Reflections on Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda, the science of life, has its origin in the Indian subcontinent. The main emphasis of Ayurvedic Medicine is to prevent loss of harmony in the person and to regain it if disharmony has occurred. From the dawn of history, dating back many thousands of years, Ayurveda has practiced pharmacy, surgery and psychology.

The principles of Ayurveda may be summarized as follows:

  1. Regulation of the daily regimen of life
    • Elimination
    • Cleaning and washing. Cleaning teeth and mouth, washing the body and the application of oil, care of the hair, beard, nails etc.
    • Meals. Time when meals are to be taken. Drinking copious amount of clear water, (rain water being the best), after meals. Types of food — cereals, fruit, vegetables, nuts, spices. Legumes and lentils and the best kinds of meats (eg) birds
    • Exercise, massage, baths, rest and sleep
    • Regulation of sexual intimacy (eg) days and time etc
  2. Diet: Taste of food while eating. Taste during and after digestion are important. The potency of articles consumed and their food types. Food articles and their effect on the person are crucial for health, (eg) foods that upset the harmony of life are those producing excessive fermentation or flatulence; bitter taste in the mouth, after food or otherwise, is considered as a cardinal symptom; excessive secretion of phlegm. Diet changes are necessary according to the change of seasons. Diet must also be modified so as to be based on the constitution of the person.
  3. Clothing and footwear: Clean clothes and head dress and well fitting footwear are recommended. Jewels and garlands are known to have strengthening effects on the vital power of the person.
  4. Holistic Health: Ayurvedic Medicine while emphasizing the importance of physical and mental health, deals with health in a comprehensive holistic manner. Along with diet, exercise, rest etc, acquiring right and proper knowledge, temperance (self control) and mental concentration (meditation) are recommended. Mistakes of the mind include uncontrolled passion, expression of extremes of grief, anger, fear, pride, jealousy, stealing, feelings of attachment or solitude and an unruly tongue. Keeping company with people of virtuous life is important for health.
  5. Diagnosis: Diagnosis mainly is made by observation, palpation, percussion and auscultation; pulse, respiration, the look of eyes, color of skin, tone of voice, nature of bowel movement, urine (color, smell, etc) taste and color of tongue, and sleep are generally the main indicators of health and illness. The taking of a personal history is very important for proper diagnosis.
  6. Treatment: Diseases are classified into curable and incurable. Curable ones are further grouped into curable by easy methods; neither easy nor difficult; or difficult methods.

In the treating of disease, regimen of life and diet play an important part and work in conjunction with any drugs used. Medicines are prepared from the vegetable, animal and mineral kingdoms and are:

  1. Taken internally
  2. Applied externally

Surgery is reserved for conditions which cannot be treated with medicine. Common surgical procedures used are excision, incision, puncture, drainage, extraction, suturing, correcting deformities and treating deviations due to injuries.

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