Ayurveda is the science of life that deals with the entire creation with special emphasis on the biology of life. The chief objectives of this science are preservation of health and prevention of diseases. It is a holistic system of medicine, which means that it treats the person as a whole, not as a group of individual parts. It aims in the building of the equilibrium of body, the mind, the spirit and the environment to prevent illnesses and to preserve health. Ayurveda has eight branches; they are general medicine, paediatrics, psychiatry, otorhinolaryngology, surgery, toxicology, virilification therapy and rejuvenation. Ayurveda is deeply rooted in the mythology of India. The main source of Ayurvedic knowledge is the Vedas; the divine Hindu book of knowledge. The Vedas were revealed by Lord Brahma, the creator of this universe according to Hindu mythology. Among the four Vedas the fourth Veda called Atharva Veda which dates back to 1200BC is the main source book for Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine and treatment. Further classical Ayurvedic texts were written from 600BC to 1000AD. Three great authors compiled the main three text books Charaka samhita, Susrutha samhita and Ashtanga sangraha which collectively called Brihatrayee. They were Charaka, Susrutha and Vagbhata. Over the years a vast pharmacopoeia was added to this and the Ayurvedic tradition continued as a vigorous and fast expanding scientific tradition down in to the16th century. The 20th century has seen scientific trials on many Ayurvedic medicines, proving their safety and efficacy.
In Ayurvedic philosophy, everything in the universe is composed of five eternal elements called the Panchamahabhutas; namely earth, water, fire air and space or ether in varying compositions. These elements are not the same physical elements that we perceive with our senses. It is the divergence in the balances of these basic elements that lend distinct physical and chemical characteristics to all that is formed in nature. The panchamahabhutas or the five eternal elements are apparent in human body as subtle energies namely Doshas or bio-energies or humors which maintain and control physical, physiological and mental activities of the body. Tridosha theory or three bio-energies theory is the basis of Ayurveda. Vata with the combination of ether and air; is responsible for imparting motion to the body like walking, running, talking and lifting, conducting impulses from respective sense organs, separating waste products from injested food, retaining and evacuating urine and semen, enthusiasm, process of inspiration and expiration, circulation of supporting elements in particular lymph and blood. Disturbed vata causes rheumatic pain, arthritis, constipation, abnormal blood pressure heart diseases etc. Pitta with the combination of fire and water; is responsible for vision, digestion, body heat mechanism, imparting colour to the body, hunger, thirst, appetite, softness and suppleness of the body, and all intellectual functions. Disturbed pitta causes indigestion, impaired vision or loss of vision, abnormal body heat and complexion, fear, anger, and bewilderment, deficient blood formation, burning sensation etc. Kapha with the combination of earth and water; is responsible for maintaining oiliness of the body and organs, maintaining general stability of the body, providing excellent strength, patience and virility, promoting smooth working of the joints, forbearance, courage, generosity, body’s bulk, compactness, physical strength etc. Disturbed kapha causes emaciation of the body, loss of oiliness, flabbiness, weakness and susceptibility to diseases, impotence and sterility, immobility and loss of function of joints, weariness and lethargy, confusion, ignorance and lack of understanding etc. These vata, pitta and kapha are the tridoshas. Equilibrium of these bio-energies is of prime importance to achieve optimum health and well-being and to preserve life, and imbalance causes different diseases. The emphasis on maintaining good health or Swasthavritha is crucial to Ayurveda. The daily regimen or Dinacharya and the seasonal regimen or Ritucharya are designed to keep everybody healthy. In Dinacharya diet, physical exercise, personal hygiene and mental health are all important. In Ritucharya for every season a different regimen has been described to enable a person to lead a healthy life by overcoming the stresses brought out on by seasonal changes.
Prakruthi or constitutional nature of every individual is different and predetermined at the time of conception based on the permutations and combinations of the Panchamahabhutas that manifest in the genes of parents. In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, identifying body-types is of profound importance. Lifestyles and food habits will need to be adjusted according to the body-type so as to resist diseases and to maintain good health. Physical and mental cooperation to make necessary adjustments in one’s lifestyle and food habits also are essential to attain the natural dynamic balance of the Doshas. Once that balance is achieved, the ailment disappears.
Treatments in Ayurveda can be classified into two; purification therapy or Sodhana chikitsa and alleviation therapy or Samana chikitsa. As a result of constant metabolic activity a large amount of toxic by-products accumulate in the human body; most of which are eliminated naturally. However some of these wastes tend to get struck in the various tissues of the body, thus vitiating the dynamic equilibrium of the basic elements and cause disorders. Purification of these toxic wastes is the underlying principle of the purification therapy. Alleviation therapy is the pacifying way of treatments especially done after the purification therapy and also in less vitiation of Doshas. Oral therapy and less hard-line external means are applied to correct the imbalances. In this therapy restoration of normalcy is without elimination of any substances unlike purification therapy. Purification therapy consists of a number of internal measures implemented in the treatment of a disease, of which Panchakarma therapy is an integral part. That is unique in Ayurveda. This has proved to be more useful in today’s busy world with polluted environment and highly stressful work conditions, by detoxifying body and mind of toxins. This also helps in scavenging of free radicals, longevity and enhancing the body immunity. Advocating the importance of Panchakarma therapy, Ayurveda says that sodhana chikitsa strikes at the root of the disease and thus the disease treated by it do not recur again. Panchakarma consists of five fold therapeutic procedures namely Vamana or therapeutic vomiting, Virechana or Purgation, Vasti or enema, Nasya or nasal treatment and Rakthamoksha or blood-letting. These therapies are preceded and followed by internal medicines and external treatments.