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Ayurveda- Sri Lanka’s ancient medicines

Sri Lanka’s ancient medicines are more popular than ever, whether in treating disease or maintaining health and fitness.

Sri Lanka's Ayurvedic tradition

Legend has it that Ayurveda, the science of life (ayur = knowledge, science; veda = life, longevity), was a gift of the Hindu God Brahma to humankind as a token of his compassion. Based on an holistic approach to health, Ayurveda has for millennia used Sri Lanka’s prolific herb and plant life to cure and revitalise. Its origins can be traced back more than 5,000 years to the Vedas of India – and it has had a profound influence on Chinese and Tibetan medicine, and even Western surgery.

Balancing the doshas

At its core is the idea that our general wellbeing is closely related to our choice of lifestyle, and illness is caused by an imbalance of food, stress and toxins. Ayurvedic philosophy postulates that all bodies are composed of various combinations of the five basic elements – Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Ether – and that all people are subject to three doshas, or “life forces” – Vatta(air and ether), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth) – with illness resulting from an imbalance in the doshas.

The aim of Ayurvedic treatments is to re-establish the three doshas in their correct balance, focusing on detoxification, rejuvenation, mental hygiene and spiritual healing. Oil massages, herbal remedies, and prescribed diets are the most common therapies in use.

Choosing where to have treatment

Because Ayurveda is such an integral part of the island's culture, it is ubiquitous – be it in the form of Ayurvedic clinics and pharmacies, locals offering oil massages on the beach or hotels and centres specialising in Ayurveda. Today, many hotels have at least a small area devoted to Ayurveda, if not an entire treatment centre.

When deciding where and how to experience this ancient method of healing, you first need to determine your goals. For those simply looking for wellness, rejuvenation, or a dose of pampering, a good choice would be a hotel with a reputable treatment centre. However, you should be aware that many hotels have jumped on the bandwagon, among them a few who do not live up to standards.

For those seeking a cure for a medical problem or illness, a recognised centre or retreat hotel solely devoted to Ayurveda is your best option. In general, a course of treatment lasting from two to three weeks is recommended to find relief from most maladies.