Ayurveda - a 3000 years old cure culture.
Āyurveda (Devanāgarī: आयुर्वेद, the "science of life", usually rendered simply ayurveda in English) or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, the word ayurvedaconsists of the words āyus, meaning "life", and veda, meaning "related to knowledge" or "science".Evolving throughout its history, ayurveda remains an influential system of medicine in South Asia. The earliest literature of ayurveda appeared during the Vedic period in India. The Sushruta Samhita and the Charaka Samhita were influential works on traditional medicine during this era. Ayurvedic practitioners, called "Ayurvedacharyas", have also identified a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for curing various ailments and diseases. Ayurveda is considered to be a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the western world, where several of its methods, such as the use of herbs, massage, and yoga, are applied on their own as a form of CAM treatment.

Ayurveda is grounded in a metaphysics of the "five great elements" (Devanāgarī: [महा] पञ्चभूत; earth, water, fire, air and ether)—all of which compose the Universe, including the human body. Chyle or plasma (called rasa dhatu), blood (rakta dhatu), flesh (mamsa dhatu), fat (medha dhatu), bone (asthi dhatu), marrow (majja dhatu), and semen or female reproductive tissue (shukra dhatu) are held to be the seven primary constituent elements (Devanāgarī: सप्तधातु) of the body. Ayurveda deals elaborately with measures of healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Ayurveda stresses a balance of three elemental energies or humors: vata (air in space – "wind"), pitta (fire in water – "bile") and kapha (water in earth – "phlegm"). According to ayurveda, these three regulatory principles— Doshas (literally that which deteriorates - Devanāgarī: त्रिदोष)—are important for health, because when they are in balanced state, the body is healthy, and when imbalanced, the body has diseases. Ayurveda holds that each human possesses a unique combination of Doshas. In ayurveda, the human body perceives attributes of experiences as 20 Guna (Devanāgarī: गुण, meaning qualities). Surgery and surgical instruments are employed. It is believed that building a healthy metabolic system, attaining good digestion, and proper excretion leads to vitality. Ayurveda also focuses on exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage. Thus, body, mind, and spirit/consciousness need to be addressed both individually and in unison for health to ensue. As Robert Svoboda attempts to summarize the three major paths of the Vedic knowledge, he exclaims: "Because every embodied individual is composed of a body, a mind and a spirit, the ancient Rishis of India who developed the Science of Life organized their wisdom into three bodies of knowledge: Ayurveda, which deals mainly with the physical body; Yoga, which deals mainly with spirit; and Tantra, which is mainly concerned with the mind. The philosophy of all three is identical; their manifestations differ because of their differing emphases. Ayurveda is most concerned woth the physical basis of life, concentrating on its harmony of mind and spirit. Yoga controls body and mind to enable them to harmonize with spirit, and Tantra seeks to use the mind to balance the demands of body and spirit." The practice of Panchakarma (Devanāgarī: पंचकर्म‌) is believed to eliminate toxic elements from the body. Eight disciplines of ayurveda treatment, called ashtangas (Devanāgarī: अष्टांग), are given below: Internal medicine (Kaaya-chikitsa) Paediatrics (Kaumarabhrtyam) Surgery (Shalya-chikitsa) Treatment of diseases above the clavicle (Salakyam) Demonic possession (Bhuta vidya): Bhuta vidya has been called psychiatry. Toxicology (Agadatantram) Prevention diseases and improving immunity and rejuvenation (rasayana) Aphrodisiacs and improving health of progeny (Vajikaranam)

Dhanvantari is said to be an avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition, and god of ayurvedic medicine. Dhanvantari was an early Indian medical practitioner and one of the world’s first surgeons. Based on Vedic traditions, he is regarded as the source of ayurveda. He perfected many herbal based cures and natural remedies and was credited with the discovery of the antiseptic properties of turmeric and the preservative properties of salt which he incorporated in his cures"I the Lord Dhanvantri brought this healing science on earth from heaven."- Quote of Dhanvantri himself in the literature concerned

Hinduism and Buddhism have been an influence on the development of many of ayurveda's central ideas — particularly its fascination with balance, known in Buddhism as Madhyatmika (Devanāgarī: माध्यात्मिक).[15] Balance is emphasized; suppressing natural urges is seen to be unhealthy, and doing so may almost certainly lead to illness.[15] To stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure is stressed upon.[15] Ayurveda places an emphasis on moderation in food intake, sleep, sexual intercourse, and the intake of medicine.

Ayurveda incorporates an entire system of dietary recommendations.Chopra (2003) writes on this topic:

"Ayurvedic dietetics comprise a host of recommendations, ranging from preparation and consumption of food, to healthy routines for day and night, sexual life, and rules for ethical conduct. In contrast to contemporary practitioners of New Age Ayurveda, older Ayurvedic authors tended to be religiously neutral. Even Buddhist authors refrained from trying to convert the patient to follow their particular religious ways." For diagnosis the patient is to be questioned and all five senses are to be employed.[17] The Charaka Samhita recommends a tenfold examination of the patient.[17] The qualities to be judged are: constitution, abnormality, essence, stability, body measurements, diet suitability, psychic strength, digestive capacity, physical fitness and age.[17] Hearing is used to observe the condition of breathing and speech.[8] The study of the vital pressure points or marma is of special importance.[9] It is the trauma science described in ayurveda. There are 107 different spots described and located on the body surface which produce different signs and symptoms. With respect to the underlying anatomical structures, the symptoms vary according to blunt or penetrating trauma. The severity of the symptoms and signs also depend on whether the injury is exactly on the marma point or slightly around it. These signs and symptoms are described by Sushruta and Wagbhatta. Chopra (2003) identifies five influential criteria for diagnosis: 'origin of the disease, prodrominal (precursory) symptoms, typical symptoms of the fully developed disease, observing the effect of therapeutic procedures, and the pathological process'.[17] Hygiene — also a component of religious virtue to many Indians — is a strong belief.[8] Hygienic living involves regular bathing, cleansing of teeth, skin care, and eye washing.[8] Occasional anointing of the body with oil is also prescribed.[8]

Oils such as sesame and sunflower oil are extensively used in ayurvedic medicine. Studies show that both these oils contain substantial amount of linoleate in triglyceride form. Oils rich in linoleic acid may have antineoplastic properties.[18]

Hundreds of vegetable drugs are used in ayurvedic medicine—including cardamom and cinnamon.[19] Ayurveda stresses the use of vegetable drugs.[8] Fats are used both for consumption and for external use.[8] Hundreds of vegetable drugs are employed, including cardamom and cinnamon.[8] Some animal products may also be used, for example milk, bones, and gallstones.[8] Minerals, including sulfur, arsenic, lead, copper sulfate and gold are also consumed as prescribed.[8] This practice of adding minerals to herbal medicine is known as rasa shastra. In some cases, alcohol is used as a narcotic for the patient undergoing an operation.[8] The advent of Islam introduced opium as a narcotic.[13] Both oil and tar are used to stop bleeding.[8] Traumatic bleeding is said to be stopped by four different methods ligation of the blood vessel; cauterisation by heat; using different herbal or animal preparations locally which facilitate clotting; and different medical preparations which constrict the bleeding or oozing vessels. Different oils may be used in a number of ways including regular consumption as a part of food, anointing, smearing, head massage, and prescribed application to infected areas.[20] The proper function of channels (srotas) that transport fluids from one point to another within the body is seen as vital, and the lack of healthy srotas may lead to disease and insanity.[21] Sushruta identifies that blockages of these channels may lead to rheumatism, epilepsy, paralysis, and convulsions as fluids and channels are diverted from their ideal locations.[21] Sweating is used as a means to open up the channels and dilute the Doshas causing the blockages and harming a patient. A number of ways to take steam bathing and other steam related cures are recommended so that toxins are released.[21]

Around 1500 BCE, ayurveda's fundamental and applied principles got organised and enunciated. Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas, Atharvaveda in particular, and is connected to Hindu religion. Atharvaveda (one of the four most ancient books of Indian knowledge, wisdom and culture) contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda originated in and developed from these hymns. In this sense, ayurveda is considered by some to have divine origin. Indian medicine has a long history, and is one of the oldest organised systems of medicine. Its earliest concepts are set out in the sacred writings called the Vedas, especially in the metrical passages of the Atharvaveda, which may possibly date as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. According to a later writer, the system of medicine was received by a man named Dhanvantari from Brahma, and Dhanvantari was deified as the god of medicine. In later times his status was gradually reduced, until he was credited with having been an earthly king.[8] The Sushruta Samhita of Sushruta appeared during the 1st millennium BCE.[6] Dwivedi & Dwivedi (2007) – on the work of the surgeon Sushruta – write:

"The main vehicle of the transmission of knowledge during that period was by oral method. The language used was Sanskrit — the vedic language of that period (2000–500 BCE). The most authentic compilation of his teachings and work is presently available in a treatise called Sushruta Samhita. This contains 184 chapters and description of 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources."

Underwood & Rhodes (2008) hold that this early phase of traditional Indian medicine identified 'fever (takman), cough, consumption, diarrhea, dropsy, abscesses, seizures, tumours, and skin diseases (including leprosy)'.[8] Treatment of complex ailments, including angina pectoris, diabetes, hypertension, and stones, also ensued during this period.[6][23] Plastic surgery, cataract surgery, puncturing to release fluids in the abdomen, extraction of foreign elements, treatment of anal fistulas, treating fractures, amputations, cesarean sections, and stitching of wounds were known.[8] The use of herbs and surgical instruments became widespread.[8] The Charaka Samhita text is arguably the principal classic reference. It gives emphasis to the triune nature of each person: body care, mental regulation, and spiritual/consciousness refinement.

Other early works of ayurveda include the Charaka Samhita, attributed to Charaka.[8] The earliest surviving excavated written material which contains the works of Sushruta is the Bower Manuscript, dated to the 4th century CE.[25] The Bower manuscript quotes directly from Sushruta and is of special interest to historians due to the presence of Indian medicine and its concepts in Central Asia.[26] Vagbhata, the son of a senior doctor by the name of Simhagupta,[27] also compiled his works on traditional medicine.[8] Early ayurveda had a school of physicians and a school of surgeons.[2] Tradition holds that the text Agnivesh tantra, written by the sage Agnivesh, a student of the sage Bharadwaja, influenced the writings of ayurveda.[28]

The Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien (ca. 337–422 CE) wrote about the health care system of the Gupta empire (320–550) and described the institutional approach of Indian medicine, also visible in the works of Charaka, who mentions a clinic and how it should be equipped.[29] Madhava (fl. 700), Sarngadhara (fl. 1300), and Bhavamisra (fl. 1500) compiled works on Indian medicine.[26] The medical works of both Sushruta and Charaka were translated into the Arabic language during the Abbasid Caliphate (ca. 750).[30] These Arabic works made their way into Europe via intermediaries.[30] In Italy, the Branca family of Sicily and Gaspare Tagliacozzi (Bologna) became familiar with the techniques of Sushruta.[30]

British physicians traveled to India to see rhinoplasty being performed by native methods.[31] Reports on Indian rhinoplasty were published in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1794.[31] Joseph Constantine Carpue spent 20 years in India studying local plastic surgery methods.[31] Carpue was able to perform the first major surgery in the western world in 1815.[32] Instruments described in the Sushruta Samhita were further modified in the Western World.[32]