Ayurveda, an indigenous ancient medical science of India, is more than 5000 years old. It is considered to be an upveda of Atharva Veda. Mention of use of herbs for medicinal purpose is found in the oldest available written literature of world, Rigveda. Literally, the word Ayurveda is a combination of two words: Ayu + Veda. Ayu means life and Veda means the science. Thus Ayurveda is a science of life and not only science of diseases. The aim of Ayurveda is “Swasthasya Swasthya rakshnam, aturasya vikara prashaman” i.e. propagation of health and cure of diseases. The faith in the power of its principles alongwith the availability of a vast majority of herbs in India has always been a thrust behind survival of this scientific art of healing. It is a science of health based on universal principles and profound insights into the connection between mind and body and the laws of nature which structure all progress in life. It is promising to see that this ancient Vedic wisdom is now becoming more widely sought after.
To provide specialized healthcare and treatment options, Ayurveda had been divided into eight branches collectively known as Ashtanga Ayurveda. These branches deal with internal medicine, gynaecology, obstetrics and paediatrics, psychiatry, ENT, surgery, toxicology, geriatrics and sexual disorders.
Texts of Ayurveda:
Though the use of herbs as medicines started as early as the Vedic period, it was not until 3000 years ago that specailized treatises named Samhita were written on Ayurveda. This period may be termed the golden period of Ayurveda. The following treatises known as Brihattrayee and Laghutrayee provide insights to Ayurveda clinicians:
|Charaka Samhita||Written by Acharya Agnivesha, Charaka and Dridbala in different historic periods, it is most revered samhita of Ayurveda dealing predominantly wihkayachikitsa i.e. internal medicine. Here one can find description of all guiding principles of ayurveda for diagnosis and tratment of diseases.|
|Sushruta Samhita||Sushruta is considered to be father of surgery due to the details of surgery found in this text. This samhita mainly deals with surgery. It amazes the readers with its description of layers of skin, cosmetic surgery, grafting etc. In 184 chapters with description of more than 1000 diseases including those of eyes, ear, nose, throat, it has become one of the most important treatise of medicine.|
|Vagbhata Samhita||Written by Vagbhata, it is a combination of both Charak and Sushruta Samhita with valuable additions by the author himself making it a concise treatise used by all physicians which covers all subjects.|
|Madhava Nidana||This book may be termed as the treatise on pathology of diseases. Causative factors, signs and symptoms, and pathogenesis of the diseases in general and for specific diseases have been dealt with in great extent.|
|Sharangdhara Samhita||This book describes various single and compound drug formulations and their method of preparation classified on the basis of dosage forms such as powder, decoction, tablet, medicated ghee and oil etc. It is very handy book for the selection of drug in the management of various diseases.|
|Bhavaprakasha Nighantu||This may be termed as materia medica of Ayurveda where one can find description of more than one hundred herbs in terms of their rasa, guna, veerya, vipaka and Prabhava (specific actions). It describes principles and pharmacodynamics of single drugs.|