When I told a friend who is a doctor that I read a book about Traditional Chinese Medicine, he at first retorted, oh, we [Western doctors] are taught to make fun of that stuff. But then he added more seriously that Asian medicines were developed over many centuries and have a solid basis, we just don’t understand it.
Dr. Stephen Fulder, the author of Ginger: The Ultimate Home Remedy, seems to have spent a fair amount of time delving into Asian medicine. Here’s how he explains the body types of Ayurvedic medicine, a system of medicine from India:
Vata type. This body type tends to be tall, thin and bony with dry, cool skin. These people generally are erratic in their habits, adaptable, indecisive, nervous and sensitive. They talk fast, sleep lightly, and generally do not sweat. They lean toward air-type illnesses, including nervous-system problems, arthritic and rheumatic complaints, and all kinds of pains.
Pitta type. This body type tends to be medium in build and muscular, with warm, rosy skin and soft hair. Pitta-type people are marked by moderate speech, a strong appetite and loose motions. They sweat more than normal, sleep soundly and are critical, argumentative and prone to anger. The ailments that tend to affect them include inflammations, infections, liver problems, ulcers and skin rashes.
Kapha type. This body type leans toward being heavier, stouter and slower than the other two, with a pale complexion, oily hair, and thick skin. These are people of constant habits, with a moderate digestion and a tendency to have mucus. They are likely to be calm and sentimental and are sometimes dull. They speak slowly and speak deeply. The illnesses that affect them include bronchial problems, edema, mucus problems, swollen glands, growths, stomach problems, and ear, nose and throat problems.
And what of ginger and these body types? Ayurveda recommends ginger in particular for Kapha types, as it helps to counterbalance too much sugar, too much dairy, too much alchohol, too much fruit and too much meat. In general, Fulder writes: “ginger is good for Kapha types to counteract a tendency toward lethargy, congestion and stagnation.”
Vata types can use ginger to help with digestive problems, since it helps absorption, warms the intestines and treats cramps, gas and colicky pain.
In contrast, he says, Pitta types do not do well with ginger because by nature they are fiery enough. Instead of ginger, Ayurveda recommends coriander, cumin, caraway or fennel.
Some of the techniques of Ayurvedic medicine, according to Fulder: “Ayurveda employs herbs and spices, oils, yoga, massage, dietary principles, colors, gems, minerals, and almost anything imaginable as a therapeutic tool.”
Do you see yourself or anyone you know in these body types? Any of the ailments seem familiar? Or does this seem totally foreign to you as a way to treat an ailment?