Can practitioners legally offer Ayurveda to patients?

It depends.  If they are non-licensed there would have to be an exception in the law allowing non-licensed individuals to offer health care services.  If they are licensed, Ayurveda would have to be within their legally authorized scope of practice.  If they are an MD or DO, there is some leeway but the Ayurvedic services would be regarded as medical and raise standard of care issues.

Here is some advice to a yoga therapy center:




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o   In the absence of specific law, the default mode,is that a practitioner could be considered to be engaged in unlicensed practice of medicine (or of another profession), and other clinicians of “aiding and abetting” unlicensed practice.  I doubt we will get further guidance from the Board, unless a specific disciplinary case has arisen. 

o   Certain techniques within Ayurveda, such as pulse diagnosis and herbal recommendations, raise particular concern as they could most easily be viewed as “diagnosing,” “treating,” “prescribing,” or otherwise crossing the line into unlicensed medical practice. 

o   In an effort to salvage some of the Ayurvedic training, you may be able to separate out therapeutic techniques within Ayurvedic practice that are more medical (and thus raise issues of unlicensed medical practice—and would therefore be contraindicated at the Center), from those that are more akin to spa treatments and massage therapy techniques.  However, the spa treatments could potentially cross into the field of cosmetology (which may have licensure requirements), and the massage treatments may require a practitioner permit (or establishment license) locally. This would require further research.

This Center also asked about the practice of psychotherapy by nonlicensed healers.  We concluded that such individuals could be considered to be engaged in unlicensed practice of psychotherapy.

The only other concern is if yoga therapists at the Center move into health advice that could be considered by a board to cross the line into unlicensed medical practice or unlicensed practice of psychology.  It will be important to have clear boundaries articulated as to the limits of yoga practitioners’ expertise and advice.  Such boundaries can be established either informally (i.e., through conversations and weekly meetings), or more formally through a written Center policy or even more formally, by setting forth limitations contractually.

Practice of Ayurveda does raise issues of unlicensed practice.  Some Ayurvedic practices fall within the rubric of massage, while others (i.e., pulse diagnosis) clearly raise legal red flags.  The same goes for sale of herbs which could be viewed as “prescribing medicine” or even possibly intrusion into unlicensed practice of acupuncture. To the extent practice involves mental health counseling, this could also raise issues about unauthorized practice of psychology; and, not to wander too far afield, techniques involving oil could potentially be viewed as unlicensed practice of cosmetology. At a minimum, we recommend that practices involving Ayurveda be explicitly limited in the Center-Practitioner contract.


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