Ayurveda is a science with deep insight and keen observation. It has a vast historical background and is being flourishing in the Indian subcontinent since time immemorial. The concepts laid down in Ayurveda are highly philosophical with a divine back up. Understanding the principles of Ayurveda requires thorough reading, patience and in-depth thinking. Everything to maintain our gifted life and longevity in this world has been described beautifully with great accuracy and care. Superficially it looks like simply using herbs and minerals for ailments. But there is actually much more to it which is mostly hidden from the present world. Mankind has much to benefit from Ayurveda and we ought to give due respect to this brilliant science.
Scriptures of Ayurveda have been written in Sanskrit and therefore decoding of this language is necessary to understand it. The word “Ayus” means ‘life’ and “Veda” means ‘knowledge’. In short, the knowledge about life is what Ayurveda aims at. A comprehensive data from the beginning of life in the womb of the mother and all aspects until death is available here.
Ayurveda is thought to have a divine origin directly from God to sages which is quiet hard to believe for many. The astonishing fact is that, the information collected and recorded by these sages and transferred to their students, on cross checking and researching, is found to be correct without error. It is impossible for a man or even a group to research and record such a huge data in one’s life time. Thus there is definitely an element of God deeply buried in this science.
The primary aim of Ayurveda is to maintain equilibrium of the body constituents in order to keep up health. The structural and functional components of the body are termed as Doshas, Agni, Dhatus and Malas. A balance of these entities will lead to pleasantness of soul, sense organs and mind bestowing sound health, a condition called as Swasthya.
There are three doshas in our body namely Vaatha, Pitha and Kapha. They are the functional aspects. There are seven dhatus in our body namely Rasa, Raktha, Mamsa, Meda, Asthi, Majja and Sukra. They are the structural components. Proper formation of these components and homeostasis of the three doshas are maintained by a properly functioning Agni (digestive fire). The waste products of metabolism are termed as malas. They are mainly Pureesha, Mootra and Sweda. Derangement in the function of doshas due to their increase or decrease, irregularities in Agni, or improper formation of dhatus and malas can lead to diseases. Different types of permutation and combination in derangement of doshas and dhatus can lead to any number of ailments. It is not mandatory that a disease is named but what is mandatory for the physician is identification of the vitiated components and the pathway (srotas) of vitiation. Management aims at reversing this pathogenesis and pacification of the vitiated components. Improper functioning of agni also leads to the formation of aama. Aama are undigested matter which becomes toxic to body on accumulation and leads to various ailments. Most diseases characterized as due to unknown cause is primarily due to such accumulated toxins which should be digested if in small amounts or else should be eliminated out of the body by means of the five cleansing therapies of Ayurveda called as Panchakarma.
Prevention of ailments: Prevention of new ailments and avoiding recurrence of once cured conditions is given at most importance. Everything top to bottom to maintain a healthy life has been elaborated and the area concerned with this aspect is called as Swavthavritta. Wellness of mankind is the ultimate goal. A detailed description about the daily routines to follow (Dinacharya) and regimens as per the climatic conditions (Ritucharya) are available. Health of both body as well as mind is essential since both are interrelated. Regular exercise (Vyaayaama) is necessary and suppression of natural urges is to be avoided.
Early to bed and early to rise is the rule. The day should begin with properly performing the morning ablusions. Nourishment of the sense organs is the next step. The following are advised:
Natural urges: Natural reflexes like urge to urinate, pass stool, flatus, vomiting, sneezing, yawning, sleeping, hunger, thirst etc should not be withheld for any reason. Suppression of these urges lead to many ailments in the long run. People nowadays get so busy in life that such nature calls are often suppressed forcefully for later. We assume that the causes of many ailments are unknown. Actually suppression of natural urges creates pathology within the body leading to the formation of new diseases in course of time. Elaborate descriptions of the result of suppression of each of these natural urges are explained in Ayuevedic literature. At the same time, Ayurveda advises the suppression of urges like anger, greed, jealousy, violence, theft etc for the goodness of mankind.
The term “ritu” means season and “charya” means regimen. Regimens to be followed according to the changing seasons, that will suit our body and protect from affliction of diseases is explained under this title. Basically the seasons are divided into six as late winter, spring, summer, rainy, autumn and early winter. Each season has specific impact on our body functions like digestive capacity, immunity etc and hence dietetic regulations and activities depending upon those changes must be adjusted. Otherwise an imbalance in the body humors will occur resulting in diseases. Schedule for each season is laid out and following them will help to ward off ailments. Moreover, accumulation of toxins must be seasonally eliminated from body by Panchakarma therapy for prevention of diseases.
Healthy food: Diet is given prime importance and selection of diet suiting to each person’s body constitution is described. Infact food is designated as the best medicine “Aaharo Mahabhaishajyamuchyate”. One should consume food only as per his digestive capacity. Filling stomach to full capacity is restricted. Selection of easy to digest foods (light) and timely intake of meals is quite enough to keep up health. The taste of food is also important. Basically six tastes are there which are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Each taste has capability to regulate body humors. For example, sweet taste can pacify vaatha and pitha doshas whereas it aggravates kapha dosha. All tastes are essential in particular amounts and a balanced diet, flavored with all these tastes is beneficial for health. Intake of certain substances like cow’s ghee, gooseberry, honey etc regularly is good for health whereas dry items, meat of buffalo, pork, fish, curd etc should not be regularly taken. A proper diet is designated as pathya aahaara.
Nature cure: The cure of ailments has been found from nature itself. Medicines are classified based on source of collection as plant origin products, animal origin and mineral origin. Even grave poisons are made use as medicine by special processing techniques. Every weapon becomes useful or harmful depending upon the way it is used, similarly proper processing makes every drug a medicine. Various parts of plants and trees are made use of like fruits, flowers, seeds, oil, resin, gum, bark, root, wood, ash, leaves etc. In case of animals, milk, teeth, shell, skin etc are used. The area dealing with detailed knowledge of flora and fauna used in medicine is called as Dravyaguna Vijnana. A separate division for use of minerals as medicine is available known as Rasa Sastra. The drugs of mineral origin like mercury, sulphur, iron, copper, mica etc undergo various kinds of processing with herbs where the end product is much different from the parent both in appearance as well as properties. This form of medicine is highly potent and can be used alone or along with herbal preparations. The advantage of these preparations are that they are very quick acting in small doses, easy to administer and has long shelf life. The only difficulty is the lengthy process for their preparation. Great value and respect is given to medicinal plants and minerals since without them the treatment is crippled. The art of processing of various medicines into different kinds of formulations comes under the sub discipline called as Bhaishajya kalpana. Wide spectra of formulations like decoctions, fresh juice, paste, confections, medicated ghee, medicated oil, fermented preparations, pills, powders etc are available which must be used judiciously as per the condition of the patient.
Each individual is unique and is of a particular body constitution by birth. This body constitution is measured by the term Prakruti. The predominance of any of the three doshas namely Vaatha, Pitha and Kapha forms the basis of prakruti. This predominance can be by just one or by combination of two or of all three doshas at varying degrees. The concept of prakruti has much in common with genetics. A person being vulnerable to particular ailments is decided from his or her prakruti constitution and for the same disease treatment differs from one person to other based on their prakruti.
Depending upon extend of vitiation of body constituents and accumulation of aama, the treatment can be broadly classified as:
Samana Chikitsa is employed when the extent of vitiation is less and duration of onset of disease is short. Here only pacification of the abnormal components is required. It includes use of various kinds of internal medication especially medicinal preparations that enhance digestion (deepana and pachana), Fasting (Upavasa), exercises (Vyayama) etc.
Sodhana Chikitsa or elimination therapy is employed when the vitiation of body constituents is extensive to such an amount that the elimination of these toxins from body is inevitable for the smooth functioning of body. Depending upon the site of localization of vitiated components and type of component vitiated, the route of elimination is selected. The various types are:
Sodhana chikitsa is supported by certain pre treatment procedures called as poorva karmas. They are essential for the successful outcome of elimination therapy. They are:
Snehana and Swedana can be achieved in a number of ways. In Keraleeya Ayurveda Chikitsa or specific Ayurvedic treatment modalities of Kerala, different methods of poorvakarmas have been in use. Usually the external applications of both these poorvakarmas are used together in different forms as follows:
Njavara Kizhi or Shashtika pinda sweda: Njavara or shashtika is a special variety of rice. It is boiled and made to poultice. This procedure is known for rejuvenating nerves and tone muscles. It is a nourishing therapy.
Podi Kizhi or Choorna panda sweda: It is a fomentation therapy where medicinal powders are made into poultice, heated and applied to body in a systematic way for a particular duration.
Ela Kizhi or Pathra potala sweda: It is a fomentation therapy where medicinal leaves are made to poultice and the mode of application is same as above. Both are very effective poorvakarmas. They loosen and detach the excessively accumulated body components making their elimination from body easy.
Apart from these, specific procedures to tone the sense organs are also available. They are:
The following are specific procedures for the head, which are of immense value in psychiatric disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, developmental delay in children, autism, ADHD, dementia etc. These procedures have particular action on the central nervous system. They are:
Just as a table is supported by four legs, treatment is supported by four inevitable components called as “Paada chatushtaya”. They are:
Presence and cooperation of all these four limbs results in successful treatment.
Examination of a patient is very elaborate in Ayurveda. Generally ten aspects are focused (Dasavidha rogi pareeksha). They are:
|1. Dooshyam (Finding out the vitiated components, system affected)||6. Analam (Digestive capacity of patient)|
|2. Desam (Residance, work place)||7. Vayah (Age of patient)|
|3. Balam (Immunity of the patient)||8. Satwam (Emotional strength of patient)|
|4. Kaalam (Duration of disease, association of disease with climate)||9. Saatmyam (Habitual acclimatization)|
|5. Prakruti (General body constitution of patient)||10. Aahaaram (Diet habits of patient)|
Apart from examination of the patient, five entities for examining the disease is also narrated (Roga pareeksha). They are:
A vast collection of formulations are available from which the physician has to choose wisely the appropriate one for the condition of patient and stage of disease. In fact, a properly prepared medicine is the best tool of the physician just as a sword is to a warrior.
Depending upon the areas of specialization, the entire science of Ayurveda can be broadly divided into eight branches as follows:
The science of Ayurveda is quite vast, a brief introduction being almost impossible. Trying to explain its value requires more than just words. Experiencing Ayurveda is the best way to understand it. There is no ailment without relief. The challenge is selection of the right mode of treatment. Our entire globe has been gifted with millions of different kinds of medicines. Using them in the right way is the key to treatment. We welcome you to our world of Ayurveda……..so divine……..so mystic.
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