(Last Updated on : 27/10/2010)
Around 5000 years ago, Indians evolved a unique system of health care called `Ayurveda`. This took care of all their ailments and diseases. Later with the introduction of Allopathic treatment, ayurveda lost its initial respect. However, off late, not only Indians, but also people from various other countries have realized the importance and effectiveness of Ayurveda in providing a holistic treatment to sick people. Also, people are reverting to this ancient system of treatment because it believes in treating not only the body; rather it refreshes and rejuvenates the exhausted soul.
Its increasing popularity is also due to the fact that people want to retreat from their stressful life (which is the reason for much of their ailments) for a while and give their mind and body a much needed break. The best way to do is to lend yourself completely to ayurvedic treatment. After all, the term Ayurveda itself means `science of life and longevity`.
The south Indian state of Kerala is the hub of Ayurvedic treatment in the country. The climate and the availability of desired herbal and medicinal plants have contributed to make this land the `land of Ayurveda`. Moreover, the people of the state enthusiastically safeguard and promote their ancient system of treatment to make sure that it is not lost amidst the modern day development. The best season to take ayurvedic treatment in the state is the cool monsoon season that extends from June to November. This time is preferred because according to the traditional text, the rain cleanses the environment from dust to the maximum in this season thereby allowing the body pores to open up and become friendlier to herbal oils and therapy.
Kerala`s calm climate, natural abundance of forests (with a wealth of herbs and medicinal plants), and the cool monsoon season are best suited for Ayurvedas curative and restorative packages. In fact, today, Kerala is the only State in India, which practises this system of medicine with absolute dedication.
This new system of medicine stressed on the prevention of body ailments in addition to curing them. Followed by the Dravidians and Aryans alike, Ayurveda has been practised ever since. Today, it`s a unique, indispensable branch of medicine - a complete naturalistic system that depends on the diagnosis of your body`s humours - vata, pitta and kapha - to achieve the right balance.
Ayurveda believes in the treatment of not just the affected part, but also the individual as a whole. Making it the natural way to refresh you, get rid of all toxic imbalances from the body and thus regain resistance and good health. Kerala is the most famous destination for ayurvedic treatment in India. It attracts tourists not only from other parts of India but also from different countries. The treatment mainly comprises of powders, tablets, decoctions, medicated oils etc. prepared from natural herbs, plants and minerals. Panch Karma therapy is also used as a treatment in many diseases.
Kerala, the land of spices, is the best place to get to know and experience. Ayurveda, be it Ayurvedic products or service. Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old natural herbal health care system has been recognized by the world over as the most perfected body-mind health care system. Kerala, the union of different natural herbal systems, enriched and fine-tuned Ayurveda. While Siddha and Marma systems in southern Kerala enriched the Ayurvedic system, it joined hands with Kalaripayattu and Kalari Therapy in northern Kerala.
This resulted in the emergence of a new stream noted for its special procedures and formulations.
Agasthyakoodam, a legendary herbal mountain near Neyyar Dam, 20 kms south of Thiruvananthapuram, has an ancient history as the home of Siddha medicine. Agasthyakoodam is considered to be the abode of sage Agasthya, the foremost among the Siddhars who developed the Siddha medical system. Agasthyakoodam and its surrounding Western Ghats, 1500m above sea level, constitute the hot bed of bio-diversity. Eight percent of the plant species found here is prevalent in this region. According to Buddhist tradition, Sage Agasthya was a Buddhist monk whose contributions developed Siddha medicine. The 2,500- year old Tamil Sangam literature talks about Agasthyakoodam as a mountain Potalaka which is considered to be the abode of Avolikideswara, a Buddhist deity. Many Buddhist scholars from all over the world used to visit this place in the days of yore. Potala in Tibet, which is the seat of the Dalai Lama, is believed to be the replica of Potalaka.The herbal-healing culture, which spread around this mystical herbal mountain, gave birth to a very potent branch of Ayurveda, which is found in southern Kerala. Kalari system contributed to the growth of Ayurveda in northern Kerala.
Kerala, situated in the tropical region, has incomparable herbal wealth compared to the other parts of India. Though the very same herbs are found in the Himalayas, the herbs of Kerala have a special strength due to its unique geographical position and tropical climate. These aspects made it possible for the healers of Kerala to perfect the preparation of Ayurvedic medicine. Even for classic Ayurvedic preparations, Kerala Ayurveda has evolved its own formulations that are superior in effect.
Kerala has an unbroken tradition of Sanskrit (the language of ancient wisdom) learning. This knowledge of Sanskrit enables the healers of Kerala to interpret the Ayurvedic system accurately and get a proper insight. The Namboothiri Brahmins even today follow the Vedic tradition and knowledge systems. They are the only people who can perform the fire sacrifices or yajnas as they were done during the Vedic times and pronounce the Vedic chants the original way. They still practice Ayurveda and contribute to the effectiveness of the system. Sanskrit learning has spread to all layers of Kerala society. Ayurveda is a living tradition belonging to people of all socio-cultural groups.
The Ashtavaidyan tradition of Kerala
Legend has it that when Parasuram created Kerala, the southernmost tip of India, it consisted of 18 city-states with 18 kings to rule over them. Each city-state also had a family that practiced Ayurveda and other traditional healing systems in order to look after king and his subjects. These medical practitioners were known as Ashtavaidyans, literally translated to doctors trained in the 8 (ashta means eight) branches of Ayurvedic medicine - kaayam (general medicine, baalam (pediatrics), griham (psychiatry), urdhavangam (including all the organs above the neck - eyes, ears, nose, teeth, throat, etc.), shalyam (surgery), dhamshtra (therapy for poisoning), jara (anti-ageing treatment) and sexual diseases.
Thus, 18 families of Ashtavaidyans existed in the days of yore. They were the torchbearers of the 5000-year-old Ayurvedic healing system in Kerala. However, since they were engaged in surgery and were likely to touch blood, they were not allowed to intermingle with other Brahmin families. This led to a lot of inbreeding within these 18 families and consequently, a decline in their fertility. Thus the Ashtavaidyans came to be reduced to 8 families. Alathur, Chirattamannu, Ilayidathu Thaikkadu, Pazhanellipurathu Thaikkadu, Pulamanthol and Vayaskara are the six families of Ashtavaidyans still practicing today.
Facilities available in Kerala
1. Rejuvenation Therapy of Kerala
Rejuvenation Therapy or the Rasayana Chikitsa is meant to improve the resistance of the body by increasing the Ojas (Primary Vitality) and working on Sattva (Mental Clarity) with the help of massage and herbal bath.
2. Body Immunisation and Longevity Treatment
Kayakalpa Chikitsa is meant to slower the process of aging with the help of special ayurvedic medicine and diet.
3. Body Sudation
Sweda Karm is aimed at improving body complexion and reducing fat. It is also utilised in curing certain rheumatic (aching) diseases with the help of steam baths.
4. General Massage Therapy for Rejuvenation
Abhyanga improves the immune system, thereby strengthening the body on the whole. Also helps to enjoy a good eyesight and peaceful sleep.
Other treatments offered in Kerala
The Ayurvedic treatment helps the tourists maintain health by using the inherent principles of nature to bring the individual back into balance with their true self. The Ayurvedic Treatments offered in Kerala includes the following:
It is a process by which the whole body or any specific part thereof is made to perspire by the application of certain medical puddings externally in the form of Boluses tied up in muslin bag. Two to four therapists apply this for about 60-90 minutes per day for a period of 14 days. This Treatment is for all types of Rheumatism, Pain in the Joints, Emaciation of limbs, High blood pressure, Cholesterol and certain kinds of skin diseases.
Special type of oil massage in which strokes are given according to the diseases for 45 minutes per day for 14 days. This treatment is very useful for Obesity, Especially for Diabetic Gangrene etc.
Herbal leaves and herbs or herbal powders are applied to the whole body in boluses with hot medicated oils for 45 minutes per day for a period of 7 to 14 days. This treatment is for osteoarthritis, arthritis with swelling, spondilosis, sports injuries etc.
This is a typical massage with herbal powder for about 30 to 45 minutes daily for a period of 14 to 28 days. This treatment is for the diseases like Hemitplegia, Paralysis, Obesity and certain Rheumatic ailments.
It is one among the rare and special treatments of Kerala. In this treatment, lukewarm herbal oils are applied all over the body by two to four trained therapists in a special rhythmic way continuously for about 60 to 90 minutes per day for a period of 7 to 21 days. This treatment is done in a special table made from a single piece of Strychnos Nuxvomica wood. This treatment is very useful for Rheumatic diseases like arthritis, paralysis, hemiplegia, paralysis - agitanus, sexual weakness, nervous weakness and nervous disorders etc.
Sira - means Head and Dhara means the continuous flow of a liquid. In this process some herbal oils, medicated milk, medicated butter milk etc, are poured on the forehead in a special method of about 40 minutes in a day for a period of 7 to 21 days. This treatment is mainly for insomnia, loss of memory, headaches, mental tensions and certain skin diseases.
It is also known as Medicated Enema. Vasthi is a therapeutic procedure in which certain herbal oils; herbal extracts, etc. are applied through the rectum daily for a period of 5 to 25 days. This treatment is effective for arthritis, paralysis, hemiplegia, numbness, gastric complaints, rheumatism and chronic constipation.
Certain lukewarm herbal oils are poured into a cap fitted on the head and held for 15 to 60 minutes per day according to the patient`s conditions for a period of 7 days. This treatment is highly effective for facial paralysis, dryness of nostrils, mouth and throat, severe headaches and other diseases of the head.
Sandhi Vatha Chikitsa
Unlike the modern medicine Ayurveda has very effective cures for Arthritic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteo arthritis, ankylosing spondylosis, cervical spondylosis, osteoporosis etc. This programme includes massage, lepanam, and oil application on affected parts, kizhi, steam bath, snehavasthy, kakshaya vasthy, pizhichil, njavarakizhi, snehapanam and internal medicines.
Being one among the Panchakarma procedures, Nasyam is a treatment in which herbal juices, medicated oils etc, are applied through nose for 7 to 14 days. This treatment is highly effective for certain kinds of headaches, paralysis mental disorders, some types of skin diseases etc.
This word literally means oral intake of medicated oils or ghee preparations. This is done as a therapeutic procedure and also as a preparatory process during the body purification therapy. In this treatment, medicated ghee or oils are given internally in proportionally increasing quantity for a period of 08 - 12 days. This treatment is very effective for osteo arthritis, psoriasis chronic constipation, haemorrhoids etc.
Warm herbal liquid is poured all over the body in rhythmic way using a special vessel. This is done for 45 minutes to 01 hour daily. This treatment is very effective for hemiplegia, paralysis.
This is a special procedure in which a mixture for medicinal decoction and cows milk is heated and the steam thus liberated is passed to a tube and applied over the affected area or whole body. This is found very effective for facial palsies, speech disorders, ptosis and various nervous disorders.
Special powder mixed with medicated oil is applied on the top of the head for 20 to 45 minutes. This treatment is helpful for curing ENT problems, insomnia, migraine etc.
This is a process in which medicated herbal paste is applied on the affected part, this is useful for various types of inflammatory conditions, skin diseases, arthritis, gout, etc.
Various medicinal herbs selected according to dosha predominance is made into a paste and applied to the scalp for 30 to 45 minutes. This treatment is good for insomnia, premature, greying and other problems to the hair and scalp.
Ayurveda, the knowledge of the life is not only related with the body, but with the mind and soul also, this particular treatment program is very much helpful for conditions like insomnia (lack of sleep), anxiety and it improves immunity and self-confidence. This treatment program includes body massages, shirovasthy, ksheeradhara, thailadhara, thalam, thalapothichil and internal Ayurvedic medicines, yoga and meditation.
Ayurvedic Centers in Kerala
Trivandrum, Kottayam, Kochi, Kollam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Alappuzha, Munnar, Kumily, Kumarakom, Thrissur, Kovalam, Varkala, Kottakkal, Kappad are some of the places, where numerous centers of Ayurvedic treatment are found.