Ayurveda literally means "Science of life"  or "Knowledge of life". This life-care and healthcare system deals with good, bad, blissful and sorrowful life. It describes all wholesome and unwholesome for life, longevity, and about what Ayu (life) is in itself. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/41] It is not merely a system of medicine, rather it is a way of life to increase lifespan by preventing or delaying the aging process.  Though Ayurveda finds its roots in India, it has also been internationalised, partly via migration and partly through an increased learning interest in the West, where studies point toward increased use.
|Section/Chapter||Ayurveda / Ayurveda|
|Affiliation||Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar|
|Date of publication:||Under revision process|
- 1 What is Ayurveda?
- 2 Source of Ayurveda
- 3 What is Ayu?
- 4 Scope of Ayurveda
- 5 Benefits of following Ayurveda for good life
- 6 Signs of decrease in lifespan
- 7 Objective of Ayurveda
- 8 Authenticity and eternal qualities of Ayurveda
- 9 Healthcare system of Ayurveda
- 10 Eight specialties of Ayurveda
- 11 Education
- 12 Publications
- 13 Researches
- 14 Efficacy of Ayurveda in contemporary healthcare systems
- 15 External links
- 16 References
What is Ayurveda?
The careful, critical and unbiased study of the classical Ayurveda texts show that by the time compendiums (Samhita-granthas) were compiled, the Science and Art of Ayurveda had already passed through the stage of specialization and, knowledge flowing from different specialized fields of medicine and allied sciences generalized, simplified and principles enunciated. Thus, Ayurveda is referred to as Science and Art of life.
Source of Ayurveda
The Vedic medicine is developed in India during the period 2000-1000 B.C. and considered as one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. There are four major ancient Indian compendiums of knowledge (veda) named Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda. Rigveda is the oldest recorded document regarding use of plants as medicine in India, and this tradition continued in another ancient text, Atharvaveda (1500-1000 BC), which described more plants and introduced basic concepts. Ayurveda physicians owe their loyalty to the Atharva Veda because this deals with the treatment of diseases by resorting to various practices like sacrifices, prayers, and chants, charity, moral discipline, the atonement of sins, austere practices like fasts, etc. These are advocated for treatment as well as for living a healthy, long life. Thus,it is sourced as a section (upaveda) developed from Atharvaveda. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/21]
What is Ayu?
Ayu (life) implies the conjunction of physical body, senses, mind and soul. It is known by the synonyms dhari (that which sustains), jivita (that which is live), nityaga (that which is in continuum), and anubandha (that which is interdependent, or a link between past life and the future life).[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/42]
Thus life (Ayu) is continuity(anuvritti) of consciousness (chetana), liveliness (jeevita), bonding with the body (anubandha) and sustenance(dhari).[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/22] .
Life is not merely the existence of machine-like physical structure of body. The conscious interaction of soul, mind and sense organs makes it live. Therefore these are essential components of Ayurvedic biology of human beings.
Scope of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is the source of knowledge that teaches about or deals with Ayu. Through its virtues, it imparts the knowledge of joy and suffering, benefit and harm, and authentic/authoritative and unauthentic/unreliable (sources of information). It also informs about the lifespan and substances with properties and actions that result in the same. This is dealt with in the entire text of Charak Samhita at various appropriate contexts.[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/23]
Thus, Ayurveda deals with good, bad, bliss and sorrow in life, and with (what is) wholesome and unwholesome for it, longevity, and about what Ayu (life) is in itself.[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/41]
Benefits of following Ayurveda for good life
The following are characteristics of happy and healthy life. These are indeed benefits of following Ayurveda.
People whose body and mind are disease-free, and those who are endowed with youth, enthusiasm, strength, virility, reputation, manliness, courage, knowledge of arts and sciences, healthy senses, objects of sensory perceptions, ability of the sensory organs, riches and various luxurious articles for enjoyment, and who can achieve whatever they want and think about wellness can enjoy a happy life. The people with opposite characteristics have sad life. Those who are the well-wishers of all beings, who do not wish to take other's wealth, who are truthful, peace loving, who are thoughtful before taking action, who are vigilant, who experience the three important objectives of life (righteousness, wealth and desire) without one affecting the other, who respect superiors, who are endowed with the knowledge of arts, sciences and tranquility, who serve the elders, who have full control over lust, anger, envy, arrogance and pride, who constantly indulge in various types of charity, meditation, acquisition of knowledge and quiet life (solitude), who have full spiritual knowledge and are devoted to it, who work both for the present as well as for the next life, and are endowed with memory and intelligence lead a useful rather beneficial life, while others don't. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/24]
The above are clinical parameters of good quality of life.
Signs of decrease in lifespan
The decrease of lifespan is signaled by various abnormal changes in the sensory perception, objects of perception, mind, intellect, and movement. These signals help in predicting the remaining lifespan and death of an individual at a particular moment. Return to the natural state(Svabhava), cessation(uparama) of all activities (pravritti), death(marana), temporary state(anityata), restriction (nirodha) in the continuation of life are synonymous with death. In the absence of such signs and symptoms, the life span is to be determined as unlimited from the prognostic point of view. In Ayurveda, life span is determined by the characteristics of natural constitution.[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/25]
Objective of Ayurveda
The prime objectives of this science is to preserve the health of the healthy and cure the disease of the unhealthy.[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/26] Thus Ayurveda focuses on the preservation and promotion of health and management of diseases.
Authenticity and eternal qualities of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is eternal because of the following: It has no beginning; its characteristics are self-evident, and those of things dealt with it are eternal. It has been seen that Ayu (the combination of body, its organs, mind, and soul) and intelligence about Ayu (knowledge about Ayu) are perpetual. Hence Ayu and its knowledge (i.e. Ayurveda) have been eternal. The knower becomes eternal after knowing Ayurveda. Concepts such as happiness and suffering (i.e., health and illness), therapeutics and pathogens, etc. - their causes, signs, and perpetuation are all eternal. This is what is described in Ayurveda.[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/27] It is observed in clinical practice that the principles described in Ayurveda texts are universal, time tested and stand true on scientific validation tests. For example, the theory of similar and dis-similar (Samanya Vishesha siddhanta) is applicable universally with immense importance.
Healthcare system of Ayurveda
The healthcare system of Ayurveda includes four components like physician, therapeutic substance, care taker and patient. Ayurveda emphasizes on importance of best qualities of these components to achieve maximum efficacy in healthcare management.[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 9]
Eight specialties of Ayurveda
There are eight main branches of Ayurveda:[Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/28]
- Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine)
- Shalakya (Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) + Ophthalmology)
- Shalya (Surgery)
- Visha gara vairodhika prashamana or Agada tantra (Toxicology)
- Bhutavidya (Psychiatry)
- Kaumarbhrityakam ( Gynecology, Obstetrics and Pediatrics)
- Rasayanam (Science of rejuvenation) and
- Vajikaranam (Science of sexual health and aphrodisiac).
The details about these specialties are given in context of Chikitsa Sthana.
At present, Ayurveda is taught as an under-graduate medical course governed by Central Council of Indian Medicine under Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India. There are 339 colleges to conduct Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery (B.A.M.S.) course in India. Various international institutes conduct post graduation courses for specialization and Ph.D. programs for research in fourteen departments of Ayurveda. Some of the renowned institutes are enlisted below :
- Institute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar,India
- National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur,India
- Faculty of Ayurveda, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India
- All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi
The list of institutes that conduct above courses can be found here.
The Madhav Nidana, Bhavaprakash and Sharangadhara Samhita are followed as three other important texts. The texts are published online by National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage, Hyderabad, India.
More than 4400 entries of published books covering over 19 different subjects are available in Database ‘International Catalogue of Ayurvedic Publications' prepared by Institute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda in collaboration with World Health Organization.
Research Journals and Database
In India, research in Ayurveda is undertaken by the Ministry of AYUSH, through a national network of research institutes.. Peer reviewed journals like AYU and Ancient Science of life publish research articles on various topics of Ayurveda. The database like AYUSH research portal and Digital Helpline for Ayurveda Research Articles (DHARA) are available for searching more than 10000 research articles published on Ayurveda. A directory for researches in Ayurveda comprising more than 20000 research titles and 1000 complete post graduate theses on Ayurveda is published online.
Ayurveda as a healthcare system can restore the innate intelligence of the body and awareness for healing. Ayurvedic therapies can affect both the genetic and phenotypic expression of life. It can be appreciated through the science of epigenetics. The epigenetic factors in life affect the phenotype in a positive or negative way, and indirectly affect the genetic expression in a positive or negative way, which can be transmitted to the progeny. Ayurveda covers both aspects of life – genetic and phenotypic – and is a comprehensive, holistic, and personalized system of health care.
Efficacy of Ayurveda in contemporary healthcare systems
Ample evidence is found through researches on various topics of Ayurveda to show safety and efficacy. It can be seen in the vidhi vimarhsa section of each chapter of this Charak Samhita New Edition.
Sharma H. et.al. has studied and analyzed over 130 research works to observe efficacy of Ayurveda in healthcare management. It is concluded that the Ayurveda therapies are time tested as a natural health care system and comprehensively treat the patient as a whole. Research over the last 100 years has shown encouraging results of various ailments, especially chronic disorders.
A 6 month controlled clinical trial compared two Ayurvedic formulations of plant extracts against the natural product glucosamine sulfate and the drug celecoxib in 440 people with knee osteoarthritis. In this study , Ayurvedic formulations (combination of Tinospora cordifolia, Zingiber officinale, Emblica officinalis, Boswellia serrata) significantly reduced knee pain and improved knee function. The results were equivalent to glucosamine and celecoxib.In another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study on 40 patients of rheumatoid arthritis, the efficacy of Ayurveda, Methotrexate, and their combination was compared. All three treatments were observed equally effective. Adverse events were lower in Ayurveda treated group.
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