Ayurveda originated in India and is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. The word Ayurveda means science of life. It is the combination of two words - Ayu (Life) & Veda (Knowledge). It is said to have been taught by the creator, Brahma, to Daksha Prajapati, who taught it in turn to the divine twins called the Ashwinikumars. Ashwinikumars were the heavenly healers who taught this science to Indra. The personages mentioned were deities of early Vedic times. When mankind started suffering from various diseases, the wise men like Bharadwaja learnt from Indra the knowledge of medicine.
References of illness, cures and other health-related issues are found in vedas, the oldest recorded compendium of wisdom on the earth (6000 B.C.). The main source of knowledge of Ayurveda today is two sets of texts each consisting of three books viz.
1.Brihattrayi i.e., the three major classics
2.Laghuttrayi i.e., the three minor classics
- Caraka Samhita (1500-1000 B.C.)
- Susruta Samhita (1500-1000 B.C.)
- Vagbhata (600 A.D.)
- Madhava Nidana (700 A.D.)
- Sarangdhara Samhita (1300 A.D)
- Bhava Prakasha (1600 A.D).
Ayurveda - Concept and Principles: The Body Matrix: Union of body, senses, mind and soul.
Life in Ayurveda is conceived as the union of body, senses, mind and soul. The living man is a conglomeration of three humours (Vata, Pitta &Kapha), seven basic tissues (Rasa, Rakta, Mansa, Meda, Asthi, Majja & Shukra) and the waste products of the body such as faeces, urine and sweat. Thus the total body matrix comprises of the humours, the tissues and the waste products of the body. The growth and decay of this body matrix and its constituents revolve around food which gets processed into humours, tissues and wastes. Ingestion, digestion, absorption, assimilation and metabolism of food have an interplay in health and disease which are significantly affected by psychological mechanisms as well as by bio- fire(Agni).
Panchamahabhutas - Five Elements:
According to Ayurveda all objects in the universe including human body are composed of five basic elements (Panchamahabhutas) namely, earth, water, fire, air and vacuum(ether). There is a balanced condensation of these elements in different proportions to suit the needs and requirements of different structures and functions of the body matrix and its parts. The growth and development of the body matrix depends on its nutrition, i.e. on food. The food, in turn, is composed of the above five elements, which replenish or nourish the like elements of the body after the action of bio-fire (Agni). The tissues of the body are the structural whereas humours are physiological entities, derived from different combinations and permutations of Panchamahabhutas.
Health and Sickness: Health or sickness depends on the presence or absence of a balanced state of the total body matrix including the balance between its different constituents. Both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors can cause disturbance in the natural equilibrium giving rise to disease. This loss of equilibrium can happen by dietary indiscrimination, undesirable habits and non-observance of rules of healthy living. Seasonal abnormalities, improper exercise or erratic application of sense organs and incompatible actions of the body and mind can also result in creating disturbance of the existing normal balance. The treatment consists of restoring the balance of disturbed body-mind matrix through regulating diet, correcting life-routine and behaviour, administration of drugs and resorting to preventive Panchkarma and Rasayana therapy.
Diagnosis : In Ayuveda diagnosis is always done of the patient as a whole. The physician takes a careful note of the patient's internal physiological characteristics and mental disposition. He also studies such other factors as the affected bodily tissues, humours, the site at which the disease is located, patient's resistance and vitality, his daily routine, dietary habits, the gravity of clinical conditions, condition of digestion and details of personal, social, economic and environmental situation of the patient.
The diagnosis in Ayurveda is based on a two-fold approach to diagnostics viz. (1) Examination of the patient i.e., Rogi-pareeksha; and (2) Examination of the disease i.e., Roga-pareeksha. Therefore, Rogi- pareeksha is essentially concerned with ascertaining the constitution of the individual and status of his health and vitality.
This is achieved through ten fold examination of patients (Dasavidha pareeksha) comprising of:
- Constitution (Prakriti)
- Disease susceptibility (Vikriti),
- Essence (Sara),
- Compactness (Samhanana),
- Anthropometry (Pramana),
- Compatibility (Satmya),
- Mind (Sattwa),
- Digestion capacity of food (Aharasakti),
- Physical strength (Vyayamasakti) and
- Age (Vaya).
The general examination is made through popular eight types of examination of disease (Ashtasthana pareeksha) comprising:
- examination of pulse (Nadi),
- urine (Mootra),
- faeces (Mala),
- tongue (Jihva),
- voice (Sabda),
- touch (Sparsha),
- eye/vision (Drik) and
- stature (Akriti) and also considering the state of pathways of internal transport systems (Srotas) and digestive faculty (Agni).
The aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit. This is believed to help prevent illness and promote wellness.
Interconnectedness: Ayurvedic medicine has several key foundations that pertain to health and disease. These concepts have to do with universal interconnectedness, the body's constitution (prakriti), and life forces (doshas). Ideas about the relationships among people, their health, and the universe form the basis for how Ayurvedic practitioners think about problems that affect health. Ayurvedic medicine holds that:
- Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of products and techniques to cleanse the body and restore balance. Some of these products may be harmful if used improperly or without the direction of a trained practitioner. For example, some herbs can cause side effects or interact with conventional medicines.
- Ayurvedic medicine, also called Ayurveda, originated in India several thousand years ago. The term "Ayurveda" combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda means "the science of life."
- In the United States, Ayurvedic medicine is considered a type of CAM and a whole medical system. As with other such systems, it is based on theories of health and illness and on ways to prevent, manage, or treat health problems.
Ayurvedic medicine aims to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit; thus, some view it as "holistic." This balance is believed to lead to happiness and health, and to help prevent illness. Ayurvedic medicine also treats specific physical and mental health problems. A chief aim of Ayurvedic practices is to cleanse the body of substances that can cause disease, thus helping to reestablish harmony and balance.
- All things in the universe (both living and nonliving) are joined together.
- Every human being contains elements that can be found in the universe.
- Health will be good if one's mind and body are in harmony, and one's interaction with the universe is natural and wholesome.
- Disease arises when a person is out of harmony with the universe. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination of these.
Constitution (prakriti).: Ayurvedic medicine also has specific beliefs about the body's constitution. Constitution refers to a person's general health, the likelihood of becoming out of balance, and the ability to resist and recover from disease or other health problems.
The constitution is called the prakriti. The prakriti is a person's unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics and the way the body functions to maintain health. It is influenced by such factors as digestion and how the body deals with waste products. The prakriti is believed to be unchanged over a person's lifetime.
Life forces (doshas). Important characteristics of the prakriti are the three life forces or energies called doshas, which control the activities of the body. A person's chances of developing certain types of diseases are thought to be related to the way doshas are balanced, the state of the physical body, and mental or lifestyle factors.
Ayurvedic medicine holds the following beliefs about the three doshas:
- Each dosha is made up of two of five basic elements: ether (the upper regions of space), air, fire, water, and earth.
- Each dosha has a particular relationship to bodily functions and can be upset for different reasons.
- Each person has a unique combination of the three doshas, although one dosha is usually prominent. Doshas are constantly being formed and reformed by food, activity, and bodily processes.
- Each dosha has its own physical and psychological characteristics.
- An imbalance of a dosha will produce symptoms that are unique to that dosha. Imbalances may be caused by a person's age, unhealthy lifestyle, or diet; too much or too little mental and physical exertion; the seasons; or inadequate protection from the weather, chemicals, or germs.
The doshas are known by their original Sanskrit names: vata, pitta, and kapha.
The vata dosha combines the elements ether and air. It is considered the most powerful dosha because it controls very basic body processes such as cell division, the heart, breathing, discharge of waste, and the mind. Vata can be aggravated by, for example, fear, grief, staying up late at night, eating dry fruit, or eating before the previous meal is digested. People with vata as their main dosha are thought to be especially susceptible to skin and neurological conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, and insomnia.
The pitta dosha represents the elements fire and water. Pitta controls hormones and the digestive system. A person with a pitta imbalance may experience negative emotions such as anger and may have physical symptoms such as heartburn within 2 or 3 hours of eating. Pitta is upset by, for example, eating spicy or sour food, fatigue, or spending too much time in the sun. People with a predominantly pitta constitution are thought to be susceptible to hypertension, heart disease, infectious diseases, and digestive conditions such as Crohn's disease.
The kapha dosha combines the elements water and earth. Kapha helps to maintain strength and immunity and to control growth. An imbalance of the kapha dosha may cause nausea immediately after eating. Kapha is aggravated by, for example, greed, sleeping during the daytime, eating too many sweet foods, eating after one is full, and eating and drinking foods and beverages with too much salt and water (especially in the springtime). Those with a predominant kapha dosha are thought to be vulnerable to diabetes, cancer, obesity, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
Experiential and scientific: In Ayurveda the process of learning, research and clinical practice are experiential and scientific. Like other systems of ancient Indian learning, Ayurveda is discovered through most recognized schools of acquiring knowledge and producing evidence (Pramanas) viz. (1) Direct perception through sense organs (Pratyaksa), (2) Inference (Anumana) (3) Verbal texts from many of the trustworthy persons, who knows truth and communicate correctly (Aptopadesha) and (4) Logical/rational interpretation (Yukti), etc.
Body-mind: Every individual has a peculiar body-mind constitution which is responsible for the health or disease pattern of an individual. Ayurvedic concept of examination of constitution (Prakriti pareeksha) is to know body, mind constitution while selecting diet, medicine or treatment regimen. The human mind has three components i.e. Sattva, Raja and Tama, which interact with the biological components Vata, Pitta & Kapha and decides the psychosomatic constitution of an individual (Prakriti).