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Gradually accumulated practical and systematic medical knowledge in India is called Ayurveda.

It deserves to be better known, this is a small intro by Author Dr. Shyam Sunder Rao Chepur. Will be revised periodically.


Antiquity of system:

Medicinal knowledge gained over trial and error over the thousands of years in India and neighbouring regions of central Asia/ south east asia has been systematised some four thousand years ago in a system of medicine called Ayurveda. There is a refreshing lack of mumbo-jumbo mystery mongering, and in many cases modern techniques confirms the genuineness of the claims of Ayurvedic doctors. Unfortunately fakes and quacks out to make a fast buck distort the teachings.
Origins:
The origins of this system of course are lost in time. In legend it is said to have been taught by the creator, Brahma, to the Prajapati Daksha. (One of the lords of the animals) who taught it in turn to the divine twins called the Asvins. These Aswins are the heavenly healers. They taught Indra, the chief of the shining ones. The personages mentioned were deities of early Vedic times.

When mankind started suffering from various diseases the wise men like Bharadvaja learnt from Indra the knowledge of medicine. Gradually the huge amount of knowledge accumulated was divided systematically into 8 branches.


The branches of Ayurveda.

     Kaya chikitsa     :  Internal medicine

Baala : Pediatrics

Graha : Treatment of diseases arising from possession by pathogens, evil spirits, etc. Mainly diseases of a mental nature.

Urdhvanga : Dealing with the eyes, ear, nose, throat and dentistry

Salya : Surgery including plastic surgery

Danstra : Insect bites, poisons ( Toxicology)

Rasayana : Diseases of advancing age

Prasuti : Gynecology and obstetrics

Basic Concepts of Ayurveda:

Vyaadhi, or disease in Ayurveda is due to an imbalance of three fundamental elements of the body.

These are VATA, PITTA and KAPHA.

The entire universe is made of five Maha bhootas, or great "elements" . (which are not material in the usual sense of the term, and are types of energy.) For identifying them they are called

VAATA: Human bodies are mainly made of Akasa, Vaayu with a little of Teja, Ap and Prithvi. Vaata is what allows one to interact with the environment. Briefly, vaata tramsmits sense impresions to the mind and responses to various places of the body , maintains the integrity of the body and proper functioning of its various constituent elements , the sensory organs of touch and sound depend on vaata : the Dhaatus and Malas (tissue material and waste matter) are transported by vaata. It stimulates Agni and produces joy. It forms the embryo in the womb into particular shapes It is the evidence of life .

PITTA : Is the primary constituent of the living body whose structure is Tejas ( "luminous light"). Its function is balncing and transformative. Its functions in particular are -- vision, digestion, production of heat, Hunger, thirst, softness and suppleness of body, lustre, cheerfullness and intelligence.

KAPHA : Is one of the primary constituents of body, having "water" and "earth" as elements. Function of pitta is conserving and stabilising . It organises the tissues (into their microscopic and macroscopic form)


DISEASE IN AYURVEDA

Disease is called Vyaadhi in ayurveda. It is the state of body and mind in which they are subjected to discomfort, pain and injury. The fundamental cause is imbalance of the three Vaata, Pitta and kapha. Fairly elaborate classification of diseases is done in Ayurveda. It is according to the trauma (abhigaata)

Adhyatmika: physical and psychic type, constitutional

Adhibhautika: caused by environment

Aadhidaivika: caused by gods or spirits

More practical classification for treatment is

    
Aadi- bala pravritta : Genetically predisposed         
Janma- bala          : Congenital                       
Dosha -bala          : caused by imbalances in Vaata, Pitta, Kapha. 
Sanghata-bala        : Traumatic                                   
Kaala - bala         : Seasonal, time linked                       
Daiva -bala          : Gods or demons                               
Svabhaava -bala      : natural changes                              
                                                                    

Examples

Fever:
The doshas, vaata, kapha, and pitta when disturbed either singly or in combination, cause fever. The example is given- due to over- eating incompatible foods, the doshas reach the gastro intestinal tract and expel the internal gastric fire which is responsible for digestion. While it is moving and expelled to exterior, which fever is caused. Treatment is to set the fire element in its right place.

Obesity:
mainly due to absence of physical activity. Other causes may be sleeping during the day, intake of Kapha - increasing foods, finally results in the accumulation of fat. These block the channels of nutrition. This blocking causes an INCREASE in hunger because the body does not get nutrition.

Diarrhoea:
Watery elements of the body imbalance the gastric fire and large quantities are expelled . Treatment is by restoring balance of the watery element.

Gout:
Over eating of foods that are too salty, sour, alkaline, fatty , improperly cooked, meat of the animals or birds of marshy and desert regions which have been soaked in water, excessive drinking of sugarcane juice, exposure to cold winds, sleeping in the daytime and not in the night, travelling long distances at a stretch causes gout in susceptible persons.

Rheumatism:
Eating foods which are incompatible, lack of physical exercise in general, doing exercise particularly after eating fatty foods , incorrect use of purgatives, causes improper digestion. The half digested food called AMA associates itself with Vaata and moves about. It fills the seats of kapha, and blocks the transport channels of the body. This blocking of channels produces weakness of the heart, which is the SEAT of the disease. This results in loss of strength, feeling of heaviness, stiffness of the body , and small and big joints alike.

Sprue:
Excessive intake of foods that are pungent, bitter, astringent, dry, or insuficient food, supression of the natural functions of the body, excess of exercise all vitiate vaata which affects the digestive acitivity, producing disease.

Indigestion/dyspepsia:
Taking excess of water, taking small/large quantities of food at odd times, supression of the natural functions of the body, loss of slep at night and sleeping during the daytime, causes indigestion.

Intestinal problems :
Use of foods that are dry, salty, sour . Uncleaned vegetables, molasses, taking foods that are incompatible with each other, excess of animal fat, fish, fermented stuffs, and lack of physical exercise.

Skin problems:
Are often due to Pitta. This is caused by excessive exposure to sunlight, taking foods which are pungent, hot and alkaline.

Peptic Ulcer and colic:
Excessive eating of astringent and dry hot bitter foods ; grief ; starvation; fasting; and keeping awake at night all increases vaata. This in turn increaes gastric fire causing peptic ulcer, and induces colic.

Heart disease:
The doshas having undergone morbid changes either singly or in combination, vitiate the blood and similar fluids (like plasma). These localise themselves in the heart.

Gastritis:
This is caused by increase of Pitta, usually as a result of eating incompatible foods and over- hot or spicy foods. Spoilt food also causes this.

Diseases of the ear:
The vaata pitta kapha balance may be disturbed by exposure to cold air, hearing sudden loud noises. The elements move in wrong directions and cause ear problems.


Ayurvedic treatment differs from modern medicine in the way the disease is viewed :
Usually ayurvedic practitioners say antibiotics may have their uses, especially in surgery, but that antibiotics basically attack the germs which are considered to cause disease.

The ayurvedic doctors prefer that the balance of the body be restored. The causative factors which allow the germs to grow have to be removed, not just quickly attacking the germs they say. ( As a matter of fact doctors of any system with long experience hold this very sensible view ). Laymen also nowadays in the West are tending to be suspicious about improperly tested and very powerful chemical drugs.

Drugs:

The drugs used in Ayurveda are made by several processess from vegtable and mineral raw materials. It appears mostly plant alkaloids are the active ingredients. Obviously barring some chemical changes it is mostly natural derivates. ( modern medicines are also based upon these but proportion of synthetic derivate is more.)

However the plants growing in particular soils, with pattern of weather, sunlight, time of harvesting, method of preparation of medicine all are very important. The identical species of plant growing in rain forest and city backyard may not have the same medicinal value.


Some simple remedies:

General tonic for health: Boiled extract ( decoction) of the roots of Sida cordifolia 1 -2 ounces every morning is recommended.

Another tonic: Finely powdered roots of Withania somniferum cooked in half a litre of milk till the water evaporates, is a very effective tonic.

Dandruff: Leaves of Neem ( Azadirachta indica) or Indian hemp applied in paste form to the scalp, and kept for half an hour. A lukewarm shower to follow, removes dandruff. ( neem contains several powerful substances like azadirachtin. Indian hemp is well known.)

Corns: The milky sap of the papaya tree/unripe fruit applied to corns or warts removes them. ( there is a digestive enzyme called papain in it, and is used in todays's tenderisers.)

Bad taste in the mouth: Pomegranate juice, rock salt and honey in equal quantities to be kept in the mouth for a while is very effective.

" Gas" rumblings in the belly and elsewhere : A mixture of Fried asafoetida ( a resin), black salt, cardamom and ginger 30mg per day in divided doses is very effective.

Cough and hacking cough : equal parts of honey and juice of baked lemon,( i.e. sour citrus fruit)
or 10 -15 drops of betel leaf juice with honey three times a day.


by Dr. Shyamsunder Rao Chepur. Hope it could be of use to you. I will add more interesting material soon.
To come:- surgery in ayurveda ( including plastic surgery) : getting back some youthfulness : prevention of variuos common diseases etc.

You can email to me Dr. Shyamsunder Rao Chepur here for now.