The Difference Between Ayurvedic Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine

Both Ayurvedic Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine are systems of healing that utilize natural remedies for healing. However, there are very important differences.

Ayurvedic Medicine is a system of healthcare that has its origins many thousands of years ago in ancient India. The oldest, and still most respected text of Ayurvedic Medicine is the Caraka Samhita which dates to approximately 1500 BCE. While utilizing herbal medicine as its main intervention in the management of disease, Ayurvedic Medicine also utilizes diet, lifestyle, yoga, and meditation for both disease prevention and as a supplement and support healing from disease.

Naturopathic Medicine is relatively much newer with a history of about 100 years. The system of medicine known as naturopathy was invented by Dr. Benedict Lust who migrated from Germany to the United States. At first, the system of medicine focused on hydrotherapy – practices that increase blood flow and detoxify the body. Examples include the use of baths, saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs to enhance sweating. However, as the profession evolved, the scope was expanded to consider all things natural. This opened the door to the use of herbs and other therapies.

The most important difference today between Ayurveda and Naturopathic medicine is the paradigm. Ayurvedic Medicine is based on a specific paradigm of individuality. Ayurvedic Medicine states that all people are unique and therefore their path to restoring health is also unique. Even the same disease may be treated differently in different people. According to Ayurveda, no two people are alike. Likewise, no two diseases are exactly the same. Hence, Ayurvedic remedies are prescribed with due regard to the unique nature of the person (their Ayurvedic constitution) and the unique expression of the disease. In addition, herbs are understood on a gross and subtle level. On a gross level (observable), they are understood in terms of their unique capacity to treat a disease, including their biochemistry. On a subtle level, they are understood in terms of their elemental qualities.

By contrast, Naturopathic Medicine, though focused on natural remedies, utilizes the paradigm of Western allopathic medicine. In other words, treatments are prescribed based on the name of the disease and what is known about an herbal remedy. Hence, everyone with the same disease gets pretty much the same remedy. There is no concept of individuality. In addition, herbs are not understood by their subtle qualities. They are understood by their known biochemical effects.

There are, of course, many other differences that make Ayurveda a more comprehensive system of medicine. This includes its unique methodology of detoxification called “panchakarma” and a beautiful understanding of the relationship between body, mind, and consciousness. Ayurvedic psychology is an essential part of the management of all conditions. The goal of Ayurveda, and its sister science, yoga, is to experience sustainable peace of mind. Only when the mind is at peace (calm and clear) can the physiology of the body become both optimal and stable. Hence, Ayurveda utilizes many mind-body techniques as an integral part of its overall system of medicine.

Naturopathic Medicine, as it is mostly practiced today, is essentially a natural form of Western Medicine utilizing the Western model.

Ayurvedic Medicine has its own unique approach to healthcare, offering patients a true alternative to understanding themselves, their illness, their lifestyle, and how to use this information to restore health and well-being.