In this special newsletter, Dr. Jim Davis, who practices osteopathy and Maharishi Ayurveda, offers his insights on ayurveda and Amrit.
Q: Could you start by telling our readers about yourself?
Dr. Davis: I grew up in Texas. I started practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique in 1973. I was already interested in health and in wanting to know more about how diet and lifestyle choices impact health. At the time I started doing the TM® program, I became aware also of the system of healing known as ayurveda. In fact, that was one of my inspirations for going to medical school. I could see that Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi) had started bringing this ancient knowledge out, and physicians had the opportunity to be trained in this field. I felt that the best way to be able to learn about Maharishi Ayurveda was to be a doctor and get properly trained. I heard of a school of medicine that promoted a set of natural healing techniques called osteopathy — osteopathic medicine. I started medical school in 1982. As I went through my training, I read as much as I could about ayurveda on my own. Then, after I graduated, I took the training courses for physicians and started using Maharishi Ayurveda in my practice. Currently I do a lot of general practice — family practice — and I have found that between the practices of ayurveda and the other natural approaches to healthcare like osteopathic manual medicine, I have most of what I need for general practice. I incorporate the lifestyle and dietary and herbal recommendations of Maharishi Ayurveda in working with patients, and I have had great success with all kinds of conditions that people generally go to the doctor for.
Q: So how long have you been practicing medicine?
Dr. Davis: I graduated in 1986, so I have been practicing for about 16 years.
Q: Can you tell our readers a little about the training that you have to undergo to become an osteopathic physician?
Dr. Davis: It's similar to training to become an M.D., in that it's the same number of years of training — medical school is still four years long. Osteopathic physicians are the other type of fully-licensed physicians in the United States, apart from allopathic physicians. We take the same tests, we have the same standards for education as allopathic institutions, but what is different is that everything is looked at through the osteopathic filter of how structure and function correlate. This is a really simple explanation of the approach of osteopathy: if there's something wrong with the function, there's something wrong with the structure. And osteopathy has developed ways to correct structural problems that have an impact on health. The individual who started the osteopathic approach to health was actually an M.D. In the 1800s, he became dissatisfied with the medicine of the day, because they were giving people arsenic and mercury, and some medicines were worse than they are today in terms of side effects. So he developed a drugless therapy that was based on manual medicine of manipulation.
Q: So osteopathy is a drugless approach to health?
Dr. Davis: Initially it was, but over time it evolved into more of a combination approach. If you go to osteopathic school today, you still have to take pharmacology and you still end up writing prescriptions. But initially it was developed as a drugless therapy of just manual medicine. It is interesting, but I have found that there is more in common between osteopathy and ayurveda than there is between osteopathy and allopathy.
Q: So your training in osteopathy more or less prepared you for ayurveda?
Dr. Davis: No, it was actually the other way around — my training in ayurveda prepared me for osteopathic medicine. I was already aware of ayurveda and had read a lot about it when I went into osteopathy. That's one of the major reasons why I chose the osteopathic approach — that osteopathy was saying some things similar to what ayurveda says about the ability of the body to heal itself and how the responsibility for the health of the individual belongs to the individual and his or her diet and daily routine. Whereas allopathic medicine mostly talks about research or medicine — it's a disease-driven approach to health.
Q: So in osteopathy, as in ayurveda, your patient actually has more control over the way he or she feels?
Dr. Davis: Absolutely. In a holistic approach to health, one of the tools the patient has is choice — the choice to do things every day that actually enhance health, and the choice to not go to a physician who does mostly or only conventional medicine. But further, I, as an osteopathic/ayurvedic physician, give them choices for a healthy lifestyle — things that they can do on their own to enhance their understanding of their physiology and their health. Diet, daily routine, exercise — these are all part of both the osteopathic and the ayurvedic recommendations for good health.
Q: How do you go about finding out what's wrong with a patient who comes for a consultation?
Dr. Davis: As in the conventional approach to medicine, the history and physical are the beginning, and so I begin by listening to the patient's story, and the health issues the person has experienced. I also make use of standard laboratory tests to get more information, as appropriate. What's different is that I also do a structural exam to feel what is going on in the physiology, to add to the assessment. A structural exam is the feeling of muscles and bones and strain patterns that are in the tissues. And I feel the pulse — do an ayurvedic pulse assessment — to get an idea of what is going on in the physiology.
Q: What additional information does the ayurvedic pulse assessment give you?
Dr. Davis: The pulse gives me more of an understanding of the underlying causes of whatever the imbalance or discomfort is. For example, if a patient is talking about pain, you can tell what underlying doshic imbalance is creating that pain. Then I have a better idea of where the root cause of the problem is, so I don't end up just dealing with the effect.
Q: So this pulse reading is therefore different from the pulse reading you were taught in medical school?
Dr. Davis: There is no pulse reading in osteopathic medicine. You're reading tissues, you're reading structure — you're looking for asymmetry in structure. You're looking for tissue texture changes, looking to see if something is ropy or tight, sore spots, things like that. So there are three or four things you're looking for: tenderness, asymmetry, restricted function or restricted motion, and the tissue texture change. In osteopathy, we're looking at the gross anatomy and just letting the body tell you more or less what's going on.
Q: How do you integrate Maharishi Ayurveda into your practice of osteopathy on a day-to-day basis?
Dr. Davis: Maharishi Ayurveda is the perfect complement to manual medicine. Between those two approaches, I feel like I have a complete system of healing to take care of most of what happens in family practice. Ayurveda widens the range of problems that I can handle, and it also helps me in getting to the basic underlying cause of discomfort and disorders.
Q: Now, do patients come to you asking for ayurveda, or is it that you tell them about it, or is it both?
Dr. Davis: Oh, both. I've been the Maharishi Ayurveda physician here in Dallas — in this part of Texas — since 1989 or 1990. I was the Assistant Medical Director at the Maharishi Ayurveda Center for Chronic Disorders in Dallas. There we had an inpatient program, seeing people with health issues using the Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health. That was a very fascinating period. We had patients with a variety of complaints — some common, some not so common. But we had some really sick people who had some remarkable recoveries using a specialized program for health problems. This program has since moved to The Raj in Fairfield, IA, but I still have people calling and coming just for ayurvedic consultations. When I'm in the family practice office, if patients come in who are not familiar with ayurveda, then it's very easy to educate them. Most of the patients who come in don't want to take medicine. Most patients come in with a distrust of Western medicines because of the side effects, and they feel more in control with the ayurvedic approach. They feel better when they're able to use natural means in order to improve their health. And so I don't have to talk very long or hard. I don't have to do a lot of convincing. Most of them actually say that they would be interested in an approach that didn't include conventional medicine.
Q: What kind of patients do you generally see in your practice?
Dr. Davis: Mine is a general practice. It's anything. It's everything. It's children, middle-aged, elderly — it's a broad-spectrum family practice. People with all sorts of health conditions — it's a good cross section.
Q: Can you talk about a few specific patients who came to you with a problem and you treated them with this combination of ayurveda and osteopathy and obtained good results?
Dr. Davis: A 50-year-old female came to see me with a history of head discomfort. After the usual history and physical exam, including a neurological exam, I applied some cranio-sacral osteopathy, which is a type of manipulation of the head. I also did an ayurvedic consultation, and went through a Pitta-pacifying diet and ayurvedic herb program with her. And her discomfort came under control. She was having two bouts a week at the time she came in. Within a month to six weeks she was having one a month, of less intensity, and when it did come, the allopathic medicines that she had to use to address the discomfort seemed to work much better. So I would help her once a week with osteopathy, and then I would just check that she was following her dietary, herbal, and daily routine ayurvedic recommendations. She stabilized relatively quickly.
Q: Had she sought health advice before for the head discomfort and, if so, what had she tried?
Dr. Davis: Allopathic medicine, mostly pain-killers. She had tried the allopathic medicines, but they didn't work very well, which is what prompted her to come to us.
Q: And how long ago was this?
Dr. Davis: A year-and-a-half ago or so. One of the interesting things that came out of this was the side benefits this patient received. She lost 10-15 lbs. by just paying attention to her diet. It was not that I specifically told her that she needed to lose weight. And she wasn't really obese. But she was very, very pleased with the outcome of weighing 10 lbs. less than she did before. And what contributed to that was just removing things from her diet that, besides being Pitta-aggravating, were also causing her to retain fluid and weigh more, like drinking sodas, for example — they have a lot of caffeine in them.
Q: And how is her head discomfort now?
Dr. Davis: It's under control. She doesn't come to see me for the head discomfort anymore. She may come for other things, but not for that.
Q: Any other patient that comes to mind?
Dr. Davis: I see a lot of people with imbalances leading to feelings of sadness. I see a lot of people who are looking to maintain healthy cholesterol. I put these individuals on the ayurvedic protocols. Right off the bat, I can think of at least ten patients that were able to maintain healthy cholesterol levels with totally natural means, such as dietary changes, herbs, and lifestyle changes.
Q: That is wonderful.
Dr. Davis: Another area that I can think of is sinus health and reaction to allergens. I see a lot of it, especially during allergen season. It's usually seasonal. Down here in Texas, we have ragweed, mountain cedar and elm, and people have very strong reactions to these plants. A guard at a prison in Huntsville, Texas, came to see me with a really severe reaction. As your readers probably know, the Western approach to allergens is suppression, using antihistamines.
Q: That's right.
Dr. Davis: I put this gentleman on a program of ayurvedic detoxification and an appropriate ayurvedic diet. His was a Pitta-aggravated condition. Aller-Defense, the MP16 Herbal Nasya Oil and Liver Balance were the main herbal recommendations I made. He came back a month later and said it was as if he never had allergen reactions before. He was able to manage his response to allergens with just the recommendations I gave him.
Q: So you found over time that this combination of osteopathy and ayurveda seems to work?
Dr. Davis: I've used them together successfully on patients. I've also used just ayurveda on patients and have gotten very good results. I would say that osteopathy and ayurveda are a perfect match.
Q: What has been your experience with Amrit?
Dr. Davis: Amrit Kalash — I usually recommend it for supporting healthy immunity, including sinus health. As long as they take Amrit regularly, many patients have found that their sinuses remain healthy. I've also had people take it to maintain overall balance and well-being — such as if they had a family history of health issues, for instance. I've had people take it as an augmentation to the allopathic medical treatment they were receiving, based on the strength of the product research.
Q: As a technician, how do you react to the research finding that Amrit has at least a thousand times more antioxidant power than vitamins C and E?
Dr. Davis: I communicate this fact to all of my patients. I think this research is a very, very powerful tool for convincing patients as well as other practitioners that there is something out there that's natural and is very potent — in terms of healthy cholesterol, for example. It doesn't matter how high your cholesterol is — it matters how oxidized your cholesterol is, because unless it becomes oxidized, cholesterol will not turn into plaque or otherwise cause a problem. And in Amrit we have something that's a thousand times stronger than the usual substances we use for removing free radicals. That's very important. Most health imbalances as well as aging, as you know, can be tied to the free radical theory — excess free radicals in the system disrupt the natural health of the system.
Q: How often do you recommend Amrit to your patients, and to what kind of patients?
Dr. Davis: I recommend it to everyone with deeply-rooted health imbalances. I also recommend Amrit to patients seeking a healthy response to allergens, those looking to promote sinus and/or upper respiratory health, and those interested in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels already within a normal range. One of the things that I tell all patients is that the main reason to take things like Amrit Kalash is to stay well — to avoid the development of imbalances. That's the main focus of ayurveda — to keep people healthy. And that's one of the main reasons for taking Amrit Kalash too; to avoid health imbalances, maintain health, attain longevity.
Q: What is your understanding of how free radicals affect our physiology, and how Amrit Kalash takes care of the problem?
Dr. Davis: In very lay terms, if you think of, for example, a piece of metal left outside in the rain — it rusts and becomes useless. That's oxidation. Free radicals cause oxidation of the internal organs and the internal systems. They cause the system to function inefficiently. Specifically, for example, free radicals cause the skin to have an old and wrinkled appearance. Amrit, according to the research, is a full-spectrum antioxidant. Whereas some of the other antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E tend to deactivate only a certain kind of free radical, Amrit is a full-spectrum free radical scavenger. It deactivates the free radicals that are generated in the system.
Q: What is your understanding about the ingredients of Amrit?
Dr. Davis: The Amrit Nectar, for example, is made in a very traditional way. I understand that about 20 lbs. of fruit are required to make one jar of this concentrate, and that it's a 20-step process or more in order to create these herbal masterpieces. The herbs in Amrit, by themselves, have some very interesting properties, but it's the combination of these herbs that results in Amrit having different uses for so many different conditions and systems. Amrit improves the elimination of toxins, and it improves the body's ability to adapt to stressful situations. At the same time, Amrit balances the different doshas — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Q: Do you see patients whose primary complaint is fatigue?
Dr. Davis: Oh, yes.
Q: And how do you help them? Do you recommend Amrit to such patients?
Dr. Davis: Yes, in fact that is one of the things that I do. Fatigue generally results from the same process that we were talking of earlier — when people do not have the information on how to eat or what to eat or when to eat, and when lifestyle imbalances tend to accelerate the accumulation of impurities in the body. So I recommend lifestyle changes and dietary changes, and Amrit Kalash, which is a packet of intelligence. These herbs supply the intelligence to the physiology that's missing or unable to manifest because of blockages in the physiology. Fatigue is generally one symptom of such blockages.
Q: Do you have any other cases you'd like to talk about?
Dr. Davis: The case of a lady I saw when I was in Colorado comes to mind. She came because she had heard about Amrit Kalash and she had a concern about breast health. Her doctors had suggested an allopathic approach, but she wanted to try something natural first. I told her that she ought to do whatever her doctors had recommended. Meanwhile, she had an ayurvedic consultation and started on Kapha-reducing strategies, as well as some Maharishi Ayurveda herbs and Amrit Kalash. I left Colorado soon after that. A year-and-a-half later, when I was back in Texas, this lady tracked me down, and came to see me for a follow-up. She drove from Colorado for a follow-up because she wanted to tell me that she went back for her 6-month follow-up with her doctor and her breasts were completely healthy.
Q: Amazing. Thank you, Dr. Davis, for taking the time to talk to our readers about ayurveda and Amrit.
Dr. Davis: It was my pleasure.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.