The ancient science of ayurveda originated in India several thousands of years ago and is a medical system that comprises of both preventive and curative medicine. But the system of ayurveda lays great emphasis on practicing a “way of life” to prevent diseases. Literally too, the word Ayurveda combines 2 words “ayu” meaning life and “veda” means science of. Hence rightly called the science of life and differs from most other systems of healing, as it defines not just symptomatic cure but identification of the root cause of disease and its cure using herbs, metals and minerals. The ayurvedic science and its timeless wisdom was passed through generations by word of mouth and it was much later somewhere around 5000 years ago that it was finally written down by vedic scholars as the youngest veda – “Atharva veda”. The Charaka Samhita compiled by Charaka and Sushruta samhita are 2 of the most important documents for ayurveda. Later these texts were rewritten by Vagbhata as Ashtanga Sangraha and Ashtanga Hridayam.( Although these 2 documents were written almost a century apart and mostly by two different authors, they are credited to Vagbhata). Charaka Samhita Kayachikitsa (internal medicine). This is largely the theory of the internal fire–of digestion–or internal medicine, in modern terms. Sushruta Samhita The Sushruta Samhita presents the field of Ayurvedic surgery (shalya). This branch of medicine arose in part from the exigencies of dealing with the effects of war. This work is the first to enumerate and discuss the pitta, sub-doshas and the marmas. Ashtanga Hridayam and Ashtanga Sangraha In this work, we see the kapha sub-doshas are listed and described for the first time, completing our modern edifice of vata, pitta, and kapha with their five sub-types.
Ayurvedic science has some inherent principles which govern all its treatments too.
- All things in the universe (both living and nonliving) are joined together.
- Every human being contains elements that can be found in the universe. These are together called the panchmahabhootas – Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.
- All people are born in a state of balance within themselves and in relation to the universe. Ayurveda aims to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit.
- This state of balance is disrupted by the processes of life. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination. Imbalances weaken the body and make the person susceptible to disease.
- Health will be good if one’s interaction with the immediate environment is effective and wholesome.
- Disease arises when a person is out of harmony with the universe.
The underlying concepts of Ayurveda detail into a complex system of the 5 elements of panchmahabhutas, the three primordial forces or gunas, namely, tamas, rajas, and sattva, their operation through these panchmahabhutas, namely, space, air, fire, water and earth, that directly interfaces with human existence.
Ayurveda also has some basic beliefs about the body’s constitution. The combination of the panchmahabhutas govern the nature and type of human body. “Constitution” refers to a person’s general health, how likely he is to become out of balance, and his ability to resist and recover from disease or other health problems.