efficacy of the herbs and endeavours to increase them by looking at the astrology, the auspicious date for harvesting the herbs, them auspicious time for mixing them and possibly the auspicious time for giving the herb to a client. It also considers vastu and where the dravyas were manufactured or mixed and the seasons it was harvested in.
Western herbalists plant and grow desired herbs in man-made climate-controlled environments irrespective of geographical location. Ayurvedic herbalists and practitioners don’t typically grow Ayurvedic herbs outside of their home place as the herb will not grow in a way that will offer its entire efficacy.
Western herbalists focus solely on herbs. Ayurvedic herbalists use animal-based products like honey, ghee or musk, feathers, conch shell, dried coral and even crystals and gems.
Western herbalists create herbal vinegars by soaking their herbs in vinegar. Vinegars are not used in Ayurvedic medicine as they add acid and increase sour rasa so although they are alright for vata in small amounts, they are unusable for pitta and kapha
Fiona is a student of Narayana Ayurveda and Yoga Academy.