I have just finished listening to a radio programme entitled, “Incarnations.” It is an history of India told through the lives of 50 significant figures. Today’s programme was about Charaka, writer of The Charaka Samhita, one of the principle texts of Ayurveda.

The Ayurveda teachings are not just about treating illness but probably represent the earliest writings about preventative medicine. It is like the Traditional Chinese system holistic, treating mind, body and spirit as one. It is only in recent years that these have started to be seen as one again by Western systems with psychologists playing an important part of the work in pain clinics.

I was also struck, listening to the programme by the fact that rather than sending the patient off for lots of tests, the Ayurvedic practitioner will ask them lots of questions, engaging with them as a person. I am struck by how here in Cambridge, even when I ask a question about the physical, I am often asked, “Why do you want to know that?”

I see this as a sign that even among those who come to me as an aromatherapist, many do not believe that the essential oils do more than smell nice. Yet, there are oils to avoid in pregnancy and other conditions, others which cause photo sensitivity, meaning the client could get badly sunburnt by exposure to the sun in the following eight hours, though looking outside, perhaps not today!

While I have learned the actions of the oils from the Traditional Chinese Medical perspective, many of the plants they come from were first used in the Ayurvedic tradition, which is also an energy based system with it’s origins pre-dating knowledge of the circulation of the blood.

While what I know of this system of thought is limited mostly to some of the oils I use, I believe that there is much I could learn from it and much wisdom as long as I am discerning and keep in mind what I know from both the Western tradition including my nursing training and what I have learned of the Chinese system. There is much more to be read about Ayurveda here. Though for an in depth knowledge of Ayurveda a lifetime of study and meditation is required!