An Introduction To Ayurveda
Ayurveda is the oldest system of healthcare in practice even today. The system is believed to be 5000 year old and has progressed from an oral tradition to a coded system of practice over time. Principles of human anatomy and physiology draw heavily from the elements of the universe around us. It is based on the belief that a delicate balance between mind, body and soul, in rhythm with nature or the universe is health and wellness.
Ayurveda is believed to have originated by a divine source. The Acharyas who developed it had astute clinical observation skills and profound knowledge of the pharmacodynamics of close to 20,000 species of plants. The knowledge and skills were initially discussed in the form of oral tradition by and over time it was passed through the generations in the form written literature, the most important ones being the brihatrayee i.e., Charaka samhita, Susruta samhita and Ashtanga sangraha. There have been further editions to these texts and many smaller, more focused literature has also been written over the centuries.
Ayurveda is based on the panchamahabhoota theory wherein each element in this universe is made of five elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth), so also the human body. An extension of these elements is represented in the human body as the tridosha (vata, pitta and kapha) which are the functional units, the sapta dhatu (structural units) and the trimala (metabolic waste). Diverse bodily function are regulated by vata – responsible for movement, pitta – responsible for transformation and kapha – responsible for anabolic activities (CS, Sumantran & Tillu, 2012). Physiology is identified by the harmony in the functioning of these dynamic principles and pathology by the discordance in their functions affecting the structural elements (dhatu) and the elimination of wastes (mala) (AS). Endogenous and exogenous factors can disrupt this harmony and it is essential to maintain it with concerted efforts to regulate our diet and lifestyle.
Ayurveda has prescriptions for maintenance and promotion of health as well as for prevention and treatment of diseases. To achieve a state of wellness one must be in a state of equilibrium of body, mind and soul. Therapeutic strategies in Ayurveda is personalized to suit every individual. A multipronged approach involving pharmacological interventions, panchakarma (detoxification) and modifications in diet and lifestyle ensures restoration of the harmony. The exact combination of therapeutics is arrived at after a thorough examination of the subject based on disease factors and host factors. Panchakarma therapies like oleation (snehana) and sudation (svedana), cleansing (shodhana) by vamana (therapeutic emesis) and virechana (therapeutic purgation) and nasal administration of medicines (nasya) form the crux of treatments. These are complemented with suitable internal medications prepared in different pharmaceutical forms that include freshly prepared juices of herbs (svarasa), pastes (kalka), lipid based formulations (sneha – oil or ghee based preparations), decoctives (kashaya), powders (churna), fermented preparations (asava-arishta), pills (vati). [CS, SS, AH, BR].
At RISA, our endeavor is to develop (research), promote (clinical service) and popularise (education and training) safe, efficacious and cost-effective solutions for current healthcare challenges through Ayurveda appropriately integrated with advances in science, technology and biomedicine.