Question: "How should a Christian view Ayurvedic medicine?"
Answer: The spiritual underpinnings of Ayurvedic medicine are from the Hindu religion. Knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine is supposed to have been handed down from the gods and discovered through meditation. Some of the practices seem to be purely spiritual such as the balancing of the life energies with the life force of the universe. This has become popular today under the broader “New Age” label. Other practices and treatments of Ayurvedic medicine are more physical, having to do with the use of herbs and essential oils.
Obviously, a Christian must resist any treatment that would embrace a pagan philosophy or involve the Christian in a pagan ritual. If the Ayurvedic practitioner is attempting to help the Christian discover his or her inner divinity to facilitate healing, then the treatment is unbiblical and should be avoided. Since most people who would describe themselves as Ayurvedic practitioners would embrace the whole treatment philosophy, we would counsel Christians to steer clear.
On the other hand, the Bible does not forbid the use of legitimate medicinal treatments. If there are certain aspects of Ayurvedic therapy that have physical benefit apart from pagan practice or theology, such as the use of an herbal combination to provide relief from intestinal inflammation or the use of an essential oil to relieve a headache, then they could be used the same as any other treatment.
It seems that many undiscerning Christians are drawn to Ayurvedic and other forms of alternative medicine because of the “spirituality” of those forms and because they seem to avoid some of the more undesirable aspects of “modern medicine.” Many people reject modern medicine because they consider it to be the result of an atheistic, naturalistic view of the universe, filling our bodies with unnatural and harmful chemicals, and requiring exorbitant prices charged by greedy drug companies. Even many who believe only in faith healing will accept “natural” compounds such as what are offered in Ayurvedic medicine. Some will uncritically accept a “spiritual” approach to their illness as being more in keeping with the way God created things, even if the spiritual base of that approach is blatantly unchristian.
The truth is that God has created the universe with incredible potential for benefit that man is free to discover. There are many “natural” chemical compounds in plants and animals that are useful for healing ailments. Likewise, there are many “man-made” compounds that are really nothing more than combinations of the “natural” components. All of it ultimately comes from what God created. “Man-made” medicine may have harmful side effects. “Natural” or homeopathic compounds can also have harmful side effects. There are cautions to be heeded on all sides.
In the final analysis, the motto at the Tenwek Hospital in Kenya is completely accurate: “We Treat, Jesus Heals.” Christians trust God and pray for healing, but one of the ways He heals is by giving us skilled medical professionals and both “natural” and “man-made” medicines and procedures. Some aspects of Ayurvedic medicine may be beneficial. As long as the procedure does not involve something that is pagan or anti-biblical, then the Christian has the freedom to consider it. However, if the practitioner is steeped in non-Christian religion or Eastern mysticism, then the treatment process will normally contain pagan practices, and the Christian should not participate. If the treatment or the medicine used can be separated from the pagan practice, and it proves medically beneficial, then the Christian can benefit from it, thanking God for His common grace that allowed pagan people to discover something good in His universe.