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  Ayurveda & Purana
  Historical evidence
  Gurukula system
Sapta dhatus
Tridosha system
  Disease management
Tastes and effects
Panchakarma and Ayurvedic massage
Current status
  Ayurvedic institutions and practitioners
  Practice in the West
  Ayurveda's Entry into the Nutraceutical Industry of the West
  National Library of Ayurveda Medicine [NLAM]
     Ayurveda (Devanagari: आयुर्वेद)

Ayurvedic medicine
is an ancient system and philosophy of health care native to the Indian subcontinent, sometimes considered as a Hindu system of health care because of its origins among the oral advice on living in the Vedas. It is used by millions of people in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and increasingly in the west and is widely known as the oldest continously practiced system of medicine on the planet. The word "Ayurveda" is a tatpurusha compound of the word āyus meaning "life," "life principle," or "longevity" and the word veda, which refers to a system of "knowledge" or "wisdom." Thus "Ayurveda" roughly translates as the "wisdom for living" or "knowledge of a long life". According to Charaka Samhita, "life" itself is defined as the "combination of the body, sense organs, mind and soul, the factor responsible for preventing decay and death, which sustains the body over time, and guides the processes of rebirth."[1][2] According to this perspective, Ayurveda is concerned with measures to protect "ayus", which includes healthy living along with therapeutic measures that relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony. Ayurveda is also one among the few traditional systems of medicine to contain a sophisticated system of surgery (which is referred to as "salya-chikitsa"(chikitsa=examination)).

Ayurveda, the most ancient of the six recognized Indian Systems of Medicines, conveys knowledge that can define the quality and quantum of social and personal health status and ways to restore, maintain and upgrade it based on the principles of Vedic metaphysics (Charaka Samhita).

     Ayurveda & Purana

In the Mahabharata it is stated that Lord Krishna had a son named Samb. He was suffering from leprosy. In order to treat him, Krishna invited special Brahmins from shakdvipa (believed as present-day Iran). They were sun worshipers and famous astronomers. They treated Samb and cured him of leprosy. Shakdvipiya brahmins originated from those shakdvipa origin brahmins and are also called as magi brahmins. Sakaldwipya are said to be specialized in ayurveda, astronomy, astrology and the Sakaldwipiya are the sun worshipper or so-called Saura. The most detailed account of the origin of Śākadvīpīs or Bhojakas occurs in Bhavishya Purana  They also played a great role in Ayurveda. The founder of modern Ayurveda Charaka was a Maga or Sakaldwipiya.

     Historical evidence

The history of indigenous Indian medicine is probably as old as the Indus Valley Civilization dating back to 3000 BCE. The meticulously planned cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro are pointers not only to India’s rich cultural heritage but also to its advanced systems of hygiene and health care. The remains of deer antler and bitumen found in Harappa testify to the existence of a medical practice. It was between 1200 and 700 BCE, that the four sacred Vedas were composed. References to diseases, herbs and herbal cures can be seen in all the four Vedas especially in the Rig Veda.

The Atharva Veda has many hymns eulogizing herbs. Many plants were worshipped as deities and invoked by incantations. There were also many Mantras (invocations) to combat jaundice, consumption and hereditary diseases among others. The Atharvan hymns chanted for the cure of diseases were known as Bhaishajyams and those for attaining longevity and prosperity were called Ayushyams. These hymns, especially the Ayushyams are considered to be the foundation for advances in later medicine.

Ayurvedic practice was flourishing during the time of Buddha (around 520 BCE), and in this period the Ayurvedic practitioners were commonly using Mercuric-sulphur combination based medicines.[11] In this period mercury, sulphur and other metals were used in conjunction with herbs to prepare the different medications. An important Ayurvedic practitioner of this period was Nagarjuna, a Buddhist herbologist, famous for inventing various new drugs for the treatment of ailments. Nagarjuna was accompanied by Surananda, Nagbodhi, Yashodhana, Nityanatha, Govinda, Anantdev, Vagbhatta etc. The knowledge of Ayurveda progressed a lot during this period, including development of newer and more effective medicines, and is therefore termed as the Golden Period of Ayurveda.

After emerging victorious at the Kalinga War, Emperor Ashoka (304 BC-232 BCE) influenced by the Buddhist teachings, banned any bloodshed in his kingdom in 250 BCE. Therefore many Ayurveda practitioners, who were practicing surgery along with medicine, left the surgical intervention and adopted totally new medicinal treatments. In this period, Ayurveda again evolved and flourished with the invention of new drugs, new methodology and new innovations. The practice of the accompanying surgery slowly died out during this period.

During the regime of Chandragupta Maurya (375-415 AD), Ayurveda was part of mainstream Indian medical techniques, and continued to be so until the colonisation by the British.

Chakrapani Dutta (DuttaSharma) was a Vaid Brahman of Bengal who wrote books on Ayurveda such as "Chakradutta" and others. Chakrapani Dutta was the Rajavaidya of Great King Laxman Sen {some says rajVaid of King Nayapala (1038–1055)}. It is believed by some practitioners that Chakradutta is the essence of Ayurveda.

During the 17th century the colonial Dutch Governor in India (based in Kochi)used the palm leaf manuscripts and services of Ayurvedic physician Itty Achudan to compile his botanical treatise Hortus Malabaricus. Ayurveda has always been preserved by the people of India, despite increasing adoption of European medical techniques during the time of British rule. For several decades the reputation and skills of the various Ayurvedic schools declined markedly as Western medicine and Western-style hospitals were built. However, beginning in the 1970s, a gradual recognition of the value of Ayurveda returned, and today Ayurvedic hospitals and practitioners are flourishing throughout all of India. As well, the production and marketing of Ayurvedic herbal medicines has dramatically increased, as well as scientific documentation of benefits. Today, Ayurvedic medicines are available throughout the world.

     Gurukula system
In the earlier days of its conception, the system of Ayurvedic medicine was orally transferred via the Gurukul system until a written script came into existence.

In this system, the Guru gave a solemn address where he directed the students to a life of chastity, honesty, and vegetarianism. The student was to strive with all his being to heal the sick. He was not to betray patients for his own advantage. He was required to dress modestly and avoid alcohol or drugs. He was to be collected and self-controlled, measured in speech at all times. He was to constantly improve his knowledge and technical skill. At the patient's home, he was to be courteous and modest, directing all attention to the patient's welfare. He was not to divulge any knowledge about the patient and his family. If the patient was incurable, he was to keep this to himself if it was likely to harm the patient or others.

The normal length of the student's training appears to have been seven years. Before graduation, the student was to pass a test. But the physician was to continue to learn through texts, direct observation (pratyaksha), and through inference (anumāna). In addition, the vaidyas attended meetings where knowledge was exchanged. The practitioners also gained knowledge of unusual remedies from laypeople who were outside the huffsteter community such as hillsmen, herdsmen, and forest-dwellers.
     Sapta dhatus
Sapta means seven and the word Dhatu refers to various types of tissues the human body is made of. The word Dhatu in Sanskrit means “that which forms the body”. The root Dha means support and the Dhatus sustain the body.

The seven dhatus mentioned are Rasa, Rakta, Maamsa Medas, Asthi, Majja and Shukra.

Rasa dhatu: The food we consume is digested in the stomach and intestine and forms a semi-fluid. This is called Rasa dhatu. In modern science it is called chyme. This is absorbed into the blood stream and becomes part of the plasma the fluid which can be seen after the cells in the blood settle down at the bottom if blood mixed with an anticoagulant (a substance which prevents blood from clotting) is kept in a tube.
Rakta dhatu: Rakta means blood.
  Mamsa dhatu: This refers to muscle tissue. There are three types of muscles in the human body. The skeletal muscles are responsible for movements of joints and are under voluntary control. Smooth muscles are present in internal organs and are not under voluntary control. For example the intestines contain smooth muscles which propel food forward. Cardiac muscle is present only in the heart and is a specialized tissue responsible for pumping of blood.
Medas dhatu
  This is the adipose tissue which consists mainly of fat. It is responsible for lubrication.
Ashthi dhatu:
  This consists of bones and cartilages. Bones give strength to the body.
Majja dhatu:
  This refers to the bone marrow. It is a spongy substance inside the cavity of bones.
Shukra dhatu:
The shukra dhatu is represented by the semen in the male and the ovum in the female. It is responsible for reproduction. But a part of this dhatu transforms itself into ojas.

The word ojas is a Sanskrit word which literally means immunity, energy, vigor etc. It is somewhat an abstract entity and its equivalent in modern medicine is not known. It is the interface between the spiritual and the material dimensions of a human being.

We all know that some people are full of energy, rarely fall sick and have a bright look on their face. On the other hand some people always feel tired, fall sick frequently and look dull. It may not be possible to identify any difference between the two by conducting detailed physiological and biochemical tests.

According to ayurveda the difference is in the level of ojas. Ojas integrates body, mind and spirit together resulting in a unique individual. Ojas is responsible for bala (strength) and vyadhikshamatva (resistance to diseases).

Scriptures describe two types of ojas-Para ojas and Apara ojas. Para ojas is said to be located in the heart and its loss leads to death. Apara ojas is distributed throughout the body.

     Tridosha system
The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily humours or doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Vata is the dynamic "kinetic" principle necessary to mobilize anything from electron to a galaxy. Air is the representative in an abstract sense.
Pitta is the thermal, explosive force behind the ability to transform everything. Sun is the representative.
Kapha is the cohesion that holds everything together with its electro magnetic and gravitational forces.
All Ayurvedic physicians believe that these ancient ideas, based in the knowledge discovered by the Rishis and Munis, exist in harmony with physical reality. These Ayurvedic concepts allow physicians to examine the homeostasis of the whole system. People may be of a predominant dosha or constitution, but all doshas have the basic elements within them.
The emergence of different schools of Sanskrit philosophy like Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta and Mimamsa was another landmark in the history of Indian medicine. The principles expounded in these philosophies facilitated the development within Ayurveda of its theory of humoral pathology which propounds that the human body is composed of Tridoshas, the three humors – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When these are in equilibrium they are called the Tridhatus. The body in which these three humors are in a state of equilibrium enjoys perfect health; their disequilibrium causes ill health.
Disease management
  Shamana and Shodhana are the two concepts of disease management in Ayurveda. Shamana means alleviation. Shamana methods mitigate the disease and its symptoms. Shodhana means elimination and Shodhana methods aim at the elimination of the basic cause of disease. There are 5 types of shodana which is well known as panchakarma. Panchakarmas are vamana, virechana, nasya, basti and raktha mokshana. In shamana usually medicines are given internally where as in shodana external treatments are given. Shodana karma have 2 poorvakarma for prepraring the patients body for treatment, ie. snehana and swedana.

     Tastes and effects

Ayurveda holds that the tastes of foods or herbs have specific physiological effects. Those tastes that transform after digestion (Vipaka) are more powerful.
Sweet (Madhura) - Sweet foods nourish, cool, moisten, oil, and increase weight
Sour (Amla) - Sour foods warm, oil, and increase weight
Salty (Lavana) - Salty foods warm, dissolve, stimulate, soften, oil, and increase weight
Bitter (Katu) - Bitter foods cool, dry, purify and decrease weight
Pungent (Tikta) - Pungent foods warm, dry, stimulate, and decrease weight
Astringent (Kashaya) - Astringent foods cool, dry, reduce stickiness.
Hot (Jhala)

See also: List of herbs and minerals in Ayurveda
Ayurveda operates on the precept that various materials of vegetable, animal, and mineral origin have some medicinal value. The medicinal properties of these materials have been documented by the practitioners and have been used for centuries to cure illness and/or help maintain good health. Ayurvedic medicaments are made from herbs or mixtures of herbs, either alone or in combination with minerals, metals and other ingredients of animal origin. The metals, animals and minerals are purified by individual processes before being used for medicinal purposes.

Writers and compilers of Ayurvedic literature such as Charaka, Sushruta, Vagabhatta, Bhav Mishra, Shaligram and others have written about the qualities, characteristics and medicinal uses of the herbs, mineral, metals, chemicals, animal parts, cooked food articles, natural foods, fruits etc. Among them, the Bhav Prakash Nighantu, written by Bhav Mishra, is known for its detail .The composition of the Nighantu part (Ayurvedic Materia Medica) of the Bhav Prakash is part of the classical book. The details of the medicinal herbs are given according to the nature, effects, and curative properties as observed by the Ayurvedic practitioners.

Ayurvedic literature has been written by several authors in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and more recently, in English.The Shaligram Nighantu was written in Sanskrit. The Banaushadhi Chandrodaya was written in Hindi.The Indian Materia Medica was written in English.

     Panchakarma and Ayurvedic massage
Panchakarma (the five therapeutic modalities) is a collection of purification techniques that Ayurveda prescribes for specific conditions and diseases and for periodic cleansing. A course of Pancharkarma typically includes a nutritional adjustments, herbs, pre or co panchakarma therapies (such as oil massages, hot baths, steam or sauna, shirodhara, dehadhara, hot rice massage etc) and one or some of the main therapies (such as vamana - removal of the kapha toxins, virechana - removal of the pitta toxins, vasti - removal of the vata toxins, raktamoksha - removal of the toxins trapped in blood stream, and nasya - removal of toxins trapped in sinuses and cranial area.
Oil application and mardana - massage form the background of a course of therapy. This combination helps heal pain, circulatory problems, residue of stress, disturbed sleep, stiffness and tiredness. Massage therapy can soothe pain, relax stiff muscles, and reduce the swelling that accompanies arthritis   Advocates claim that, with Ayurvedic massage, deep-seated toxins in the joints and tissues are loosened and released into the system for elimination through natural toxin-release processes. There are several different types of Ayurvedic treatments such as panchakarma, marma massage and abhyangam. Ayurvedic massage is especially developed in Sri Lanka and the Indian state of Kerala.

In the early 20th century, Ayurvedic physicians began to organize into professional associations and to promote their case for national recognition and funding. This began to become a reality after Indian independence in 1947.

Ayurveda is now a statutory, recognised medical system of health care like other medical systems existing in India. The Central Council of Indian Medicine {CCIM} governs and recommends policies for the research and development of the system. An Encyclopedia on Ayurveda - Ayushveda.com has been developed to promote the knowledge of Ayurveda worldwide.

In India, practitioners in Ayurveda undergo 5 and 1/2 years of training including 1 year of internship in select Ayurveda Medical Schools wherein they earn the professional doctorate degree of Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery[B.A.M.S.]. A Bachelor's degree with a major in Science [Physics, Chemistry, Biology] and a minor in Sanskrit is desirable for candidates interested in taking up the course.

Select institutions like the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, offer higher doctorates and postgraduate training such as MD [Ayurveda] which includes a 3 year residency and a dissertation similar to the MD/MS degrees in modern systems of medicine.
     Current Status
Ayurvedic institutions and practitioners
  Ayurvedic practitioners have been appointed as Honorary Ayurvedic Physician to the President of India. Every year on the occasion of Dhanvantari jayanti, a prestigious Dhanvantari Award is conferred on a famous personality of Medicine, including Ayurveda. Traditionally Kerala has been the leading state in India that promoted Ayurveda as a medical system, because there existed about 18 families known as 'Ashtavaidyas' who practised ayurveda generation after generation. Even now a few number of these families exist (Pulamanthole Mooss, Thaikkattu mooss,Vayaskara Mooss,Alathur Nambi, Vaidyamadhom, etc.).They taught the ayurveda system of treatment to several people and it spread through them. It led to the establishment of Ayurveda colleges and also inspired research activities in Ayurveda. Now there are many Ayurvedic centers (known as Vaidya shalas) all over Kerala, and, of late, several Ayurveda colleges also have come up.
Practice in the West
  The gold standard for Ayurveda remains in India, where clinical practice, research and education remain the most authentic. However, attempts are being made by westerners to export the essence of ayurveda to complement their own medical systems, where steadily biomedicine industry predominates.

As a result of regulations in medical practice in Europe and the America, the most commonly practiced Ayurvedic treatments in the west are massage, dietary counseling and herbal advice. The NAMA (National Ayurvedic Medical Association-USA) is one of several groups seeking to set standards for ayurveda in the West. There are 26 schools in the US and dozens in Europe which are teaching 500+ hour courses for proficiency at Ayurvedic Health Practitioners, certified but not licensed.

US-based schools of Ayurveda Alandi Ashram Ayurveda Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico Blue Lotus Ayurveda California College of Ayurveda Chopra Center Florida Hindu University Dhanvantari Ayurveda The Dinacharya Institute, New York, NY Florida Vedic Institute Ganesha Institute, Kanyakumari, Milwaukee, WI American University of Complementary Medicine, UCLA, Los Angeles Kerala Ayurveda Academy, Seattle Kripalu School of Ayurveda, Massachusetts Mount Madonna Institute, California New Jersey Institute of Ayurveda, Starseed Yoga National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, Brewster, New York Ojas Ayurveda and Yoga Institute Prana Yoga and Ayurveda Mandela Rocky Mountain Institute SAI Ayurveda School of Miami, Florida Tulsi School of Ayurveda Wise Earth School of Ayurveda Vedika Global

Several authors have also emerged in the West to elucidate concepts of ayurveda for modern medical practitioners. Vasant D. Lad, BAMS, of The Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, is widely acknowledged for his prolific writings and texts for his thousands of students. Other authors include Sebastian Pole, Maya Tiwari, Robert Svoboda, Deepak Chopra, and Hari Sharma. In addition, psychiatrist Frank John Ninivaggi, MD of Yale University School of Medicine has recently (2008) outlined the principles of Ayurveda, specifically for Western health practitioners.

In the United States,the NIH NCCAM expends some of its $123 million budget on ayurvedic medicine research. In addition, the National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, established by Dr. Scott Gerson, is an example of a research institute that has carried out research into Ayurvedic practices.  Gerson has published part of his work on the antifungal activities of certain Ayurvedic plants in medical journals.[16] Other notable researchers on ayurveda in the West include Dr. Bala Manyam, the Maharishi Ayurveda group in Fairfield, Iowa, and Dr. Mano Venkatraman at Univ of Washington, Seattle.
Ayurveda's Entry into the Nutraceutical Industry of the West
Several pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions in the west have come into conflict with Indian academic institutions and traditional Ayurvedic practitioners over the intellectual property rights of herbal products researched by the western agencies. The Ayurvedic practitioners have known about the efficacy of such products for centuries and so contend that they carry precedence with regards to patent rights on such products.

In December 1993, the University of Mississippi Medical Center had a patent issued to them by US Patents and Trademarks office on the use of turmeric (US Patent No. 5,401,504) for healing. The patent was contested by India's industrial research organization, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (C.S.I.R), on the grounds that traditional Ayurvedic practitioners were already aware of the healing properties of the substance and have been for centuries, making this patent a case of bio-piracy.

After a complex legal battle, the US PTO ruled on August 14, 1997 that the patent was invalid because it was not a novel invention, giving the intellectual property rights to the principle back to the traditional practitioners of Ayurveda. R. A. Mashelkar, director-general of the CSIR, was satisfied with the result, saying:

"This success will enhance the confidence of the people and help remove fears about India's helplessness on preventing bio-piracy and appropriation of inventions based on traditional knowledge”

Vandana Shiva, a global campaigner for a fair and honest Intellectual Property Rights system, says patents on herbal products derived from Neem, Amla, Jar Amla, Anar ("Pomegranate"), Salai, Dudhi ("Calabash"), Gulmendhi, Bagbherenda, Karela, Erand, Rangoon-kibel, Vilayetishisham and Chamkura also need to be revoked.

Seven American and four Japanese firms have filed for grant of patents on formulations containing extracts of the herb Ashwagandha. Fruits, leaves and seeds of the Indian medicinal plant withania somnifera have been traditionally used for the Ayurvedic system as aphrodisiacs, diuretics and for treating memory loss. The Japanese patent applications are related to the use of the herb as a skin ointment and for promoting reproductive fertility. The U.S based company Natreon has also obtained a patent for an Ashwagandha extract. Another US establishment, the New England Deaconess Hospital, has taken a patent on an Ashwagandha formulation claimed to alleviate symptoms associated with arthritis. It is clear that the Ashwagandha plant is catching the attention of scientists and more patents related to Ashwagandha are being filed or granted by different patent offices since 1996.

Ayurvedic wisdom originated in the main Vedas as a part of way of life - a spiritual connection with spirit and nature. This is most evident reading Atharva Veda. Ayurveda was used to remove obstacles on one’s path to Self-Realization. At some point the medical aspects began to take priority over the spiritual forms of healing (ie, focusing on lifestyle, dharma and moksha. Today, these spiritual aspects of Ayurveda have taken a back seat to the medical focus. As Ayurveda becomes a more commercially viable career, the spiritual aspects may continue to lose ground. Yet there are a growing number of practitioners who practice mainly these spiritual therapies and find better results than limiting their approach to the medical, physical realm.

National Library of Ayurveda Medicine [NLAM]
  NLAM is a one-of-a-kind large-scale project with the objective of standardizing Ayurveda medicine. The NLAM repository explains in detail the preparation methods of various Ayurveda formulations using standard terms. It gives brief explanation and co-relation of plants, minerals, metals and gemstones (also known as Ratnagarbhas) used as ingredients in Ayurveda medicine. The NLAM digital library / database is being developed per the following guidelines.