Ayurvedic medicine is the world’s oldest known system of medicine. It originated around 5000 years ago in India and is now steadily gaining attention and popularity in the west. Ayurvedic treatments by certified practitioners have become commonplace now.
Ayurvedic medicine is accessible and available throughout the United States.Major cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have a prolific infrastructure for Ayurvedic medicine in terms of practitioners, programs, centers and medicines.
Ayurvedic medicine is generally defined as the treatment provided by Ayurvedic practitioners who follow the Ayurvedic system of medicine. However, Ayurvedic medicine has a much broader meaning than this basic definition.
Read More: What’s An Ayurvedic Practitioner?
Ayurvedic medicine is a complete medical system used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Ayurvedic medicine is used for conditions like hair loss, piles or hemorrhoids, cancer, asthma, cold, anxiety, high blood pressure, arthritis, thyroid, cough, diabetes, skin care, weight loss, blood purification, pregnancy issues, and many more.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Ayurvedic medicine is defined as a traditional system of medicine from India in which illnesses are treated with a combination of certain foods, herbs, massages, and special physical exercises.1
Ayurvedic medicine adopts a holistic approach to treat a patient. It uses diet oraahar, panchakarmaor purification techniques, herbal preparations orkashth aushadh and mineral preparations orras aushadh, meditation, para-surgical procedures like kshar sutra, and many other ancient procedures used for treating various conditions.
In Ayurvedic medicine, perfect health means achieving equilibrium between the body, mind, spirit, and social well being.
Ayurvedic medicine not only improves one’s physical health but also their psychological health, social wellness, and spiritual health.
According to the renowned Ayurvedic textKaya Chikitsa which discusses general Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurvedic medicine is defined using the following synonyms.2
The various Sanskrit synonyms of Ayurvedic medicine arechikitsa, aushadh, bhaishjya, and vyadhi harto name a few.
Chikitsa:Chikitsais defined as any activity which alleviates disease. It helps in maintaining the balance between physicaldosha, sapta dhatu (seven body tissues) andmala (waste products). It brings all of them to equilibrium and this is referred to aschikitsa. It can be loosely translated to ‘therapy’.
Aushadh: The literal meaning ofaushadh is a preparation that is formed by combining various medicinal herbs.
Bhaishajya:Bhaishajya means that which conquers the fear of disease.
Vyadhi har: This term refers to that which prevents and cures a disease.
Uttam Chikitsa:A treatment is said to be the best treatment when it not only subsides the disease it is treating but also does not generate any new disease as a secondary effect or side effect. Here, uttam means ‘best’ and chikitsa means ‘treatment’.
Thus, Ayurvedic medicine promotes uttam chikitsa.3
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Ayurvedic medicine is a vast science. There are many authentic texts on ayurvedic medicine. However, the three principal texts on Ayurvedic medicine are –Charak Samhita, Sushruta Samhita,andAshtanga Hridayam.
These three texts are also known as the great trilogy. Ayurvedic medicine employs the same basic concepts like Dosha and Dhatu for explaining other aspects of Ayurveda as well.
To understand Ayurvedic medicine, it is important to first understand the key concepts of the Ayurvedic medicine system, which are described below.
Prana:The basic life force of the body is calledprana.
Pancha Maha BhutaTheory:There are five basic elements orpancha maha bhutawhich containprana or life force. These five elements areprithvi (earth),jala (water),agni (fire),vayu(air), andaakash (ether).
Tri-DoshaTheory:These five elements are combined in pairs and organized in the body as the three main physiological principles. These are known as thetri-doshas namelyVata, Pitta, andKapha. An individual is considered healthy when these three doshas are in equilibrium.
The threedoshas are responsible for all bodily functions
Mansik Dosha:Besides the aforementioned threedoshas, there are two othermansik or psychologicaldoshasas well. These arerajo dosha andtamo dosha. These are responsible for an individual’s psychological or mental health.
Prakriti: Prakriti means one’s basic bodily constitution. Every person has a unique combination ofdoshas. This combination decides theprakriti of that person.
Ayurvedic medicine is always individualized for every person as it places one’sprakriti at the foundation of their treatment plan. Grossly, there are seven types ofprakritis.
Sapta dhatu:Sapta dhatu means seven body tissues. These arerasa dhatu (plasma),rakta dhatu (blood),mamsa dhatu (muscle),meda dhatu (fat tissue),asthi dhatu (bones),majja dhatu (bone marrow), andshukra dhatu (reproductive fluid).
Rasa dhatu,rakta dhatu,mamsa dhatu, andmeda dhatu also have their ownupa dhatusor secondary body tissues.
Mala:Malaare waste products of the body. This includes fecal matter, urine, and sweat.
Srotas:Srotas means channels. There are thirteensrotasin the body.Srotas are the body’s channels consisting of one or more systems.Srotas are responsible for transporting bodily fluids and performing various bodily functions.
Thus, Ayurvedic medicine focuses on the above-mentioned aspects to treat and manage a person’s health and wellbeing. These concepts are used in Ayurvedic medicine to achieve harmony between the mind, body, and spirit.
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According to the renowned Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, there are several types of treatments for all the different types of diseases that exist. In Ayurveda, the treatments are classified for easy understanding. These are as follows:
These classifications ofchikitsa are only used as a general guide for treatment. An Ayurvedic physician may implement other treatment modalities depending on the particular condition of the patient and the ailment.
In Ayurveda, the most commonly used classification while treating a patient is the tri vidha chikitsa or three types of treatment.The three types oftri vidha chikitsa are defined as follows.5
Daiva vyapashraya chikitsa:It means the treatment is based on the belief in divine power and divine remedies. This may include prayer, mantra or use of any other faith-based system.
Yukti vyapashraya chikitsa:In this modality, the treatment involves planned medicines, as well as diet and lifestyle management for the patient.
However, it should always be done skilfully which is why it is calledyukti vyapashraya chikitsa (yukti means planning skillfully). It further has three sub-types namely –panchakarma procedures, oral intake of Ayurvedic formulations, and surgical procedures.
Satvavajaya chikitsa:Satvavajaya is made up of two words. Satvameans mind andavajaya means to win. Therefore,satvavajaya chikitsa is the prescribed treatment for managing unhealthy mental tendencies like stress and anxiety, depression, and others.
This therapy guides people on how they can keep their mind and senses under control.Some of its aspects can even be correlated to modern-day psychiatry.
These classifications broadly cover the various aspects of the implementation of Ayurvedic medicine and Ayurvedic treatments.
Please consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before using any Ayurvedic medicine or undergoing an Ayurvedic procedure.
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