Saturday, January 2, 2010

history of ayurveda in detail





The Origins –

The word ‘veda’ means knowledge.The evolution of the Indian art of healing and living a healthy life comes from the four Vedas namely : Rig veda , Sama veda , Yajur veda and Atharva veda .Ayurveda attained a state of reverence and is classified as one of the Upa-Vedas - a subsection - attached to the Atharva Veda. The Atharva Veda contains not only the magic spells and the occult sciences but also the Ayurveda that deals with the diseases, injuries, fertility, sanity and health.
Ayurveda incorporates all forms of lifestyle in therapy. Thus yoga, aroma, meditation, gems, amulets, herbs, diet, astrology, color and surgery etc. are used in a comprehensive manner in treating patients. Treating important and sensitive spots on the body called Marmas is described in Ayurveda . Massages, exercises and yoga are recommended.

History

The knowledge we have now is by three surviving texts of Charaka, Sushruta and Vaghbata. Charaka (1st century A.D.) wrote Charaka Samhita (samhita- meaning collection of verses written in Sanskrit). Sushruta (4th century A.D.) wrote his Samhita i.e Sushruta Samhita. Vaghbata (5th century A.D.) compiled the third set of major texts called Ashtanga Hridaya and Ashtanga Sangraha. Charaka’s School of Physicians and Sushruta’s School of Surgeons became the basis of Ayurveda and helped organize and systematically classify into branches of medicine and surgery.

Sixteen major supplements (Nighantus) were written in the ensuing years – Dhanvantari Bahavaprakasha, Raja and Shaligrama to name a few – that helped refine the practice of Ayurveda. New drugs were added and ineffective ones were discarded. Expansion of application, identification of new illnesses and finding substitute treatments seemed to have been an evolving process. Close to 2000 plants that were used in healing diseases and abating symptoms were identified in these supplements.

Dridhabala in the 4th century revised the Charaka Samhita. The texts of Sushruta Samhita were revised and supplemented by Nagarjuna in the 6th century.

There developed eight branches/divisions of Ayurveda:


1.                   Kaya-chikitsa (Internal Medicine)
2.                   Shalakya Tantra (surgery and treatment of head and neck,  Ophthalmology and ear, nose, throat)
3.                   Shalya Tantra (Surgery)
4.                   Agada Tantra (Toxicology)
5.                   Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry)
6.                   Kaumara bhritya (Pediatrics)
7.                   Rasayana (science of rejuvenation or anti-ageing)
8.                   Vajikarana (the science of fertility and aphrodisiac)

Many modern medications were derived from plants alluded to in Ayurveda texts. The oft-cited example is that of Rauwolfia serpentina that was used to treat headache, anxiety and snakebite. Its derivative is used in treating blood pressure today.

Two areas of contribution of Indian physicians were in treating snakebite and prevention of small pox. Detailed account of steps to be followed after a poisonous snake bite including application of tourniquet and lancing the site by connecting the two fang marks and sucking the poison out is described. A decoction of the medicinal plant Rauwolfia serpentina is next applied to the wound.

A form of vaccination for small pox was commonly practiced in India long before the West discovered the method. A small dose of pus from the pustule of small pox lesion was inoculated to develop resistance.    

Charaka Samhita

Charaka was said to have been in the court of the Kushana king, Kanishka during the 1st century A. D. Some authors date him as far back as the 6th century B.C. during Buddha period. The sacred trust between physician and patient was held in high esteem by Charaka and patient confidentiality, similar to the Hippocratic Oath, was deemed the proper conduct for a practicing physician. Charaka also told us that the word Ayurveda was derived from Ayus, meaning life and Veda meaning knowledge. Nevertheless, according to Charaka the word Ayus denotes more than just life. Ayus denotes a combination of the body, sense organs, mind and soul. The principles of treatment in Charaka’s teachings took a holistic approach that treated not just the symptoms of the disease but the body, mind and soul as single entity.

Compiled by Charaka in the form of discussions and symposiums held by many scholars, Charaka Samhita is the most ancient and authoritative text that has survived. Written in Sanskrit in verse form, it has 8400 metrical verses. The Samhita deals mainly with the diagnosis and treatment of disease process through internal and external application of medicine. Called Kaya-chikitsa (internal medicine), it aims at treating both the body and the spirit and to strike a balance between the two. Following diagnosis, a series of methods to purify both the body and spirit with purgation and detoxification, bloodletting and emesis as well as enema (known as Pancha-karma) are utilized. The emphasis seems to be to tackle diseases in the early phase or in a preventative manner before the first symptoms appear.

Ayurvedic diagnosis and treatment is traditionally divided into eight branches (sthanas) based on the approach of a physician towards a disease process. Charaka described them thus:

1. Sutra-sthana - generalprinciples
2. Nidana-sthana - pathology
3. Vimana-sthan- diagnostics
4. Sharira-sthana - physiology and anatomy  
5. Indriya-sthana - prognosis
6. Chikitsa-sthana - therapeutics
7. Kalpa-sthana - pharmaceutics
8. Siddhi-sthana - successful treatment.

Detailed accounts of various methods of diagnosis, study of various stages of symptoms and the comprehensive management and treatment of debilitating diseases like diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis, asthma and arthritic conditions are to be found in the Charaka Samhita. There is even a detailed account of fetal development in the mother’s womb, which can rival descriptions of modern medical textbooks.

Charaka also wrote details about building a hospital. A good hospital should be located in a breezy spot free of smoke and objectionable smells and noises. Even the equipment needed including the brooms and brushes are detailed. The personnel should be clean and well behaved. Details about the rooms, cooking area and the privies are given. Conversation, recitations and entertainment of the patient were encouraged and said to aid in healing the ailing patient.

SushrutaSamhita

Sushruta was a surgeon in the Gupta courts in the 4th century A.D. Though Indian classics is full of accounts of healing through transplantation of head and limbs as well as eye balls, Sushruta Samhita is the first authentic text to describe methodology of plastic surgery, cosmetic and prosthetic surgery, Cesarean section and setting of compound fractures. Sushruta had in his possession an armamentarium of 125 surgical instruments made of stone, metal and wood. Forceps, scalpels, trocars, catheters, syringes, saws, needles and scissors were all available to the surgeon. Rhinoplasty (plastic surgery of the nose) was first presented to the world medical community by Sushruta in his Samhita, where a detailed method of transposition of a forehead flap to reconstruct a severed nose is given. Severed noses were common form of punishment. Torn ear lobes also were common due to heavy jewelry worn on ear lobes. Sushruta described a method of repair of the torn ear lobes. Fitting of prosthetics for severed limbs were also commonly performed feats.

Sushruta wrote, “Only the union of medicine and surgery constitutes the complete doctor. The doctor who lacks knowledge of one of these branches is like a bird with only one wing.” While Charaka concentrated on the kaya-chikitsa (internal medicine). Sushruta’s work mainly expounded on the Shalya Tantra (surgery).  

The Samhita contains mostly poetry verses but also has some details in prose. 72 different ophthalmic diseases and their treatment are mentioned in great detail. Pterygium, glaucoma and treatment of conjunctivitis were well known to Sushruta. Removal of cataract by a method called couching, wherein the opaque lens is pushed to a side to improve vision was practiced routinely. Techniques of suturing and many varieties of bandaging, puncturing and probing, drainage and extraction are detailed in the manuscript.
Ashtanga Hridaya

Vaghbata in the 5th century compiled two sets of texts called Ashtanga Sangraha and Ashtanga Hridaya. It details the Kaya-chikitsa of Charaka Samhita and the various surgical procedures of Sushruta Samhita. The emphasis seems to be more on the physiological rather than the spiritual aspects of the disease processes. Ashtanga   Sangraha is written in prose whereas the Ashtanga Hridaya is in poetry for recitation of the Verses.

The Ancient ayurvedic Physician 

Originally only Brahmins ( a certain caste ) were practicing physicians. Later people from other castes became well versed in the art of healing and a term Vaidya came to be applied to the practitioners. Merely by their art and knowledge, the physicians gained high social status regardless of their caste of birth. The court physician was of political importance and sat on the right side of the throne, an important symbolic place. Though the physician, patient, the nurse and the medicine were all important in curing a disease, the physician was thought to be the most important.

The codes of conduct for physicians and medical students were laid down by the texts. The poor and downtrodden were to be treated free of charge. Others were charged according to their ability to pay.

The physician was expected to behave in an exemplary manner, conforming to the highest ideals of professional and personal life. His dress, manner and speech were expected to be beyond reproach. Medical education was arduous, consisting of many years of sacrifice learning the art of healing. Visiting the sick, collecting herbs and preparation of drugs, memorizing the Vedic texts of Ayurveda, performing procedures on dead animals, melons, and leather bottles and bladders were part of the training. These exercises helped refine both theoretical and practical training of the student. When finally the student is deemed ready to practice on his own, he was certified by the ruler.


Recent History

Before Ayurveda began its recent renewal in the West, it went through a period of decline in India when Western medical education became dominant during the era of British rule. Ayurveda became a second-class option used primarily by traditional spiritual practitioners and the poor. After India gained its independence in 1947, Ayurveda gained ground and new schools began to be established. Today more than five hundred Ayurvedic companies and hospitals have opened in the last ten years, and several hundred schools have been established. Although Ayurveda remains a secondary system of health care in India, the trend toward complementary care is emerging, and Western and Ayurvedic physicians often work side by side.
Interest in Ayurveda in the West began in the mid 1970's as Ayurvedic teachers from India began visiting the United States and Europe. By sharing their knowledge they have inspired a vast movement toward body-mind-spirit medicine. Today Ayurvedic colleges are opening throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States

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