What is Ayurveda

 

History of Ayurveda

Kerala located in the South Western part of the Indian peninsula, is known throughout the world as the Land of Coconut trees. Further, as a place with many rivers and backwaters and needless to mention, as the “Land Of Ayurveda”. Ayurveda originated many millennia ago in India, but its current form took shape between the 5th and the 6th century BC century AD. It is a branch of medicine which lived through centuries and is still popular not only in the east, but also in the west. The word -ayur- literally means -life- and -veda- means -knowledge- in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian vedic language.

Therefore, the whole term Ayurveda means “The science or knowledge of life” in Sanskrit.

Ayurveda is not only a system of medicine but also a way of living. It focuses more on prevention of diseases by acting on the basic cause rather than mere curing of diseases, giving it a totally different direction towards fundamental health and well-being.

During its heydays, the science of Ayurveda was at its peak of glory and was handled by eight families who considered it as their family profession. They were called the “Ashtavaidhyas” (or eight physicians) and they were well versed in Vaghbata’s Ashtanga Hridaya, the bible of Ayurveda. Each of them pioneered in one of the eight branches of Ayurveda, and took the science to a specialized level.

Kerala’s masters in Ayurveda gave a new meaning to this magical science and developed new treatment methods such as dhara, shirodhara, pizhichil, navarakizhi, podikizhi and also recorded the science in books like Sahasrayogam, Chikilsamanjari, Vaidyamanorama etc. They later became sources of very useful information on formulation, medical plants and therapies. In Kerala, the tradition involving complete treatment for body and mind using Ayurvedic principles has been a continuous process, followed with total dedication.

As Kerala had excellent international maritime trade relations with the West and East thanks to its exotic spice trade, visitors from other parts of the world were fascinated by Kerala’s achievements in Ayurvedic medical practice and in astrology.

This medical system involves “Dharapati” and “Massaging” along with other ayurveda practices mentioned earlier. Various treatments like the Marmachikilsa, Vishachikilsa, and panchakarma were evolved for specialized treatments on special conditions. “Marma Chikilsa” is an advanced form of massaging procedure improving flexibility of joints and muscles. Vishachikilsa involves the treatment for snakebites and insect bites.

Panchakarma is performed annually or periodically by healthy people to be in robust health lifelong. Gajachikilsa is the treatment for illness in elephants which is the unique contribution of Kerala to Ayurveda. BTW, Kerala is also a place where almost every major temple festivities are incomplete without the presence of elephants.

 

Importance of Ayurveda

Today Ayurveda has grown up to various levels-from a basic medical system to a cosmetic therapy such as massage for skin and hair, and beauty. For instance, Marmachikilsa helps rejuvenation of body and soul. Kerala Ayurveda gives importance to herbal components of medicine rather than metal or mineral components. Ayurveda along with Yoga and Meditation makes mind free from stresses, keeping body and mind in vigour and improved in vitality.

As the climate of Kerala is humid in its right way, it easily opens up the body pores, making it better receptive to herbal oil treatments and therapy, with excellent results than any other place. It is also evident from the fact that Kerala is gifted with some rare species of natural herbs like Aswagandha, Kalphal, Brahmi, Bharang, Shankhupushpam etc. to name a few.

Ayurvedic treatment is based on a number of processes, some of which requires time for maximum efficacy, and in that way it doesn’t have the quick healing way of modern medicine. However if one has enough time, and a little bit of patience, Ayurveda is still one of the best forms of preventive care, free from the side effects of chemical based medicinal forms.

 

About process of Ayurveda

Various processes in Ayurvedic treatment are listed below. Depending on the patient-needs, health conditions etc, the doctor can suggest taking one or more of the following treatments.

Abhyangam

It is a systemic procedure of massaging the body in different postures with medicated oil. It is effectively used for achieving relaxation, to increase functional efficiency of muscles and to improve skin complexion.

Shirodhara

It is a process performed with medicine (medicated milk, herbal oil or decoction) poured over ones forehead near to the hairline in an oscillating pattern for a period of 45 minutes. It reduces mental tension, improves memory, cures headaches and insomnia.

Swedanam

It is herbal steam applied gently over the entire body to produce perspiration. The patient is admitted to a specially made steam chamber and exposed to steam, excluding the head region. This is like a steam bath, but meant for a specific purpose, with herbal steam making the patient/taker perspire. It helps to excrete toxins through sweat, reduces muscle stiffness and softens skin.

Elakizhi

Here medicinal leaves are made into small pieces and prepared in medicinal oil along with slices of lemon, curcuma powder, grated coconut, mustard, etc and poultice or pack is made. This poultice is dipped in medicinal oil and applied all over the body. It helps to liquefy the swellings and strengthen the muscles with excretion of toxins and thereby improving blood circulation.

Udwarthanam

In this process, fine medicated powder is rubbed over the whole body in different postures with upward strokes of massage. This process serves very beneficial in reducing obesity, and it provides better mobility to joints.

Njavarakizhi

Here special rice called Njavara is cooked well in milk and herbal decoction and poultice are prepared. The poultice is dipped in milk and herbal decoction, and is rubbed all over the body. This process helps to increase complexion of the body, softens skin and strengthens the muscles.

Pizhichil

In this process 2-3 litres of medicated oil is used. The oil is poured all over the body in a particular pattern with two masseurs massaging simultaneously from both sides of the body. It helps to loosen the stiffness of muscles, improves circulation, softens skin and excretes toxins through sweat.

Virechanam

This procedure is done only after oleation and sudation using suitable medicines. That means it is done only after making the body prepared for de-toxification. The doshas or toxins are brought into the stomach and are eliminated from the body through purgation with medicines. It removes all toxins collected in ones body and purifies the dhathus(the basic constituents).

Mukhalepam

After cleansing the facial skin with vegetable juices, a herbal mixture is applied on ones face. It helps to improve facial complexion and removes wrinkles on the skin and provides natural glow to ones skin for a long time.

Akshi tarpanam

Here lukewarm medicated ghee is allowed to collect around ones eyes for 15 minutes by constructing a circular barrier. It helps to relieve pain, cure redness and weakness of the eyes.

Gandoosham

In this process, patient is asked to hold the medicine in mouth till watering appears from nose and eyes.This helps for firmness of jaw, prevents dryness of mouth, and clears voice.

Nasyam

In this process medicated drops are poured into ones nostrils after mild oleation and sudation. As the medicines act, it brings the phlegm collected inside forcefully down through the mouth. The patient is asked to spit the phlegm out. It cures chronic sinucitis and cold.

Shirovasthi

In this process warm medicated oil is held over the head with the help of a leather cap. The process is done till perspiration is found on ones face and nose. It is done in case of insomnia , hair-loss and premature greying of hair.