Liji Varghese

Ayurveda, the 5000 year old Indian medical system, focuses more on healthy living than treatment of diseases. Ayurveda is a conjugation of two Sanskrit words ayus (life) and veda (related to knowledge), literary means the `science of life`. The earliest concept of Ayurveda was put into writing by VedaVyasa, the famous sage and shaktavesha avatar of Vishnu, Dhanvantari in Atharvaveda, which is one of the four most ancient books of Indian knowledge, wisdom and culture.

Eight disciplines of ayurveda treatment, called ashtangas are:

1. Kaya Chikitsa (Internal Medicine): Kaya means living human body. This treatment includes all diseases situated in the body.

2. Shalya Tantra (Surgery): Describes about pre-operative procedures, general procedures, post-operative procedures, anesthesia and marma`s (vital points). It also describes about bandages, shastra (sharp instruments), yantras (blunt instruments) and sutures (stitches).

3. Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry): Deals with spiritual healing.

4. Shalakya Tantra (Treatment of diseases above the clavicle): It`s a division of otorhinolaryngology (ENT) and ophthalmology.

5. Agada Tantra (Toxicology): Deals with treatment for food poisoning, snake bites, insect bites, dog bites etc.

6. Kaumarabhritya Tantra (Pediatrics): Deals with health and diseases related to children.

7. Vajikarana (Purification of the Genetic Organs): Deals with male and female genetic organs.

8. Rasayana Tantra (Health and Longevity): Deals with prevention of diseases and improving immunity and rejuvenation.

There are three main Ayurvedic texts Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita and the Ashtangha Hridaya Samhita. Sushrut Samhita, the most authentic compilation of Sushruta’s teachings contains 184 chapters and description of 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources. Charaka Samhita, written by Charaka is arguably the principal classic reference. It gives emphasis to the triune nature of each person: body care, mental regulation, and spiritual/consciousness refinement. The third major disquisition is called the Ashtanga Hridaya, which is a concise version of the works of Charaka and Sushruta.