Ayurveda is a complete system of medicine developed in India approximately 5000 years ago. Some would consider it to be the mother of all medical systems as it's influence spread across the ancient world. It is based on a complex philosophy and cosmological view that extends all the way from the material elements to the ultimate creative force in the universe. The aim of Ayurveda is to keep us healthy so that we can focus on reunifying ourselves with this creative force. Our loss of connection to this force, a form of self-delusion, is seen as the cause of suffering and illness.
Ayurveda contains the concepts of the Gunas and the Doshas. The Gunas apply mainly to the mental/spiritual aspect of man, and the Doshas apply mainly to the emotional/physical aspect.
The Gunas are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Sattva represents our noblest aspirations such as love, contentment, and clarity of mind. Rajas represents a state of distraction, hyperactivity, aggression, and overstimulation. Tamas is a state of underactivity, sloth, and ignorance. Ayurveda tries to promote a balance between Rajas and Tamas which is the Sattvic way of life.
The Doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. In the elemental sense Vata is made up of ether/air, Pitta of fire/water, and Kapha water/earth. The doshas are present in everything. Seasonally Vata is the fall, Kapha the winter/ spring, and Pitta is summer. Spicy food is Pitta, crunchy and/or dry food like salad or crackers is Vata, and heavy and/or moist food like meat or dairy is Kapha. These concepts are easy to see when applied to different people. Vata people are thin, dry, cold, anxious, and spacy. Pitta people are well proportioned, quick, fiery, aggressive, competitive, and tempermental. Kapha's tend to be slower, overweight with food issues, nurturing, mild tempered, and attached/sentimental. We are all a combination of the three doshas.
The aim of Ayurveda is to restore us to our original doshic makeup which becomes imbalanced as a result of various internal and external factors. Basically the method is to balance...cool something down if it is too hot, moisten it if too dry, warm it up if its too cold, disperse it if its too heavy or dense, etc. To accomplish this Ayurveda uses foods, herbs, oils, aromas, yoga, and many other natural methods. Ayurveda promotes a Sattvic approach to whatever method is used as true health is only found in the Sattvic condition.