Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical sciences in the world. Though it has roots in India, it is slowly getting recognition around the world for its therapeutic benefits.
Unlike the current medical practice, Ayurveda recognizes three doshas (physiological activities) namely Vata, Pitta, and kapha to diagnosis disease and is based on five essential elements of which the whole universe and so our body is made of.
Ayurveda is part of one of the greatest literary heritages of all time, called the Vedic literature. It addresses the Vedic science of living.
The term Ayurveda consists of two words, ‘Ayu’ which means life and ‘Veda’ means knowledge. As per the Vedic information and popular belief, this knowledge has been passed down through the generations from Lord Brahma, one of the most prominent Hindu God, to various sages.
Thus, Ayurveda, ‘Science of Life’ has thrived over time.
Ayurveda, one of the oldest medical sciences, is the basis of Indian medicine combining all three –physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of life.
It is the science that describes the guidelines for what is essential and relevant for long life. It influences the life-span of persons and society for the betterment of both.
In recent years, a deep interest has been shown throughout the world to know more about the contributions that can be made by Ayurveda towards healthcare.
As per the most Indian scriptures, this eternal science is believed to be recollected by Lord Brahma, the creator of the world. He taught it to his son, Daksha Prajapati. Daksha taught the same to Ashvin twins, the talented physicians, and surgeons of the kingdom of Lord Indra. Twin Ashvinis taught Ayurveda to Indra.
The further hierarchy of Ayurveda varies according to different classical texts. Finally, various scholars learned it from their teachers and composed their literary works.
For example, Susruta, one of the earliest sages connected with Ayurveda, emphasized on Shalya Tantra (Surgery) whereas Caraka on Kayacikitsa (General Medicine) and Kasyapa on Kaumarbhritya (Pediatrics).
So many scholars developed the basic concepts of this science, which are why there are a variety of Ayurvedic texts available for every segment of life.
To serve humans suffering from various ailments, Ayurveda has got eight divisions. These eight branches are:
- Kaya Cikitsa (Internal Medicine)
- Shalya Tantra (Surgery)
- Shalakya Tantra (ENT)
- Agada Tantra (Toxicology)
- Bhuta Vidya (Management of seizures & mental disorders)
- Kaumarbhritya (Paediatrics with Gynaecology & Obstetrics)
- Rasayana (Rejuvenation Therapy)
- Vajikarana (Science of Aphrodisiacs)
However, nowadays, many more branches have become an essential part of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic basic principles, anatomy & physiology, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, pathology, preventive & social medicine, obstetrics & gynecology are some of the brand new divisions of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is considered as eternal, as its basic principles are similar to that of the elementary principles of creation of the universe.
Ayurveda is customizable for any individual, and so this science can be useful for a healthy person for longevity as well as for a diseased to cure his illness.
Five elements (Pancamahabhuta) principle
As per Ayurveda’ Macrocosm in Microcosm,’ i.e., the body is made up of the same five elements, known as Pancamahabhuta, which makes up everything in our universe.
Those five elements are:
- Jala (water)
- Prithvi (earth)
- Vayu (air)
- Aakash (space)
- Agni (fire)
Though they cannot be seen, they can be understood by the structure and function of substances. Thus the food we eat, our body, our excreta, and our surroundings- all are composed of five elements. They are distributed in varying proportions.
These five elements also develop senses (indriya) and mind (manas). In a healthy body, these mahabhutas are in a balanced state.
Pancamahabhutas (five essential elements) makes up the three doshas, the primary constitutional factor of the body which maintains its integrity. Doshas are three, namely Vata, Pitta, and kapha.
Doshas represent groups of physiological activities going on continuously in the body. By watching these activities or their deviations, if any, we can assess health or illness. Thus, doshas are the windows of health or disease.
- Vata can is a moving force which is responsible for carrying out all vital functions of the body.
- Pitta is described as fire as its functions are similar to that of fire like digestion and transformation.
- Kapha is the strength that resists disease and decay.
The body is said to be healthy when these doshas work in harmony, and it is said to be diseased when these factors get imbalanced.
Agni: Digestive fire
Ayurveda gives as much importance to Agni as to doshas for a healthy life. Agni is concerned with digestion and metabolism. The human body can utilize the food nutrients, only if it digests appropriately.
The digestive fire is a crucial factor in making sure that the mahabhutas taken in the body in the form of food are effectively broken down, and wastes get eliminated adequately for the proper nutrition and growth of dhatus (body tissues).
The synthesized elements which are taken in by the body are termed as ‘Dhatu‘ and discharged excretory waste is called ‘Mala.’
Any fluctuation in Agni is a sure prior sign of upcoming disease. A disturbed Agni results in indigestion, thus causing the formation of ama (toxins) in the body.
The accumulation of ama is one of the root causes of many lifestyle disorders commonly seen in today’s scenario.
Prakriti(Nature): Constitution & Temperament
As every person has their specific fingerprint, in the same way, each person has its specific Prakriti, i.e., body constitution.
Prakriti determines physical, mental &emotional characteristics of an individual and therefore, their vulnerability to illnesses.
In Ayurvedic terms, Prakriti is the status of balanced dosha present since conception. Prakriti is what makes every individual different from others.
Evaluation of Prakriti determines what type of diet and lifestyle is appropriate for the maintenance of health.
Ayurveda says that secret to excellent health is maintained the balance of doshas. Prakriti analysis through the sum of tridoshas is vital for disease diagnosis and treatment.
Mind: another seat of the disease
Ayurveda says that body & mind are closely interrelated, which is why the mind is also considered as the abode of disease as well as of well being.
Three qualities of mind (Triguna) namely, Sattva, Raja & Tama are the functional units of the brain. The balanced state of triguna establishes Prakriti.
The sattvic constitution is a strong constitution, whereas Raja & Tama are said to be unsound. Any disturbance in these functional units can, in turn, impair structural units of our body & can lead to diseases.
Objective of Ayurveda
Every system of science has its principal aim & objectives. There are two main aims of Ayurvedic Medicine.
The first aim is to preserve the health of an individual, and second is to get rid of ailments of the diseased person.
To achieve these objectives, several means & regimens have been described elaborately.
Diagnosis & Treatment in Ayurveda
Ayurvedic principles of diagnosis are very simple and do not require lengthy laboratory investigations. Both disease and patient examination are carried out at the same time. For the accurate diagnosis principles of Pancanidana is followed.
Pancanidana has five diagnostic components, which are:
- Disease-causing factors
- Prior signs of illness
- Actual signs & symptoms
- Therapeutic diagnosis
- Pathological process
These above components help in proper diagnosis & hence, treatment may be given accordingly.
Ayurveda assesses health with various tools and techniques. Ayurvedic texts describe many types of examination techniques.
Ayurvedic diagnosis of any illness is made by examining the pulse (Nadi pariksha), urine & stool, observing the sense organs, direct questioning, observation, physical exam as well as inference.
Along with the evaluation of signs and symptoms of illnesses, the origin and cause of imbalance are also derived. Various treatments are employed only after looking after the suitability of the patient’s physical strength and chronicity of illness.
Nadi pariksha: Ayurvedic version of Stethoscope
Nadi pariksha is one of the essential tools of Ayurvedic diagnosis. It is an Ayurvedic technique of pulse diagnosis, which can accurately determine physical, mental, and emotional imbalances as well as diseases.
With the full concentration, a physician analyzes the pulse in the context of doshas and their movement. Pulse analysis gives an idea of the risk of upcoming diseases and hence, can prevent disease complications.
The maintained state of the internal environment of the body is called homeostasis. The same concept in Ayurveda is called Svasthya.
For attaining svasthya, various entities of the body such as dosha (functional unit of the body), dhatu (structural unit of the body), mala (excretory product), soul, sense organs & mind are to be in a balanced state.
There is no single standard treatment in Ayurveda as it depends on an individual’s natural constitution, season, age, climate, etc. Therefore, Ayurveda has a unique concept of healing for every individual.
Focus on prevention than treatment
Ayurveda has always emphasized on prevention rather than treatment of disease. In today’s world of challenges & opportunities, it is difficult to have a balanced state of mind and body.
However, knowledge of Ayurveda encourages one to pay close attention to one’s body by maintaining balance with the help of right diet(ahara), lifestyle, use of palliative(Shamana) & eliminative (Shodhana) therapy appropriate to one’s constitution for healthy body and mind.
Shamana & Shodhana Therapy
Shamana means subsidence of disease & symptoms. This therapy includes the use of herbs in different forms, diet, exercise, etc. Shodhana means purification of the body by eliminating morbid factors causing illness.
Shodhana is also called as Panchakarma because it comprises of five procedures. The body is cleansed by resorting to five methods of emesis, purgation, enema, nasal medication & blood-letting.
Utility of Ayurveda
By following the basic guidelines of Ayurveda, anyone can keep their doshas balanced and stay healthy. The healthy life, which is a pre-requisite for the attainment of the purpose of life, can be achieved by resorting oneself to the principles of Ayurveda.
Using body, mind, and spirit in accord with the unique mission of life is the most fundamental way of keeping oneself happy and healthy.
Ayurveda recognizes that each of us is unique. Each of us responds differently to the many aspects of life; each possesses different strength and weaknesses.
Ayurveda not only heals but also directs us to onto the path of self-awareness. Ayurveda makes life as it should exist in accord with nature & teaches us to live in harmony with the rhythm of nature.
Over to you
In this era, when science & technology have made revolutionary changes in the lifestyle of man, is Ayurveda useful even today and will remain in the future? Will this old science go to the museum?
So many such questions are before us at this point of time, but not to forget that Ayurveda came into existence with the purpose of longevity & disease-free life.
The necessity of Ayurveda will remain until the idea of disease-free survival will continue.