Many people over the world are today turning to Ayurveda as a system of healing. Find out more about this ancient science.
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of medicine that originated during the time of the Vedic civilisation. Its foundations were laid down almost 5,000 years ago by the rishis, or wise sages, who methodically formulated the science by studying the fundamental physical, mental, social, and spiritual properties that support life. Roughly translating as 'knowledge of life', Ayurveda seeks to promote health and well-being by sustaining the ayus or life principle and prescribing therapeutic solutions to health-related problems.
Branches of Ayurveda
Traditionally, the science of Ayurvedic medicine is known to have comprised of eight branches:
Kayachikitsa Tantra: Dealing with internal medicine treatment, it is generally considered the most well developed of the branches of Ayurveda.
Shalya Tantra: This branch of surgical Ayurveda has limited application today.
Shalakya Tantra: This branch of Ayurveda specialises in curing diseases of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat.
Kaumarabhritya Tantra: This branch of Ayurveda deals with paediatrics, or the health and diseases of children. Today it is practiced mainly by the traditional Buddhist physicians in Nepal.
Agada Tantra: This is concerned with the treatment of cases of poisoning, including poisoned food, bites from venomous animals or insects. Today rural vishavaidyas (poison doctors) often practise this science.
Bajikarana Tantra: Recognised as the science of purification of the male and female genital organs, this branch is concerned with practices related to conceiving healthy offspring.
Rasayana Tantra: This section of Ayurveda deals with the promotion of good health and longevity. It does not have any specific sources but is included in texts dealing with internal medicine.
Bhuta Vidya: Bhuta Vidya, or the science of spiritual healing, is mainly concerned with the treatment of mental diseases. Its application extends to diseases arising from causes other than an imbalance in the Tridoshas.
Ayurveda believes in the Vedic concept of the Panchamahabhutas or the five basic elements of the Universe: Akasha (space), VayuAgni (fire), Jala (water), and Prithvi (earth). These Panchamahabhutas combine to form the Tridoshas, or three doshas. These three doshas are: (air),
Vata: Vata represents the air principle. It is mainly concerned with the functioning of the body's nervous system.
Pitta: Pitta is the fire principle. It is associated with presence of bile in the body and governs functions related to digestion and metabolism.
Kapha: Kapha is the water principle. It regulates the lubrication of the joints and the distribution of moisture and nutrients in the body.
According to Ayurveda, the Tridoshas lie at the root of the proper functioning of the psychological and physiological processes in the body. The belief in the Tridoshas as the foundation of health or diseases is the core of the Ayurvedic system of healing.
Diagnosis and cure
Ayurveda holds that the perfect balance of the three doshas in the body brings about good health. This perfect balance is generally affected by various factors such as diet, digestion, waste elimination, emotional poise, and spiritual harmony.
However, most people do not enjoy this ideal state of being. The doshas in their body are never in perfect balance and this leads to ill-health. The dominance of any one of the three doshas is what gives each patient his unique constitution, or prakriti. In Ayurveda, patients are classified as belonging to either of the three types, Vata, Pitta or Kapha, or their various combinations. The vaidya or Ayurvedic doctor thus diagnoses a patient based on his or her prakriti and prescribes treatment
Ayurvedic science seeks to cure disease by restoring the balance of the doshas in the patient's body. To achieve this, it suggests any or all of the following different forms of treatments.
Diet control: Ayurveda advocates the intake of pure and wholesome (mainly vegetarian) food that nourishes the body and maintains the tranquillity of the mind and spirit. (In Ayurveda such food is referred to as sattvic to distinguish it from food that either serves to excite or stimulate the body and mind (rajasic) or dull them (tamasic). General restrictions are also imposed on combining incompatible articles of food, or eating certain foods in certain seasons. Apart from this, specific food articles are prescribed to patients to resolve the imbalance in the doshas.
Panchkarma: This is a set of five important cleansing practices. They include:
Vamana or emesis (vomiting) to cleanse the stomach
Virechana or purgation of intestinal waste
Vasti or enema to cleanse the colon
Nasya or nasal instillation for sinuses and disease of the head
Raktamoksha or blood-letting to eliminate impure blood
Marma Chikitsa: This involves the use of massage, application of pressure or insertion of needles at various marmas or points on the body, to help regulate the flow of prana or vital energy along the body through the nadis, a complex system of channels.
Yoga: The practice of asanas (physical exercises), pranayam (breath control techniques), and meditation is prescribed to ensure physical, physiological, mental, and spiritual health.
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Do you consider Ayurveda to be an effective and practical science of medicine? Would you opt for Ayurveda to treat yourself or your children? Do you know cases where Ayurveda was especially effective?
Hi sad soul, the prrof of the pudding is in the eating. Try out Ayurveda, but take care to consult a practicing vaidya, and follow his advice completely. Who knows, the results may surprise you?...
Hi. An interesting article. Wandered into the forums and found a debate raging. Everyone seems to be a born critic. Let me just say that Ayurveda and Homeopathy are two fields that are really getting ...
I agree when all else fails why not turn to Ayurveda. One should have an open mind when seeking a cure. However one shouldn' t keep hopping from one medicine to another. First regular physicians and t...