Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine which developed in India. It is also practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine like homoeo therapy and acupuncture.
The word ‘Ayurveda’ means the ‘science of life’. The earliest literature of Ayurveda appeared during the Vedic period in India. The Sushruta Samhita and the Charaka Samhita were some of the important texts on Ayurveda in this era. Ayurveda believes that the universe and the human body are made of five elements.
They are earth, water, fire, air and space Ayurveda also insists on a balance of three substances: wind, phlegm, and bile, each representing divine forces. These three Doshas – vata (wind/spirit/air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm) -are very important in Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, a healthy metabolic system, good digestion, and proper excretion contribute to vitality It also stresses the importance of exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage. The concept of Panchakarma is believed to rid the body of toxins. Moderation in food intake, sleep, sexual intercourse, and the intake of medicine is vital.
Ayurveda upholds a system of dietary recommendations. Oils and herbal drugs are widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. Some animal products may also be used, like milk, ghee, honey, bones, etc. Minerals like sulfur, arsenic, lead, copper sulfate and gold are also used in ayurvedic formulations. Oils are used for head and body massages and are also applied to infected areas.
Ayurveda believes that the smooth and proper functioning of channels tubes that exist within the body and transport fluids from one point to another is essential for good health. Blockages in these channels lead to disease. Sweating is seen as conducive to opening up the channels and diluting the doshas causing the blockages. Steam baths and steam – related cures are often prescribed to release toxins.
In 1970, the Indian Medical Central Council Act was passed by the Parliament of India. It aimed to standardize qualifications for Ayurveda and provide accredited institutions for its study and research. The Indian Government supports research and teaching in Ayurveda. The state- sponsored Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha promotes traditional medicine in India. Rural India has always reposed its faith in traditional medicine. But of late, Ayurveda has become popular in urban India too.
Its popularity in the West is one reason. Another reason is that traditional medicine has few side effects unlike allopathic medicine. In neighboring Sri Lanka, there are more Ayurveda practitioners than allopathic doctors.