Ayurveda is a body of knowledge that relates to the system of medication in the ancient Indian subcontinent. The word is derived from two words of the Sanskrit language, i.e., ‘Ayush’ and ‘Veda’. The word ‘Ayush’ means life whereas the word ‘Veda’ means knowledge. Thus Ayurveda is knowledge of life or the science of life. Ayurveda helps to live a healthy life. It is not only concerned with the well being of the body but it also focuses on the well being of the mind. It is based on the principles which aim at the promotion of health along with prolonging the life. Another principle is to eliminate diseases and other dysfunctions from the body.
Its traditional application and benefits have been acknowledged globally, and in the current context Ayurvedic treatment is modernized and carried out internationally in the form of alternate medicines. The legend goes that the sacred knowledge of curing ailments was passed on to the sages from gods. The sages preached its use and benefits to the humankind.
If you are running a wellness resort or a wellness resort consultant, this guide will help you with deeper insights into this traditional healing system in India and how it can be combined with other therapies and programs.
In this wellness guide you will read about:
A Complete Guide on Ayurveda by Dr Prem – History, Principle, Benefits, Its Relation with Yoga, Panchakarma And Other Therapies
The roots of Ayurveda originate back around 6000 BCE when the body of knowledge it contained were communicated verbally. Even evidences found from the archaeological digs at Indus Valley civilization sites indicate that the concepts of Ayurvedic medicine were known at the time.
Ayurveda has earned a position as Upaveda, which is a branch of Veda according to medieval classification by Sanskrit language system. Records reveal that names of medicinal plants and herbs are traced in the Ayurvedic literature collected from Atharva Veda and the other Vedas as well. Even the earliest Buddhist codes of law reveal records of elaborate statements of canonical models of different ailments which also has a reflection in Ayurvedic literature.
Ayurveda is divided into eight subsections or branches, which are internal medicine, surgery, organic medicine, rejuvenating remedy, spiritual healing, pediatrics, aphrodisiac remedies and toxicology. All these sections come together to qualify as the ancient science of healing, Astanga Ayurveda. The most famous ayurvedic texts include Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita, and the AshtanghaHridaya Samhita. Charaka and Sushruta wrote the first two texts respectively; however, the third one is a combined version that includes detailed information culled from both the texts.
If we further delve into manuscripts that laid the very foundation of Ayurveda, we cannot afford to underestimate or sideline the importance of the Bower Manuscript since it further inspires the healing methods prevalent in Central Asian Buddhism. Ayurveda saw its growth and fruition during the Gupta Empire, which is quite evident in the narrative of Chinese pilgrim Fa Hien. The Chinese thinker, traveler and philosopher described how Ayurveda played a pivotal role in inspiring the health care system of Gupta Empire and instilled an institutional approach into Indian medicine.
Legend also runs on the belief that the secrets of beneficial properties of plants and herbs and their role in curing specific diseases were divulged to Dhanvantry, the father of universal medical practitioners, by Lord Brahma himself. The lost texts composed by sage Agnivesa have also influenced Ayurvedic literature to a large extent. The three major ancient texts on Ayurveda are Susruta Samhita, Bhela Samhita and Charaka Samhita all dating back to 6th century BC and before later modified over the ages.
Medicine and religion were combined together by ancient Indian philosophers. Nagarjuna is known for his legendary work of Madhyamaka or the middle path. Medicine and religion showed humankind the route to health and happiness.
The principles of Ayurveda run simultaneously with Buddhist, Jain, Sankhya and Vaisasikha philosophies. The ideas are interesting and focus on the primary elements which human body is constructed from. It is emphasized that natural urges should not be suppressed as these would lead to physical harm. They should not be over used as well. Moderate use is the best, reflecting again the righteousness of Madyamaka or the middle path. Consequently, an emphasis is put on striking a proper equilibrium in eating, drinking, sleeping and sexual intercourse.
Principally, Ayurveda states that the constitution of our body includes seven tissues (dhatu ) namely plasma (rasa),blood (rakta ), bone (asthi) , fat (meda ) , semen (sukra ) and muscles ( mamsa) and marrow (majja).
Like medicines of remote past, Ayurveda has classified human body into five natural elements known as Panchabhoota which includes air, water, fire, earth and ether. All substances contain twenty gunas or characteristics that occur in pair like hot and cold, dull and sharp, light and heavy, smooth and coarse and so on which affect us when coming in contact. Similarly, the principles also throw light on three elemental inclination of the human body, Vata, Pitta and Kapha maintaining the balance of which is essential for achieving a healthy and disease free life.
The states of physical, mental and personality in a human being are considered a single unit by Ayurvedic belief system. One can influence the other and so there is always an approach towards improving all three of them in a single treatment package. Oil massage is thought to open up channels responsible for transportation of fluids.
Ayurveda diagnoses illness by studying mala (excreta), mutra (urine), nadi (pulse beat), sparsa(touch) , sabda (speech) and jihva ( tongue). The observation of virulent points in human body called Marman is of special significance.
Importance of satvik diet, which is simple and easily digestible, is suggested as is the concept of dinacharya like regular chores of sleeping, waking up, working and meditation are considered crucial for good health. Medicines and concoctions from plants, roots, seeds and barks form the basic raw materials for Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda is said to have some great benefits for the human body. It helps in building a proper connection between the body, mind, spirit, and emotions. Physical as well as mental health is ensured with the herbal medicines. There are no side effects of Ayurveda thus it makes the body completely fit. The vitality of the body is established with the usage of herbs and proper nutrition. Ayurveda helps the body to achieve mental and physical balance. The treatment of every individual is based on his/her body composition, i.e., the dominance of particular doshas or energies.
Ayurveda can cure metabolic and chronic ailments including those because of stress. Ayurvedic medicines can be a remedy for a number of ailments like inflammation, hormonal imbalance and digestive disorders and auto immune system disrupting diseases. It can be a remedy for depression, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, dementia, herpes, Parkinson’s disease and issues related to menstruation. Medical tourism and wellness tourism facilitator companies often offer special rejuvenating packages for patients and tourists in Ayurvedic retreats in India.
Results of Ayurvedic treatment
The results of Ayurvedic treatments can hugely depend on the condition of the individual, severe diseases require more time as compared to normal ones. It cures the disease from its very roots, it does not cure it at a superficial level. Thus you can expect permanent cure of your illness. The effects of Ayurvedic treatments can be seen gradually over a period of time, instant cure is not a possibility as far as Ayurveda is concerned. Ayurveda treatment can be combined with other treatments as it is non-invasive and non-toxic.
Safety of Ayurvedic treatment
The Ayurvedic treatment is 100 percent safe as it basically uses herbal products. The Ayurvedic medicines are made up of natural minerals and herbs. All the ingredients are taken from the natural surroundings and are thus very safe. The herbs and minerals are used to calm down the energies in order to cure the ailment. You must inform the doctor in advance if you are using Ayurveda as a complementary treatment. Ayurveda has the potential to soothe the body, mind, sense, heart, and the very spirit of the human being.
How Ayurveda and Yoga are bonded together
No one can say with any real certainty who exactly invented yoga and who created the Ayurveda system of medicine. Nevertheless, what we do know today is the fact that these two are probably the most popular naturalistic healing and physical conditioning system. Both the therapies evolved alongside one another in the Indian subcontinent though not many people realize just how closely the two systems are bonded. These two therapies are provided in India at many wellness centers. People visit on their own or visit via medical tourism facilitator companies.
What does Ayurveda do?
Ayurveda is inherently a holistic and naturalistic system of medicine that focuses on using naturally occurring herbs, plants and oils etc. to heal specific ailments or to promote overall health. As a system of medicine, Ayurveda recommends the use of specific ingredients to heal specific ailments. The well-being segment of Ayurveda basically deals with identifying a healthy person’s body type and constitution and recommending physical and dietary therapies to optimize their health and energy.
What does Yoga do?
Yoga experts claim that yoga gives its practitioner the precise benefit they seek from it. The popular belief that a yoga practice will provide a practitioner with mental peace and enlightenment no matter what their goals are is actually a misconception. People, who practice yoga to get fit, achieve greater fitness with yoga, people who wish to get rid of ailments, yoga helps them boost their health and people who use yoga to achieve mental peace are able to use the practice to alleviate stress.
How are Ayurveda and Yoga bonded?
Yoga and Ayurveda are bonded together not only in their origin and development, but also in the way they work. They are both holistic systems that can be used in conjunction to boost the effectiveness of either. Yoga is a way to allow your body to get rid of toxins and slowly ease into a system of wellbeing, while Ayurveda uses specific natural ingredients to heal illnesses and boosts health over time.
Guide to ‘Panchakarma’ healing system and its benefits
“Panchakarma” consists of sequence of different therapeutic treatments, which are used for clearing toxins and subtle energies present inside the body. “Panchakarma” is capable of preventing as well as curing diseases and success rates are higher in case of chronic diseases in which allopathy is not very effective. It can also provide yoga practitioners with path to inner peace and enhance spiritual practices they perform.
“Panchakarma” is known to be the basic building block for ayurveda treatments and tries to solve the root cause of problems in the body. “Panchakarma” keeps your body in healthy condition by cleaning it from the inside as well as assists in curing the ailments. It also checks tridosha and attempts to revert the changes in three dosha or tridosha, which are pitta, vata and kapha.
Meaning of Panchakarma
‘Panchakarma’, is a Sanskrit word, which comprises of ‘Pancha’ – meaning Five and ‘Karma’ – meaning actions or therapeutic measures. Thus it literally means five therapies. It is based on the concept that toxins or ‘doshas’ that accumulate in the body are responsible for causing a diseased state. It therefore suggests that the body should be cleansed and the toxins need to be removed thoroughly from the body. With this aim, there are various procedures included in the five therapies of Panchakarma for cleansing of the body. Based on the individual requirement these procedures are prescribed by a qualified Panchakarma practitioner. They include massages, baths, application of various medicinal substances etc.
Cleansing the body of toxic materials
“Panchakarma” is not just for the sick, even people with good health need to adapt “Panchakarma” treatments in their lives. The reason for this is that we are now living in a world full of toxic pollutants. Synthetic chemicals are being used in agriculture and pass on to our bodies causing several diseases. Many of these toxic pollutants have fat-soluble properties and these get lodged inside lipid layers in cells. In recent study, it was found that “Panchakarma” was able to reduce amount of pesticide compounds present in bodies of participants who took part in the study.
Proper Level of Tridosha
Level of tridosha is important for good health and “Panchakarma” aids in retaining correct level in the body. In ancient literature by Acharya Charak, there is mention of “Panchakarma” as a cure for various ailments. It is said that when tridosha is not in proper balance it affects the body and results in various diseases.
One example would be of lungs congestion, which can lead to several diseases in the respiratory system such as bronchitis or cough. If we are able to maintain proper Kapha level in our bodies then most of the illnesses can be reduced. One solution which is also part of “Panchakarma” is vaman in which vomiting is used for controlling Kapha.
Excess pitta secretion also indicates problems present in the body. This extra bile or pitta causes different ailments ranging from acne, rashes to skin inflammation. In case liver gets affected then other severe problems may have to be faced such as chronic fever, jaundice and nausea. As a solution it is suggested by ayurvedic experts that patients intake virechan. Virechan consists of several things such as triphala, senna leaves, flax seeds and works as a cure for such patients.
The third in the tridosha called as vaata also creates problems in the body if its level is not proper. This can lead to problems like constipation, joint pain, rheumatism and headache. Basti is one treatment that is quite effective for these problems and restores balance of vaata in the body.
“Panchakarma” also talks about Nasya method for treatment of various diseases related to nose. It is believed that life force which is also known as Prana enters body from nose and any problems in the nose can lead to varied ailments like loss of sensory perception, epilepsy and convulsions. There are some Nasya karma procedures, which aid in rectifying these problems.
“Panchakarma” is also beneficial in several skin problems as well as infections. There are various types of toxins present in any person’s gastro intestinal tract and imbalances can lead to disorders of skin such as eczema, herpes and leukoderma. Raktamoksha is the solution provided by “Panchakarma” which can help eliminate toxins and purify blood.
How ‘Panchakarma’ works
“Panchakarma” focuses on root causes for any disease and attempts to clear the body of various toxins (ama) and balance kapha, pitta and vaata. Ideal time for doing “Panchakarma” is at the time of change in seasons so that impurities that spawned in earlier season can be cleared out and you move into next season. Panchakarma treatments are provided in destinations mentioned in our medical tourism and wellness tourism destination guide.
Three phases of ‘Panchakarma’ process
There are three phases in “Panchakarma” process, which we will briefly look into in this section.
- Preparatory Phase: Internal oleation is part of this phase in which your diet will be monitored and different food items included in your meal which help to burn ama, detoxify your body and are easily digestible.
- External Oleation: In this phase you will receive ayurvedic massage and steam bath for a period of 3 to 7 days, both aimed to loosen impurities present in the body and allows ama as well as doshas to shift towards gastrointestinal tract.
- Karmas: At this stage the main procedures of “Panchakarma” are performed and out of the five procedures, three are commonly performed in USA. These consist of Nasya, Virechana and Basti with each having its own individual benefits.
In order to prepare the body for the main Panchakarma therapies, pre purification measures are carried out in a prescribed manner. These measures are namely,
● ‘Snehana’ or Oleation
In this, herbal oils are applied to the whole body and massage is done with the aim of removing toxins via digestive tract. This massage also helps in de-stressing and relaxing the body tissues. Herbal oils are also given internally.
● ‘Swedana’ or Steam bath
This is a type of steam bath in which medicated herbal oils are added. By using therapeutic heat, toxins are allowed to flow out of the body through the digestive tract. This is generally performed after ‘Snehana’ or oil massage.
Main Panchakarma therapies
The purification measures that form the main part of Panchakarma treatment or five therapies are:
1. ‘Vamana’ or Emesis
The toxins that are accumulated due to cough, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory tract infections are eliminated by this therapy. This procedure involved therapeutic vomiting in order to remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract.
2. ‘Virechana’ or Purgation
This therapy aims at removing toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. Excess bile, when gets accumulated can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, skin infections and other digestive troubles. In this procedure, therapeutic laxatives are administered in order to eliminate the toxins from the digestive tract.
3. ‘Nasya’ or Nasal
This is gentle cleansing of the upper respiratory tract and eliminating toxins from the nose, sinuses, throat and head region. In this therapy, herbal oils or medicine drops are administered through the nose as prescribed.
4. ‘Basti’ or enema
This is considered as the most effective therapy for removal of toxins from the digestive tract, particularly rectum. In this procedure herbal oils are administered into the rectum, with the aim of removing toxins present in the colon. It is helpful in many ailments like indigestion, constipation, kidney troubles, joint pain, backache, headaches and other similar chronic disorders.
5. Raktamokshana or blood cleansing
This is a complicated procedure and is only rarely used due to the risk of infections in blood cleansing.
This is a special detoxifying diet based on Ayurvedic principles, which is prescribed by specialists along with Panchakarma therapies. All individuals undergoing Panchakarma treatment also need to follow this special diet plan, which is designed based on their individual needs and concerns.
Other miscellaneous therapies
Apart from the main purification measures, Panchakarma also includes certain miscellaneous therapies that are prescribed by the specialists, depending on the specific needs of individuals. They are:
This is a process in which herbal oils are allowed to flow on the forehead and scalp from a vessel hanging above. This helps in relieving stress and induces sleep. This is recommended in insomnia, hypertension, anxiety and depression.
In this therapy herbal oils are poured into a long cap placed on the head. This is used to treat hair loss, facial paralysis and other disorders of skull.
This is a process of application of herbal oils all over the body and massaging in a prescribed manner. This is useful in treating nervous disorders, paralysis, rheumatic troubles and as a rejuvenation therapy.
There are many other therapies like kadivasthi, udvarthanam, uttar basti, tarpanam. They use herbal oils, medicated packs and other medicinal substances, etc on specific body areas depending on the ailments. These therapies are useful in the treatment of backaches, slip disc, joint pains, knee arthritis, neurological and genitourinary complaints and infertility in female. They are also used for ailments of eyes and for a healthy, glowing skin.
Ayurvedic treatments are highly sought after by wellness seekers worldwide and provided by wellness centers located in different countries mentioned in our medical tourism destination guide.