Integrative medicine practices, such as meditation and Ayurveda, are popular but their effects on human physiology are not yet fully understood. Ayurveda, a Sanskrit word that means the ‘Science of Life’ or the ‘Science of Perfect Health’, is the traditional system of personalized medicine from India that emphasizes disease prevention and health promotion.
Panchakarma, Ayurvedic medicine’s principle cleansing and rejuvenation protocols, incorporates various treatment modalities such as a vegetarian diet, Ayurvedic herbs, meditation, yoga, oil massage, heat therapies, and other specialized treatments that are thought to promote general health and well-being1.
While numerous studies have examined the health and well-being benefits of practices such as meditation, yoga, Ayurvedic herbs and diet, few studies have examined the effects of traditional medical protocols that employ several of these modalities concurrently in one program. To date, very few controlled studies on Panchakarma have been undertaken. Previous studies on Panchakarma have reported improved psychosocial outcomes in healthy subjects as well as improved psychological parameters in depressed patients2,3.
However, little evidence has been reported regarding the physiological and metabolic effects of such treatments. Thus, given interest in integrative therapies with the general public and medical community is steadily increasing, there is a burgeoning need for additional studies that investigate Ayurvedic medicine with modern scientific techniques to further elucidate the relevant biological effects and mechanisms related to these practices.
In a controlled clinical trial, participants in the Chopra Center’s six-day Ayurvedic immersion program, Perfect Health, that featured a vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga, herbs, and massages, experienced measurable decreases in a set of blood-based metabolites associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk, and cholesterol regulation.
The findings, published in the September 9 issue of Scientific Reports, represent a rare attempt to use metabolic biomarkers to assess the reported health benefits of integrative medicine and holistic practices. Chopra Center co-founder Deepak Chopra, MD, was the senior author of the study. Dr. Chopra is also a clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a noted proponent of integrative medicine.
“It appears that a one-week Panchakarma-based program can significantly alter the metabolic profile of the person undergoing it,” said Chopra. “As part of our strategy to create a framework for whole systems biology research, our next step will be to correlate these changes with both gene expression and psychological health.”
Panchakarma refers to an ancient and elegant mind-body cleansing system experienced by participants in the Perfect Health program, combining herbal therapies, massage, and other interventions.
To read the full study, click here.
To learn more about the Chopra Center’s Perfect Health program and sign up for a workshop, click here.