Ayurvedic Medicine: The Oldest System of Medicine, Part 1

ayurveda_17I’ve been writing about the roots of healing in this series, and in the last article I discussed sound healing. I said how sound healing is one of the oldest forms of healing known to humankind.

Now I will expand beyond discussing healing approaches and begin to discuss various systems of medicine. As medicine begins to be part of a society’s way of life, it becomes more systematized and formalized, in order that it can be used by the masses.

Ayurvedic medicine is one such system of medicine, and it is the oldest known system of medicine on the planet.

Ayurvedic medicine is native to India. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit and means, “Science of Life.” In Sanskrit the word ayurveda consists of the words āyus, meaning “longevity,” and veda, meaning “related to knowledge” or “science.”

Ayurveda springs from the Hindu tradition, although Buddhism has also had a major influence on Ayurvedic ideas.

Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas, the ancient classical sacred texts of Hinduism. There are four Vedas, and Ayurveda is said to stem from the Veda known as Atharvaveda, which contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda originated in and developed from these hymns. In this sense, ayurveda is considered by some to have divine origin.


Dhanavantari, the Hindu god of ayurveda

According to legend, the system of medicine was received by a man named Dhanavantari from Brahma, and Dhanavantari was deified as the god of medicine.

Dhanavantari is said to be an avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition, and god of ayurvedic medicine. Dhanavantari was an early Indian medical practitioner and one of the world’s first surgeons.

Based on Vedic traditions, he is regarded as the source of ayurveda. He perfected many herbal based cures and natural remedies and was credited with the discovery of the antiseptic properties of turmeric and the preservative properties of salt, which he incorporated in his cures.

There is a quote attributed to Dhanavantri, in which he says, “I the Lord Dhanavantri brought this healing science on earth from heaven.”

Ayurveda is a medicine of the body, mind and soul, and is closely associated with the other Hindu disciplines of yoga and tantra, which together are seen as the three paths of Vedic knowledge.

According to Robert Svoboda, a doctor of Ayurvedic medicine:

“Because every embodied individual is composed of a body, a mind and a spirit, the ancient Rishis of India who developed the Science of Life organized their wisdom into three bodies of knowledge: Ayurveda, which deals mainly with the physical body; Yoga, which deals mainly with spirit; and Tantra, which is mainly concerned with the mind. The philosophy of all three is identical; their manifestations differ because of their differing emphases. Ayurveda is most concerned with the physical basis of life, concentrating on its harmony of mind and spirit. Yoga controls body and mind to enable them to harmonize with spirit, and Tantra seeks to use the mind to balance the demands of body and spirit.”

Within Ayurveda, there are eight disciplines of treatment, known as Ashtangas. They are:

* Internal medicine (Kaaya-chikitsa)
* Paediatrics (Kaumarabhrtyam)
* Surgery (Shalya-chikitsa)
* Eye and ENT (Shalakya tantra)
* Demonic possession (Bhuta vidya): Bhuta vidya has been
called psychiatry.
* Toxicology (Agadatantram)
* Prevention diseases and improving immunity and
rejuvenation (rasayana)
* Aphrodisiacs and improving health of progeny

The symbol of ayurvedic medicine

The symbol of ayurvedic medicine

Balance is a central theme in Ayurveda. Balance is emphasized; suppressing natural urges is seen to be unhealthy, and doing so may almost certainly lead to illness.

To stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure is stressed upon. Ayurveda places an emphasis on moderation in food intake, sleep, sexual intercourse, and the intake of medicine.

Ayurveda incorporates an entire system of dietary recommendations, along with lifestyle recommendations, in order to help achieve balance.

To be continued tomorrow…


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  1. […] and the oldest system of medicine on the planet, is Ayurvedic Medicine. In the last article, Ayurvedic Medicine: The Oldest System of Medicine, Part 1, I talked about its origins and […]

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