Can Ayurvedic Medicine Be Used for Weight Loss?
Ayurveda is a wellness system that originated in India around 5,000 years ago. Though it’s one of the world’s oldest healthcare traditions, millions of people all over the world practice it today. In fact, the popularity of Ayurvedic medicine is growing.
Analysts expect that by 2022, Ayurvedic medicine will have become a nearly $10 million industry. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source estimates that around 240,000 Americans already use Ayurvedic regimens and remedies as part of their overall healthcare.
Because Ayurveda focuses on mindful nutrition, stress reduction, and cultivation of a balanced lifestyle, many people look to its dietary principles and natural remedies when they want to lose weight.
Keep reading to learn more about Ayurvedic eating practices, remedies, and supplements, and what conventional Western science has to say about the effectiveness of Ayurvedic weight loss methods.Eating according to your dosha
Practitioners of the Ayurvedic tradition teach that human beings need to balance three forms of energy, and each energy is linked to natural elements:
- Vata. The energy of movement associated with space and air.
- Pitta. The energy of metabolism associated with fire and water.
- Kapha. The energy of your body’s structure associated with earth and water.
Although all people have vata, pitta, and kasha, a person’s dosha is the form of energy most dominant in your constitution. In the Ayurvedic tradition, the way you eat should correspond with your dosha.Determining your dosha
Determining your dosha could prove tricky to people who are new to Ayurveda. Although there are lists of characteristics for each dosha online, the National Ayurvedic Medical Association recommends that you consult with a trained Ayurvedic practitioner if you aren’t sure which dosha is dominant for you.
Ayurvedic practitioners are licensed and regulated in India, but there’s no federally recognized certification or licensure process in the United States.In the Ayurvedic tradition, your diet should
correspond with your dosha.Dietary recommendations for vata-dominant people
Dietary recommendations for pitta-dominant people
- Eat 3 to 4 small meals daily, at least 2 hours apart.
- Incorporate lots of cooked vegetables.
- Avoid nightshade vegetables, such as eggplants, peppers, tomatoes.
- Eat juicy, sweet fruits and avoid astringent fruits like cranberries and raw apples.
- Eat a wide variety of nuts and seeds, especially in the form of nut milks.
- Avoid addictive products like sugar, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Avoid foods that are raw, frozen, or extremely cold.
Dietary recommendations for kapha-dominant people
- Eat lots of raw vegetables and salads, especially in spring and summer.
- Limit your intake of animal foods like meat, seafood, and eggs.
- Avoid spicy foods, coffee, and alcohol.
- Avoid nuts and seeds.
- Eat legumes and lentils in moderate amounts.
- Eat and drink dairy products, especially those that have been sweetened.
- Limit the quantity of food you eat.
- Avoid dairy and foods high in fat.
- Limit protein.
- Eat lots of leafy greens and vegetables grown above ground (as opposed to root veggies).
- Eat astringent fruits like apples, cranberries, mangoes, and peaches.
- Limit animal foods, nuts, and seeds.
A complete list of foods best for each dosha can be found here.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of the Ayurvedic diets based on dosha type. However, a small pilot studyTrusted Source of 22 participants in 2014 concluded that the diet, when combined with yoga practice, did result in significant weight loss.Before you make changes to your diet
Talk to a doctor before making significant changes to your diet to be sure the steps you
plan to take are the right ones, given your overall health.Ayurvedic weight loss remedies
Herbs and herbal remedies are an important part of the Ayurvedic tradition. Many of these herbal treatments have been in use for over 1,000 years, but few have been researched in clinical settings.
In the United States, these remedies are regulated as supplements by the FDA, and are not subjected to the strict trials required for drugs.
Here’s what we know now about the effectiveness of these Ayurvedic weight loss remedies.Triphala
Triphala is an herbal preparation that combines three superfruits, all of which grow in India:
- amalaki (Indian gooseberry)
- bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica)
- haritaki (Terminalia chebula)
A 2017 reviewTrusted Source of scientific literature found that triphala was effective at reducing blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It also led to greater weight loss for participants in one study.Guggul
Guggul is the dried resin of the Mukul myrrh tree. Although it’s been used as a weight loss aid in Ayurvedic medicine, clinical research on its effectiveness has produced inconsistent results.
One 2008 lab study found that the active ingredient in Guggul preparations did cause fat cells to break down. However, another lab study in 2017 concluded that it had no effect on the hormone that causes fat metabolism.Kalonji
Kalonji, also known as black seed or black cumin (Nigella sativa), has been studied extensively for a wide range of uses. In human studiesTrusted Source, Nigella sativa seeds and oils have both improved weight loss for women and men living with obesity.
These studies are promising, but more research is needed to confirm the results.Vijayasar or Kino tree
Extracts from the vijayasar tree (Pterocarpus marsupium), also known as the Kino tree, may help you lose weight. Although there are no published studies showing its effectiveness in humans, studies have shown that the extract caused fat reduction in rats.Other weight loss remedies
Some Ayurveda advocates recommend these botanical or herbal remedies to aid with weight loss, but there’s not enough research to support their use for this purpose:
OTC Ayurvedic weight loss capsules
- aloe vera
- pepper (piperine)
- cabbage horse gram
- ginger-garlic lemon
A number of Ayurvedic weight loss supplements can be found on the market in tablet, capsule, and powder forms. While some of these products may help you lose weight, there’s little research to support their use.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that you talk to your doctor before trying dietary supplements for weight loss.
Dietary supplements aren’t tested or regulated the same way medications are. So it can be hard to know exactly what’s in a supplement. Supplements can also interact with other medications you’re taking.Ayurvedic diet tips for weight loss
Ayurveda scholars at The Chopra Center have collected a number of Ayurvedic practices that can be helpful as part of an overall weight loss program.
Is Ayurvedic medicine safe?
- Practice mindfulness, even while you eat. Adding meditation to your daily life can reduce the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone
- associated with weight gain) in your body. Another way to increase mindfulness is to eat slowly and quietly. Listen to your body’s signals about how much to eat and when to stop.
- Eat your largest meal during the day, not at night. StudiesTrusted Source show that large caloric intakes late in the day can lead to obesity.
- Sip warm lemon water to start your day. Doctors at Cleveland Clinic agree: lemon water aids digestion.
- Exercise. As with eating, how and when you exercise should be compatible with your dosha. But doctors in both Ayurvedic and allopathic (Western) medicine agree: If weight loss is your goal, exercise is an important part of the plan.
- Sleep well. Research shows that poor sleep is linked to weight gain.
The principles of Ayurvedic medicine have been in use for a long time. An Ayurvedic diet is rich in whole foods, and an abundance and variety of vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Ayurvedic diets emphasize moderation and mindful eating. In addition, an Ayurvedic approach to healthcare emphasizes prevention, physical movement, stress reduction, and balanced living. All of those principles and practices are safe and healthy.
You may need to be cautious when it comes to Ayurvedic herbal preparations because they aren’t regulated by the FDA. More research is needed to be sure they’re safe and effective.
You should also conduct research when deciding which Ayurvedic practitioners you want to consult. Most American states don’t license Ayurvedic practitioners, and there’s no federal certification or licensure requirement.
Talk to your doctor about any recommendations you receive to be sure they’re appropriate given your overall health.