"AYURVEDA" is made up of two words-Ayuh and Veda. Ayuh means life and Veda means knowledge or science. Thus "AYURVEDA’ in totality means ‘Science of life’. It incorporates all aspects of life whether physical, psychological, spiritual or social. What is beneficial and what is harmful to life, what is happy life and what is sorrowful life; all these four questions and life span allied issues are elaborately and emphatically discussed in Ayurveda. It believes the existence of soul before birth and after death too.
Ayurveda, the ancient most health care system originated with the origin of universe. With the inception of human life on earth Ayurveda started being applied. The antique vedic texts have scattered references of Ayurvedic Remedies and allied aspects of medicine and health. Atharva-veda mainly deals with extensive Ayurvedic information. That is why Ayurveda is said to be the off shoot of Atharva Veda.
Universe as well as human body are made up of five basic elements collectively called ‘Panch Mahabhootas’. These are Aakash (Ether), Vayu (Air), Agni(Fire), Aapa (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). The sixth mandatory component of life is Atma (life spirit) without which life ceases. The human body is made up of Doshas (Bio-humours), Dhatus(Body matrix) and Malas (excretable products). Vata, Pitta and kapha, known as Tridoshs are physiological entities of the body which are responsible for carrying out all the functions of the body. Dhatus are the structural entities of the body. These are Rasa (Plasma), Rakta (Blood cells), Mamsa (Muscular tissue), Meda (Fatty tissue), Asthi (Bony tissue), Majja (Bone marrow) and Shukra (Hormonal and other secretions of genital). Agni (Metabolic fire) is in thirteen different forms and carries out the whole metabolism of the body. The waste products of the body which are excretable are produced in the body as bye-products of metabolism. These are known as malas which include pureesh (faeces), Sweda (sweat) and Mutra (urine). All bio-transformations within the body occur through Srotases (body channels) which are the sites for action of agni.
As per Ayurveda, ‘Health’ is a state of equilibrium of normal functions of doshas, Dhatus, malas and Agni with delighted body, mind and soul. It means that when Dosh-Dhatu-Malas and Agni are constantly in a state of functional equilibrium, then the health is maintained. Otherwise distortion of the equilibrium results into diseases. Erratic lifestyle is believed to be one of the basic causes behind the failure of mechanism of maintaining equilibrium.
Diagnostic procedures in Ayurveda are two pronged; one is aimed to establish the state and type of pathology and second to decide the mode of treatment tobe applied. The former implies examination of the patient and make different investigations to diagnose the disease entity. Inspection, palpation, percussion and interrogation are the main modes of physical examination. The second type of examination is to assess the strength and physical status of the individual so that accordingly the type of management required could be planned. For this examination of Prakriti (Body constitution), Saar (Tissue quality), Samhnan (physique), Satva (Mental strength), Satamya (specific adaptability), Aaharshakti (diet intake capacity), Vyayaam shakti (exercise capacity) and Vaya (age) is done. On the basis of this examination the individual is decided to be having Pravar bal (excellent strength), Madhyam Bal (moderate strength) or Heen Bal (low strength).
There exists eight divisions of Ayurvedic therapeutics, namely Kayachikitsa (Internal medicine), Shalya (Surgery), Shalkya (Otorhinolaryngology and Opthalmology), Kaumr Bhritya (Paediatrics, Gynaecology and Obstetrics) Agad tantra (Toxicology), Rasayana (Gerentorology), Vajikaran (Aphrodisiacs) and Bhoot Vidya (Psychiatry).
The principles of treatment are Shodhan (purificatory), Shaman (palliative and conservative), Nidan parivarjan (avoidance of causative and prescipitating factors of disease) and Pathya Vyavastha (do’s and don’ts regarding diets lifestyle). Shodhan therapy includes Vamana (medically induced emesis), Virechana (medically induced laxation), Vasti (medicated enema), shirovirechana (administration of medicines through nose) and Raktmokshan (Blood letting). These therapeutic procedures are collectively known as Panchkarma. Before executing Panch karma treatment Snehan (olation) and Swedan (getting perspiration) are to employed first.
The main classical texts for reference of Ayurvedic principles comprise of Charak Samhita, Susrut Samhita, Astang Hridaya, Sharangdhar Samhita, Madhav Nidan, Kashyap Samhita, Bhavprakash and Bhaisajya Ratnavali etc.
What ever is natural whether belonging to plants or animals or minerals: all are considered the source of raw material for Ayurvedic medicines. However 600 medicinal plant products, 52 minerals and 50 animal products are commonly used.
Ayurvedic medicines are marketed in various forms. The main ones are tablets, pills, powders, fermentation products (Asva-arishta), decoctions, medicated fats (Ghrita and Tel). For topical use drops, creams, lotions, liniments and ointments are available. Dried plant extracts in capsule form are also in use presently.
Ayurveda has a wide scope as far as the prevention of disease, promotion of health and its preservation are concerned. Lifestyle rules mentioned in Ayurvedic texts if applied rigorously give definite results. Lifestyle related diseases, drug abuse, degenerative diseases, auto immune diseases and certain metabolic and allergic disorders are well manageable with Ayurvedic techniques and medicaments.