Monthly Archives: July 2013

Origin of Ayurveda – Contribution of Acharya Charaka

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Ayurveda, is believed to be about5000 years old, predating all other medical systems. The two classic Ayurveda textbooks are more than 2000 years old. Charaka-samhita named after Charaka who was the ayurvedic counterpart of Hippocrates, outlines the principles of health maintenance and treatment of disease. Another book named Sushruta-samhita describes elaborate surgical procedures, including reconstructive plastic surgery, gallbladder removal, and other operations that most people consider modern.

Sushruta, the author of Sushrutasamhita, is believed to have lived around 6th century B.C. and is said to have imbibed his knowledge from Dhanwantri. It is believed that Sushruta’s work was also revised and supplemented by Nagarjuna between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.

A traditional story about the origin of Ayurveda, elucidates that Brahma imparted this knowledge to Prajapati Daksha, who in turn passed it on to the two Ashwinikumaras. From Ashwinikumaras, this knowledge passed on to Indra and then to Sage Bhardwaja. Bhardwaja shared it with other sages, one of them was Punarvasu Atreya. Atreya passed it on to his disciples. Based on the knowledge thus imparted, Agnivesha, one of Atreya’s disciple authored a treatise, which came to be known as Agnivesha-tantra. This work of Agnivesha was revised and enlarged by Charaka around the 5th century A.D. in the form of Charaka-samhita.

Sanskrit caraka is a term for a wandering religious student or ascetic. There are several legendary accounts of the origins of medical science in South Asia. According to one, the serpent-king Śeṣa, who was the recipient of Ayurveda(Ayurveda), once visited the earth and finding it full of sickness he became moved with pity and determined to become incarnate as the son of a Muni for alleviating disease; he was called Charaka because he had visited the earth as a kind of spy or cara; he then composed a new book on medicine, based on older works of Agniveśa and Atreya pupils (Sanskrit shloka – Agniveśakr̥te tantre Charaka pratisaṃskr̥te ).

 Charaka-samhita in its present form is the handiwork of another Kashmiri Pandit namely Dridhabala, who revised and updated Charaka’s work in the 9th century A.D. Dridhabala, the son of Kapilaba is said to have born in village Pantsinor, the confluence of River Vitasta and Sindhu.

Laying to rest, the controversy regarding Charaka’s birth place, the Buddhist literature discovered by Prof. Sylavan Levi in China, shows that Charaka’s birth place was Kashmir and he was, the court-poet of Kanishka in the Ist century A.D.

Charaka was the first physician to present the concept of digestion, metabolism and immunity. According to his translations of the Vedas, a body functions because it contains three dosha or principles, namely movement (vata), transformation (pitta) and lubrication and stability (kapha). The doshas are also sometimes called humors, namely, bile, phlegm and wind.)) These dosha are produced when dhatus(blood,flesh and bone marrow) act upon the food eaten. For the same quantity of food eaten, one body, however, produces dosha in an amount different from another body. That is why one body is different from another. For instance, it is more weighty, stronger, more energetic.

Further, illness is caused when the balance among the three dosha in a human body is disturbed. To restore the balance he prescribed medicinal drugs. Although he was aware of germs in the body, he did not give them any importance.

Charaka knew the fundamentals of genetics. For instance, he knew the factors determining the sex of a child. A genetic defect in a child, like lameness or blindness, he said, was not due to any defect in the mother or the father, but in the ovum or sperm of the parents (an accepted fact today).

Charaka studied the anatomy of the human body and various organs. He gave 360 as the total number of bones, including teeth, present in the body. He wrongly believed that the heart had one cavity, but he was right when he considered it to be a controlling centre. He claimed that the heart was connected to the entire body through 13 main channels. Apart from these channels, there were countless other ones of varying sizes which supplied not only nutrients to various tissues but also provided passage to waste products. He also claimed that any obstruction in the main channels led to a disease or deformity in the body.

Under the guidance of the ancient physician Atreya, Agnivesha had written an encyclopedic treatise in the eighthcentury B.C. However, it was only when Charaka revised this treatise that it gained popularity and came to be known as Charakasamhita. For two millennia it remained a standard work on the subject and was translated into many foreign languages, including Arabic and Latin.

 

Popularity and spread of Ayurveda:

Ayurvedic medicine spread with the Hindu culture to Indonesia, Tibet, and eventually to the West, where some of its principles were picked up by the ancient Greek physicians. As Buddhism developed, this healing system was carried to China and other Asian countries.

During the 1800s, the British banned all ayurvedic schools in India, replacing them with Western medical schools. For the next century, ayurvedic medicine was relegated to folk practices in rural areas. When India regained its independence in 1947, ayurvedic schools were again legalised. Today there are more than100 ayurvedic schools in India, equal in number to the Western ones, and many Indian physicians incorporate both styles of medicine into their practices.

Aim of Ayurveda:-

Ayurveda is incorporated into a person’s lifestyle. It governs all aspects of life, such as diet, exercise and sexual practices. An ayurvedic practitioner is consulted only to identify and correct an imbalance among the three life forces(1.VATA: The Energy of Movement in Ayurveda, 2. PITTA: The Energy of Digestion and Metabolism in Ayurveda, 3.PITTA: The Energy of Digestion and Metabolism in Ayurveda)

Ayurvedic philosophy holds that each person is born with a particular ratio of Doshas, with one dominating. This dominant Dosha determines personality type and also influences one’s susceptibility to certain illnesses

Diagnosis of the disease and treatment:

An ayurvedic doctor begins by assessing the patient’s Dosha pattern. Pulses play a critical role in this assessment – a practitioner feels pulses throughout the body, looking for Dosha imbalances as reflected in the nature of pulse.Ayurvedic physicians do not focus on a specific disease or an organ system, but instead treat the entire body and mind.

Ayurvedic Oil Massage(Abhyanga):- IMPORTANCE

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Ayurveda, the all-time healing system, has some specialised therapeutic procedures of its own. Among them, sneha karma is one. It is a therapy, which is usually employed as a pre-operative procedure to panchakarma. This procedure produces snigdhata (suppleness) in the body. Ayurvedic texts compare the exhausted human body with a dry stick, which breaks easily. Application of oil to the body makes it supple. This therapy can be employed either by administering oily substances internally or by using them externally in the form of oil massage. This article throws light on abhyanga and mardhana-a specialised oil massage therapy of Ayurveda.theayurvedacenter-massage1

Charaka Samhita, the Ayurvedic treatise, advocates oil massage as a regular health care measure in maintaining positive health.

1.Massage preserves the body energy.

2.It improves the blood circulation and helps in excreting toxins out of the body through sweat, urine and mucous; thus rejuvenating and relaxing the body.

3.It protects against the vitiation and aggravation of vaata and kapha doshas.

4.Massaging oil into the body makes it strong and helps the skin become smooth, says Ashtaanga Hridaya, another Ayurvedic treatise.

5.So, one can expect good results from massage in treating skin disorders like eczema, blisters, scabies, seborrhoea and other conditions like neurasthenia, headaches, sleeplessness, gouty arthritis, polio, obesity and mental disorders.

6. Massage increases physical stamina and mental alertness apart from sexual vitality.foto1

Scientific Validity

The Ayurvedic system of medicine calls the lymph system as the kapha or mucous carrying system. Lymph contains most of the elements in blood i.e. plasma, amino acids, glucose, fats, hormones, enzymes, salts and lymphocytes which fight infection. It acts as a transport medium between cells and the blood stream. It also aids circulation by maintaining the balance of the fluids in the body. The massage technique is pointed towards increasing lymph flow in the body by applying pressure at the marma (vital) points as described in the Sushruta Samhita. Increasing the kapha activity by massage is purported to increase the nourishment of the body and give proper stimulation to joints and body tissues.

If lymph flow is increased by massage, then there are several likely processes, which may be involved. Lymph possesses a relatively large amount of the amino acid­, tryptophan. This subsequently causes a parallel increase in the neurotransmitter (chemical between nerve endings), serotonin. Serotonin has been implicated in several psychiatric diseases with low levels of its metabolite found by researchers in depression, hallucinations, headaches, anxiety and irritability. So, massage is beneficial in treating these conditions. Another interesting point is that lymph contains approximately 30 times as much histaminase (an enzyme which breaks the allergy and acidity causing histamine) as in blood. So, the pathological conditions where histamine is involved, like painful and swollen tissue areas, gastric irritation, headaches, skin allergies, can be treated with lymphatic massage in order to provide increased supply of histaminase.