Dr Sivamani: The research in the area of Ayurveda is growing but still requires much more work. There are thousands of years of empiric knowledge that has accumulated since Ayurveda’s inception. We and other researchers are starting to make connections between Ayurveda and general health. For example, genetic correlation studies have shown that subtyping people based on the 3 Ayurvedic doshas correlates to 3 genetic clusters.5 This study was not focused solely on dermatology, but it shows that more rigorous work is being performed within Ayurveda.
[Editor’s note: As Ayurveda is a comprehensive, systematic approach, it encompasses a variety of strategies that have been shown to have health-promoting benefits, including yoga, breathing techniques, and the use of herbs and spices. Other relevant studies have examined the use of Ayurvedic herbs including ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), with promising evidence for the treatment of anxiety compared with placebo and psychotherapy.6]
Within dermatology, we have started to engage in research that bridges concepts of Ayurveda and dermatology. Our research work with bakuchiol was based on Ayurvedic knowledge of the herb Bakuchi in developing the endpoints for that study.4 We have more studies underway that are evaluating the gut-skin axis based on Ayurveda-based concepts. From a practical standpoint, Ayurveda allows us to personalize skin care much more. Once we are able to establish certain imbalances, the skin care regimen can be tailored to the patient.
Dermatology Advisor: What would you recommend to dermatologists who want to learn more about integrating Ayurvedic approaches with dermatology?
Dr Sivamani: While there are very few dermatologists who are incorporating Ayurvedic approaches currently, I believe that Ayurveda gives us many tools to have more fruitful conversations with patients. Dermatologists can learn more about this approach by finding schools that teach Ayurveda, since the concepts are different from those taught in classic medical school education. However, there is a science to the Ayurvedic approach that does require learning its underlying concepts. I would recommend that people explore the resources offered through the National Ayurvedic Medical Association to learn more about Ayurveda. We are also developing a learning module that will bridge the concepts of Ayurveda and dermatology.
Dermatology Advisor: What are remaining needs in this area in terms of research, education, or otherwise?
Dr Sivamani: Ayurveda has many areas for growth within education and for research. In particular, we need to better bridge the concepts of Ayurveda with Western medicine and dermatology. I think more practitioners would benefit from learning basic Ayurvedic concepts, as it can change how they live their own lives and will empower them to connect better with patients. In terms of research, we can use Ayurvedic knowledge to inform new research questions about nutrition, herbs, or topical treatments that would not be explored otherwise.
In addition, future research in dermatology should focus on Ayurvedic subtyping of imbalances to better understand how these compare to classic dermatologic approaches to research. Finally, there is a great need to help patients improve nutrition and manage stress, and Ayurveda has many diet-based and mind-body based approaches that can offer practical solutions.
1. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s in a Name? https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health#hed1. Updated July 2018. Accessed June 12, 2019.
2. University of Minnesota. Where Does Ayurveda Come From? https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/where-ayurveda-come-from. 2016. Accessed June 12, 2019.
3. University of Minnesota. Ayurvedic Medicine. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/ayurvedic-medicine. 2016. Accessed June 12, 2019.
4. Dhaliwal S, Rybak I, Ellis SR, et al. Prospective, randomized, double‐blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing. Br J Dermatol. 2019;180(2):289-296.
5. Tiwari P, Kutum R, Sethi T, et al. Recapitulation of Ayurveda constitution types by machine learning of phenotypic traits. PLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0185380.
6. Pratte MA, Nanavati KB, Young V, Morley CP. An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(12):901-908.