A look at the three body types as defined by Ayurvedic medicine, along with four herbs used in this modality.
“Ayurveda” means “science of life”. Ayurvedic medicine originated in India around 6000 BC. This article will discuss the three Ayurvedic body types, as well as five Ayurvedic herbs and what they’re used for.*
Your animal’s body type
Body typing in Ayurvedic medicine is based on the Five Elements theory and is expressed as the Tridosha, the three humors or metabolic forces that make up the mind and body.
Vata is considered the leader of the three Ayurvedic principles in the body. It is associated with Air and governs all movement in the mind and body.
- Vata types are the most slender of the three body types, and are taller or shorter than normal.
- Chests are flat, with veins and muscle tendons visible.
- They have a tendency toward cold paws, and discomfort in cold climates.
- Nails are dry and brittle.
- Skin is cool, rough, dry and prone to cracking.
- They have variable appetites and digestive efficiency.
- Urine is scanty, and feces are dry, hard and small.
- Sleep is short and restless.
- Vatas experience high energy in short bursts; they tire easily and overexert energy.
- They respond to stress with fear and worry when out of balance
- Are quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget.
- Changeable moods are likely.
- Full of joy, excitable, lively, fun and enthusiastic when in balance.
Pitta is created by the dynamic interplay of Water and Fire. These forces represent transformation.
- Pittas have a medium to slender physique; the body frame may be delicate.
- They show a medium prominence of veins and muscle tendons. The bones are not as prominent as in the Vata pet.
- Fur is soft and warm.
- Claws are softer.
- These animals display medium eye prominence.
- Sleep is of medium duration but uninterrupted.
- Paws are warm, and they’re bothered by hot weather – it makes them tired, and skin feels warm.
- They pass a large amount of urine.
- Pittas have a strong metabolism and good digestion, with strong appetite and thirst.
- They may display irritability if they have to wait for their food, or are stressed.
- These animals have sharp minds and good powers of concentration.
- They are assertive, self-confident, aggressive, demanding, even pushy when out of balance.
- Pitta animals are competitive and enjoy challenges, so they make good pack leaders.
Kapha is a combination of Water and Earth. It provides both structure and lubrication.
- Kaphas are physically strong, with a sturdy heavy build.
- They have an aversion to cold, damp weather and may have asthma or allergies.
- These animals have the most energy of all constitutions, but this energy is steady and enduring, not explosive.
- Kaphas are slow-moving and graceful
- They have soft fur, a tendency for large “soft” eyes, and a soft temperament.
- They’re often overweight though they may eat little; they may also suffer from sluggish digestion.
- Stools are soft and pale in color, and slow evacuation is typical.
- Kaphas sleep soundly and long.
- They have excellent health, good stamina, and resistance to disease.
- These animals are easy-going, relaxed, slow-paced and happy.
- They may be slower to learn, but they never forget so can be possessive; they have good long-term memory.
- Kapha animals are affectionate and loving, forgiving, compassionate, non-judgmental, stable, reliable, faithful, and are peacemakers.
1. Ashwagandha (Wilhania somnifera)
Ashwagandha, or Indian ginseng, is one of the most highly regarded and widely used Ayurvedic herbs, believed to increase energy and overall health as well as longevity. Ashwagandha literally means “to impart the strength of a horse”.
The key constituents of Ashwagandha are called withanaloids, and play an important role in the herb’s ability to promote physical and mental health. Ashwagandha can be used on a long-term daily basis without the risk of side effects.
2. Boswellia Serrata (Salai, shallaki)
This is one of Ayurvedic medicine’s most potent anti-inflammatory herbs. Boswellia is a promising alternative to conventional NSAIDS, with the added advantage of sparing the GI lining. It is therefore useful for inflammatory disorders of the intestines, respiratory tract and skin. Boswellia significantly reduces the production of prostaglandins E2, cycloonxgenase-2 and prevents collagen degradation.
The most common use is for osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease and any inflammatory condition of bones, joints and spine. It is also neuroprotective, analgesic and antifungal.
3. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is a perennial herb-rhizome commonly used as a cooking spice. Curcumin is the yellow pigment extracted from turmeric. In Ayurvedic tradition, turmeric is a general tonic and blood pacifier. A potent anti-inflammatory agent with analgesic properties, curcumin’s essential oil has shown antimicrobial activity against gram positive and gram negative bacteria in vitro studies.
Curcumin also possesses anti-asthmatic, antioxidant, hepatoprotective and anti-cancer activity. It is known to have strong anti-ulcer activity due to its immune-modulating and stimulating properties, thus making it very effective in IBD cases. Curcumin maintains healthy cyclooxygenase-2 (Ld4) activity while supporting prostaglandins, leukocytes and thromboxane metabolism. Like Boswellia, it has neuroprotective properties, so it can be used by neurologists for spinal injury and inflammation.
4. Neem (Azadirachta indica)
Neem has attracted worldwide attention in the medical community due to its wide range of medicinal, insecticidal and fungicidal properties. Practically all parts of the neem tree are used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Fresh new leaves are used in concoctions for a variety of skin and other inflammatory disorders. Oil extracts from the leaves and seeds are potent antiseptics and insect repellants. Neem has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is also considered anti-hyperglycemic. Since it is considered a valuable insecticidal, it can be used for external parasites. All parts of the neem plant — leaves, bark and oil-based products — are used for this purpose.
While fewer holistic veterinarians may specialize in Ayurvedic medicine than in modalities such as acupuncture, homeopathy or Western herbs, for example, it’s an approach that becoming more widely known and used. It can offer effective and gentle healing for many common conditions in dogs and cats.
*Be sure to consult with an integrative or holistic veterinarian before giving your dog or cat any new herbs.