x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Unconvinced by ayurveda

Ayurveda claims to be able to prescribe for each of us exactly what is and is not good for us, though our reporter found it a little underwhelming.

Dr Asha Jones, a consultant at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, uses observation, touch and questioning when assessing her patients. Razan Alzayani / The National
Dr Asha Jones, a consultant at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, uses observation, touch and questioning when assessing her patients. Razan Alzayani / The National

The ancient practice of ayurvedic medicine is more than 3,500 years old. Its eight branches include paediatrics, toxicology and surgery, specialisms that can also be found in a conventional western hospital.

Meaning the science (ayur) of life (veda) in Sanskrit, it claims to assess each patient uniquely - each of us has a unique composition and our ailments cannot be treated with blanket cures, such as the common overuse of antibiotics.

I have always been interested in alternative health. From acupuncture to ease muscle pain to herbal remedies such as valerian tea to aid sleep, I have always been open to it as a way to complement modern medicine. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not, but I felt it was time to delve deeper into my own health, to work out exactly what I should and should not be eating, according to my constitution.

Ayurveda claims to be able to prescribe for each of us exactly what is and is not good for us and I hoped I could find a natural solution to my recurrent insomnia.

According to ayurvedic medicine, each one of us is made up of a mix of three doshas, themselves a combination of the five elements: earth, air, water, fire and space.

It is this that guides our health and our tendency towards certain conditions such as arthritis, neurological disorders and digestive problems.

First I went to see Dr Asha Jones at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre in Oud Metha and was relieved to be told I'm already following a good diet. Using three methods of assessment - observation (of areas such as joints and skin), touch (again on joints, the pulse and pressure points) and questioning regarding lifestyle, habits and current health - the doctor can then determine a patient's composition.

I'm made of 90 per cent vata and the rest kapha. Jones says I fit the characteristics to a tee: I have a tendency to worry and prefer warm climates but am unable to sit down for very long because I'm energetic and always on the go. Anyone who knows me would certainly agree.

She recommends I eat more ghee and oil to overcome my dry skin and hair and tells me dairy is important in moderation. Spinach and tomatoes, however, are not good for my already aching joints, a trait that runs in the family.

Most of what Jones says sums me up pretty well. By just feeling my pulse she picked up on my tendency towards hay fever and my need for warm meals. I am the one person who, in the midst of a UAE summer, still craves roast dinners, soups and stews, and who is happy eating a bowl of hot porridge for breakfast.

However, I needed to see how consistent this method of analysis was, so I called on Dr Chandy George at Balance 360. There was none of the full-body physical analysis as with Jones. Instead, George analysed me for around 20 minutes, guided by the movement, rate and rhythm of my pulse.

While some of his assessments were scarily spot on - he opened by telling me the biggest problem in my life is my insomnia - much of it seemed fairly all-encompassing and some simply off-the-wall. For instance, he told me he could sense I did no exercise; I exercise for around eight hours or more a week. He told me to do more yoga (than the four hours a week I already do) and walk more, which is the same prescription he gave my friend who he said was "morbidly obese".

The oil Jones gave me to help me sleep, by putting some on the soles of my feet and the crown of my head, not only smells really bad (and does not wash off easily) but has not helped me sleep. All in all, I'm not convinced ayurveda alone can be a single source of medicine.

To try out ayurveda, Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre is having an open day to showcase its services on November 17 from 4pm to 8pm where Dr Asha Jones will give a lecture on ayurveda and visitors can get free tester treatments for ayurvedic abyanga massage and 20 per cent discounts on treatments booked and paid for that day. Consultations with Jones cost Dh250. For more information, call 04 335 1200 or visit www.dubaihtc.com.At Balance 360, consultations cost Dh200. Visit www.balance-wellness-centre.com for details.