Ayurveda

Ayurveda

Overview
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine
Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...

 native to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and a form of alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

. In Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period
Vedic period
The Vedic period was a period in history during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed. The time span of the period is uncertain. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed roughly between 1700–1100 BCE, also...

 in India, i.e., in the mid-second millennium BCE. The Suśruta Saṃhitā
Sushruta Samhita
The Sushruta Samhita is a Sanskrit text, attributed to one Sushruta, foundational to Ayurvedic medicine , with innovative chapters on surgery....

and the Charaka Saṃhitā
Charaka Samhita
The ' is an early Ayurvedic text on internal medicine. It is believed to be the oldest of the three ancient treatises of Ayurveda...

are encyclopedias of medicine compiled from various sources from the mid-first millennium BCE to about 500 CE.
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Encyclopedia
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine
Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...

 native to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and a form of alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

. In Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period
Vedic period
The Vedic period was a period in history during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed. The time span of the period is uncertain. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed roughly between 1700–1100 BCE, also...

 in India, i.e., in the mid-second millennium BCE. The Suśruta Saṃhitā
Sushruta Samhita
The Sushruta Samhita is a Sanskrit text, attributed to one Sushruta, foundational to Ayurvedic medicine , with innovative chapters on surgery....

and the Charaka Saṃhitā
Charaka Samhita
The ' is an early Ayurvedic text on internal medicine. It is believed to be the oldest of the three ancient treatises of Ayurveda...

are encyclopedias of medicine compiled from various sources from the mid-first millennium BCE to about 500 CE. They are among the foundational works of Ayurveda. Over the following centuries, ayurvedic practitioners developed a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for the treatment of various ailments.

Current practices derived (or reportedly derived) from Ayurvedic medicine are regarded as part of complementary and alternative medicine.

Safety concerns have been raised about Ayurveda, with two U.S. studies finding about 20% of Ayurvedic treatments tested contained toxic levels of heavy metals such as lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 and arsenic
Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

. Other concerns include the use of herbs that contain toxic compounds and the lack of quality control in Ayurvedic facilities.

Approach



At an early period, Ayurveda adopted the physics of the "five elements" (Devanāgarī
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: [महा] पञ्चभूत); Pṛthvī
Prithvi
Prithvi is the sanskrit name for earth and its essence Prithivi Tattwa, in the form of a mother goddess or godmother. Prithvi is also called Dhra, Dharti, Dhrithri, meaning that which holds everything. As Prithvi Devi, she is one of two wives of Lord Vishnu. His other wife is Lakshmi. Prithvi is...

 (earth), Jala
Jala
Jala may refer to:*Jala, Nayarit, a municipality in Mexico.*Jaller, a Toa Mahri from Lego's Bionicle storyline who used to be named Jala.*Jala, one of the Panchamahabhuta, the Sanskrit classical elements....

(water), Agni
Agni
Agni is a Hindu deity, one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire and the acceptor of sacrifices. The sacrifices made to Agni go to the deities because Agni is a messenger from and to the other gods...

 (fire), Vāyu
Vayu
Vāyu is a primary Hindu deity, the Lord of the winds, the father of Bhima and the spiritual father of Lord Hanuman...

 (air) and Ākāśa (Sky
Space
Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum...

)) — that compose the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

, including the human body. Chyle
Chyle
Chyle is a milky bodily fluid consisting of lymph and emulsified fats, or free fatty acids . It is formed in the small intestine during digestion of fatty foods, and taken up by lymph vessels specifically known as lacteals...

 or plasma (called rasa dhātu), blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 (rakta dhātu), flesh
Flesh
In vertebrate animals, flesh is the colloquial for biological tissue which consists of skeletal muscles and fat as opposed to bones, viscera and integuments. Flesh may be used as food, in which case it is called meat....

 (māṃsa dhātu), fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

 (medha dhātu), bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 (asthi dhātu), marrow
Bone marrow
Bone marrow is the flexible tissue found in the interior of bones. In humans, bone marrow in large bones produces new blood cells. On average, bone marrow constitutes 4% of the total body mass of humans; in adults weighing 65 kg , bone marrow accounts for approximately 2.6 kg...

 (majja dhātu), and semen
Semen
Semen is an organic fluid, also known as seminal fluid, that may contain spermatozoa. It is secreted by the gonads and other sexual organs of male or hermaphroditic animals and can fertilize female ova...

 or female reproductive tissue
Menstruation
Menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining . It occurs on a regular basis in sexually reproductive-age females of certain mammal species. This article focuses on human menstruation.-Overview:...

 (śukra dhātu) are held to be the seven primary constituent elements – saptadhātu
Dhātu (Ayurveda)
Dhātus , n.pl. in Ayurveda, the seven fundamental principles that support the basic structure of the body....

 (Devanāgarī: सप्तधातु) of the body. Ayurvedic literature deals elaborately with measures of healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Ayurveda stresses a balance of three elemental energies or humors
Humorism
Humorism, or humoralism, is a now discredited theory of the makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person directly influences their temperament and health...

: Vāyu vāta (air & space – "wind"), pitta (fire & water – "bile") and kapha (water & earth – "phlegm"). According to ayurvedic medical theory, these three substances — doṣas (literally that which deteriorates – Devanāgarī: दोष)—are important for health, because when they exist in equal quantities, the body will be healthy, and when they are not in equal amounts, the body will be unhealthy in various ways. One ayurvedic theory asserts that each human possesses a unique combination of doṣas that define that person's temperament and characteristics. Another view, also present in the ancient literature, asserts that humoral equality is identical to health, and that persons with preponderances of humours are proportionately unhealthy, and that this is not their natural temperament. In ayurveda, unlike the Sāṅkhya philosophical system, there are 20 fundamental qualities, guṇa (Devanāgarī: गुण, meaning qualities) inherent in all substances. Surgery and surgical instruments were employed from a very early period, Ayurvedic theory asserts that building a healthy metabolic system
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

, attaining good digestion
Digestion
Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food into smaller components that are more easily absorbed into a blood stream, for instance. Digestion is a form of catabolism: a breakdown of large food molecules to smaller ones....

, and proper excretion
Excretion
Excretion is the process by which waste products of metabolism and other non-useful materials are eliminated from an organism. This is primarily carried out by the lungs, kidneys and skin. This is in contrast with secretion, where the substance may have specific tasks after leaving the cell...

 leads to vitality. Ayurveda also focuses on exercise, yoga
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

, and meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....



The practice of panchakarma (Devanāgarī: पंचकर्म‌) is a therapeutic way of eliminating toxic elements from the body.

As early as the Mahābhārata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, ayurveda was called "the science of eight components" (Skt. aṣṭāṅga, Devanāgarī: अष्टांग), a classification that became canonical for ayurveda. They are:
  • Internal medicine
    Medicine
    Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

     (Kāya-cikitsā)
  • Paediatrics (Kaumārabhṛtyam)
  • Surgery
    Surgery
    Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

     (Śalya-cikitsā)
  • Eye and ENT (Śālākya tantra)
  • Bhūta vidyā has been called psychiatry.
  • Toxicology
    Toxicology
    Toxicology is a branch of biology, chemistry, and medicine concerned with the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms...

     (Agada
    Agada
    Agada is one of the eight branches into which ayurveda medicine is traditionally divided. Literally, gada means a disease and agada means any agent which makes the body free from disease; however the term agada is used specifically for the branch dealing with toxicology, the description of the...

    tantram
    )
  • Prevention of diseases and improving immunity
    Immunity (medical)
    Immunity is a biological term that describes a state of having sufficient biological defenses to avoid infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion. Immunity involves both specific and non-specific components. The non-specific components act either as barriers or as eliminators of wide...

     and rejuvenation
    Rejuvenation
    Rejuvenation may refer to:*Rejuvenation , reversing the aging process*Rejuvenation , when the base level that a river is flowing down to is lowered*Rejuvenation , 1974*Rejuvenation , 2009...

     (rasayana)
  • Aphrodisiacs and improving health of progeny (Vajikaranam)


In Hindu mythology, the origin of ayurvedic medicine is attributed to Dhanvantari
Dhanvantari
Dhanvantari is an Avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition. He appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the gods , and the god of Ayurvedic medicine...

, the physician of the gods.

Practices



Balance


Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 and Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 have been an influence on the development of many of ayurveda's central ideas — particularly its fascination with balance, known in Buddhism as Madhyamaka
Madhyamaka
Madhyamaka refers primarily to a Mahāyāna Buddhist school of Buddhist philosophy systematized by Nāgārjuna. Nāgārjuna may have arrived at his positions from a desire to achieve a consistent exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the āgamas...

(Devanāgarī: माध्यात्मिक). Balance is emphasized; suppressing natural urges is seen to be unhealthy, and doing so claimed lead to illness. However, people are cautioned to stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure. For example, emphasis is placed on moderation of food intake, sleep, sexual intercourse.

Diagnosis


The Charaka Samhita
Charaka Samhita
The ' is an early Ayurvedic text on internal medicine. It is believed to be the oldest of the three ancient treatises of Ayurveda...

recommends a tenfold examination of the patient.
  • constitution
  • abnormality
  • essence
  • stability
  • body measurements
  • diet suitability
  • psychic strength
  • digestive capacity
  • physical fitness
  • age


In addition, identifies five influential criteria for diagnosis:
  • origin of the disease
  • prodrominal (precursory) symptoms
  • typical symptoms of the fully developed disease
  • observing the effect of therapeutic procedures
  • the pathological process'


Ayurvedic practitioners approach diagnosis by using all five senses. Hearing is used to observe the condition of breathing and speech. The study of the lethal points or marman marma is of special importance. Ayurvedic doctors regard physical and mental existence together with personality as a unit, each element having the capacity to influence the others. One of the fundamental aspects of ayurvedic medicine is to take this into account during diagnosis and therapy.

Hygiene


Hygiene
Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the set of practices perceived by a community to be associated with the preservation of health and healthy living. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between...

 is an Indian cultural value and a central practice of ayurvedic medicine. Hygienic living involves regular bathing, cleansing of teeth, skin care, and eye washing. Daily anointing
Anointing
To anoint is to pour or smear with perfumed oil, milk, water, melted butter or other substances, a process employed ritually by many religions. People and things are anointed to symbolize the introduction of a sacramental or divine influence, a holy emanation, spirit, power or God...

 of the body with oil is also prescribed.

Treatments



Ayurveda stresses the use of plant-based medicines and treatments. Hundreds of plant-based medicines are employed, including cardamom
Cardamom
Cardamom refers to several plants of the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the ginger family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to India and Bhutan; they are recognised by their small seed pod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds...

 and cinnamon
Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods...

. Some animal products may also be used, for example milk
Milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

, bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

s, and gallstone
Gallstone
A gallstone is a crystalline concretion formed within the gallbladder by accretion of bile components. These calculi are formed in the gallbladder, but may pass distally into other parts of the biliary tract such as the cystic duct, common bile duct, pancreatic duct, or the ampulla of...

s. In addition, fats are used both for consumption and for external use. Mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

s, including sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

, arsenic
Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

, lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, copper sulfate and gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 are also consumed as prescribed. This practice of adding minerals to herbal medicine is known as rasa shastra
Rasa Shastra
In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical lore of Hinduism, rasa shastra is a process by which various metals and other substances, including mercury, are purified and combined with herbs in an attempt to treat illnesses...

.

In some cases, alcohol
Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

 was used as a narcotic
Narcotic
The term narcotic originally referred medically to any psychoactive compound with any sleep-inducing properties. In the United States of America it has since become associated with opioids, commonly morphine and heroin and their derivatives, such as hydrocodone. The term is, today, imprecisely...

 for the patient undergoing an operation. The advent of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 introduced opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

 as a narcotic. Both oil and tar were used to stop bleeding. Traumatic bleeding was said to be stopped by four different methods ligation
Ligation
Ligation may refer to:* In molecular biology, the covalent linking of two ends of DNA molecules using DNA ligase* In medicine, the making of a ligature * Chemical ligation, the production of peptides from amino acids...

 of the blood vessel
Blood vessel
The blood vessels are the part of the circulatory system that transports blood throughout the body. There are three major types of blood vessels: the arteries, which carry the blood away from the heart; the capillaries, which enable the actual exchange of water and chemicals between the blood and...

; cauterisation by heat; using different herbal or animal preparations locally which could facilitate clotting; and different medical preparations which could constrict
Vasoconstriction
Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting from contraction of the muscular wall of the vessels, particularly the large arteries, small arterioles and veins. The process is the opposite of vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels. The process is particularly important in...

 the bleeding or oozing vessels. Various oils could be used in a number of ways, including regular consumption as a part of food, anointing, smearing, head massage, and prescribed application to infected areas.

Srotas


Ensuring the proper functions of channels (srotas
Srotas
Srotas, or Shrotas -- in Ayurveda, the 13 types of channels used to convey dhatus and malas. Any injury to the shrotas leads to poor circulation, thus resulting in disease.Srotas are innumerable but grossly there are 16 srotas in the body as follows :...

) that transport fluids from one point to another is a vital goal of ayurvedic medicine, because the lack of healthy srotas is thought to cause rheumatism
Rheumatism
Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue. The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.-Terminology:...

, epilepsy
Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

, autism
Autism
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their...

, paralysis
Paralysis
Paralysis is loss of muscle function for one or more muscles. Paralysis can be accompanied by a loss of feeling in the affected area if there is sensory damage as well as motor. A study conducted by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, suggests that about 1 in 50 people have been diagnosed...

, convulsions, and insanity
Insanity
Insanity, craziness or madness is a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest as violations of societal norms, including becoming a danger to themselves and others, though not all such acts are considered insanity...

. Practitioners induce sweating and prescribe steam-based treatments as a means to open up the channels and dilute the doshas that cause the blockages and lead to disease.

History


One view of the early history of ayurveda asserts that around 1500 BC
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, ayurveda's fundamental and applied principles got organized and enunciated. In this historical construction, Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, Atharvaveda
Atharvaveda
The Atharvaveda is a sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas, often called the "fourth Veda"....

in particular, and is connected to Hindu religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. Atharvaveda (one of the four most ancient books of Indian knowledge, wisdom and culture) contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda originated in and developed from these hymns. In this sense, ayurveda is considered by some to have divine origin. Indian medicine has a long history, and is one of the oldest organised systems of medicine. Its earliest concepts are set out in the sacred writings called the Vedas, especially in the metrical passages of the Atharvaveda
Atharvaveda
The Atharvaveda is a sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas, often called the "fourth Veda"....

, which may possibly date as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. According to a later writer, the system of medicine was received by Dhanvantari
Dhanvantari
Dhanvantari is an Avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition. He appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the gods , and the god of Ayurvedic medicine...

 from Brahma
Brahma
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

, and Dhanvantari was deified as the god of medicine. In later times his status was gradually reduced, until he was credited with having been an earthly king named Divodasa
Divodasa
Divodāsa is a name of a tribal king in the Rigveda , the son of Vadhryashva RV 6.61.5. He is the father of the famous Sudas .It is also the name of a king of Kashi surnamed Dhanvantari as per the hymn...

.

Underwood & Rhodes (2008) hold that this early phase of traditional Indian medicine identified 'fever
Fever
Fever is a common medical sign characterized by an elevation of temperature above the normal range of due to an increase in the body temperature regulatory set-point. This increase in set-point triggers increased muscle tone and shivering.As a person's temperature increases, there is, in...

 (takman), cough
Cough
A cough is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the large breathing passages from secretions, irritants, foreign particles and microbes...

, consumption
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, diarrhea
Diarrhea
Diarrhea , also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day. It is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and...

, dropsy, abscesses, seizure
Seizure
An epileptic seizure, occasionally referred to as a fit, is defined as a transient symptom of "abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain". The outward effect can be as dramatic as a wild thrashing movement or as mild as a brief loss of awareness...

s, tumours, and skin diseases (including leprosy
Leprosy
Leprosy or Hansen's disease is a chronic disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Named after physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen, leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions...

)'. Treatment of complex ailments, including angina pectoris, diabetes, hypertension
Hypertension
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a cardiac chronic medical condition in which the systemic arterial blood pressure is elevated. What that means is that the heart is having to work harder than it should to pump the blood around the body. Blood pressure involves two measurements, systolic and...

, and stones
Calculus (medicine)
A calculus is a stone that forms in an organ or duct of the body. Formation of calculi is known as lithiasis...

, also ensued during this period. Plastic surgery
Plastic surgery
Plastic surgery is a medical specialty concerned with the correction or restoration of form and function. Though cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is the best-known kind of plastic surgery, most plastic surgery is not cosmetic: plastic surgery includes many types of reconstructive surgery, hand...

, cataract surgery
Cataract surgery
Cataract surgery is the removal of the natural lens of the eye that has developed an opacification, which is referred to as a cataract. Metabolic changes of the crystalline lens fibers over time lead to the development of the cataract and loss of transparency, causing impairment or loss of vision...

, puncturing to release fluids in the abdomen
Abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

, extraction of foreign elements, treatment of anal fistula
Anal fistula
Anal fistula, or fistula-in-ano, is an abnormal connection between the epithelialised surface of the anal canal and the perianal skin....

s, treating fractures, amputation
Amputation
Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. In some cases, it is carried out on individuals as a preventative surgery for...

s, cesarean sections, and stitching of wounds were known. The use of herbs and surgical instruments became widespread. The Charaka Samhita text is arguably the principal classic reference. It gives emphasis to the triune nature of each person: body care, mental regulation, and spiritual/consciousness refinement.

Other early works of ayurveda include the Charaka Samhita
Charaka Samhita
The ' is an early Ayurvedic text on internal medicine. It is believed to be the oldest of the three ancient treatises of Ayurveda...

, attributed to Charaka
Charaka
Charaka, sometimes spelled Caraka, born c. 300 BC was one of the principal contributors to the ancient art and science of Ayurveda, a system of medicine and lifestyle developed in Ancient India...

. The earliest surviving excavated written material which contains references to the works of Sushruta is the Bower Manuscript
Bower Manuscript
The Bower Manuscript is a medical manuscript written predominantly in the Sanskrit language,made up of 51 birch-bark leaves, written in an early Indian script.It is today preserved as part of the collections of the Bodleian Library in Oxford...

, dated to the 6th century AD
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

. The Bower manuscript is of special interest to historians due to the presence of Indian medicine and its concepts in Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Vagbhata, the son of a senior doctor by the name of Simhagupta, also compiled his works on traditional medicine. Early ayurveda had a school of physicians and a school of surgeons. Tradition holds that the text Agnivesh tantra
Agnivesh tantra
Agnivesha tantra is a compilation of the teachings of Ayurveda as given by the Sage Bharadwaja by Agnivesa.Later Charaka modified the Agnivesha tantra in his own way with a new collection of thoughts and material regarding Ayurveda, available at that time...

, written by the sage Agnivesh, a student of the sage Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja was one of the greatest Hindu Arya sages descendant of rishi Angirasa, whose accomplishments are detailed in the Puranas. He was one of the Saptarshis in the present Manvantara; with others being Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Kashyapa.Bhardwaj Rishi was father of...

, influenced the writings of ayurveda.

The Chinese
Chinese people
The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

 pilgrim Fa Hsien (ca. 337–422 AD) wrote about the health care system of the Gupta empire
Gupta Empire
The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire which existed approximately from 320 to 550 CE and covered much of the Indian Subcontinent. Founded by Maharaja Sri-Gupta, the dynasty was the model of a classical civilization. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the...

 (320–550) and described the institutional approach of Indian medicine, also visible in the works of Charaka, who mentions a clinic and how it should be equipped. Madhava (fl.
Floruit
Floruit , abbreviated fl. , is a Latin verb meaning "flourished", denoting the period of time during which something was active...

 700), Sarngadhara (fl. 1300), and Bhavamisra (fl. 1500) compiled works on Indian medicine. The medical works of both Sushruta and Charaka were translated into the Arabic language
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 during the Abbasid Caliphate (ca. 750). These Arabic works made their way into Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 via intermediaries. In Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, the Branca family of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and Gaspare Tagliacozzi (Bologna
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

) became familiar with the techniques of Sushruta.

British
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 physicians traveled to India to see rhinoplasty
Rhinoplasty
Rhinoplasty , also nose job, is a plastic surgery procedure for correcting and reconstructing the form, restoring the functions, and aesthetically enhancing the nose, by resolving nasal trauma , congenital defect, respiratory impediment, and a failed primary rhinoplasty...

 being performed by native methods. Reports on Indian rhinoplasty were published in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1794. Joseph Constantine Carpue
Joseph Constantine Carpue
Joseph Constantine Carpue was an English surgeon who was born in London. He was associated with St. George's Hospital and Duke of York Hospital in Chelsea. He was a skilled surgeon and popular lecturer of anatomy....

 spent 20 years in India studying local plastic surgery methods. Carpue was able to perform the first major surgery in the western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 in 1815. Instruments described in the Sushruta Samhita were further modified in the Western World.

Current status



Within India


Up to 80% of people in India use either Ayurveda or other traditional medicines.

In 1970, the Indian Medical Central Council Act which aims to standardize qualifications for ayurveda and provide accredited institutions for its study and research was passed by the Parliament of India
Parliament of India
The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body in India. Founded in 1919, the Parliament alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all political bodies in India. The Parliament of India comprises the President and the two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha...

. In India, over 100 colleges offer degrees in traditional ayurvedic medicine. The Indian government supports research and teaching in ayurveda through many channels at both the national and state levels, and helps institutionalize traditional medicine so that it can be studied in major towns and cities. The state-sponsored Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences
AYUSH
The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy is a part of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of the Government of India....

 (CCRAS) has been set up to research the subject. To fight biopiracy
Biopiracy
- Biopiracy and bioprospecting :Bioprospecting is an umbrella term describing the discovery of new and useful biological samples and mechanisms, typically in less-developed countries, either with or without the help of indigenous knowledge, and with or without compensation...

 and unethical patents, the Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

, in 2001, set up the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is an Indian digital knowledge repository of the traditional knowledge, especially about medicinal plants and formulations used in Indian systems of medicine. Set up in 2001, as a collaboration between the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and...

 as repository of 1200 formulations of various systems of Indian medicine, such as ayurveda, unani
Unani
Unani-tibb or Unani Medicine also spelled Yunani Medicine means "Greek Medicine", and is a form of traditional medicine widely practiced in South Asia...

 and siddha
Siddha medicine
The Siddha medicine is one of the oldest medical systems known to mankind. This system of medicine originated from south Indian Tamil traditional medicine, as part of the trio Indian medicines - ayurveda, siddha and unani. This system was very popular in ancient India...

. The library also has 50 traditional ayurveda books digitized and available online.

Central Council of Indian Medicine
Central Council of Indian Medicine
Central Council of Indian Medicine is a statutory body under Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy , Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, set up in 1971 under the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, which was passed in 1970...

 (CCIM) a statutory body established in 1971, under Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy
AYUSH
The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy is a part of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of the Government of India....

 (AYUSH
AYUSH
The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy is a part of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of the Government of India....

), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is the Indian government ministry charged with health policy in India. It is also responsible for all government programs relating to family planning in India....

, Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

, monitors higher education in ayurveda. Many clinics in urban and rural areas are run by professionals who qualify from these institutes.

Outside India


Several international and national initiatives have been formed to legitimize the education and practice of ayurvedic medicine as CAM in countries outside India:
  • WHO policy of traditional medicine practice and standardized benchmarks for training of Ayurvedic practitioners
  • The European Federation for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • The European Ayurveda Association


Due to different laws and medical regulations in the rest of the world, the unregulated practice and commercialization of ayurvedic medicine has raised ethical and legal issues; in some cases, this damages the reputation of ayurvedic medicine outside India.

Gopi Warrier
Gopi Warrier
Gopi Warrier is best known as an expert in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. He is also a playwright and poet, with many artistic and business ventures to his name.- Life and career :...

 and his fellow trustees founded "the first charitable Ayurvedic hospital outside of India and Sri Lanka" in London in the year 2000.

Journals


There are two PubMed
PubMed
PubMed is a free database accessing primarily the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. The United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health maintains the database as part of the Entrez information retrieval system...

-indexed journals focusing on Ayurveda, the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine (JAIM), and The International Journal for Ayurveda Research (IJAR)

Scientific evidence



As a traditional medicine
Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...

, many ayurveda products have not been tested in rigorous scientific studies and clinical trials. In India, research in ayurveda is largely undertaken by the statutory body of the Central Government
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

, the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS), through a national network of research institutes. A systematic review of ayurveda treatments for rheumatoid arthritis
Arthritis
Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints....

 concluded that there was insufficient evidence, as most of the trials were not done properly, and the one high-quality trial showed no benefits.
A review of ayurveda and cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease are the class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels . While the term technically refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system , it is usually used to refer to those related to atherosclerosis...

 concluded that the evidence for ayurveda was not convincing, though some herbs seemed promising.

Two varieties of Salvia
Salvia
Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, with approximately 700-900 species of shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals. It is one of several genera commonly referred to as sage. When used without modifiers, sage generally refers to Salvia officinalis ; however, it is...

have been tested in small trials; one trial provided evidence that Salvia lavandulifolia
Salvia lavandulifolia
Salvia lavandulifolia is a small woody herbaceous perennial native to Spain and southern France, growing in rocky soil in Maquis shrubland, often found growing with Rosemary, Lavandula lanata, and Genista cinerea....

(Spanish sage) may improve word recall in young adults, and another provided evidence that Salvia officinalis (Common sage) may improve symptoms in Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

 patients. Many plants used as rasayana (rejuvenation) medications are potent antioxidants. Neem
Neem
Azadirachta indica is a tree in the mahogany family Meliaceae. It is one of two species in the genus Azadirachta, and is native to India growing in tropical and semi-tropical regions. Its fruits and seeds are the source of neem oil...

 appears to have beneficial pharmacological properties.

Safety


Rasa shastra
Rasa Shastra
In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical lore of Hinduism, rasa shastra is a process by which various metals and other substances, including mercury, are purified and combined with herbs in an attempt to treat illnesses...

, the practice of adding metals, minerals or gems to herbs, is a source of toxic heavy metals such as lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 and arsenic
Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

. Adverse reactions to herbs due to their pharmacology are described in traditional ayurvedic texts, but ayurvedic practitioners are reluctant to admit that herbs could be toxic and the reliable information on herbal toxicity is not readily available.

According to a 1990 study on ayurvedic medicines in India, 41% of the products tested contained arsenic, and 64% contained lead and mercury. A 2004 study found toxic levels of heavy metals in 20% of ayurvedic preparations made in South Asia and sold in the Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 area, and concluded that ayurvedic products posed serious health risks and should be tested for heavy-metal contamination. A 2008 study of more than 230 products found that approximately 20% of remedies (and 40% of rasa shastra medicines) purchased over the Internet from both US and Indian suppliers contained lead, mercury or arsenic.

Ayruvedic proponents believe that the toxicity of these materials is reduced through purification processes such as samskaras
Samskara (Ayurvedic)
A samskara is a process in ayurvedic medicine claimed to detoxify heavy metals and toxic herbs.In ayurveda, toxic ingredients, which sometimes include heavy metals such as mercury, are claimed to be purified using a process of prayer and pharmacy...

or shodhanas (for metals), similar to the Chinese pao zhi, although the ayurvedic technique is more complex and may involve prayers as well as physical pharmacy techniques. However, these products have nonetheless caused severe lead poisoning
Lead poisoning
Lead poisoning is a medical condition caused by increased levels of the heavy metal lead in the body. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems...

 and other toxic effects.

Due to these concerns, the Government of India ruled that ayurvedic products must specify their metallic content directly on the labels of the product, but, writing on the subject for Current Science, a publication of the Indian Academy of Sciences
Indian Academy of Sciences
The Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore was founded by Sir C. V. Raman, and was registered as a Society on 24 April 1934. Inaugurated on 31 July 1934, it began with 65 founding fellows. The first general meeting of Fellows, held on the same day, elected Professor Raman as President, and adopted...

, M. S. Valiathan noted that "the absence of post-market surveillance and the paucity of test laboratory facilities [in India] make the quality control of Ayurvedic medicines exceedingly difficult at this time.

Further reading

  • Kishor Patwardhan 2008. Concepts of Human Physiology in Ayurveda, in Sowarigpa and Ayurveda, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi. Samyak Vak Series-14, Editor: Pabitra Kumar Roy, pp. 53–73. ISBN 978-81-87127-76-5 Kishor Patwardhan Concepts of Human Physiology in Ayurveda

External links