From ArticleWorld

Ayurveda comes from Sanskrit (ayu – life, veda – knowledge of). More than 5,000 years old, this medicine is rooted in Vedic culture. Ayurveda also has a tradition of surgery. Two early texts included the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita.


Schools of study

Traditional Ayurveda stems from eight branches: kāyāchikitsā (internal medicine), shalyachikitsā (surgery and anatomy), shālākyachikitsā (eye, ear, nose and throat diseases), kaumārabhritya (pediatrics), bhūtavidyā (psychiatry or demonology), and agada tantra (toxicology), rasāyana (science of rejuvenation), and vājīkarana (the science of fertility). In addition, students are expected to know 10 arts that are important to medicines: distillation, operative skills, cooking, horticulture, metallurgy, sugar manufacture, pharmacy, analysis and separation of minerals, compounding of metals and preparation of alkalis.


Ayurvedic study believes that an organism can adapt to the environment and its surroundings, also called satyma. By introducing small amounts of a food or medicine, the organism can adapt and resist it as well.

Qualities and elements

Many say that the essence of ayurveda is knowledge and awareness of gurvadi gunah: Knowledge and awareness of the qualities of nature. By understanding our environment, one is able to appreciate its effects on an individual. For example, cold qualities in an environment would result in an increase of cold qualities in the body. Ayurveda suggests that each material process or object can either harm or heal a person by influencing his or her own constitution.

A practitioner assesses the disorder, a patient’s constitution and influencing factors before arriving at a treatment plan. The treatment consists of herbs, therapies, diet and more. The Sankhya theory of cosmology (on which ayurveda is based) identifies the five great elements as: aether, air/wind, fire, water and earth. Some historians state that the concepts of the five elements evolved from ayurveda.


Ayurveda consists of three main medical humors, or doshas. It is said that all bodily processes are controlled by a balance of these three doshas. The dosha that dominates a person’s behavior is his constitution type. The doshas include:

  • Vata (air), governs movement in the mind and body. Those classified as vata have lighter frames with dry, cold skin and dark, thin hair. Eyes are brown or grey. They move and speak quickly and their sleep is fitful.
  • Pitta (fire) governs all heat and metabolism as well as our sensory perceptions. Pitta types are average physically; their moods change slowly and they stay busy and achieve a lot in the course of their lives. They are angry and judgmental.
  • Kapha (water) cements the elements in the body and maintains body resistance. Kaphas are built sturdy and thick, hair is thick and lustrous, eyes are blue or brown. They have excellent strength and endurance.

Use in Western medicine

Western-based medicine has researched many plants that were traditionally used in Ayurveda. This research has identified the effects of these plants on humans. The demand for clinically-tested and science-based Ayurvedic plant extracts has increased.