(Last Updated on : 26/03/2011)
Ayurveda is the `science of life and longevity`. Practiced since the pre Vedic period Ayurveda in India is indeed one of the well recognised traditional systems of medicine emphasizing the divine use of mind, body and the spirit in the prevention and curing of ailments. Quite ideally therefore ayurveda as a holistic treatment procedure maintains a definite relationship between the metaphysical state and the illness of an individual. There are eight branches of ayurveda known as the ashtanga ayurveda. With support of these eight branches, ayurveda promises a healthy living during the entire life span whilst combining the body, mind and spirit with that metaphysical cord of "ayus"(life) and "veda"(knowledge).
Precisely, the eight branches of ayurveda or ashtanga ayurveda deals with the measures that are considered as the required elements for living a healthy life whilst striking the balance and harmony within human existence. The eight branches of ayurveda which has been categorised as Kayachikitsa
i.e. general medicine; Shalya tantra
i.e. major surgery; Shalakya tantra
i.e. ear, nose, throat, eye, and mouth related diseases; Bhuta vidya i.e. psychiatry; Bala tantra i.e. obstetrics, Gynaecology, and paediatrics; Agada tantra
i.e. toxicology; Rasayana tantra
i.e. rejuvenation; and Vajikarana tantra
i.e. aphrodisiacs with their sheer science and mysticism strikes the balance from abstract transcendental values to concrete physiological expressions.
The living man is a conglomeration of three humours, seven basic tissues and the waste products of the body like faeces, urine and sweat. (The three humours are Vata, Pitta and Kapha; seven tissues are Rasa, Rakta, Mansa, Meda, Asthi, Majja and Shukra). The eight branches of ayurveda treat internal and external ailments in every possible way as well as maintain a healthy body throughout life. The first branch of ayurveda, Kayachikitsa targets the entire body and not just the ailing portion. This branch of treatment incorporates change in food habits, change in clothing, change in housing to suit the seasonal cycles and an overall change in lifestyle.
The surgical methods, which were initiated by the Ayurvedic sages in ancient India, are collectively known by the name of Shalyatantra and is indeed one of the important branch of the ashtanga ayurveda.. The word literally signifies the elimination of irritating factors from the human body. Shalya means cause, which produces pain, or factor, which stimulates irritation, and tantra means the technique by which this cause or factor is done away with.
Shalakya tantra, a specialized branch of the eight branches of ayurveda, deals with the treatment of diseases located above the neck. This branch amongst the ashtanga ayurveda is concerned with the causes, diagnosis, prophylactic measures and the curative procedures of the diseases of the head, ear, nose, eye and throat. Different methods are available for the treatment of these problems. The treatment is mainly done by using shalaka, which means a rod or a probe , a technique which has given Shakalya tantra its name.
Another important branch of ayurveda is named as Agada Tantra. This offers detailed information about the non- animal ( sthavar) and animal (jangam) poisons (visha) and the methods of elimination of these poisons from the human body. It particularly advocates different antidotes for materials which are poisonous to the human body.
Rasayana Tantra or Jara Chikitsa is that essential branch of Ayurvedic science which deals with various preventive measures for ensuring a hale and hearty existence. It is a kind of rejuvenating therapy, which rejuvenates the healthy person and restores a diseased person to health. Rasayana Tantra aims at longevity, enhanced memory, health, youthfulness, radiance of complexion, generosity, bodily vigour and the sharpness of the senses. Rasayana implies that physical, mental and spiritual support which helps the human body to come out of its age or disease induced degenerated condition and regain health. Again, amongst the eight branches of ayurveda, Vajikarana Tantra deals with various diseases like infertility and weakness of the shukra dhatu or the vital reproductive fluids of the body.
Ashtanga ayurveda or the eight branches of ayurveda thus highlight individual uniqueness in relation to natural habitat; quite ideally therefore the emphasis is not on cure alone but also on preventive healthcare.