Special Edition: Ayurveda

Ayurveda awareness spreads through North America, but do locals understand it?

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags North america Ayurveda Medicine

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
Ayurveda practitioners notice an increasing trend of North Americans looking to the ancient South Asian medicinal practice after dissatisfaction with conventional Western medicine.

From supplements to shampoos to sport drinks, ayurvedic ingredients such as turmeric and ashwagandha are slowly creeping into mainstream North American consumer vocabularies, reflecting an overarching trend favoring natural food​ (despite any formal standard defining what that means).

“Consumer understanding in North America for Ayurvedic products is growing especially since there is a trend towards natural and alternative therapies with less adverse effects and drug interactions,”​ Aparna Kalidindi, a sales and marketing manager at ingredients company Natreon told NutraIngredients-USA.

“Ayurvedic products did not gain much recognition in the western world until recently because these products have been made in the traditional without any scientific standardization, safety studies and clinical evidence,”​ she added. “However, there are some companies now that are researching Ayurvedic ingredients and introducing them to the dietary supplement industry with multiple clinical trials validating safety and efficacy.”

A view from the field

Globally, the Ayurveda market is booming. According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, the Indian nutraceutical market is projected to grow to $2.731 billion by 2016​, Whole Foods Magazine reports. Ingredients like turmeric is increasing in popularity, as India exported nearly 70 million kilograms of turmeric between 2010-2011, based on a Market News Service report​, and startups around north America are launching turmeric beverages and foods​ as the latest superfood item.

These market data numbers seem to reflect what Ayurveda practitioners observe day-to-day. “My patients, they come from the suburbs, the city, and other states sometimes, and I work with both children and adults,” ​Archana Lal-Tabak, a holistic physician based in Evanston, IL, told NutraIngredients-USA.

“And I meet these people wherever they are in the journey, sometimes they seek Ayurvedic healing before they [use conventional medicine], or sometimes after they’ve used [conventional medicine],” ​she added. “I found that more-and-more people are looking for alternatives to Western medicine that is more natural.”

Lal-Tabak is comparing these numbers based on the early days of her practice, Heart of Wellness Institute SC​, which started 26 years ago.

In its infancy

Another practitioner in the area, Monica Yearwood of Hamsa Ayurveda​ in Chicago, thinks that there is still much room to grow for Americans’ understanding and embrace of the ayurvedic system.

“The market here is truly just budding, and while there is a lot of opportunity, it is also a lot of work that requires ingenuity, consistency, optimism and flexibility,”​ she said. “We, ayurvedic practitioners, are pioneering and defining that market — mostly we are in a period of introduction, education and exposure.”

To Lal-Tabak, this state of education could mean that many North Americans are familiar, and even trust ayurvedic processes, but may not identify them as Ayurveda at all. “They might not even know the word at all!” ​she chuckled. “Having learnt Ayurveda,I feel like everything relates to Ayurveda.It’s all about changing style, health, and mindfulness, a current trend today.

“And functional medicines for example. People are talking about it a lot, and functional medicine is essentially Ayurveda. The gut healing, how you restore the gut. And all the talk about inflammation nowadays, everything in Ayurveda is about addressing inflammation,” she added. “So it’s all coming around full circle.”

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