Frank J. Ninivaggi's "Elementary Textbook of Ayurveda" is a superbly written, well-rounded introduction to ayurvedic medicine for those unfamiliar with this fascinating and complex subject. It is of sufficient breadth to satisfy those members of the lay public desiring a grounding in ayurveda's history, theory and practice and in the many subdisciplines comprising the field (physiology, pathology, psychiatry, materia medica, nutrition, etc.) and of sufficent depth to serve as an introductory text for aspiring practitioners. It is particularly appropriate for Western health practitioners who strive to gain an understanding of a medical science radically divergent in so many respects from their own, as well as for persons considering a professional training in ayurvedic medicine.
"An Elementary Textbook of Ayurveda" is far more comprehensive than any of the other volumes popularly available, and I recommend it for my beginning practitioner students at the New Jersey Institute of Ayurveda in conjunction with Dr. Robert Svoboda's "Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution" and Dr. Vasant Lad's "Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles."
The book's chapters deal respectively with ayurveda's origins and development and the classical scriptures comprising its literary corpus; theoretical and philosophic foundations; anatomy, physiology and the concept of 'prakruti' and 'vikruti;' health and the disease process focusing on ayurveda's theory of pathogenesis; nutrition and diet; swasthavritta, and therapeutics and materia medica. It incorporates an indispensible glossary of unfamiliar Sanskrit medical terms, and an exhaustive bibliography. One very small criticism: the volume suffers from the lack of an index, which I think - in a work of this type - is key to its usefulness.
If there is any 'first book' on ayurveda that I would heartily encourage anyone to read this is one of two (along with Dr. Robert Svoboda's "Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution"). Dr. Ninivaggi has done a great service to the elaboration and development of ayurvedic medicine outside the country and culture of its birth.