Ayurveda is the world’s most ancient, yet uniquely futuristic system of healing and good health. It is the most eco-friendly system of treatment with no harmful side effects.
The word Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit words; Ayus, or life, and Veda, or knowledge. Ayurveda has been translated as the knowledge of life, as well as the science of life. It is considered the oldest healing system prevelant in the universe today.
This system has been practiced primarily in the Indian subcontinent for 6,000 years and addresses all aspects of life – the body, mind and spirit. It is a natural system that advocates preventive and healing therapies by means of purification and rejuvenation. It is a science and an art of appropriate living to achieve longevity.
Ayurveda treats the source of the disease instead of its symptoms; and prescribes medication for prevention and cure. All ayurvedic medicines are derived from plants, herbs, minerals and other vegetable sources that do not cause reactions or side effects.
Ayurveda treats each person and the disease the person is manifesting as a unique entity. It could be said that no two people are alike, and no two diseases are alike. Therefore, Ayurveda does not approach the cure of a disease as much as it approaches the cure of a person.
This approach vastly differs from allopathic medicine where allopathic medicine looks for a drug that will cure a statistically significant number of people for a specific condition for e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension or diabetes.
Ayurvedic medicine looks for a treatment that will cure an individual person of their unique presentation of the disease. Since no disease affects two people in exactly the same way, no two cures are exactly the same.
PRINCIPLES OF AYURVEDA
Ayurveda is the traditional Indian medical system, which claims that health, is based on the harmonious relationship between three humours of the body called doshas, namely Vata, Pitta, Kapha.
Ayurveda describes the human being as being composed of five elements, three doshas (biological energies/humours), seven dhatus (tissues), and numerous srotas (channels).
- The five elements are ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These five elements, which also make up all of nature, are not meant to be taken literally. They are ideas described as elements. They are the ideas of space, motion, heat, flow, and solidity respectively. The three doshas, the biological forces that govern the functions of the body, are composed of these elements.
- The three doshas govern all the metabolic activities in an individual. Disharmony of these three doshas leads to various diseases (dhaatus, upadhaatus, and srotas are understood to be the site of the disease).
Vata dosha maintains movement in the body, like breathing, nerve impulses and ciruclation. Vata energy is dry, cold and light. Pitta dosha controls digestion and glandular processes in the body. Body heat and metabolism are maintained by pitta. Pitta is wet and hot, light and intense. The muscles, skeletal structure and connective tissues are sustained by the kapha dosha. Wet, cold and heavy, kapha manifests as stability and is responsible for tissue building.
- Dhaatus are tissues while upadhaatus are additional tissues. There are seven tissues: plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow, and reproductive tissue. Unlike Western medicine, which believes each tissue to be separate, Ayurveda believes each to be dependent upon the tissues preceding it for its nourishment and health. Hence, a problem, which develops in one tissue, if not corrected, will eventually have systemic consequences.
- Srotas are channel systems similar to the organ systems of the human body. The major srotas are somewhat equivalent to the respiratory system, digestive system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, urinary system, and water metabolism system. These are additional sites of disease where doshas may become aggravated.
- According to Ayurveda, each person has a constitution that was determined at conception. This constitution is the inherent balance of these three doshas. The constitution determines a person’s basic body type and personality. In actuality, there are infinite combinations and permutations of these three basic energies in each person. Therefore, we see that each person is understood to be unique.
BASIS OF AYURVEDIC TREATMENT
- Ayurvedic practitioner’s first objective is to understand the nature or constitution of the patient. This tells the practitioner whom they are treating.
- Next, the practitioner attempts to understand the disease or the nature of the imbalance. Ayurvedic pathology is understood according to the doshic imbalance and the imbalance of qualities within the body. The practitioner assesses the state of the doshas, dhaatus, upadhaatus, srotas, and malas of the body.
- While pathology is important to understanding the nature of the disease, equally important is etiology. Etiology is understood according to how the patient’s lifestyle, habits, and environment caused the doshas to become disturbed.
Ayurvedic treatment goals include eliminating impurities, reducing symptoms, increasing resistance to disease, reducing worry and increasing harmony in the patient’s life. The practitioner uses a variety of methods to achieve these goals:
- Eliminating impurities (Shodhan Chikitsa): A process called panchakarma is intended to cleanse the body by eliminating ama. Ama is described as an undigested food that sticks to tissues, interferes with normal functioning of the body, and leads to disease. Panchakarma focuses on eliminating ama through the digestive tract and the respiratory system. Enemas, massage, medical oils administered in a nasal spray, and other methods may be used.
- Reducing symptoms (Shaman Chikitsa): The practitioner may suggest various options, including medicines, physical exercises, breathing exercises, meditation and changing one’s diet. The patient may take certain herbs—often with honey, to make them easier to digest. Sometimes diets are restricted to certain foods. Very small amounts of metal and mineral preparations, such as gold or iron, also may be given.
- Increasing resistance to disease (Rasayana Chikitsa) : The practitioner may combine several herbs, proteins, minerals, and vitamins in tonics to improve digestion and increase appetite and immunity. These tonics are based on formulas from ancient texts.
ORIGIN OF AYURVEDA
History of Ayurveda starts from the time of the Holy books. Historians have not succeeded in determining the exact period in which Ayurveda came into existence. Most agree that classical Ayurvedic texts were written in India between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago. But the Holy books, Vedas (The ancient Indian Texts of wisdom), suggests an even longer history, as the Rig Veda written over 6,000 years ago had mentioned 60 medicinal preparations that could be used by individuals to overcome various ailments. The medical principles known as Ayurveda are an integral part of Atharva Veda.
The Indian mythology presents the knowledge of Ayurveda as delivered directly by Lord Brahma, the Creator, to the Prajapati Daksha (One of the lords of the animals). He in turn taught Ashwini Kumaras, the heavenly healers. They taught the methods to Indra, the Lord of the Immortals.
When mankind started suffering from various diseases the wise men like Bharadwaja learnt the knowledge of medicine from Indra. Bharadwaja, on his return passed on the lessons to other sages, including Punarvasu and Atreya. Atreya taught the system to six of his disciples, who, on the basis of their own understanding of the subject, composed treatises, which became popular and proved helpful in curing various ailments.
Charak and Sushrut, two disciples of Atreya, are the main re-organizers of Ayurveda whose works still exist intact today. The third major treatise is called the Ashtanga Hridaya, which is a concise version of the works of Charak and Sushrut. Thus the three main Ayurvedic texts used today are the Charak Samhita (compilation of the oldest book Atreya Samhita), Sushrut Samhita and the Ashtangha Hridaya Samhita. These books are believed to be over 1,200 years old. Since these texts contain the original and complete knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is known today as the only complete medical system that prevails in the world. Other forms of medicine from various cultures have lost much of their original information.