The History of Ayurveda
The word Ayurveda originates from the Sanskrit words Ayu, which means life and Veda, which means science or knowledge. So it literally translates into the science of life.
Ayurvedic medicine is one of the earliest branches of medical science. It is believed that the ancient sages got the knowledge of Ayurveda from Dhanvantari, the Hindu God of Medicine more than 5000 years ago. After that, the sages made various revisions to the original text and passed on the knowledge to the further generations.
There are frequent references to Ayurveda in ancient Vedic texts like the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda. Indian epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana also mention Ayurvedic medicines as a means to cure diseases and, in some cases, even bring back people from death.
The three main texts on Ayurveda, also called the Great Three Classics of Ayurveda are Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridayam Sangraha.
Charaka Samhita is based on Charaka’s annotations of Agnivesha’s (an original Ayurvedic scholar) work. While the original work is more detailed and unique, Charaka made it more accessible by making it easier to diagnose a disease and using Ayurveda to cure it. Charaka Samhita also has listed the qualities and medicinal values of over 10,000 medicinal herbs.
Sushruta Samhita talks about the concept of surgery in Ayurveda. Sushruta is believed to be the first surgeon in Indian history. Sushruta Samhita contains detailed presentations of over a thousand health conditions and 300 types of operations that require 42 different surgical procedures. It also comprehensively covers the types of instruments to be used for surgeries and the medicines required for post-operative care from plants, animals and minerals.
Ashtanga Hridayam Sangraha focuses on internal medicine. In this, the various doshas of the human body and their subparts are explored in detail.
Other than these three, there are other major texts called Sharngadhara Samhita, Bhava Prakasha and Madhava Nidanam. Together, all these texts form the basis of Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda has faced many challenges, the biggest from the Western world advocating Allopathic practices. However, it has withstood all the challenges and has emerged as one of the most sought-after medicinal practices not only in India but also in Western countries.
The Concept of Ayurveda
Ayurveda works on the concept that the mind and the body are connected. The mind has the power to heal the body.
In Ayurveda, the treatment is customized for each person according to his/her doshas, which are believed to control the body’s physiological operations. Accordingly, the Ayurveda practitioner will prescribe Ayurvedic medicines to cure the imbalance.
The three doshas are fundamental to the working of Ayurveda. They are called vata, pitta and kapha. They circulate throughout the body and control all actions done by a person. When there is an imbalance in one or more of these doshas, a person becomes sick.
Vata is believed to be connected to wind. It is always moving and dynamic. It regulates the central nervous system.
Pitta is heat, similar to the sun. It is considered to be a source of energy and controls the digestive systems and other major processes.
Kapha is the fluid present in the body. It is necessary for facilitating any function made by the body. It controls the body’s muscle tone and the production and growth of cells.
The ratios of these doshas are different in every person. They affect the behaviour, temperament and personality of a person. These doshas are influenced by internal factors like a person’s thoughts and actions and external factors like food and environment, too.
The ideal state is where all the three doshas are in perfect equilibrium. When one of the doshas is more than the others, it results in an increased state. Similarly, when one of the doshas is lesser than the other two, it results in a decreased state. A practitioner assesses your doshas for increased or decreased states and suggests remedies to restore balance.
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Branches of Ayurveda
There are eight parts in which Ayurveda is divided. Each part covers a different aspect of holistic health and the cure for each disease in the area.
- Kayachikitsa (internal medicine): Used for overall treatment of the body. It focuses on the metabolic system.
- Baala Chikitsa (paediatric medicine): Also known as Kaumara Bhritya, this branch focuses on diseases and sickness in children.
- Graha Chikitsa (psychiatry): Also known as Bhoot Vidya, this branch focuses on the diseases of the mind. The treatment routine may include Mantra Chikitsa (chanting mantras).
- Urdhyaanga Chikitsa: Used to treat the problems of the upper body, especially eyes, ears, nose and throat. It is also known as Shalakaya Tantra.
- Shalyaroga Chikitsa (surgery): This branch deals with surgical procedures.
- Damstra Chikitsa (toxicology): Used to study and cure the effect of toxins and poisons in the human body.
- Jara Chikitsa (geriatric medicine): This branch focuses on the care of older adults. All diseases, physical and mental, are covered in this branch.
- Vajjikaran Chikitsa (reproductive medicine): This branch deals with treating reproductive problems like infertility or insufficient semen.
Aspects of Ayurvedic Medicine
There are four aspects of Ayurvedic treatment. They are:
- Bhisak (physician/surgeon)
- Rogi (patient)
- Upasthatha (nurse)
- Dravyam (food and medicine)
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Treatments in Ayurveda
An Ayurvedic practitioner diagnoses your health problems in two stages. The first step is to identify the type of pathology. The second is to determine the form of treatment. The patient’s physical state is evaluated for finding the tolerance of the patient towards the patient.
There are five types of treatment in Ayurvedic medicine. They are based on the five senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. They bring harmony to a person’s doshas and cure illnesses.
Ayurveda in Modern Times
Western medicine and other medical practices have always threatened Ayurveda. However, Ayurveda has evolved according to the times. It is, in fact, the safer alternative to other forms of medicine. It is without side effects and is very effective in treatment of various diseases.
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Ayurvedic Practices at Home
While most practices require you to consult a registered practitioner, there are some practices you can do at home. Drinking water stored in copper vessels and drinking lemon-infused warm water in the morning are some such steps you can start doing at home.
Ayurveda and Aging
Ayurveda considers aging to be a natural phenomenon. The standard human life span documented in the Vedas is 100 years.
Ayurvedic practices recognize the various symptoms of aging of the body and treat each symptom accordingly. There are some changes that occur in the doshas with age that might cause illnesses in older adults. Consulting an Ayurveda specialist and seeking appropriate treatment can cure almost any sickness or disorder without any side effects.
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