What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words: Ayu which means life and Veda which means the knowledge of. To know about life is Ayurveda. However, to fully comprehend the vast s cope of Ayurveda let us first define “Ayu” or life. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, “ayu” is comprised of four essential parts. The combination of mind, body, senses and the soul.
Ayurveda, said to be a world medicine, is the most holistic or comprehensive medical system available. Before the arrival of writing, the ancient wisdom of healing, prevention, and longevity was a part of the spiritual tradition of universal religion. Healers gathered from the world over, bringing their medical knowledge to India. Veda Vyasa, the famous sage, preserved the complete knowledge of Ayurveda in writing, along with the more spiritual insights of ethics, virtue, and self-Realization. “The knowledge of Ayurveda was handed down from Brahma to Daksha Prajapati, onto the Ashwin twins (the divine doctors), then passed to Indra. Sage Bharadvaja volunteered to go to heaven to received this wisdom from Indra, and so became the first human to receive the knowledge of Ayurveda. He passed it to Atreya, then onto Punarnavasu and finally Agnivesha”
In Ayurveda we view a person as a unique individual made up of five primary elements. The elements are ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. Just as in nature, we too have these five elements in us. When any of these elements are present in the environment, they will in turn have an influence on us. The foods we eat and the weather are just two examples of the presence of these elements. While we are a composite of these five primary elements, certain elements are seen to have an ability to combine to create various physiological functions. Ether and air combine to form what is known in Ayurveda as the Vata dosha. Vata governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination. Fire and water are the elements that combine to form the Pitta dosha. The Pitta dosha is the process of transformation or metabolism. The transformation of foods into nutrients that our bodies can assimilate is an example of a pitta function. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism.
Finally, it is predominantly the water and earth elements which combine to form the Kapha dosha. Kapha is what is responsible for growth, adding structure unit by unit. Another function of the Kapha dosha is to offer protection. Cerebral-spinal fluid protects the brain and spinal column and is a type of Kapha found in the body. Also, the mucousal lining of the stomach is another example of the Kapha dosha protecting the tissues. We are all made up of unique proportions of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These ratios of the doshas vary in each individual and because of this, Ayurveda sees each person as a special mixture that accounts for our diversity.
Ayurveda gives us a model to look at each individual as a unique makeup of the three doshas and to thereby design treatment protocols that specifically address a persons health challenges. When any of the doshas ( Vata, Pitta or Kapha ) become accumulated, Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the dosha that has become excessive. We may also suggest certain herbal supplements to hasten the healing process. If toxins in the body are abundant, then a cleansing process known as PanchaKarma is recommended to eliminate these unwanted toxins.
HISTORY OF AYURVEDIC HERBAL MEDICINE
Ayurveda evolved from the traditional wisdom of healers, prophets & Rishis that lived deep in the Himalayas. Different anthropology evidences indicate use of medicinal plants approximately five thousand years ago. Ayurvedic Herbal medicine has been refined by thousands of years of utilization and experience. In about 800 BC the primary medical healing school was founded in India. A well-known scholar, healer and herbalist Charaka in his writings described 1,500 medicative plants in his book the ‘Charaka Samhita’.The earliest known Greek herbal medicines were those of Diocles of Carystus, written during 3rd century BC and one more by Krateuas in 1st century BC. Seeds were likely to be used as herbal medicines have been found in anthropology sites of Bronze Age China of Shang Dynasty. More than hundreds of 224 drugs mentioned in Huangdi Neijing, an early Chinese medical book, were herbs. Ayurveda is traditional medicine system of Hindu Vedic tradition. The samhita of the Atharva veda itself contains 114 hymns about magical cure of diseases. Origin of Ayurveda has been traced back to 5,000 BC, originating as an oral tradition and later as medical texts
Since Ayurveda is a holistic and natural system of healing, it is only to be expected that the simplest and most common-place of items shall be used as ingredients for creating some very easy-to-make but most effective cures for and preventives against day-to-day ailments.