What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda means “knowledge of life” in Sanskrit, and was developed more than 5000 years ago. The science of Ayurveda aims to integrate our internal and external worlds by placing a particular emphasis on holistic wellness. Ayurveda believes good health and well-being depend on a delicate balance of mind, body, and soul. Its primary purpose is to promote good health rather than to combat sickness. Treatments, on the other hand, may be tailored to individual health issues.

What are the principles of Ayurveda?

The basic principles of Ayurveda revolve around the concept of panchamahabhutas, trigunas, tridoshas, and the saptadhatus.

Everything in the universe, according to Ayurveda, is made up of the Pancamahabhutas – Akasa (Space), Vayu (Air), Teja or Agni (Fire), Jala (Water), and Prithvi (Earth). They are everywhere, and they are intermingled in an infinite variety of relative amounts, making each form of matter different. Although each element has a variety of characteristics, only a few of them become apparent in specific settings. They produce a state of dynamic flux that keeps the world going by constantly altering and interacting with one another.

The three Gunas (essential components or energies) of the mind are Satva, Rajas, and Tamas. On the basis of their Manasa (psychological) Prakriti, Ayurveda presents a separate definition of persons (constitution). These psychological qualities are genetically determined and are influenced by the relative dominance of the three Gunas. Rajas and Tamas are considered to be the mano doshas, if vitiated can lead to mano Vyadhis.

The Tridoshas (tri means three, and doshas means basic physical energies) are the primary and vital components that govern our complete physical structure and function in the human body. Each dosha, attributes various characters and is a combination of any two of the five bhutas.

The tridoshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and they are in charge of all physiological and psychological processes in the body and mind – dynamic forces that dictate growth and decay. Every physical trait, mental ability, and emotional proclivity of a person can thus be explained in terms of the tridoshas.

The Sapta dhatus are elements that provide sustenance and growth while also providing support to mental stability. The essence of digested food material is used to nourish the seven body tissues in a sequential manner. Saptadhatus are – Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Medas, Asthi, Majja and Shukra.

Rasa provides contentment, saturation, and nourishes blood; blood generates clarity in complexion, nourishes muscles, and sustains life; muscles strengthen the body and nourishes Medas (fat); Medas gives rise to unctuous materials, sweat, and firmness and nourishes Asthi (bones); Asthi support the body and nourish marrow; semen provides valor, discharge, pleasure, physical strength, and exhilaration.   

What are the primary treatment techniques in Ayurveda?

Ayurvedic treatment can be broadly classified into two types namely – Shodhana Chikitsa (purificatory therapies) and Shamana Chikitsa (alleviating therapies).
Shodhana Chikitsa helps to remove the toxins from the body through therapeutic procedures called Panchakarma. Panchakarma includes five therapies called Vamana, Virechana, Vasti, Nasya and Raktamokshana. These procedures cleanse the micro-channels in the body and bring back the system to a balanced and healthy stage.  

Where does Ayurvedic medicine come from?

Ayurveda began as an oral practice and was written down in Sanskrit more than 5,000 years ago. The science was originated from the Atharva Veda (1200-1000 BCE). It is a popular method of health treatment in many parts of the world, particularly in India.

By the seventh century BCE, Ayurvedic medical literature was published, providing not only procedural instructions but also a history of how Ayurvedic medicine evolved over time. The Charak Samhita, Sushurta Samhita, and Ashtanga Hridaya comprise “the great trio” of books known as Brhattrayis.  These works provide the fundamental principles and theories that hold the essence of the Ayurveda.

Is Ayurvedic Medicine Effective?

Yes, Ayurvedic medicine is effective in treating various ailments in the body. Ayurveda considers treating the body as a whole. It does not just cure the symptoms, but the disease from the root. The science emphasizes the concept of ‘Prevention is better than Cure’.