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Do you know that the majority of Indian still uses some traditional medicines for variety of ailments? India has a very long tradition of treatment of ailments using alternative medicines.
The whole tradition is very ancient and systematic. It dates back to more around 4000 years, when the Vedas (र्वेद – ancient books of Indian knowledge, wisdom and culture) where supposedly written. The traditional medicines comes under one of four Vedas called Atharvaveda. Under Atharvaveda comes Ayurveda (आयुर्वेद) means the knowledge for long life. The account of traditional medicines are found in Sanskrit works such as Suśruta Saṃhitā and the Charaka Saṃhitā. These two works laid the foundation of Ayurveda. Since then, diagnosis of new diseases and healing methods were added.
In the early works, Ayurveda had considered that Universe including Human body is made of five elements. The five elements are Pṛthvī (पृथ्वी – earth), Jala (जल – water), Agni (अग्नि – fire), Vāyu (वायु – air) and Ākāśa (आकाश – Sky). It stresses a balance of three elemental energies such as Vāyu Vāta (वायु वत – air & space – “wind”), Pitta (पित्त – fire & water – “bile”) and Kapha (कफ – water & earth – “phlegm”).
Ayurveda is considered as the science of following eight components.
1.Internal medicine (काय चिकित्सा – Kāya-cikitsā)
2. Paediatrics (Kaumārabhṛtyam)
3. Surgery (Śalya-cikitsā)
4. Eye and ENT (Śālākya tantra)
5. Bhūta vidyā or in modern terms, Psychiatry.
6. Toxicology (Agadatantram)
7. Prevention of diseases and improving immunity and rejuvenation (Rasayana)
8. Aphrodisiacs and improving health of progeny (Vajikaranam)
It is well known that people in ancient India were well versed with highly systematic systems of the alternative medicines and surgery. Many disease such as fever, cough, consumption, diarrhea, dropsy, abscesses, seizures, tumours, and skin diseases (including leprosy) etc. were classified. Treatment of complex ailments, including angina pectoris, diabetes, hypertension, and stones were also found and documented. Early works of Ayurveda such as Charaka Samhita, is dedicated to Charakas. Plastic surgery is documented as well in these ancient Indian texts. Plastic surgery of nose, ear lobes, lips for restruction of nose, ears, lips etc were given by an ayurvedic physician called Sushruta, who is now considered the father of rhinoplasty.
The works of Ayurveda were later become known to Chinese and Arabs through trade and pilgrim from these regions. Further, Arabs subsequently transmitted the ayurvedic knowledge to Europe. The knowledge of Ayurveda might be known by some another name outside India but we can imagine how it has shaped the understanding and use of alternative medicines across the world.