Ayurveda is the flawless ancient science of life; the word ‘Ayur’ literally means ‘life’ and ‘Veda’, the ‘science’ or ‘knowledge’. Ayurveda elucidates the do’s and don’ts one has to follow, which favours the well-being of each individual to lead a healthy, happy, comfortable and advantageous life physically, mentally and socially. Ayurveda also emphasis the adage, ‘prevention is better than cure’.What is Ayurveda?
What is Ayurveda?
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.
Ayurveda also names three elemental bodily humours, the doshas (called Vata, Pitta and Kapha), and states that a balance of the doshas results in health, while imbalance results in disease.
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.
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 behaviour or environment to increase or decrease the doshas and maintain their natural state.
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.
Treatment and prevention:
Two of the eight branches of classical Ayurveda deal with surgery (Śalya-cikitsā and Śālākya-tantra), but contemporary Ayurveda tends to stress attaining vitality by building a healthy metabolic system and maintaining good digestion and excretion.
Ayurveda also focuses on exercise, yoga, and meditation. One type of prescription is a Sattvic diet.
Ayurveda follows the concept of Dinacharya, which says that natural cycles (waking, sleeping, working, meditation etc.) are important for health.
Hygiene, including regular bathing, cleaning of teeth, tongue scraping, skincare, and eye washing, is also a central practice.
Substances used in Ayurveda
Plant-based treatments in Ayurveda may be derived from roots, leaves, fruits, bark, or seeds such as cardamom and cinnamon.
In the 19th century, William Dymock and co-authors summarized hundreds of plant-derived medicines along with the uses, microscopic structure, chemical composition, toxicology, prevalent myths and stories, and relation to commerce in British India.
Animal products used in Ayurveda include milk, bones, and gallstones. In addition, fats are prescribed both for consumption and for external use.
Consumption of minerals, including sulphur, arsenic, lead, copper sulfate and gold, are also prescribed. The addition of minerals to herbal medicine is called rasa Shastra.
Ayurveda uses alcoholic beverages called Madya, which are said to adjust the doshas by increasing Pitta and reducing Vatta and Kapha.
Madya is classified by the raw material and fermentation process, and the categories include sugar-based, fruit-based, cereal-based, cereal-based with herbs, fermented with vinegar, and tonic wines.
The intended outcomes can include causing purgation, improving digestion or taste, creating dryness, or loosening joints.
Ayurvedic texts describe Madya as non-viscid and fast-acting and say that it enters and cleans minute pores in the body.
Purified opium is used in eight Ayurvedic preparations and is said to balance the Vata and Kapha doshas and increase the Pitta dosha.
It is prescribed for diarrhoea and dysentery, for increasing the sexual and muscular ability, and for affecting the brain.
The sedative and pain-relieving properties of opium are considered in Ayurveda. The use of opium is found in the ancient Ayurvedic texts and is first mentioned in the Sarngadhara Samhita (1300-1400 CE), a book on pharmacy used in Rajasthan in Western India, as an ingredient of an aphrodisiac to delay male ejaculation.
Cannabis indica is also mentioned in the ancient Ayurveda books and is first mentioned in the Sarngadhara Samhita as a treatment for diarrhoea. In the Bhaisajya Ratnavali, it is named as an ingredient in an aphrodisiac.
Ayurveda says that both oil and tar can be used to stop bleeding and that traumatic bleeding can be stopped by four different methods: ligation of the blood vessel, cauterisation by heat, use of preparations to facilitate clotting, and use of preparations to constrict the blood vessels.
Oils are also used in a number of ways, including regular consumption, anointing, smearing, head massage, application to affected areas, and oil pulling.
Liquids may also be poured on the patient’s forehead, a technique called Shirodhara.
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