Book Review: Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide to Traditional Indian Medicine for the West

Ayurveda is a lineage of healing that has evolved from the primordial past in a far-off land with an unimaginably different cultural context from the West and has endured through oral legacies of countless generations of healers as well as literal translations of radically varying quality and completeness. This text demands that Western readers peel off the sheaths of their way of thinking about the origins of matter and life - that is, discard their cultural preconceptions and - its most rewarding aspect - opens their eyes to a new way of thinking about health and healing.

The book's eleven sections deal with, respectively, Ayurveda's background, history and development; its theoretical underpinnings; anatomy, physiology (focusing on the physiology of digestion), the concepts of prakriti and vikruti, the disease process, nutrition, behavioral medicine and swasthavritta (physical and mental hygiene), specific Ayurvedic therapies and materia medica, the role of consciousness in health and disease, and Ayurvedic psychiatry.

Frank Ninivaggi has now authored two superlatively useful, superbly written books on the heretofore inaccessible subject of Ayurvedic medicine. His slightly shorter 1999 work, "Elementary Textbook of Ayurveda" was a well-rounded introduction to Ayurvedic medicine for those unfamiliar with this fascinating and complex subject. His current effort, "Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide to Traditional Indian Medicine for the West" I look upon as a revision and an expansion of his earlier work. It is more comprehensive than any of the other volumes widely available and intended to be read by the general public. That is likely because, like his first book, it is meant to be an introduction to Ayurveda for western-trained health professionals.

One serious lack of Dr. Ninivaggi's earlier work has been remedied with the inclusion of an excellent and very useful index.

This is surely among the very first books on Ayurveda that I would heartily encourage anyone to read: others include Robert Svoboda's "Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution" and David Frawley's "Ayurvedic Healing."

Review provided by William Courson, BVSA, D. Ayur., an Ayurvedic Practitioner, faculty member and the College Dean of Institutional Development at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center.

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