Throughout the early ages, plants and herbs were the essential mainstay for the treatment of illness. Through a series of trials and errors, single and combined herbal formulas were refined and evolved into a very sophisticated system of herbal medicines and often became the natural forerunner of many of today's synthetic pharmaceuticals.
Thousands of years ago, several ancient civilizations developed highly complicated systems of medical treatments. The Sanskrit words, ayu (“life) and veda “book/knowledge” (or, more recently, “science”), described a comprehensive system of medicine based on a holistic approach that was rooted in Vedic culture. The Vedic civilization is the Indo-Aryan culture associated with the Vedas, the earliest known records of Indian history. Mainstream scholarship places the Vedic civilization into the second and first millennia B.C., based upon alleged astronomical information in the texts. The use of Vedic Sanskrit continued up to the sixth century B.C., when the culture began transforming into classical forms of Hinduism.
The word Veda not only means book, but it has often been called the book. It is a compendium of philosophical concepts that has been handed down over ten thousand years through the haze of the ages; and Ayurveda, which is translated as “the science of life,” became the traditional, natural healing system of medicine that was established five thousand years ago by the great Indian philosophers who developed India's original systems of health, meditation and Yoga. It is considered the world's oldest school of medicine and also includes a tradition of surgery. Two early texts of Ayurveda are the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita.
Legend claims that over three thousand years ago, the curative properties of each tree, plant, herb, root and flower were revealed by the Creator, known as Brahma, to Dhanwantari, a great sage, as he sat meditating in a forest. Subsequent philosophers and sages continued developing and learning about the connections between the natural world of plants and minerals and the human world and how sound health could be achieved by cultivating a harmonious balance of the three energies (or doshas ) that are found in all life and matter: vata, pitta and kapha. Like Chinese medicine, when these elements are in a state of equilibrium, the body remains healthy. If there is a prolonged deficiency or excess in one or another, the body will succumb to disease and decay.
Unlike Western medicine (but very much like Traditional Chinese Medicine), Ayurvedic medicine views the patient as a microcosm of all the cosmic forces: prana (breath/life), agni (spirit/fire) and soma (love/harmony), which interact with the elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether/space. These elements flow through energy centers or charkas . The elements are combined into three humors, as noted above: vata (wind), pitta (fire/bile) and kapha (phlegm), and these humors comprise the individual's health profile, which ultimately determine the kind of herb and foods to be prescribed. Ayurveda employs some five hundred herbs in its natural healing system , which also includes diet, life-style counseling, psychology, spirituality and physical conditioning, and it is used throughout India, Nepal, Tibet and other Himalayan regions. It is not simply a book of medical science; it is a social, philosophical, intellectual, ethical and spiritual body of work.
Ayurveda treats the whole person, not just the disease, and emphasizes disease prevention, rather than simply the cure of symptoms. Today, an estimated three hundred thousand Ayurvedic physicians practice in India alone, often working closely with doctors who are trained in conventional Western medicine. Ayurveda is considered a way of life, and its goal is to promote a harmonious balance between body and soul in an attempt to pursue physical, mental and spiritual health.
Ayurveda was very much ahead of its time. Ayurvedic practitioners understood the importance of physical and mental harmony long before such a concept was ever seriously considered in Western medicine or by the many twenty-first-century physicians who now appear to hold such a healing philosophy in very high regard.
A very peculiar practice - From the BBC News Health Section - 08/26/99
At the Hale Clinic in London - where Diana, Princess of Wales,
used to receive treatment - you can see anyone from an osteopath to a Qi Gong therapist. Dr. Dooja Purkitt, who was medically trained in India, practices Ayurvedic medicine at the clinic - an ancient Indian art which uses herbal remedies, yoga, massage and meditation.