Due to India’s recent history within the past century the use of Ayurved as a traditional medical system decreased for some time before again gaining public support. Despite the challenges of the time, many Ayurvedic colleges survived and are still open today, continuing to grow and strengthen in their programs and research. Students of Ayurved attend an Ayurvedic Medicine college for five years, continuously undergoing internships and attending hospital shifts, after which time they are granted the degree of Bachelors in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS). Programs for Doctor of Medicine, (MD), Doctor of Surgery (MS), and Doctor of Philosophy are also available during which time students undergo further study or undertake research in an area of their interest which can fall into one of the eight specialties of Ayurvedic Medicine, much like the specialties from amongst which an allopathic medical student will choose.
These programs are not always readily accessible to the Western student as many of them are taught in the State language (Marathi, Tamil, etc.) and include topics which cannot be applied such as portions of Bhaishaja Kalpana, the preparation of medicines, which may include medicines that have not been approved for use in the West. The degree of BAMS or higher is often not recognized outside of India and is no guarantee that an individual can practice, though these regulations vary from country to country. In the United States there are relatively no regulations for the practice of Ayurvedic Medicine, which many times undermines credibility and can create issues for ensuring that safe practices will be carried out.
Given these barriers and recent interest in alternative health care practices, there has been a rise of Ayurvedic Medicine education in the West. The average program is catered to the Western student, building on the average Western thought process and perspective. Many of these programs can provide a good foundation for further learning but may also include interpretations and deviations from the actual philosophies, teachings, and practice of Ayurved. Integrative health care is beneficial in that it is unifying and can be very effective in addressing health issues. However, before branching out it is helpful to grow the “trunk” of one’s knowledge first. Esther’s suggestion for the student of Ayurved is to couple learning with an exploration of the classical texts of Ayurved from Charak, Susrut, and Vaghbhat. A list of recommended resources can be viewed here or you can contact Esther with further questions.