Understanding AYURVEDA – The Original Medicine Of India
The Divine creation of the eternal macrocosm is the most precious Divine gift and Life is its quintessence. Entire cosmos has originated from the basic substances – The Panchmahabhutas (Sky, Air, Fire, Water and Earth). Ayurveda – The world’s oldest science of healing, is the Divine-largess to humanity, for health and beauty care. Ayurveda is derived from the four principle Vedas: the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. Ayurveda is not an alternative but the original science of healing, known to this world, which originated in the Indian subcontinent about 5000 years ago. Ayurveda is derived from two words, ayur and veda and Charak Samhita expands upon this definition, telling us that ayu is the “combination of the body, sense organs, mind and soul”, the factors responsible for preventing decay. Ayurveda has both a spiritual and a practical basis, the spiritual perspective engendering the practical aspects. According to Ayurveda, all human beings consist of three aspects – the physical, the subtle and the causal.
The traditional Indian Medicine, Ayurveda was based perfectly on empirical observations and practice rather than philosophy alone. The earliest Indian literature, The Vedas, which date from about 3000 B.C., contain detailed descriptions of numerous disorders and their treatments. Ayurveda, as Vedic Medicine is known, was based largely on Herbal treatment, although early Vedic Physicians also used various surgical techniques and invented artificial limbs and eyes. The Vedic era ended in about 800 B.C., but the medical traditions of Ayurveda survived and were further developed under Brahmins, the so called caste of wise-men in India. As a result, by about 500 A.D., the Indian Medicine had become a scientifically based perfect system of treatment.
Charak Samhita (An ancient Ayurvedic text narrated by Lord Agnivesh), signifies Only that, which can bring about a cure, is a true medicine and only that who can relieve his patients of their ailments is the true physician (Sutrasthanam, ChapterI, Verse 134). Even an acute poison can become an excellent drug if it is properly processed and administered and on the other hand, even the most outstanding drug, if not properly processed and administered, becomes an acute poison. Ayurveda provides a complete description of Life, Age, Health and the ways of human body’s optimum functioning. The vedic science of Ayurveda that deals with the principles and practices of the ways of healthy and happy living, claims Prakriti (The nature) and Purusha (The man) as the root factors behind the creation of the world. Man is considered as a boon of nature, the supreme, who in himself bears all the characteristics of his originator and the ability to procreate. Ayurveda may be regarded as an allegory of health and the most important and remarkable accomplishment of the Indian Heritage. Ayurveda as a thesaurus of health, provides basic intellectual elements and principles of medicine, very minutely. The traditional medicines used in Ayurveda are of herbal, mineral and animal origin whose efficacy has already been proven, scientifically now. The Perfect Health Philosophy of Ayurveda believes and proposes that he who is in the habit of taking balanced and suitable food comprising of all essential nutritional elements, leads a perfect and happy life. The entire system of Ayurvedic treatment is based on correcting and balancing of Tridoshas (The three humors or the blemishes or the metabolic components of the body), Sapta-Dhatus (The seven physical elements of the body or the vital components) and Malas (The end product of elimination or the bodily excreta), which when get excited or vitiated, due to exogenous or endogenous causes including deficiency of nutritional ingredients, result in the impairment of body functions or disease. It may be trite but certainly a true remark that we start dying the day we are born. The decay and degeneration, causing discomfort, disorder, disease or debility and ultimately culminating in death of the organism, are a part and parcel of our biological being.
HEALTH AND AYURVEDA
At its simplest, HEALTH is the absence of physical and mental diseases. W.H.O. makes the description wider by adding that All people should have the opportunity to fulfil their genetic potential. This includes the ability to grow and develop physically and mentally without the impediments of inadequate nutrition or environment contamination, and to be protected as much as possible against infectious diseases. Ayurveda had made this concept of Health even more wider (centuries ago) by describing Health as the perfect state of well-being of the organism when it functions optimally without evidence of disease or abnormality besides the balance of Physical, Physiological, Psychological, Sentimental and Spiritual functioning of living body. According to Ayurveda, Debility can be described as generalized weakness and lack of energy, vigor or strength, which may be caused by various Physical or Physiological disorders. And when associated with Psychological, Sentimental or Spiritual-disorders, it also represents a lack of desire or ambition and loss of power or sensation along with non-specific symptoms like fatigability, insomnia, drowsiness, lethargy, unwanted anxiety, loss of appetite, lack of interest in personal or family matters etc.. All the cheerful pleasures of nature’s greatest, priceless gift of Human life are solely dependent on the perfect state of Health. And in today’s scientific and mechanical era of Space-age, the load of work and problems is increasing every moment which is getting burdensome and tiresome day by day, leading ultimately towards a dull life associated with unwanted debilities. According to Fundamental concept of Ayurveda, a perfectly balanced diet containing all essential nutrients plays a vital role in maintaining a perfect state of Health. The basis of a good diet is variety because none of a single food contains all nutrients essential for Health. Ayurveda has stored in its vast treasure, a wide range of herbal formulations to supplement the nutritional deficiencies for maintaining a perfect state of health and fulfil the desires of Longevity. Ayurveda clearly stresses upon the need and suggests numerous valuable therapies and remedies for rejuvenation and virility to attain a perfect state of Health essential for Longevity. The W.H.O. objective HEALTH FOR ALL has been the basic concept of Ayurveda ever since the day of its inception that refers to treat and cure the ailing, restore health and take all measures to retain the Health of healthy human beings, which has been admitted by W.H.O. also: Ayurveda aims at not only curing the disease but also enhancing the body vitality to combat the disease and minimize the chances of relapse. Ayurveda epitomizes the philosophy of total health care…(Traditional Medicine and Health Care Coverage – a W.H.O. publication, Geneva, Switzerland, 1983 p.52). Interestingly, without forgetting the principles of nature and theories of natural constitution, Ayurveda suggests innumerous recipes to supplement the body with such essential nutritional ingredients available from nature’s own resources for the cure of or protection from diseases, because the basic motive of Ayurveda is to treat and cure, the ailing and suffering, and maintain health of healthy human beings, ever since the day of its inception. Treating with Ayurveda means worshiping the nature.
There is a tenfold classification of the factors to be examined in connection with the cure of diseases i.e. the affected doshas, medicine, place, time, body resistance, body conditions, body constitution, salutary diet, mind and age. The curable diseases are cured by medicines possessing opposite qualities, (when) administered with due regard to the place, dose and time. No medicine is to be prescribed for incurable diseases (Sutrasthanam, Chapter-I, Verse 62-63). It is also necessary to consider the place where the drugs are produced, the physical condition of the patient, the appropriate dose of the drug, the seasonal variation as well as the age of the patient.
The System of Ayurveda embraces within its fold, drugs of plant, animal and mineral origin, both single drugs and compounded formulations. The Ayurvedic texts describe five basic values for all substances: 1. Rasam: The taste 2. Gunam: The property 3. Veeryam: The potency 4. Vipakam: The ultimate effect 5. Prabhavam: Unexplained vivid effect Out of the above five basic values, it is important to know the qualities that shed light on the properties (Gunam) of medicinal herbs for their usefulness as a concept. There are ten pairs of opposite properties:
1. Guru (heavy) vs Laghu (light) 2. Manda (slow, dull) vs Tikshna (fast, sharp) 3. Sheeta (cold) vs Ushna (hot) 4. Snigdha (unctuous) vs Ruksha (dry) 5. Shlakshna (smooth, sticky) vs Khara (rough, brittle) 6. Sandra (solid) vs Drava (liquid) 7. Mridu (soft) vs Kathina (hard) 8. Sthira (stable) vs Chala (movement, unstable) 9. Sukshma (subtle, minute) vs Sthula (overt, gross) 10. Vishada (friction) vs Picchila (slippery) Likewise there are six tastes (Rasam), Madhur (Sweet), Amal (Acidic), Lavan (Salty), Katu (Bitter), Tikta (Acrid), and Kshayam (Pungent). Similarly there are simply two types of Veeryam either Sheeta (cold) or Ushna (hot) and three types of Vipakam (The ultimate effect) i.e. Madhur (Sweet), Amal (Acidic), and Lavan (Salty). The Prabhavam i.e. the unexplained vivid effect is multipronged and there could be numerous ultimate effects of the herbs. Based on all these basics of Ayurvedic principles, various categories of herbal remedies are formulated. The categories of compound formulation in Ayurveda include:
A. THE TRADITIONAL AYURVEDIC FORMULARY
1. Asavas and Arishtas: Galenicals/Fermented liquids 2. Arkas: Distillates/Percoctions 3. Avaleha and Paka: Confections/Herbal jams 4. Kvatha Churna Coarse powders for decoctions 5. Guggulu: Compounds with resin of Gum-guggul 6. Ghruta: Pure-ghee processed with herbs 7. Churna: Simple fine micropulverised powder 8. Taila: Oils processed with herbs 9. Dravaka: Distillates of salts 10. Kshara Lavana: Alkaline salts 11. Lepa: Topical lotions or balms 12. Vati and Gutika: Tablets and Pills 13. Vartil and Anjana: Eye applications 14. Sattva: Dried extract of plant 15. Parpati: Herbal flakes with melted sulphur 16. Pishti: Processed micronized powder 17. Bhasmas: Calcined residual ash 18. Mandura: Fusible slag 19. Loh: Herbo-mineral compounds with iron 20. Rasayoga: Mercurial and other mineral compounds obtained by trituration 21. Kupipakva Rasayan: Mercurial and other mineral compounds obtained by evaporation
B. THE MODERNISED AYURVEDIC FORMULARY
The modernized Ayurveda Formulary can most comprehensively be divided into the following range of products: 1. Patent and Proprietary Herbal Formulations in the form of Capsules, Tablets, Syrups, Creams, Oils, Powders, etc. 2. Traditional Ayurvedic Medicines/Formulations in their ethnic forms as per Ayurvedic Formulary of India. 3. Herbal Cosmetics and Toiletries. 4. Traditional Consumer herbal products like value added Herbs and processed Herbal powders; 5. Processed herbal extracts in varied forms of Decoctions, Pastes, Purees, Concentrates, Potentiated extracts, of whole or particular part of herb; 6. Herbal Juices, Sherbets, Condiments, Fruit Conserves etc. 7. Hydrolyzed and Ethereal Essential Oils