INTRODUCTION

Origin and History

Ayurveda originated in India long back in pre-vedic period. Rigveda and Atharva-veda ( 5000 years B.C.), the earliest documented ancient Indian knowledge have references on health and diseases. Ayurved texts like Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita were documented about 1000 years B.C. The term Ayurveda means ‘Science of Life’. It deals elaborately with measures for healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Besides, dealing with principles for maintenance of health, it has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illness. These principles of positive health and therapeutic measures relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare of human beings. Thus Ayurveda becomes one of the oldest systems of health care dealing with both the preventive and curative aspects of life in a most comprehensive way and presents a close similarity to the WHO’s concept of health propounded in the modern era.

A perusal of its several classical treatises indicate presence of two schools of Physicians and Surgeons and eight specialities. These eight disciplines are generally called "Ashtanga Ayurveda" and are :-

Internal Medicine(Kaya Chikitsa)
Paediatrics(Kaumar Bhritya)
Psychiatry( Bhoot Vidya)
Otorhinolaryngology and Ophthalmology(Shalakya)
Surgery( Shalya)
Toxicology( Agad Tantra)
Geriatrics(Rasayana)
Eugenics and aphrodisiacs(Vajikarana)

Compendia on these subjects like Charak Samihta, Sushruta Samhita etc. were written by the ancient scholars during B.C. period. These were used for teaching of Ayurveda in the ancient universities of Takshashila and Nalanda.

DEFINITION
 
The classical works on Ayurveda describe it as under :

It is that knowledge of life which deals elaborately and at length with conditions beneficial or otherwise to the humanity, and, to factors conducive to the happiness, or responsible for misery or sorrow besides indicating measures for healthful living for full span of life.

Ayurveda is also considered as ‘Science of life’. This probably makes it the earliest medical science having a positive concept of health to be achieved through a blending of physical, mental, social moral and spiritual welfare.

According to the ancient books of knowledge, health is considered as a prerequisite for achieving the supreme ends of life consisting of righteousness, wealth, artistic values and spiritual freedom. Preventive and curative aspects of diseases are considered as important components of the concept of positive health.

Ayurveda deals elaborately with measures of healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Besides dealing with principles for maintenance of health, it has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illness. These principles of positive health and therapeutic measures related to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare of human beings. Thus Ayurveda became one of the oldest system of medicine dealing with both the preventive and curative aspects of life in a most comprehensive way.

CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES

The Body Matrix

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

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.

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 (physiological aspects), 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 also involves the following examinations:

General physical examination
Pulse examination
Urine examination
Examination of the faeces
Examination of tongue and eyes
Examination of skin and ear including tactile and auditory functions.

Treatment

The basic therapeutic approach is, ‘that alone is the right treatment which makes for health and he alone is the best doctor who frees one from disease’. This sums up the principal objectives of Ayurveda, i.e. maintenance and promotion of health, prevention of disease and cure of sickness.

Treatment of the disease consists in avoiding causative factors responsible for disequilibrium of the body matrix or of any of its constituent parts through the use of Panchkarma procedures, medicines, suitable diet, activity and regimen for restoring the balance and strengthening the body mechanisms to prevent or minimize future occurrence of the disease.

Normally treatment measures involve use of medicines, specific diet and prescribed activity routine. Use of these three measures is done in two ways. In one approach of treatment the three measures antagonize the disease by counteracting the etiological factors and various manifestations of the disease. In the second approach the same three measures of medicine, diet and activity are targeted to exert effects similar to the etiological factors and manifestations of the disease process. These two types of therapeutic approaches are respectively known as Vipreeta and Vipreetarthkari treatments.

Preventive Treatment & the concepts of Aetio-Pathogenesis

Ayurveda has developed a very vivid analytical description of the stages and events that take place since the causative factors commence to operate till the final manifestation of disease. This gives this system an additional advantage of knowing that possible onset of disease much before the latent symptoms become apparent. This very much enhances the preventive role of this system of medicine by making it possible to take proper and effective steps in advance, to arrest further progress in pathogenesis or to take suitable therapeutic measures to curb the disease in its earliest stage of onset.

Types of Treatment

The treatment of disease can broadly be classified as

(a) Shodhana therapy (Purification Treatment)
(b) Shamana therapy (Palliative Treatment)
(c) Pathya Vyavastha (Prescription of diet and activity)
(d) Nidan Parivarjan (Avoidance of disease causing and aggravating factors)
(e) Satvavajaya (Psychotherapy)
(f) Rasayana therapy (use of immunomodulators and rejuvenation medicines)
 
Shodhana treatment aims at removal of the causative factors of somatic and psychosomatic diseases. The process involves internal and external purification. The usual practices involved are Panchkarma (medically induced Emesis, Purgation, Oil Enema, Decoction enema and Nasal administration of medicines), Pre-panchkarma procedures (external and internal oleation and induced sweating). Panchkarma treatment focuses on metabolic management. It provides needed purificatory effect, besides conferring therapeutic benefits. This treatment is especially helpful in neurological disorders, musculo-skeletal disease conditions, certain vascular or neuro-vascular states, respiratory diseases, metabolic and degenerative disorders.

Shamana therapy involves suppression of vitiated humours (doshas). The process by which disturbed humour subsides or returns to normal without creating imbalance of other humours is known as shamana. This treatment is achieved by use of appetisers, digestives, exercise and exposure to sun, fresh air etc. In this form of treatment, palliatives and sedatives are used.

(c) Pathya Vyavastha comprises indications and contraindications in respect of diet, activity, habits and emotional status. This is done with a view to enhance the effects of therapeutic measures and to impede the pathogenetic processes. Emphasis on do’s and don’ts of diet etc is laid with the aim to stimulate Agni and optimize digestion and assimilation of food in order to ensure strength of tissues.

Nidan Parivarjan is to avoid the known disease causing factors in diet and lifestyle of the patient. It also encompasses the idea to refrain from precipitating or aggravating factors of the disease.

Satvavajaya concerns mainly with the area of mental disturbances. This includes restraining the mind from desires for unwholesome objects and cultivation of courage, memory and concentration. The study of psychology and psychiatry have been developed extensively in Ayurveda and have wide range of approaches in the treatment of mental disorders.

Rasayana therapy deals with promotion of strength and vitality. The integrity of body matrix, promotion of memory, intelligence, immunity against the disease, the preservation of youth, luster and complexion and maintenance of optimum strength of the body and senses are some of the positive benefits credited to this treatment. Prevention of premature bear and tear of body tissues and promotion of total health content of an individual are the roles that Rasayana therapy plays.

Diet and Ayurvedic Treatment

In Ayurveda, regulation of diet as therapy has great importance. This is because it considers human body as the product of food. An individual’s mental and spiritual development as well as his temperament is influenced by the quality of food consumed by him. Food in human body is transformed first into chyle or Rasa and then successive processes involve its conversion into blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone-marrow, reproductive elements and ojas. Thus, food is basic to all the metabolic transformations and life activities. Lack of nutrients in food or improper transformation of food lead to a variety of disease conditions.

In course of time Ayurveda, which started as a magico-religious practice, matured into a fully developed medical science with eight branches which have parallels in the modern western system of medicine. The growth of these eight specialties gave Ayurveda another name of Astanga Ayurveda. In the last 50 years of development in the teaching and training, it has developed into following sixteen specialties.

1. Ayurveda Siddhanta (Fundamental Principals of Ayurveda).

2. Ayurveda Samhita.

3. Rachna Sharira (Anatomy).

4. Kriya Sharira (Physiology).

5. Dravya Guna Vigian (Materia Medica & Pharmacology).

6. Ras-shastra.

7. Bhaishajya Kalpana (Pharmaceuticals).

8. Kaumar Bharitya (Peduatrics).

9. Prasuti Tantra (Obstetrics & Gynaecology).

10.Swasth-Vritla (Social & Preventive Medicine).

11.Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine).

12.Rog Nidan (Pathology).

13.Shalya Tantra (Surgery).

14.Shalkya Tantra (Eye & ENT).

15.Mano-Roga (Psychiatry)

16.Panchkarma.