Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sacrifice A Horse To The Sky God For Health

This week's alternative universe embracing edition of the West Australian newspaper's Mind&Body supplement features ayurveda on the front page.

It is said to be the oldest healing system in the world, though no one really knows exactly how old it is, ayurvedic lifestyle consultant Ruth Heenan says. "The Rig Veda, India's oldest philosophical and ayurvedic writings, was written between 4500 and 1600BC," she said. And today, the principles of ayurveda remain relevant to modern society.

"Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant"? WTF?

The Rig Veda is not an ayurvedic text, much as Ms Heenan might wish it to be. It is a religious text. It advocates things such as making sacrifices, including sacrificing horses (Rig Veda 1.162). It believes the sun is the child of the earth and sky, that he travels in a chariot, that he is magic, and that he milks the earth (Rig Veda 1.160). It contains prayers for pregnancy and safe birth (Rig Veda 10.184 and 10.162). It is as appropriate for use as a medical textbook as the Bible (Christian Scientists need not apply).

According to EoR's edition of the Rig Veda (translated Wendy O'Flaherty, Penguin Books, 1981), it was written circa 1200-900BC, more recently than Ms Heenan claims. But alties realise the power of having the oldest therapy to promote. It's like a competition to have the oldest, most basic, and least evidence supported therapy. Never mind any advances that may have been made since that time, the older the therapy the better. The whole of healing science was created de novo like Venus on the half shell, perfect and unchanging. It certainly makes life easy if you never have to upgrade your skills.

Never mind that acupuncture also claims to be the oldest therapy. As does herbalism. As does even reiki (when it was invented only last century).

Never mind that evidence for trepanning goes back 40,000 years, yet alties seem reluctant to use it regularly to release demons, or bad qi, or toxins, or fairy dust, or whatever the health djinn du jour is.

As far as EoR can see, ayurveda seems to be health care by the use of astrology. There are five elements (air, earth, ether, water and light) which "shape the nature of an individual's dosha - their life force, or constitution". There are, however, only three doshas, an "air type", a "fire type" and a "water type". Why are there no earth or ether types? Why is this so arbitrary?

Principal consultant of the Applecross-based Ayurveda Awareness Centre, Neerja Ahuja, said detoxes were essential for eliminating toxins and restoring health and wellbeing. [...] "It is a highly effective way of de-stressing and reversing the ageing process, and can be used to treat over 80 different diseases," she said.

Only 80? What do you do for all the rest? Though EoR is intrigued by the claim to "reverse" ageing. If ayurveda really works, why aren't all the practitioners babies?

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