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The word Ayurveda thus implies the knowledge (~ Veda) of Life (~Ayu). Ayurveda is the knowledge that guides us to lead a long and healthy life. Ayurveda is the science which helps one understand what is beneficial and necessary to lead a happy, healthy and long life and what things should be avoided in order to prevent disease and ill health. The principle aim of Ayurveda is to help one lead a healthy life and to prevent illness.
Ayurveda defines life as the manifestation of consciousness, comprising of an amalgamation of the panchamahabhuta, (progressively) maintained in a state of equilibrium. The body or sharir is composed of the five fundamental elements of nature, expressed in the body in form of three dosha – vaata, pitta and kapha. Ayurveda provides us with the knowledge for maintaining it in the optimal state of health.
The human body is composed of an amalgamation of the panchamahabhuta (five fundamental elements of nature). These are prithvi (~ earth), aapa (~ water), teja (~ sun), vaayu (~ wind/air) and aakaasha (~ space/ ether). Charaka samhita describes that the human body or ‘sharir’ is the site of manifestation of consciousness, comprising of an amalgamation of the panchamahabhuta, (progressively) maintained in a state of equilibrium. This amalgamation of mahabhuta is expressed in the body in the form of dosha, dhaatu and mala which form the physical basis of the body. Every physical structure and component of the body evolves from them. Similar to the theory that these five fundamental elements of nature form the building blocks of all matter that constitute the universe, the field of medicine and particularly the branches of physiology and pathology are based on the conjecture that the dosha, dhaatu and mala form the basic foundational entities of human body. Hence, it can be said that the mahaabhuta are the physical entities, whereas the dosha form their biological manifestations in the body.
|Prithvi +Jala||Kapha dosha|
|Vaayu + Aakaasha||Vaata dosha|
Each dosha manifests as a combination of all of the five mahaabhuta. However, the unique characteristics of the dosha are determined by the dominance of a particular mahaabhuta in the constitution of that dosha as stated above.
The tridosha form the very basis of existence of the body. The ‘dosha’ are so referred to because they possess the capacity to impair the normal state of other bodily elements (the dhaatu, upadhaatu and the mala) in the body. The dosha, in their balanced state, are responsible for sustenance of life and the normal functioning of the body.
A) The dosha display a ubiquitous existence in the body and hence the texts do not designate specific channel or location for the dosha in the body. Even then, there are some principal locations allocated to each of them.
B) Generally, the upper part of the body, above the heart region is the location of the kapha dosha. The area between the navel and the heart is the principal location of the pitta dosha, while the vaata dosha is primarily located in the area below the navel.
|Primary location||Other locations|
|Vaata||Pakvaashaya [Large intestine]||
Basti. [Bladder ]
Purishaadhana [sigmoid colon]
|Pitta||Aamaashaya [Stomach, small intestine]||Sveda [Sweat]|
|Lasika [a watery bodily substance similar to lymph]|
|Kapha||Ura [chest], kantha [throat],||Sandhi [joints],|
|Shira [head region]||Aamaashaya [stomach],|
Dhaatu are the building blocks which impart structure and strength and help sustain the normal functioning of the body. However, unlike dosha they do not have a capacity to turn anomalous or to vitiate any other element in the body. These are comparatively more bulky than the dosha, and hence form the main mass of the physical body. There are seven dhaatu namely, rasa, rakta, maamsa, meda, asthi, majja and shukra always mentioned in this same sequence. This sequence is based on the order in which they are produced and the order in which they receive their nutrition from the aahaara rasa.
The word mala implies a capacity to render other bodily elements impure or infected. The mala are the excretory wastes from the body produced as by-products of the process of digestion at different levels in the body.
The state of imbalance of the three dosha on account of which they fail to perform their normal functions is known as dis-ease. However, the balanced state of dosha can be maintained by following a healthy diet and lifestyle which suit individual Prakriti (~ constitution). Ayurveda lays down some basic rules which can be followed for maintaining the balance of the dosha, these include –
Following these basic rules helps maintain the balance of dosha and thereby prevent illness. Healthy mind in a healthy body is said because the basic healthy state of the physical body also escorts a healthy state of mind. Thus, health is a result of continuous effort to the maintain balance or equilibrium in the dosha.
One should not suppress the natural urges of - 1. Urine, 2. Excretion of stools, 3. Ejaculation of semen, 4. Flatus, 5. Vomiting, 6. Sneezing, 7. Coughing, 8. Yawning, 9. Hunger, 10. Thirst, 11. Tears/ crying, 12. Sleep, and 13. Rapid breathing on exertion. First six of these urges are more capable of creating disease if suppressed. The suppression of these urges, leads to the obstruction of vaata dosha in its normal course. This initiates the disturbance in the flow of vaata, which then deviates from its natural course, causing imbalance and disease.
Ayurveda advocates that disease is a result of imbalance in the state of the dosha. The imbalance of dosha can be cured either by eliminating the excess dosha out of the body or by medication which would either suppress, or deliver the dosha in their balanced status.
Panchakarma are five types of specialized Ayurvedic procedures/ treatments which help in shodhana or the elimination of dosha out of the body. Panchakarma includes procedures like Vamana (induced emesis), Virechana (induced laxative treatments), Basti (enema of medicated oils or decoctions), Nasya (administration of medicines in the nasal passage) and Raktamokshana (therapeutic blood-letting).
Panchakarma are elaborate treatment protocols with both specific pre and post procedures. The snehana (external and internal oleation) and svedana (hot fomentation) are two pre-procedures followed as a part of Panchakarma therapy. These procedures aid the easy expulsion of the dosha out of the body. The post procedure includes the gradual weaning of the patient to consume normal diet and to restore the normal functioning of agni or digestion. This dietary regimen is described as ‘Sansarjana Krama’ and is described in detail below.
Agni (~ digestive fire) is the heat energy in the body which helps transform the ingested food material into bodily assimilable form. Similar to the rice which is cooked when kept on fire and transformed into easily digestible form, the agni or digestive fire in the body helps transform or convert the ingested food and utilize it for the purpose of nourishment and growth. This heat energy primarily manifests in the body in the form of ‘paachaka pitta’. When the potential heat energy in the paachaka pitta manifests and starts performing the function of digestion, it is referred to as ‘jaatharaagni’. The texts state that the presence of agni in the body is central to its existence and that death implies the extinguishing of this agni. The state of agni defines the state of health of an individual. Optimal digestive capacity is essential for proper digestion and assimilation of food material to provide ample nourishment to all the bodily elements like dosha and dhaatu. Thus, anomaly of the agni, which in turn causes indigestion, also leads to imbalance of the dosha, thereby leading to ill health.
Like the energy of the sun (heat) in nature outside is responsible for transformation and brings forth the gift of life, the agni in the body is essential for perseverance or continuity of the chain of life. It also performs the functions of maintaining strength, health, complexion and enthusiasm, and the vital factors like digestive power, eyesight, prana etc. are dependent on it. The texts describe thirteen different types of agni in the body – the jaatharaagni, five bhUtaagni (~ agni of the panchamahaabhuta) and seven dhaatvaagni (~ agni of each of the seven dhaatu). The bhUtaagni and the dhaatvagni are the fractions of the jaatharaagni, functional at different levels of metabolism in the body.
The food ingested is acted upon by the digestive fire and converted to bodily assimilable form, referred to as ‘aahaara rasa or saara’ and waste by-product mala. This process is known as digestion. The aahaara rasa provides nourishment to all the bodily elements. Any kind of anomaly in the process of digestion leads to the formation improperly digested food material or aama. This aama circulates in the entire body along with the aahaara rasa and renders the aahaara rasa incapable of providing optimal nourishment to the dhaatu. The incompletely or improperly digested aahaara rasa, which contains aama cannot be properly assimilated by the dhaatvaagni. This leads to undernourishment or malformation of dhaatu. Production of aama in the body is evident from the symptoms like sluggishness, heaviness in the body and indigestion. The accumulation of aama in the body leads to disease.
The aama, as explained earlier, is the by-product of improper digestion of food material. Aama gets mixed with the aahaara rasa, which is then rendered incapable of providing proper nutrition to other bodily elements. This in turn, leads to the production of malnourished and anomalous dhaatu and marks the onset of disease.
The presence of aama in the body itself is also evident from symptoms like sluggishness, indigestion, heaviness in the body etc. The malnourishment of bodily elements impairs the normal functioning of dosha, dhaatu and mala thus leading to a range of different diseases which affect the body and mind both.
Aama is formed as a result of improper digestion of food material caused due to a decrease/ anomaly in the digestive capacity or the agni element of the body. Hence, it is of prime importance to enkindle the digestive fire to eliminate the aama from the body. Langhana, Deepana and Paachana are three main therapies which help enhance the digestive capacity of the individual and aid in the digestion of ingested food material.
The ‘Sansarjana krama’ is a specific dietary regimen generally advised after the administration of Panchakarma therapies like vamana or virechana. After the elimination of excess dosha from the body by means of ‘shodhana chikitsaa’, the body is rendered a bit weak and sensitive and the capacity of digestion (agni) is greatly affected. The patient is then in period of recovery and has to be weaned to a normal regular diet, so as to gradually increase the power of the agni.
Thus, this specific regimen of diet advised to the patient includes substances that provide ample nourishment and energy but are easy to digest. The patient is administered with progressively heavy substances to digest, starting from plain rice stock without grains to rice stock with grains, broth, gruel and then plain steamed rice. The patient is thus administered normal diet generally after a period of seven days. This gradual increase in the diet helps enkindle the agni and regularize the functioning of the koshtha without causing undue stress on the body.
Rasaayana are specialized rejuvenating or restorative treatments described in Ayurveda. These therapies help replenish the bodily elements and attain optimal health and youthfulness. These essentially delay the process of ageing and prevent disease. The therapies can be called as tonics which nourish the body and enhance the level of health, fitness and youthfulness and help one lead a long and disease free life. The rasaayana therapies help restore and maintain the balance of the dosha, enkindle the agni and maintain optimum digestive capacity, provide excellent physical strength and optimal health of sense organs and intellectual abilities, enhance complexion and quality of voice. These treatments exhibit immense potential in delaying the process of ageing and restoring youth.
The choice of rasaayana drug administered to a person is greatly decided as per compatibility with one’s prakriti and daily regimen. One should always remember the main contradictions for consuming rasaayana drugs.
These include – existence of aama in the body, incomplete or irregular bowel movements, and weak digestion. If one desires to gain the benefits of Rasaayana therapy, it is advisable to undergo certain suitable panchkarma therapies and cleanse the body beforehand.
The term ‘vaajikarana’ includes all those medicines, therapies, and diet and lifestyle regulations which enhance the sexual energies of an individual and impart the strength and vigour to perform the act frequently and for a longer duration of time. All the therapies which help generate or enhance the amount of the shukra dhaatu are known as ‘vaajikarana’.
Both the therapies of rasaayana and vaajikarana are essentially useful in nourishing all the bodily elements and imparting strength and energy to the individual; however the growth and nourishment of all the seven basic bodily elements (dhaatus) is expected from the therapy of ‘rasaayana’, while the ‘vaajikarana’ therapy is responsible for the nourishment and growth of the shukra dhaatu only. The therapy of rasaayana or rejuvenation can be imparted to both the men and the women, while the ‘vaajikarana’ or aphrodisiac therapies are meant exclusively for men.
The aim of the therapies mentioned in ‘vaajikarana’ is not solely the generation of a large brood; but to enable the individual to give birth to a healthy and superior progeny. Vaajikarana therapy can be used for normal healthy person to continue his healthy sexual life. Similarly it can be used for other purposes like infertility, lack of libido, erectile dysfunctions and early ejaculation. It is not necessary that only medicines or dietary substances can be termed as aphrodisiac; there are several other things which can be useful for stimulating the desire or imparting the energy for sexual activity. Nature, specific scents and perfumes and most of all company of the opposite sex are also considered as potent aphrodisiacs. Specific substances like black gram, grapes, milk, sugar, chicken and eggs along with therapies like enema administered along with sugar and honey and a diet of milk and meat stock to complement it are also well known aphrodisiacs. The use of several medicinal oil and ghee formulations mentioned in the ‘Siddhisthaana’ of the Charaka compendium is also known to act as an aphrodisiac.
The choice of vaajikarana drug administered to a person is greatly decided as per compatibility with one’s prakriti and daily regimen. One should always remember the main contradictions for consuming vaajikarana drugs. These include – existence of aama in the body, incomplete or irregular bowel movements, and weak digestion. If one desires to gain the benefits of vaajaikarana therapy, it is advisable to undergo certain suitable panchkarma therapies and cleanse the body after proper consultation with an Ayurveda physician.
Diseases are caused due to two main factors – aagantu (~ external) and nija (~ internal). Aagantu are the diseases caused due to external factors like injury, snake bite, ingestion of poisonous material etc. Nija diseases are the result of imbalance of bodily dosha.
Indigestion caused due to decrease in digestive capacity or impairment of agni is also one of the major causative factors of disease. According to Ayurveda, all these factors lead to imbalance in the normal state of the dosha which are then rendered ineffective to perform their normal functions. These anomalous dosha which are already present in the body may then get instigated by any of the external factors, which lead to the expression of disease. Ayurveda states that apart from the anomalies which are caused due to external factors like injury, ingestion of poisonous material etc. all the other diseases are a result of manifestation shown by anomalous dosha already present in the body. Thus, the triggering factors like pollen grain allergies, food indigestion, and impure water etc. work through the anomalous dosha for expression as a disease. The final cause of a disease is always the anomalous dosha.
Viruddha means opposite and anna means food substances. The word viruddhanna includes all the substances which exhibit attributes which are ‘viruddha’ or cause adverse effect on health. Thus, the category of viruddhanna may include single food substances which are inherently harmful to health and also the combinations of food substances which when mixed, display attributes which harm the balance of dosha in the body. Viruddhanna also includes the consumption of specific food substances at inappropriate timings. The consumption of viruddhanna may lead to imbalance of dosha and ill health. Though the adverse effects of this kind of food may not be obvious immediately, these effects are known to accumulate over a period of time and then express themselves eventually.
Marma are specific vital points located on the body. The texts describe that any injury or harm to these points shall lead either to deformity, illness or may even prove fatal. There are a total of 107 marma points mentioned in the texts. Each of these marma points is classified as per the location, structures present at the site and as per the effect or symptoms it may cause if the site is hurt or injured.
The word prakruti implies nature or the unchangeable and inherent constitution of the body. Each individual displays a different type of constitution expressed due to the unique combination of dosha, inherently present in the body since the time of birth. The relative proportion of the dosha at the time of conception decides the prakruti of the fetus which remains constant throughout its life.
This constitution or prakruti determines all the physical and psychological elements in the life of an individual like health, disease, likes and dislikes, tolerance to different foods or environments, bodily structure, temperament etc. One observes that certain individuals are comfortable with warm temperature, some in colder environments, some are heavily built and strong, some lean and weak, some individuals display excellent digestive capacity, while others are very sensitive to changes in food habits, some tend to be calm and quiet, while others are anxious and angry. These variations in bodily tendencies and psychological inclinations are unique in each of us and are essentially an expression of individual prakruti or constitution. The type of prakruti of an individual is determined after examining several physical and psychological attributes of an individual. The dosha which dominates the expression of most of the characteristics generally forms the prakruti of the individual.
However, the most commonly observed prakruti are the combinations of these dosha and generally are not influenced by any single dosha. Each individual prakruti reflects a combination of characteristics influenced by any of the three dosha as per the level of their inherent predominance. Like for example the prakruti of vaata-kapha, vaata-pitta, pitta-kapha etc. Though we have mentioned a general classification of prakruti types here, there are numerous varieties of prakruti. No two individual prakruti are the same and hence one finds a unique prakruti type for every individual in nature. A general guideline for judging the prakruti of an individual is provided elsewhere.
Therapeutic or preventive management without knowledge of prakruti cannot be termed as scientific one as per Ayurveda. Though prakruti cannot be said to be the only criteria which determines therapeutic and preventive management, it forms a very important part in determining them.
As explained earlier, diseases are caused due to imbalance of the bodily dosha. These dosha are affected by improper diet and lifestyle and several other factors. The anomalous dosha then either reside in the body and give rise to disease or the expression of disease may be triggered by external factors like dust, pollution, ingestion of impure food or water etc. or the intake/ contact with substances which further aggravate the anomaly of the dosha. The reaction/ or response of the body when it comes in contact with such an agent is called as an ‘allergy’. Ayurveda states that though allergy may appear to be caused by some specific external agent, it is the anomalous state of the dosha which is responsible for disease. Hence, these allergies can be cured after setting right, the imbalanced state of the dosha in the body with administration of panchakarma therapies and other medications. However, it should be remembered that the allergies which have been passed down through generations do require time and effort to get cured.
23.Would it be correct to say that Ayurvedic medications do not have any side effects and hence can be taken without much deliberation or expert supervision?
Ayurvedic medications are largely derived from plants and animals. The medicines which are derived from different elements or minerals are properly treated to eliminate any impurities and harmful effects which these might have on the body. Hence, these medicines are comparatively safer than the chemical derivations or antibiotic medications available today.
Secondly, Ayurvedic medications administered after proper consultation and diagnosis aim at treating the disease and are in conjunction with the inherent constitution of the patient. Treatment so administered is termed as ‘Shuddha Chikitsaa’ (Pure treatment) and generally does not cause any unwanted side effects.
However, it should be remembered that unwarranted administration of Ayurvedic medicines does indeed prove harmful and several Ayurvedic medications have to be administered with extreme caution and care under expert supervision.