Ayurveda is a traditional medicine system native to India and followed in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word ayur means life, and veda means knowledge; translates literally to the science of life.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, one of the oldest medical systems in the world has been practicing for 4,000 years in India. It is a holistic medicinal system encompassing the balance of body, mind, and spirit.
Ayurveda affirms a fundamental association between the microcosm and macrocosm. Ayurveda believe cosmos creates people and human are miniature representation of the universe; it contains within them everything that makes up the universe.
Ayurveda view the body functioning as the interaction of three system, they are doshas (vital energy), dhatus (tissues), and malas (waste products). The vital energy controls the creation of all body tissues and removal of unnecessary waste products out of the body.
The Caraka samhita states the term ‘Ayurveda’ is derived from two words, ayus and veda. Caraka expands us that ayus is the ‘combination of the body, sense organs, mind and soul’, the factor (dhari) responsible for preventing decay and death, which sustains ( jıvita) the body over time (nityaga), and guides the process of rebirth (anubandha). The second part of the word is veda and can be translated more specifically as a deeply profound knowledge emanates from a divine source, and hence Ayurveda is known as the ‘divine science of life’.
Motto of Ayurveda
The following sentence explains the basic aim of Ayurveda.
“Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam; Atursya Vikar Prashamanam”
This means: “Preservation to health of healthy person is treating ailments with breaking causative factors of pathogenesis”.
History of Ayurveda
The history of Ayurveda is as earliest as being the Vedic period with reference in Rigveda and Atharvaveda.
- Ayurveda is considering originated in Heaven from Lord Brahma (Hindu God of Creation), who presented this knowledge, to Daksha Prajapati (the protector of all beings).
- Then this knowledge taught to the Ashwini Kumaras; the twin holy physicians.
- Ashwini Kumaras in turn taught it to Lord Indra (King of the Gods).
- When disease and illness began to trouble humanity, the Maharshi Bharadvaja made the journey to Indra’s court on Mount Kailash, where he studied Ayurveda.
- Bharadvaja returned to establish the first school of Ayurveda, and revealed this knowledge to the assembled sages. These sages in turn taught this knowledge to their own disciples.
- One named Punarvasu Atreya held a competition to see which student best understood kaya cikitsa (internal medicine). Among his students, the treatise of Agnivesa was judged best.
- Agnivesa authored a text called Agnivesa samhita, it became the authoritative text on internal medicine.
- This text is no longer available; however, physician Caraka revised, edited and compiled a text called Caraka samhita.
- Kasiraja Divodasa Dhanvantari, the sage teaches salya cikitsa to his student Susruta, he compiled Divodasa’s teachings into a text, later Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna revised it, forms the Susruta Samhita, the primary Ayurvedic text on the theory and practice of surgery.
- Another important early text is the Kasyapa samhita concerned with the theory and practice of pediatric and obstetric disease (kaumarabhr tya).
- The Caraka and Susruta samhitas are broad enough in scope that they describe almost the entire system of Ayurveda.
- Sharangadhara Samhita described the examination of the pulse for the first time, as a method of clinical examination and use of metals and minerals like gold, silver, iron, mercury and copper for preparing Ayurvedic medicines.
- Rasa Tantra (northern India) and Siddha (southern India) dealt mostly with number of metallic preparations as remedies. The important metal successfully used was mercury in many forms.
Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is not merely a medicinal system rather a way of life. The important Ayurvedic theories are:
- Loka Purusha Samya (macrocosm, microcosm continuum - Universe and an individual),
- Pancha Maha Bhuta - Akasha (ether/space), Vayu (air/motion), Teja (fire/radiant energy), Jala (water/cohesive factor), and Prithvi (earth/mass),
- Tridosha - Vata (motional energy), Pitta (chemical activities), and Kapha (solid substratum),
- Sapta-dhatu - Rasa (Plasma), Rakta (Blood), Mansa (Muscles), Meda (Fat), Asthi (Bone), Majja (Bone marrow), and Shukra (Reproductive fluid or Semen),
- Prakriti - is the unique psychosomatic temperament of an individual, encompassing their physical, functional and behavioral characteristics. Vikriti – is the term indicating abnormal state or the diseased state of the body.
- Agni - is the fire drives all digestion and metabolism in the Ayurvedic medical practice.
- Ama - is the residue of undigested or partially digested food results from poor digestive fire.
The body and mind are the two interdependent components of every living being, its harmonic co-existence being responsible for health and its imbalance for disease.
Sapta-Dhatu (Seven body tissues)
The seven dhatus or tissues are the structures of the body responsible for nourishment and retaining health. They are:
- Rasa is a final metabolic juice & plasma (Digestive System),
- Rakta is a blood cells (Circulatory System),
- Mamsa is a muscle & tendons (Muscular System),
- Med is a fat,
- Asthi is a bone (Skeleton),
- Majja is a bone marrow, and
- Shukra is a semen fluid (Reproductive System).
Eight specialties of Ayurveda
Ayurveda has eight specialties originally revealed by Bharadvaja, they are:
- Kaya cikitsa - general internal medicine,
- Bala cikitsa - infants & children treatment,
- Graha cikitsa - treatment of spiritual possession & medical astrology,
- Urdhvanga cikitsa - eyes, ears, nose & throat treatment,
- Salya cikitsa - Surgical treatment,
- Damstra cikitsa - treatment of animal inflicted wounds, poisoning, i.e. toxicology,
- Jara cikitsa - rejuvenate treatment of ageing; i.e. rasayana,
- Vrsa cikitsa - impotence & sterility treatment (aphrodisiac) i.e. vajıkaran
How do we get Sick?
Ayurveda consider the specific disease conditions are symptoms of an underlying imbalance. It does consider the relief of these symptoms; however, its main emphasis is to restore balance by creating healthy lifestyle so that the imbalance would not occur again.