Praveen Yadav | Jul 25, 2021 | 0
Ayurveda – An introduction to the most ancient culture
When I hear about this topic from my sister who is already studying medicine, I was like is it the same Ayurveda that baba Ramdev sells us or those who claim to cure COVID and cancer, but I was glad that it’s not, during the research I cleared many of my misconceptions related to Ayurveda, peoples usually get confused between Ayurveda and homoeopathy, and people nature towards our ancient culture is very rude and unacceptable and I get it where it is coming from because our so-called guru, yogi and baba portrayed the image of ayurvedic herbs in our society is absolutely wrong, So I decided besides talking about psychological factors today I discuss about our very own Ayurveda or ayurvedic culture.
WHAT IS AYURVEDA?
Ayurveda is one of the traditional medicinal systems with an established history of many centuries. Furthermore, known as Ayurvedic Medicine, this ancient Vedic knowledge is considered to be one of the oldest healing sciences and has survived until the present generation over many centuries of tradition. Originated in India thousands of years ago, Ayurveda is known as the “Mother of All Healing”. Etymologically speaking, it is the combination of the Sanskrit words Ayur (life) and Veda (science or knowledge), which means “the science of life,” focusing on bringing harmony and balance in all areas of life including mind, body and spirit.
In Ayurveda, Panchamahabhutas or the five elements: Vayu (air), Teja (fire), Aap (Water), Prithvi (earth) and Akasha (aether) are believed to build up the living microcosm (human beings) and the macrocosm (external universe). When combined in pairs, the Panchamahabhutas form Tridosha or the three humours namely Vata (responsible for body movement), Pitta (responsible for bodily chemical reactions such as metabolism and temperature) and Kapha (responsible for growth, protection, lubrication and sustenance). All these present the constitution or Prakriti of an individual, which determines the physical as well as mental characteristic of human. The concept is that health is achieved when there is a balance between these three fundamental doshas, whereas imbalance causes diseases. Based on these Panchamahabhutas and Tridosha, the Prakriti of an individual is determined and a distinctive treatment plan can be prescribed according to their unique constitution.
The philosophy behind Ayurveda is preventing unnecessary suffering and living a long healthy life. Unlike the allopathic medicines which use mainly synthetic chemicals designed for specific target receptors and primarily give symptomatic relief, Ayurveda involves the use of natural means such as diet, herbs, spices, minerals, exercise, meditation, yoga, mental hygiene, sounds, smells and mechano-procedures to eliminate the root cause of the disease by restoring balance, at the same time create a healthy lifestyle to prevent the reoccurrence of imbalance. Ayurveda is said to be holistic as it aims to integrate and balance body, mind and spirit to prevent illness and promote wellness, longevity, vitality and happiness.
In Ayurveda, single or multiple herbs (polyherbal) are used for the treatment. The Ayurvedic literature Sarangdhar Samhita’ highlighted the concept of polyherbal to achieve greater therapeutic efficacy. The active phytochemical constituents of individual plants are insufficient to achieve the desired therapeutic effects. When combining the multiple herbs in a particular ratio, it will give a better therapeutic effect and reduce the toxicity. This review mainly focuses on important of the polyherbal and its clinical significance.
THE HISTORY OF AYURVEDA
In terms of literature, the fourth Veda written during Indian Civilization, Atharva-Veda serves as the earliest authentic text discussing the nature of existence, health and disease, pathogenesis and principles of treatment. Here in Atharva-Veda, the healing verses of Ayurveda can be primarily found, in which more than a hundred hymns were mentioned as the cures for diseases, including fever, leprosy, consumption, heart diseases, wounds, headaches, parasites, eye and ear diseases, poisoning, rheumatism and epilepsy. The uniqueness of this ancient medical system lies behind the vast variety of healing method used: Charms, plant and animal juices, natural forces (sun and water) as well as human contrivances. The eight branches of treatment, Ashtanga was mentioned here as well: Kaya Chikitsa (Internal medicine), Shalya Tantra (Surgery), Shalakya Tantra (Ear, nose, throat and eye diseases), Kaumarbhritya (Pediatrics), Agada Tantra (Toxicology), Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry), Rasayana (Rejuvenation therapy) and Vajeekarana (Aphrodisiac therapy).
From the knowledge in Atharva-Veda, early texts of Ayurveda such as Chakara Samhita and Sushruta Samhita were developed. Although the former focuses on the causes of diseases and the constitution of a person, the latter emphasizes on Ayurvedic surgery and the details of its techniques. The history of Ayurveda can be traced back to the period between the pre-Vedic periods (4000 B. C.-1500 B. C.). According to Ayurvedavatarana (the descent of Ayurveda), Lord Brahma, the Hindu God of Creation passed on his “knowledge of life” to Daksha Prajapati and Ashwins, subsequently to Indra. This knowledge is then transferred to different rishis (sages), in which these disciples of Ayurveda wrote different treatises based on their interpretations. Here, both Bhardwaj and Dhanvantari received the knowledge from Indra. They later developed a school of medicine and school of surgery respectively.
In Chakara Samhita, it was stated that the Ayurvedic teaching is transferred by Indra to Bhardwaj, who in turn taught this to Atreya. The disciples of Atreya wrote their own Samhitas, with Agnivesha Samhita being the one well-accepted. It is then revised, edited and supplemented by Chakara about 800 years later. On the other hand, Sushruta Samhita mentioned the transfer of knowledge from Indra to Dhanvantari, along with Bhardwaj. The disciples in this school such as Sushruta wrote Sushruta Samhita, compiling Dhanvantari’s teaching and his additional findings.
HISTORY OF HERBAL DRUGS
Since the prehistoric period, herbal medicines have existed worldwide with long recorded history. They were used in ancient Chinese, Greek, Egyptian and Indian medicine for various therapies purposes; whereas the Native American and African use herbs in their healing rituals as a part of their culture. The Indian Ayurvedic system has included herbals as one of its most powerful healing ingredients, which are recorded in the literature such as Vedas and Samhitas.
Due to the availability of chemical analysis methods in the early 19th century, scientists started to extract and modify active compounds from the herbals, resulting in a transition from raw herbs to synthetic pharmaceuticals. This is when the use of herbal medicines started to decline. Synthetic pharmaceuticals, however, are found out to be relatively more expensive and produce numerous undesirable side-effects despite their strong pharmacological action. Thus people nowadays are shifting back to herbal drugs, which are originated from nature and claim to be safer.
Synthetic drugs derived from plants. Ayurvedic herbals based on the material of origin, Ayurvedic medicines are divided into three classes, namely herbal, mineral and animal. Among this, herbal formulation has gained great importance and rising global attention recently. This scenario is obvious as a major increase in the herbal formulation usage has been observed throughout the last few years in the developed world, where market expansion occurred in European countries and the USA. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of the word’s inhabitants still rely mainly on traditional medicines for their health care.
The subcontinent of India is well-known to be one of the mega biodiversity centres with about 45,000 plant species. This richness of flora has contributed to its status as a reservoir of herbals throughout the history of mankind. In India, about 15,000 medicinal plants have been recorded, in which the communities used 7,000-7,500 plants for curing different diseases. Ayurveda has about 700 types of plants listed in its medicinal systems. The use of such herbals is mentioned in the ancient Ayurvedic literature such as Chakara Samhita and Sushruta Samhita.
The discovery of herbals is further complemented with knowledge on the method of isolation, purification, characterization of active ingredients and type of preparation. The term “herbal drug” determines the part/parts of a plant (leaves, flowers, seeds roots, barks, stems and etc.) used for preparing medicines. Each and every part of the herbs are fully utilized for the different pharmacological action they may produce and made into a range of herbal preparations including Kwatha (Decoction), Phanta (Hot infusion), Hima (Cold infusion), Arka (Liquid Extract), Churna (Powders), Guggul (Resins and balsams), Taila (Medicated oil) and etc.
Using the Ayurvedic concept of Panchamahabhutas and Tridoshas, PHFs provide treatment of diseases in a holistic approach. The scientific advancement carries with it the improvement in Ayurvedic formulation of PHFs, through the study of various phytoconstituents and discovery of useful herbs combinations which work synergistically to produce a desirable effect.
Today, the “renaissance” of Ayurvedic PHFs has occurred the world over, owing to its comparable efficacy, fewer side effects and better acceptability than allopathic drugs.
And many experts believe that our Ayurveda and modern science have to work together for better and healthier life, we can use some highly advanced knowledge of medicine from Ayurveda and from modern science we can learn some new techniques.
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