The main classical Ayurveda texts begin with accounts of the transmission of medical knowledge from the Gods to sages, and then to human physicians. In Sushruta Samhita (Sushruta’s Compendium), Sushruta wrote that Dhanvantari, Hindu god of Ayurveda, incarnated himself as a king of Varanasi and taught medicine to a group of physicians, including Sushruta. Ayurveda therapies have varied and evolved over more than two millennia. Therapies are typically based on complex herbal compounds, minerals and metal substances (perhaps under the influence of early Indian alchemy or rasa shastra). Ancient Ayurveda texts also taught surgical techniques, including rhinoplasty, kidney stone extractions, sutures, and the extraction of foreign objects.
Ayurveda – Principles and Terminology
The word “ayurveda” is Sanskrit: आयुर्वेद, Āyurveda, meaning knowledge of life and longevity.
The central theoretical ideas developed in the mid-first millennium BCE, and show parallels with Sāṅkhya and Vaiśeṣika philosophies, as well as with Buddhism and Jainism. Balance is emphasized, and suppressing natural urges is considered unhealthy and claimed to lead to illness. For example, to suppress sneezing is said to potentially give rise to shoulder pain. However, people are also cautioned to stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure when following nature’s urges. For example, emphasis is placed on moderation of food intake, sleep, and sexual intercourse.
Ayurveda names seven basic tissues (dhatu), which are plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscles (māmsa), fat (meda), bone (asthi), marrow (majja), and semen (shukra). Like the medicine of classical antiquity, Ayurveda has historically divided bodily substances into five classical elements, (Sanskrit) panchamahabhuta, viz. earth, water, fire, air and ether. There are also twenty gunas (qualities or characteristics) which are considered to be inherent in all matter. These are organized in ten pairs: heavy/light, cold/hot, unctuous/dry, dull/sharp, stable/mobile, soft/hard, non-slimy/slimy, smooth/coarse, minute/gross, and viscous/liquid.
Ama (a Sanskrit word meaning “uncooked” or “undigested” ) is used to refer to the concept of anything that exists in a state of incomplete transformation. With regards to oral hygiene, it is claimed to be a toxic byproduct generated by improper or incomplete digestion. The concept has no equivalent in standard medicine.
Ayurveda also names three elemental bodily humors, the doshas (called Vata, Pitta and Kapha), and states that a balance of the doshas results in health, while imbalance results in disease. One Ayurvedic view is that the doshas are balanced when they are equal to each other, while another view is that each human possesses a unique combination of the doshas which define this person’s temperament and characteristics. In either case, it says that each person should modulate their behavior or environment to increase or decrease the doshas and maintain their natural state.
In medieval taxonomies of the Sanskrit knowledge systems, Ayurveda is assigned a place as a subsidiary Veda (upaveda). Some medicinal plant names from the Atharvaveda and other Vedas can be found in subsequent Ayurveda literature. The earliest recorded theoretical statements about the canonical models of disease in Ayurveda occur in the earliest Buddhist.
Practice of Ayurveda
Ayurvedic doctors regard physical existence, mental existence, and personality as a unit, with each element being able to influence the others. This is a holistic approach used during diagnosis and therapy, and is a fundamental aspect of Ayurveda. Another part of Ayurvedic treatment says that there are channels (srotas) which transport fluids, and that the channels can be opened up by massage treatment using oils and Swedana(fomentation). Unhealthy, or blocked, channels are thought to cause disease.
Ayurveda has eight ways to diagnose illness, called Nadi (pulse), Mootra (urine), Mala (stool), Jihva (tongue), Shabda (speech), Sparsha (touch), Druk (vision), and Aakruti (appearance). Ayurvedic practitioners approach diagnosis by using the five senses. For example, hearing is used to observe the condition of breathing and speech. The study of the lethal points or marman marma is of special importance.