History of Ayurvedic Treatment
Ayurveda is the ancient science of health and wellbeing which emerged in the Indian subcontinent about 5000 years ago. The term ‘Ayurveda’ is composed of two concepts, ‘ayus’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘veda’, meaning knowledge or insight. Ayurveda is thus one of the oldest treatment systems in the world that is still being used to effectively treat various health problems.
Although Ayurveda has a very rich history but it had been suppressed in the past during the regime of foreign rulers, Ayurveda has of late made a comeback and has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and in other parts of the world. More and more people are now seeking Ayurvedic treatment in Kolkata and in other major cities around the world. Several Ayurvedic doctors and practitioners have been working for the past several decades in order to provide safe and effective Ayurvedic treatment for a wide variety of skin diseases like Psoriasis and Eczema, different types of anorectal disorders like Piles, Fissure and Fistula, as well as serious joint-specific problems like knee pain, back pain and arthritis. Ayurvedic doctors also treat chronic sexual problems like Erectile Dysfunction (ED) as well as Premature Ejaculation (PE). Even the treatment of asthma and breathing problems - once thought to be the exclusive domain of inhalers - is being conducted using the principles of Ayurveda.
Maharshi Charaka was one of the principal contributors to the art and science of Ayurveda. Charaka was the first physician to present the concept of digestion, metabolism and immunity. He is the author of Charaka Samhita, which is one of the two foundational texts of Ayurveda.
Maharshi Sushruta was a legendary scholar of ancient Indian science and founding father of the field of surgery. Around 2600 years ago, Maharshi Sushruta together with his colleagues had conducted a variety of complex surgeries such as caesareans, cataract, urinary stones, fractures, as well as plastic surgery. In a famous book Shalya Tantra, later named as the Sushruta Samhita, he described all the surgical procedures.
According to the Ayurveda tradition, it is Vagbhata who is credited with the composition of
Ashtanga Sangraha and Ashtanga Hridayam. These seminal medical texts came after the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita.
Ayurveda is as Indian as the caves of Ellora and the Charminar. It is a holistic treatment system which is widely practised in India and around the world. The discipline of Ayurveda is well-endowed with the wisdom of staying healthy by keeping diseases at bay. The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is to help the individual to attain and enjoy his true potential. The principles of Ayurveda help us view health and disease in a holistic manner by giving due consideration to the intricate connection between the individual spirit and cosmic spirit and in the various ways in which energy, matter and consciousness interact.
The best Ayurvedic doctors (just like the venerable Vaidyas of ancient India) provide guidelines on health-promoting routines, diet and the appropriate use of our senses. Ayurveda reminds us that health is a state of being which naturally emerges when the environment and the body, the mind and the spirit achieve a harmonious and dynamic integration.
Recognising the fact that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation and structure. The practice of Ayurveda is designed to promote human happiness, health and creative growth. The best Ayurvedic treatment is one which helps to eliminate the current problem while promoting overall health and wellbeing.
The concept of five elements lies at the heart of Ayurvedic science. These five elements are the basis of life in the whole universe (the macrocosm) as well as in our body (the microcosm). The five elements according to ayurveda are -
Ether (Akasa) • Air (Vayu) • Fire (Agni) • Water (Jala) • Earth (Prithvi)
The entire material universe that surrounds us is made by combining these elements in different proportions. According to Ayurveda, the five elements express the functions of the sensory organs and are related to hearing, touch, vision, taste and smell respectively.
In the human body, there are many spaces which are manifestations of the Ether element. There are, for example, spaces in the mouth, nose, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, abdomen, thorax, capillaries, lymphatics, tissues and cells. The earth element is related to the sense of the smell.
It is the second cosmic element, the element of movement. Within the human body, air manifests in the larger movements of the muscles, the pulsations of the heart, the expansion and contraction of the lungs and in the movements of the stomach walls and intestines. It is related to the sense of touch and the sensory organ of touch is the skin.
In the human body, the source of fire is the metabolism. Fire manifests itself in the digestive system and in the gray matter of the brain cells. Thus, body temperature, digestion, the thinking processes and vision are all functions of bodily fire. It manifests as light, heat and colour, and it is related to vision.
It is manifest in the secretions of the digestive juices and the salivary glands, mucus membranes and in plasma and cytoplasm. It is absolutely vital for the functioning of tissue, organs and various bodily systems. It is related to the organ of taste.
From Earth, all organic bodies, including those in the vegetable kingdom such as herbs and grains, and those in the animal kingdom (including man) are created. Ether is the medium through which sound is transmitted. Hence the Ethereal element is related to the hearing function.
Ayurveda regards the human body and its sensory experiences as manifestations of cosmic energy expressed in the five basic elements. The ancient rishis perceived that these elements sprang from pure Cosmic Consciousness. The best Ayurvedic treatment aims to enable each individual to bring his body into a harmonious relationship with that Consciousness.
The five basic elements in Ayurveda are Aether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. They manifest in the human body as three fundamental principles or humours, called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These three principles are together known as the Tridosha.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha govern all the biological, physiological and physiopathological functions of the body. According to the principles of Ayurveda, ‘Vata’ (Wind), ‘Pitta’ (Fire) and ‘Kapha’ (Earth) are the primary forces which are responsible for the basic characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shape our nature, upon which the complete ayurvedic treatment system is based on
From the Ether and Air elements, the bodily air principal called Vata is manifested. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be slim, light, enthusiastic, energetic and changeable.
The Fire and Water elements manifest together in the body as the fire principle called Pitta. If Pitta predominates our system, we tend to be intense, intelligent, goal-oriented and have a strong appetite for life.
The Earth and Water elements manifest as the bodily water humour known as Kapha. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical and nurturing.
Although each of us has a varied combination of all three forces, most people have one or two elements that are more obviously expressed. The best Ayurvedic treatment seeks to help the individual to achieve longevity, rejuvenation and self-realisation.
The 7 Dhatus: driving forces of life
Dhatu means tissue. The seven dhatus are the seven types of tissue that make up the human body. The health of the seven dhatus is paramount to the health of a person. When the seven dhatus are functioning normally, they allow the body to express the will of the ego or the soul. Only the best ayurvedic doctors understand the impact of these dhatus on our overall health. The seven dhatus are:
The first dhatu is the nutrient plasma which is created when food is digested. Food is transformed into Rasa by agni.
It is blood, the life-giving fluid that circulates throughout the body, bringing nutrients and oxygen to the cells. Rakta is responsible for the functioning of the muscle, tendons and blood vessels.
The role of Mamsa is to cover all vital organs and to provide movement and strength. It regulates the functioning of flat muscles and skin.
Fat is the fourth dhatu. It lubricates all bodily tissue and maintains a normal body temperature. Meda controls fatty tissue and perspiration.
It is the hard skeletal structure which supports the entire body. According to the principles of Ayurveda, the most difficult diseases to cure are the ones which affect the bones.
This dhatu includes both marrow and nerves. Marrow lies within bone and is responsible for creating blood. The nerves carry motor and sensory impulses throughout the body.
Reproductive tissue (semen and the ovum) are the seventh dhatu. They are responsible for creating new life. The Shukra dhatu requires the most amount of energy, and has the most important function.
Ayurveda encompasses a subtle medical science of attributes or qualities that create the essential aspects of all nature, namely, energy, matter and consciousness. According to Ayurveda, there are twenty basic attributes. The best Ayurvedic treatment requires a thorough understanding of these attributes in order to maintain a balance of the tridosha.
1. Heavy (Guru)
Increases heaviness, bulk nutrition and creates dullness and lethargy.
2. Light (Laghu)
Reduces bulk and creates freshness, alertness and helps digestion.
3. Slow (Manda)
Creates sluggishness, slows down action, promotes relaxation and increases dullness.
4. Sharp (Tikshna)
Creates ulcers and perforation, promotes sharpness and quick understanding.
5. Cold (Sheeta)
Creates cold, numbness, unconsciousness, contraction, fear and insensitivity.
6. Hot (Ushna)
Promotes heat, digestion, cleansing expansion, inflammation, anger and hate.
7. Oily (Snigada)
Creates smoothness, moisture, lubrication, vigour and promotes compassion as well as love.
8. Dry (Ruksha)
Increases dryness, absorption, constipation and nervousness.
9. Slimy (Slakshna)
Decreases roughness and increases smoothness, love and care.
10. Rough (Khara)
Causes cracking of skin, bones, and creates carelessness, rigidity.
11. Dense (Sandra)
Promotes solidity, density and strength.
12. Liquid (Drava)
Dissolves, liquefies and promotes salivation, compassion and cohesiveness.
13. Soft (Mrudu)
Creates softness, delicacy, relaxation, tenderness, love and care.
14. Hard (Kathina)
Increases hardness, strength, rigidity, selfishness, callousness and insensitivity.
15. Static (Sthira)
Promotes stability, obstruction, support, constipation and faith.
16. Mobile (Chala)
Promotes motion, shakiness, restlessness and lack of faith.
17. Subtle (Sukshma)
Penetrates subtle capillaries and increases emotions, feeling.
18. Gross (Sthula)
Causes obstruction and obesity.
19. Cloudy (Avila)
Heals fractures and causes unclearness along with lack of perception.
20. Clear (Vishada)
Creates isolation and diversion
The concept of Prakriti
The nature of a person’s constitution is called Prakriti. A person’s prakriti is the inherent balance of the three doshas at the moment of their creation. It is at this moment that a person’s physiological and psychological tendencies become fixed. According to the Ayurvedic Treatment System, Prakriti determines the physical and mental characteristics. An individual’s prakriti is determined on the basis of the five elements and three doshas. A person’s prakriti does not usually change throughout a person’s lifetime. To know a person’s constitution, it is important to know their tendencies. A good Ayurvedic doctor knows about these tendencies, which makes them able to take appropriate actions to keep them in check. For example, a person who knows that they have a tendency to catch a cold can take preventive steps to avoid such an issue. Ayurvedic treatment of asthma and skin diseases like Psoriasis, Eczema, White Patches and Skin Allergy rely upon the notion that understanding and maintaining the balance between the fundamental elements and energies is at the heart of avoiding or resolving health problems.
As Vata is composed of space and air, it is associated with all movements of the mind and body. A person with a dominant Vata prakriti will generally have a thin build, cold and dry skin, and tend to walk fast. They tend to have a creative streak in them, and are gifted with quick and perceptive minds.
Pitta comprises the elements fire and air, and is responsible for governing energy and transformation in both our mind and body. It’s not only closely associated with digestion, absorption and assimilation of foods and fluids but also that of ideas, thoughts and words. A person with prevalent Pitta prakriti will generally have a good build, with strong appetite, flushed complexion and well-proportioned teeth. They also exhibit sharp intellects and a dynamic personality.
Kapha forms when the elements water and earth come together. It is responsible for the density and structure of our body. This is relatively easy to spot someone with Kapha prakriti. A person with a predominance of Kapha in their constitution is generally slower, heavier, calmer and more grounded than those with either Vata or Pitta.
The Concept of Vikriti
Vikriti means the nature of the imbalance which leads to a disorder or pathological manifestation. In Ayurveda, the vikriti of a patient refers to the current state of the three doshas and how they express themselves in the body and mind. Thus, Vikriti helps to understand the imbalances or symptoms that we are experiencing. One of the most important goals of Ayurvedic treatment for several chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, piles, infertility, arthritis etc is to understand a person’s vikriti and then understand what aspects of a person’s environment have contributed to the disturbance.
Just as everyone has a unique fingerprint, each person has a particular pattern of energy – an individual combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics – which comprises their own constitution. Balance is the natural order and imbalance is disorder. Thus, we can say that health is order and disease is disorder. There is a constant interaction between order and disorder. Many factors including internal and external play a great role to disturb this balance and are reflected as a change in one’s constitution from the balanced state. Once the factors are well understood, one can take appropriate actions to minimise the effects. The best Ayurvedic aims to eliminate the causes of imbalance and again establish their original constitution.
Vata is the subtle energy associated with movement which is composed of space and air. Breathing, blinking, muscle and tissue movement, pulsation of the heart and all movements in the cytoplasm and cell membranes are governed by Vata dosha. If it is balanced, it encourages creativity and flexibility. In imbalance, it produces fear and anxiety.
Pitta is expressed as the body’s metabolic system — made up of Fire and Water. It governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism and body temperature. In balance, Pitta promotes understanding and intelligence. If it is imbalanced, it arouses anger, hatred and jealousy.
Kapha encompasses the elements water and earth. It governs the body’s structure - bones, muscles and tendons. Kapha supplies the water for all bodily parts and structures. Kapha helps to lubricate joints, moisturises the skin and maintains immunity. Kapha governs us to feel calm, content and compassionate. If it is imbalanced, it can cause attachment, greed and envy.
The Ayurvedic perspective
on health and sickness
According to Ayurvedic treatment methodology, Health is order and disease is disorder. Within the body there is a constant interaction between order and disorder. The internal environment of the body is constantly reacting to the external environment. When both the internal and external environments are out of balance, then disorder occurs. The best Ayurvedic doctors know that the cause of disease is a lack of proper cellular function due to an excess or deficiency of vata, pitta or kapha.
Doshas and their associated health problems
Proneness to illness and diseases are determined by our individual constitution. For instance, people with Kapha constitution have a tendency to be affected with diseases related to Kapha. They may suffer from bronchitis, congested lungs, sinusitis or tonsillitis. People with Pitta constitution are known to be affected by skin problems like allergies, rashes, Psoriasis and they also suffer from gallbladder, liver disorders, peptic ulcers, inflammatory diseases and hyperacidity. Those who have Vata constitution are highly susceptible to Sciatica, joint pain, excessive gas, arthritis and pain in the lower back. Most Vata diseases originate within the large intestine, whereas Pittas are related to the small intestine and Kapha is prone to disorders that affect the stomach.
How Ayurveda addresses the Root Cause of Diseases
According to Ayurveda, the root cause of any disease always depends on the imbalance of tridosha or body humours. Ayurveda encompasses different techniques for assessing health. The best Ayurvedic doctors carefully evaluate the signs and symptoms of the disease, physical and mental characteristics and other necessary information about the patient. Ayurvedic doctors use direct questioning, observation, tests and several other methods like Nadi Pariksha, Mutra Pariksha and physical examinations of tongue, facial, nails, lips, and eyes in order to find the causes of the imbalance and to eradicate the root cause of the disease.
The significance of Nadi Pariksha is deeply understood and effectively implemented by Ayurveda practitioners for assessing Tridosha as well as various physiological and psychological states of the patient. According to the classical texts, qualities or properties of pulse such as pulse movement (gati), speed of the pulse (vega), stability of the pulse (sthiratva) and hardness of the artery (kathinya) play important roles in Nadi Parikshan. The best Ayurvedic doctors examine the nadi with a stable, calm and concentrated mind, trying to feel the pulse with the fingertips. For male persons, Nadi Parikshan is done on the right hand while for the female persons, it is done on the left hand.
Nadi should be examined at the root of the palm. The arm of the patient should be extended and the hand should be slightly bent at the elbow joint, with the fingers kept straight. The patient should not feel any discomfort or pain. The pulse should be examined three times by feeling the pulse and giving a gap in between. The doctor should closely observe the movement of nadi and find out whether the nadi movement is mild, moderate or sharp.
Mutra Parikshan has also been given special attention in some of the medieval Ayurveda texts. The examination of colour, appearance and consistency of urine is held to diagnose disease conditions and to find out about their prognosis. Every patient is advised to sleep early (before 9 PM) with the usual intake of water (2 to 3 glasses) during dinner. Patients are asked to collect the first mid-stream urine of the day in a clean and neat bottle or glass vessel. After ascertaining that the urine is stable and devoid of wave or ripples or other influence of the wind, the urine is examined in daylight.
Ayurvedic physical examination includes three diagnostic methods:
- DARSHAN PARIKSHA (Inspection): It observation of the body parts including tongue, face, lip, nail, eyes, hair, skin and other body parts.
- SPARSHANA PARIKSHA (Palpation): This diagnostic tool includes the examination of pulse and by touching of body parts like skin.
- PRASHNA PARIKSHA (Interrogation): During the interrogation, medical history, symptoms, psychological and physiological characteristics are observed.
At the best ayurvedic clinics, doctors observe the surface of the tongue, through which several characteristic patterns can be revealed regarding the functional status of respective internal organs. Through the lines, wrinkles and changes in different parts of a face, various diseases and disorders can be diagnosed by an experienced ayurvedic doctor. Size, shape, surface, colour and contour of the lips can reflect the health or disease in the various organs. According to Ayurveda, the size, shape, surface, and contour of our nails can also indicate the state of our health. Examination of colour, size, and shape of iris can indicate our prakriti and vikriti.
Ayurvedic treatment focuses on curing
the disease - not just the symptoms
Ayurveda is not a system of healing that provides temporary relief of symptoms. The best Ayurvedic treatment in Kolkata and elsewhere aims to restore health by working on the underlying causes of the disease, so that it will not emerge again. The traditional science is based on the procedure of detoxification, cleansing, strengthening and rejuvenation. So, it always aims to provide a root cause treatment of the disease. Its objective is not only to suppress the symptoms but also restore harmony and balance. The root cause of the disease has a strong relationship to the patient’s thoughts, beliefs and lifestyle.
Ayurvedic treatment is a systematic plan of providing root cause treatment of various diseases. The diseases can be from different categories. Ayurvedic treatment has been proven to be effective in combating skin diseases like Eczema, Psoriasis and White Patches. This kind of treatment is also used to reduce and eliminate joint pain problems like knee pain, back pain and arthritis. Furthermore, serious sexual problems like Premature Ejaculation (PE) and Erectile Dysfunction (ED) can also be safely and effectively treated using Ayurveda. Ayurvedic treatment consists of: