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Ayurveda, un-arguably the most ancient science & traditional system of healing, continuing unbroken into 21st century in the world today. Long before the Christian era began, maharishi charak, a court physician with the emperor kanishka, had compiled his famous samhita embracing diagnosis, treatment, surgery, reconstructive& even plastic surgery!
Ayurveda originated as a part of “vedic science”.it is considered as the 5th veda or rather an “upveda” of “atharveda”. Ayurveda is science of longevity, healthy life, as holistic as any system can aspire to be. Etymologically, the word “ayurveda” is derived from two words viz. ayu- which means life and veda – which means knowledge or science. Ayurveda thus means “the science of life and longevity”.
Ayurveda has gone through several stages of development in its long run. Today , ayurveda, in yet another stage of development, is undergoing re-adaptation to the western world and modern conditions, to include Greek (unani) and Arabic medicine and the secrets, metaphysics & medicinal, of European alchemy.
For making it easier to understand this vast ocean of knowledge, ayurveda has been divided into 8 principals branches, viz. shalya (surgery), shalakya (E.N.T. and ophthalmology ), kaya (general medicine), prasuti tantra & kaumar bhrutya (gynecology & pediatrics ), bhootvidya (demonology ), agadtantra (toxicology), rasayan tantra (geriatrics) and vajikarna (virieology).
The detailed study of the above mentioned branches are :
In addition to these branches, certain paramedical branches are also described. they are:
A)Dravya gun vigyan (pharmacology and pharmacognosy ) -it deals with the description of the herbs and their medicinal properties. The knowledge of this branch plays an important role in the treatment of the diseases.
B) rasa shashtra and bhaishajya kalpna (ayurvedic pharmaceutics and pharmacotherapeutics ) –the branch which deals with the study of the classical alchemic procedures meant for enhancing or altering the properties of various metals in order to make them medically useful, is called as rasa shashtra and the branch which deals with the manufacturing of purely herbal formulation without the use of minerals is termed as bhaishajya kalpana .
C) swastha vritta ( personal and social hygiene ) this branch deals with the preventive aspects of the disease and includes the instructions on personal as well as social hygiene, required to maintain health.
Ayurveda is traditional and naturalistic system, it regards the body as composed of the same elements as the cosmos-of five [panch] elements [bhootas]-earth, water, fire, air and aether [space ] [aakash ]. Combination of these produce the three vital humors [ dosas] viz.
According to most Indian authorities, health is maintained through the even balance of the three vital humors of the body, to which is added blood (shamit) as the 4th. Each humor is related to the 3 universal qualities (gun) and each has itself five folds, with specific locations and functions for each constituents. According to susruta, the 7 ingredients of the body are chyle, blood, flesh, fat, bone, bone marrow and semen (sperm), developing in that order from digested food in the metabolic cycle.
The material medica of ayurveda classifies hundreds of items of all kinds and a thorough mastery of “dravya vidya”, ‘substance knowledge’ or an acquaintance with the general properties and special action of medicinal substances which is considered indispensable for the proper functioning of a good physician.
These medicinal substances are classified under animal, plant and mineral headings.
Animal substances: milk and its products, honey, flesh, bones, bile, fat [especially of the bear, alligator, ass], marrow, blood, hair, nails, claws, hoofs, horns, gallstones [the gorochana or gallstones of the cow were esteemed for their therapeutic properties]; urine, and semen, especially of the elephant, horse, ass, sheep, and goat.
Plant substances: most numerous and most prevalent in use- fruits, flowers, seeds, buds, saps, herbs, leaves, thorns, bark, pith, sprouts, cinders[residue of coal and wood] and ashes of vegetable matter. Great care is recommended in the gathering of plants. The land in which they grew had to be free from holes and burrows, not sandy, not muddy, neither stony nor undiluted. The plant, says the ayurvedic text, must not be cut with a weapon of war, withered by frost dried by the sun , rotted by water or contaminated by insects, it must be plucked by a pious man while facing northwards.
Mineral substances: included gold, silver, rocks, stones, sulfur, salts, shilajeet, mica, petrified nuts. Mercury [parad, rasa ] played a major part in the alchemical remedies as well as mica, sulfur, acids, and o-chre [clay for colouring].
Ayurveda also classified substances according to their taste [rasa], since each taste is believed to have its own properties which produce definite effects. Thus, the effects are described as:
Sweet [madhura] increases phlegm, chyle, flesh, appeases thirst and hunger, causes flatulence, worms and goiter;
Acid [amla] increase salivation and appetite, improves the digestion, causes heartburn
Salts [lavanya] purify the blood and stimulate digestion, but in excess gives headache, causes convulsions;
Pungent [katu] provokes the appetite, lessens corpulence, purifies the blood, and clears the head;
Bitter [tikta] stimulates the appetite, clears the complexion, and reduces the heat of the body;
Astringent [kashaya] augments the action of any of the above if taken with it.
Anything taken internally both in sickness and in health was regarded as falling into the category;
1. Food [ahara], 2. medicine [aushadha ], 3. antidote [agada], 4. elixir [rasayana], and 5. aphrodisiac [vajikarma ]
Another scheme of classification followed certain fixed dichotomies, namely: hot [ushna] or cold [sital]; heavy [guru] or light [laghu]; sticky or dry ; energizing or sluggish; stationary or fluid; soft or hard; clear or slimy; smooth or rough; coarse or subtle; dense or liquid.
The live example of the ayurved subject turns more interesting, when we go further viz. nimba [neem], lahsun [garlic] haridra [turmeric] methika [fenugreek] are today main natural herbal sourses to fight infections, hiccholesteric, inflammation and diabetes respectively. The ayrveda is so versatile that medicinally and agriculturally neem and haldi has been in terms of the chemically they contain, that they are the subjects of international contention and the West wants to claims patents on these-
Indian divine chemicals hereby that are un-knowingly consumed everyday by us the Indians! Our humble ashwgandha has proven to be as good a tonic and Rasayan as the prohibitively expensive Chinese ginseng.
In its bravest sense ayurveda embraces all aspects of well being physical, mental and spiritual, its main objects ayus- long life and arogy- disease-lessness, in practice it covers the study of cause, symptoms, diagnosis and cure of the disease.