Ayurveda Overview

Ayurveda Institutes


­More than 150 colleges in India teach Ayurveda, where students study ancient texts like the "Charaka Samhita" and "Susruta Samhita" during the five years it takes to get a bachelor's degree in Ayurvedic medicine. They can also continue their education to get a doctorate [source: NCCAM].

The prevalence of these programs is no surprise considering that 80 percent of the Indian population uses Ayurvedic remedies, either exclusively or in conjunction with Western treatments [source: NCCAM]. Although the practice of Ayurvedic medicine in India was largely suppressed during the centuries of British colonial rule, it made a comeback in the early 20th century after the country gained independence [source: Svoboda]. In 1970, the Indian parliament passed a law standardizing the requirements for accreditation. A year later, Ayurvedic medicine became an official part of the country's health care system, which had previously been based exclusively on Western medicine [source: Callender].

The first generation of Ayurvedic practitioners in America was trained in India. One of these pioneers was Scott Gerson, who founded the National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine in 1982. Gerson, the only American to earn both a conventional medical degree and a doctorate in Ayurveda, founded the institute in Brewster, N.Y., 70 miles (112.5 km) north of Manhattan, where he practices and runs a three-year Ayurvedic training program [source: National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine]. The institute, located on nearly 7 acres (2.83 hectares), serves as a detoxification retreat center as well as a research and educational facility. It has one of the largest collections of Ayurvedic literature and a garden in which it grows medicinal herbs used to treat patients.

In 1984, Vasant Lad, a former medical director and professor of Ayurvedic medicine in Pune, India, founded the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. The institute has a detoxification center and offers a two-year training program that replicates the curriculum at India's Ayurvedic colleges [source: Ayurvedic Institute].

Other training institutes in the United States include the American Institute for Vedic Studies, founded by David Frawley in 1988, and the Ayurveda Institute of America, which opened in 1999 [source: Callender].

But unlike in India, Ayurveda in the U.S. is not an officially recognized form of medicine and is not regulated by the government [source: NCCAM]. In 2000, the National Ayurvedic Medical Association was founded in Santa Cruz, Calif., to establish standards for the profession. But for now, Ayurvedic medicine remains an unlicensed profession with no national standard for training or certifying these practitioners, so take caution if you choose to be treated in this route.

Next up: what you can expect during an Ayurvedic treatment.