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Ayurveda is the science of life as is very clear from the constituting words i.e., “Ayu” meaning the life, and “Veda” meaning Knowledge. It is one of the oldest scientific medical systems of the world with a long record of clinical experience. Ayurveda is probably as old as the mankind. There are now enough incidences to show that this is the mother of most of the systems of medicine.
As a system of medicine, Ayurveda made a beginning on this universe when there was a strong spread of diseases among people in the Vedic period (the period when Vedas were written in ancient India). It is therefore that for the protection of health of people our ancient saints gathered in the mountains of the Himalayas. It is from there that the flow of knowledge of Ayurveda started. The complete history of how it evolved since its beginning is described elsewhere.


The objectives with which Ayurvedic system of medicine started are two fold.

1 .To maintain the health of a healthy person.
2. To cure the disease of the sick.

For meeting the above two objectives various dietary regimens, behavioral patterns, sleep patterns, exercise along with medicines and medical and surgical methods of treatment have been described.

Ayurveda: A Science

Ayurveda gives us a complete knowledge of the whole life of an individual right from conception to death and even beyond that. Ayurveda is a science based upon observation of living things and their actual response and their reactions to their environment. It deals with various aspects of life. It encompasses not only medicinal approach but also deals in good details about the spiritualism and philosophy.

Nature & Ayurveda

More than a medical system, Ayurveda is a way of life, a way of cooperating with nature and living in harmony with nature. It believes that human being is a part of nature and whatever lies in nature, there is a corresponding representation of similar elements in the body as well. Therefore one has to always live in harmony with nature and one should never try to go against nature. We are well acquainted with the consequences which we are face if we try to go against the laws of nature.
Ayurveda is extensively used all over the world in various forms. Many home remedies are used for the treatment of minor and major aliments. But the scope of Ayurveda does not limit itself to these minor home remedies.

Holistic Approach

An Ayurvedic physician considers human being as a whole and does not account the parts of the body as isolated organs for the purpose of either understanding or for treatment of diseases. Body, Mind and Soul are considered as essential elements for causation of all illnesses. Therefore even while treatment also all these factors have to be considered. The diseases are caused by disturbance in the equilibrium of Doshas that are circulating all over the body.

Srotas (Channels in thee body)

The flow of nutrients and other materials has to be maintained to see that all the body tissues get adequate amount of nutrients and other essential material. The channels are facilitating this job. These channels are called as Srotas. In general term Srotas comprehends all channels- big and small, perceptible and imperceptible- that compose the internal transport system of the body. There are several synonyms used for the term Srotas viz. Srotamsi, Siras, Dhamanis, Rasayanis,Panthanas etc. These channels acquire the shape and color of the Dhatu that they transport. These channels are big as well as small depending on what they are required to carry. These Srotasas can be cylindrical, minute or microscopic (anu) or dirgha(long). These srotas are the channels that perform the function of transformation, transportation excretion, maintenance, growth etc. Charaka, Sushruta and Vaghabhatta all the three main Samhitas have described these Srotasas in great details. The srotases described are as under:

1. Pranavaha srotas :Channels of respiration
2. Udakavaha: Channels of fluid or water, canals distribution
3. Annavaha : Alimentary canals
4. Rasavaha: Lymphatic canals
5. Rakta-vaha: Vascular system
6. Mamsa-vaha: Channels through which nutrition to Mamsa or muscle tissue is transported
7. Medovaha : Channels through which nutrition to adipose tissue is transported
8. Asthivaha : Channels through which nutrition to bone tissue is transported
9. Majjavaha : Channels through which nutrition to marrow tissue is transported
10. Shukravaha : Channels through which nutrition to reproductive tissue is transported
11. Mutravaha : Channels through which urine is transported
12. Swedavaha : Channels through which sweat is transported
13. Purishavaha : Channels through which feces is transported

Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are stated to traverse the entire body and move through different kinds of srotasas

Agni ( Enzymatic/Metabolic System )

In common language Agni means fire. But in the context of functions of the biological system that which converts all that is ingested to structural and functional constituents and provides for the energy is some thing that is termed as Agni in Ayurveda. The net result of Agni would mean better conversion of ingested things in to body tissues and better generation of energy required for carrying out various activities in the human system. Ayurveda has laid lot of importance on Agni i.e. the digestive power or the transformation force. Our health mainly depends on what we eat. Agni is responsible for the proper digestion of these consumed foods etc. Ayurveda believes that all diseases are primarily because of a weak digestive/transforming power. Agni is basically divided into 13 types with the Jatharagni or the digestive power of the stomach / abdomen as the main Agni. The other seven are Dhatu-Agnis (one of each Dhatu), five Agnis of each of the Panchamahabhootas. These 12 Agni are responsible for the proper nourishment of the body. Along with digestion and transformation of the ingested food, a proper disposal of waste products is also the funciton of these Agnis. A defective Agni leads to the development of Ama or undigested part which when circulates in the body gives rise to various diseases.

Six Padarthas(Six Determinants)

A systematic description of principles of Ayurveda is done in all the major Samhitas(Classical Texts) of Ayurveda. Charak Samhita has described Six Padarthas as the factors that determine the complete life and knowledge of Ayurveda. They are the Dravya (matter) and Guna (properties), Karma (function) Samanaya (Similarity), Vishesha (Dissimilarity / individuality), Samavaya (components responsible for continuity). An Ayurvedic physician is expected to have a complete knowledge of all these factors before he starts practicing the Ayurvedic system of medicine.

Cause effect relation

Ayurveda believes that nothing can happen without a cause. A particular causative factor is responsible for the development of particular effects. This is called as the cause effect relationship in Ayurveda. This is one major principle on which Ayurvedic diagnosis and treatment are based.

Similarity and dissimilarity principle (Samanaya vishasha priciple)

The one most extensively used & practically applicable principle of Ayurveda is the Samanaya Vishesha principle. According to this principle similar properties of an external factor are responsible for the development of similar properties and functions in the human body. Conversely dissimilar properties or dislike properties are responsible for development of opposite properties or functions in a human body. For e.g. the consumption of flesh/fat will increase the muscle, fat in our body. This similarity / dissimilarity is divided into three major parts like.

1. Dravya Samanya(Matter similar)e.g. Blood increases blood.
2. Guna Samanya(Property similar)e.g. Milk increases strength.
Karma Samanya(Function similar)e.g. exercise give strength.

Similarly the principle of dissimilarity is also applicable and that is of the three same types as mentioned for Samanya.

Means of knowledge (Praman)

Ayurveda has also described the means of knowledge or proofs (Pramanas). It accepts four such means of acquiring correct knowledge viz. 1) Pratkyaksha Pramana or direct perception via the senses and mind 2) Anumana Pramana or drawing inferences from circumstantial evidences without making any direct perceptions 3).Yukti Pramana or analogy 4)Shabda Pramana or words spoken by a knowledgeable persons or references from very reliable literature. Ayurveda accepts these as four means of knowledge in arriving at the truth of things.

Self Regression Theory (Swabhava-param-vad)

Ayurveda believes that when a state of disease appears the components which are deranged shall by themselves undergo a phase of regression i.e., there is a tendency of the body to revert back to normalcy and hence the diseases slowly subside completely on their own. A physician has thus only to develop the body’s defenses and make them so strong that the anomaly goes away on its own and that it does not return back. Therefore Ayurvedic methods are usually tissue protective. One has assure that the causative factors responsible for the development of disease have been taken away and that the tissues are well protected with adequate defensive strength.


Importance of Ayurvedic Treatment

Ayurvedic System of Medicine recognizes two primary aims of this system viz. preservation of health of the healthy and treatment of the sick. Ayurvedic system lays importance on the non-consumption of the causative factors. The management as per this system is individual specific rather than disease specific and such an approach has proven effective over centuries, although disease specific remedies are also available. Therefore for the management purposes even if disease specific remedies are to be used, one has always to take into consideration the individual, his personality, his likes and dislikes and other personal profiles. Management not only includes medicines but also diet, daily routine, patterns of living, climatic considerations, and mental factors.
Apart from the conventional medical and surgical treatment, this system offers various specific methods of treatment like Panchakarma (purificatory procedures) which involves various massages in different stages of Panchakarma. Rasayana (Rejuvenation) and Vajikarana (Aphrodisiacs) are therapies unique to Ayurveda.
Its vast pharmacopoeia of herbs, minerals and products of animal origin represent the Ayurvedic remedies. These remedies are deep acting inducing metabolic changes through various systems to bring about cure or long term regression of the aliments.

Forms of Ayurvedic Treatment

The Ayurvedic system employs the following modalities of treatment:

1. Shodhan: This can be termed as Bio-purification or Detoxification through methods called as Panchakarma. These are

a) Vaman ( causing emesis)
b) Virechan (causing purgation)
c) Basti (medicated enemas with oils and without oils)
d) Nasya (Nasal insufflating of powders or oils)
e) Rakta mokshan (Blood letting by Leeches or by other methods).

2. Shaman: In this method the disease is suppressed in the body itself through medical methods using various medicines in different forms. This also includes the use of massage, fomentation, local applications and various other local measures.

3. Surgery: Ayurveda has also describes various surgical conditions and their operative management. But with the changing times and because of some historical reasons this branch of Ayurveda could not develop in recent times in tune to the surgery which was advanced during Sushruta’s times i.e., around 3000 years ago. A few specialized methods like Ksharsutra are popular throughout the world today. Sushurat samhita is the best available book for Ayurvedic surgical methods and many of his methods are relevant even today.

4. Pathya (Dietary dos and don’ts) : Apart from medicine Ayurveda lays lot of importance on the Pathya i.e. the dos and don’ts for the prevention and cure of disease. Various specific and generalized Pathyas are prescribed at the end of the description of every disease. This Pathya helps for quick and lasting relief of disease.

5. Apunarbhavatva (Permanent radical cure):
 Apurarbhav chikitsa i.e. the disease should not reappear or relapse is again something very interesting to this system. Various disease specific / organ specific Rasayanas (micro-nutrients or rejuvenators) have been described which ensures the permanent cure for the diseases.