Updated: Sep 13
I don't have the weirdest career in the world, but it's probably up there. While I've been an Ayurvedic practitioner since 2015, I finally took an Ayurvedic Doctor board exam ten months ago. I had to study several hundred herbs and herbal formulations, all in Sanskrit. Even something that English-speaking heathens like you and me use in our kitchen, like turmeric (haridra) or cardamom (ela), had to be memorized in Sanskrit. Oh, and then I had to make sure I could remember all the disease names in Sanskrit. Not a trivial thing. For example, the diabetes-like disease in Ayurveda (prameha, which means passing too much urine) has 20 different subtypes, and they all require different treatments and herbs.
It’s a dead language, for chrissakes! Though I just read that there’s actually a Sanskrit revival in some states in India, and it’s one of the 22 official languages there. Leave it to India to revive a dead language. They used to be able to charm snakes until it was banned in 1972. So why not a dead language? However, I do find it handy that I can read Devanagari now, albeit very slowly.
OK, you’re still here because you want to know if I passed, right?
This test! I studied for months with my good friend who also writes Ayurveda books. She’s also a haole*. We had fun trying to come up with mnemonics to memorize all the Sanskrit words! She didn’t even get to take the test because the online testing proctor told her she couldn’t use her laptop camera, which was totally incorrect. But you know how proctors are. This is the only area of their life where they have any sort of authority. And this happened to my friend not once, but twice. So she was like, “F it. It’s not like anyone where I live knows what Ayurveda is anyway." (She has a different medical license that she can practice and accept insurance reimbursement under.)
Compared with conventional medicine, Ayurvedic medicine has different understandings of how a disease is created. We use a six-stage disease process model. A bunch of doctors way back in the day battled each other out to come up with the processes for how diseases are created, and then they documented what they found. The battle was not fought through university Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and SPSS analytical software, like the peer-reviewed research of today. They did it through wrestling matches.
That was a joke. For a long time the knowledge was passed down orally, in poem-like verse that people would memorize through chanting. Until someone wrote it down in Sanskrit. And then people started translating it from Sanskrit to English so someone like me could understand.
I wonder... will people someday be using PubMed as gospel, like a religious text? Oh, wait, they do.
I suspect that Allopathic medicine (the conventional medical system of today) could get to a similar place that Ayurvedic scholars came to through all the tech gadgets and data being collected, but it will unfortunately use up a lot of energy and materials in the process. I wish people would just meditate more and develop their psychic powers so we could save the planet. Haha. Kidding. Like 25% kidding.
Not only does your environment affect your health, but you also impact it too. That’s hard to monitor unless you have sensors all over you, continuously measuring your internal and external state, inputs and outputs. But who has enough tech for that kind of tracking?
All of us do. The name I saw on the U.S. patent was “the nervous system”.
Yes, I passed.**
The day I received my results, I celebrated by committing to a start date to work on a new consulting project for a healthcare company, and then getting a pap smear with my OB/GYN in San Francisco (yes, I still have a “regular” doctor even though I wrote a fertility book). And no, I don’t particularly like pap smears either.
I still have a few consultations open this month, so book me before I get hired to work on Mars, where surely I could get licensed.
*Haole (in Hawaii) means “a person who is not a native Hawaiian, especially a white person”. I know India is not in Hawaii, but I haven’t found a word that would describe a non-Indian person like me who studied Ayurvedic medicine. If you hear of one, let me know.
**But don't start calling me Dr. Grzych. That moniker is reserved for other people. I'm just Heather Grzych, AD.