Ayurveda is the traditional
system of Indian medicine. It is attributed to Dhanvantari, the
physician to the gods in Hindu mythology, who received it from
Brahma. Its earliest concepts were set out in the portion of the
Vedas known as the Atharvaveda (2nd millennium BC). The most
important Ayurvedic texts are the Caraka samhita and Susruta
samhita (1st – 4th century AD). These texts analyze the human
body in terms of earth, water, fire, air, and ether as well as
the three bodily humours (wind, bile, and phlegm). To prevent
illness, Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes hygiene, exercise, herbal
preparations, and yoga. To cure ailments, it relies on herbal
medicines, physiotherapy, and diet. Ayurvedic medicine is still
a popular form of health care in India and it has gained
currency in the West as a form of alternative medicine.
Ayurveda is now a
statutory, recognized medical system of health care like other
medical systems existing in India. Ayurveda is India’s
traditional, natural system of medicine that has been practiced
for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that
literally translated means "science of life" or "practices of
longevity." Ayurveda was the system of health care conceived and
developed by the seers (rishis) and natural scientists through
centuries of observations, experiments, discussions, and
meditations. For several thousand years their teachings were
passed on orally from teacher to student; about the fifth to
sixth century BC, elaborately detailed texts were written in
Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. For many years Ayurveda
flourished and was used by rich and poor alike in India and
|Ayurveda (the 'science of
life') is a system of traditional medicine native to India, and
practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative
medicine. In Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda comprises the words
āyus, meaning 'life' and Veda, meaning 'science'. Evolving
throughout its history, Ayurveda remains an influential system
of medicine in South Asia. The earliest literature of Ayurveda
appeared during the Vedic period in India. The Sushruta Samhita
and the Charaka Samhita were influential works on traditional
medicine during this era. Ayurvedic practitioners also
identified a number of medicinal preparations and surgical
procedures for curing various ailments and diseases.
Ayurveda has become an alternative form of medicine in the
western world, where patents for its medicine have been passed,
and the intellectual property rights contested by Western and
Indian institutions. Ayurveda is considered to be a form of
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within the United
States of America, where several of its methods—such as herbs,
massage, and Yoga as exercise or alternative medicine—are
applied on their own as a form of CAM treatment.
Ayurveda believes in 'five great elements' earth, water, fire,
air and space) forming the universe, including the human body.
Blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow, chyle, and semen are the seven
primary constituent elements of the body. Ayurveda stresses a
balance of three substances: wind/spirit/air, phlegm, and bile,
each representing divine forces. The doctrine of these three
Dosas - Vata (wind/spirit/air), Pitta (bile) and Kapha
(phlegm)—is important. Traditional beliefs hold that humans
possess a unique constellation of Dosas. In Ayurveda, the human
body has 20 Guna, meaning quality). Surgery and surgical
instruments are employed. It is believed that building a healthy
metabolic system, attaining good digestion and proper excretion
leads to vitality. Ayurveda also focuses on exercise, yoga,
meditation, and massage.
The concept of Panchakarma is believed to eliminate toxic
elements from the body. Eight disciplines of Ayurveda treatment,
called Ashtanga, are given below:
• Surgery (Shalya-Chkitsa).
• Treatment of diseases above the clavicle (Salakyam).
• Internal medicine (Kaya-Chikitsa).
• Demonic possession (Bhuta Vidya): Ayurveda believes in demonic
intervention and—as a form of traditional medicine—identifies a
number of ways to counter the supposed effect of these
interferences. Bhuta Vidya has been called psychiatry.
• Paediatrics (Kaumarabhrtyam).
• Toxicology (Agadatantram).
• Prevention and building immunity (Rasayanam).
• Aphrodisiacs (Vajikaranam).
Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas - the Atharvaveda in
particular - and is connected to religion and mythology. The
Sushruta Samhita of Sushruta appeared during the 1st millennium
BC. The main vehicle of the transmission of knowledge during
that period was by oral method. The language used was Sanskrit -
the Vedic language of that period (2000-500 BC). The most
authentic compilation of his teachings and work is presently
available in a treatise called Sushruta Samhita. This contains
184 chapters and description of 1120 illnesses, 700 medicinal
plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations
based on animal sources.
The early phase of traditional Indian medicine identified 'fever
(Takman), cough, consumption, diarrhea, dropsy, abscesses,
seizures, tumours, and skin diseases (including leprosy).'
Treatment of complex ailments - including Angina pectoris,
diabetes, hypertension, and stones - also ensued during this
period. Plastic surgery, cataract surgery, puncturing to release
fluids in the abdomen, extraction of foreign elements, treatment
of anal fistulas, treating fractures, amputations, cesarean
sections, and stitching of wounds were known. The use of herbs
and surgical instruments became widespread.
Other early works of Ayurveda include the Charaka Samhita,
attributed to Charaka. The earliest surviving excavated written
material which contains the works of Sushruta is the Bower
Manuscript - dated to the 4th century BC. The Bower manuscript
cites directly from Sushruta, and is of special interest to
historians due to the presence of Indian medicine and its
concepts in Central Asia. Vagbhata - the son of a senior doctor
by the name of Simhagupta - also compiled his works on
traditional medicine. Early Ayurveda had a school of physicians
and a school of surgeons. Tradition holds that the text Agnivesh
Tantra - written by the legendary sage Agnivesh, a student of
the mythological sage Bharadwaja - influenced the writings of
The Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien (337 - 422 BC) wrote about the
health care system of the Gupta Empire (320 - 550 BC) and in the
process described the institutional approach of Indian medicine
which is also visible in the works of Caraka, who mentions a
clinic and how it should be equipped. Madhava (700 BC),
Sarngadhara (1300 BC), and Bhavamisra (1500 BC) compiled works
on Indian medicine. The medical works of both Sushruta and
Charaka were translated into Arabic language during the Abbasid
Caliphate (750 BC). These Arabic works made their way into
Europe via intermediaries. In Italy the Branca family of Sicily
and Gaspare Tagliacozzi (Bologna) became familiar with the
techniques of Sushruta.
British physicians traveled to India to see Rhinoplasty being
performed by native methods. Reports on Indian Rhinoplasty were
published in the Gentleman's Magazine by 1794. Joseph
Constantine Carpue spent 20 years in India studying local
plastic surgery methods. Carpue was able to perform the first
major surgery in the western world by 1815. Instruments
described in the Sushruta Samhita were further modified in the