NEWSLETTER SIGNUP :
The Origin –
The word 'Veda’ means knowledge and 'Ayus' means life, so Ayurveda means knowledge of life.The evolution of the Indian art of healing and living a healthy life comes from the four Vedas namely : Rig veda , Sama veda , Yajur veda and Atharva veda. Ayurveda attained a state of reverence and is classified as one of the Upa- Vedas - a subsection - attached to the Atharva Veda. The Atharva Veda contains not only the magic spells and the occult sciences but also the Ayurveda that deals with the diseases, injuries, fertility, sanity and health. Ayurveda incorporates all forms of lifestyle in therapy. Thus yoga, aroma, meditation, gems, amulets, herbs, diet, astrology, color and surgery etc. are used in a comprehensive manner in treating patients. Treating important and sensitive spots on the body called Marmas is described in Ayurveda . For this massages, exercises and yoga are recommended.
The knowledge we have now is by three surviving texts of Charaka, Sushruta and Vaghbata. Charaka (1st century A.D.) wrote Charaka Samhita (samhita- meaning collection of verses written in Sanskrit). Sushruta (4th century A.D.) wrote his Samhita i.e Sushruta Samhita. Vaghbata (5th century A.D.) compiled the third set of major texts called Ashtanga Hridaya and Ashtanga Sangraha. Charaka’s School of Physicians and Sushruta’s School of Surgeons became the basis of Ayurveda and helped organize and systematically classify into branches of medicine and surgery. Sixteen major supplements (Nighantus) were written in the ensuing years – Dhanvantari Bahavaprakasha, Raja and Shaligrama to name a few – that helped refine the practice of Ayurveda. New drugs were added and ineffective ones were discarded. Expansion of application, identification of new illnesses and finding substitute treatments seemed to have been an evolving process. Close to 2000 plants that were used in healing diseases and abating symptoms were identified in these supplements.
Dridhabala in the 4th century revised the Charaka Samhita. The texts of Sushruta Samhita were revised and supplemented by Nagarjuna in the 6th century.
There developed eight branches/divisions of Ayurveda:
1. Kaya-chikitsa (Internal Medicine)
2. Shalakya Tantra (surgery and treatment of head and neck, Ophthalmology and ear, nose, throat)
3. Shalya Tantra (Surgery)
4. Agada Tantra (Toxicology)
5. Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry)
6. Kaumara bhritya (Pediatrics)
7. Rasayana (science of rejuvenation or anti-ageing)
8. Vajikarana (the science of fertility and aphrodisiac)
Many modern medications were derived from plants alluded to in Ayurveda texts. The oft-cited example is that of Rauwolfia serpentina that was used to treat headache, anxiety and snakebite. Its derivative is used in treating blood pressure today. Two areas of contribution of Indian physicians were in treating snakebite and prevention of small pox. Detailed account of steps to be followed after a poisonous snake bite including application of tourniquet and lancing the site by connecting the two fang marks and sucking the poison out is described. A decoction of the medicinal plant Rauwolfia serpentina is next applied to the wound. A form of vaccination for small pox was commonly practiced in India long before the West discovered the method. A small dose of pus from the pustule of small pox lesion was inoculated to develop resistance.
Charaka was said to have been in the court of the Kushana king, Kanishka during the 1st century A. D. Some authors date him as far back as the 6th century B.C. during Buddha period. The sacred trust between physician and patient was held in high esteem by Charaka and patient confidentiality, similar to the Hippocratic Oath, was deemed the proper conduct for a practicing physician. Charaka also told us that the word Ayurveda was derived from Ayus, meaning life and Veda meaning knowledge. Nevertheless, according to Charaka the word Ayus denotes more than just life. Ayus denotes a combination of the body, sense organs, mind and soul. The principles of treatment in Charaka’s teachings took a holistic approach that treated not just the symptoms of the disease but the body, mind and soul as single entity.
Compiled by Charaka in the form of discussions and symposiums held by many scholars, Charaka Samhita is the most ancient and authoritative text that has survived. Written in Sanskrit in verse form, it has 8400 metrical verses. The Samhita deals mainly with the diagnosis and treatment of disease process through internal and external application of medicine. Called Kaya-chikitsa (internal medicine), it aims at treating both the body and the spirit and to strike a balance between the two. Following diagnosis, a series of methods to purify both the body and spirit with purgation and detoxification, bloodletting and emesis as well as enema (known as Pancha-karma) are utilized. The emphasis seems to be to tackle diseases in the early phase or in a preventative manner before the first symptoms appear. Ayurvedic diagnosis and treatment is traditionally divided into eight branches (sthanas) based on the approach of a physician towards a disease process. Charaka described them thus:
1. Sutra-sthana - generalprinciples
2. Nidana-sthana - pathology
3. Vimana-sthan- diagnostics
4. Sharira-sthana - physiology and anatomy 5. Indriya-sthana - prognosis
6. Chikitsa-sthana - therapeutics
7. Kalpa-sthana - pharmaceutics
8. Siddhi-sthana - successful treatment.