Charaka Samhita: The Strongest Root of Ayurveda

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Ayurveda is a spiritual science with scintillating sources and is the ancient holistic healing methodology. It focuses on prevention and cure of all illnesses and is considered as the most realistic gifts of undying values to mankind. This spiritual science is believed to be of more than 5000 years of age with its attributes described in three major sources namely Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya & Ashtanga Sangraha. Good books are forever the best friends of mankind. For sure, encyclopedias are like eternal teachers to humanity with a great source of immense values. Charaka Samhita is one such Ayurvedic encyclopedia of age old holistic importance.

Charaka – The renowned physician: Charaka (also spelled Caraka) is a renowned physician of the court of Kanishka, a Kushana ruler. He is believed to have born in c. 300 BC. He himself was a living encyclopedia, who in addition to serving the human beings as a great medical preacher & practitioner also gave equal importance to human ethical values in treating the patients. Charaka is often referred to as the ‘Father of Medicine’.

Dawn of a divine Index: Although there is no much proof about the history of Charaka, according to legends he is believed to be a versatile student of Aatreya, who was the disciple of Bharadwaja who in turn was one of the students of Lord Indra. Aatreya’s request to pen down his teachings to his disciples led to the rise of 8 divine works of which Charaka’s Charaka Samhita was found to be the best & has survived for ages! His work was later revised by Dridhbala.

Contributions of Charaka to the world of Medicine: Charaka is the author of Charaka Samhita, the oldest of the existing three Ayurvedic encyclopedias. Being a man of mystical values, Charaka had numerous feathers added to his cap some of which are listed below.

  • First physician to present the concept of digestion, metabolism & immunity
  • Knowledge of Genetics – You’ll be truly amazed to know that a man who lived before 2000 years had the knowledge of genetics and its factors, which is one of the top stories of the modern medical world. Charaka had a thorough understanding about the factors determining the sex of the fetus. He was able to study that the reason behind the genetic defect in a child is possibly due to the defect in the sperm or ovum of the parents rather than the parents themselves.
  • Study of Anatomy of the human body and its organs was done by Charaka, which served as a leading light of interest in this field for most of the medical scholars of the later decades.

Charaka Samhita – The truth of Ayurveda: Samhita is a Sanskrit word which means collection of rules. Charaka Samhita talks about the various aspects of Ayurvedic contexts in treating diseases and in preventing them. This ocean of medical principles constitutes of 8 parts with a total number of 120 chapters mainly focusing on ‘Kaya Chikitsa‘ – The diagnosis and healing of illnesses through internal and external use of medicine. This branch of Ayurveda aims at healing the mind & the body, thus striking a balance between the two great pillars of the human soul. Ethical conducts of a physician in treating the patients, which is now lacking in most parts of the world was given high importance by Charaka. One can even find the details regarding the attributes of various aspects of how a good physician, nurse, healing drugs, hospital and a patient should be.

Source of Medical aid in treating the whole world: Charaka Samhita was translated into many foreign languages, including Arabic and Latin. It remains as a valuable medicinal source that inspired countless medical practitioners in coming up with the most modern medical concepts to treat humanity.

I can now realize the strong reason behind the survival of Ayurveda, the science of life. Mere words are not just enough to appreciate the strenuous efforts put forth by some of the ancient legends in serving mankind in the form of texts of undying values like Charaka Samhita. Let each one of us take into the world, the efforts of such great people by inculcating a healthy life style, which would strengthen their values and our vows.

Thought for the day:

True heroism consists in being superior to the ills of life, in whatever shape they may challenge us to combat.  By Napoleon Bonaparte

Suggested Reading:

  1. Caraka Samhita (1949 Edition, 6 Volume Set) Hindu, Gujarati, English Translation (Caraka Samhita, 6 Volume Set) by Atreva Punarbasu, Great Sage Agnivesa
  2. The Roots of Ayurveda (Penguin Classics) by Various
  3. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume One: Fundamental Principles by Vasant Lad

Reference Links:

  1. Charaka by Wikipedia
  2. Charaka Samhita by Wikipedia
  3. History of Ayurveda by Professor Dr. P.H. Kulkarni

Ayurveda and Aromatherapy: The Untold Anecdote

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Most of us might have perceived Ayurveda and Aromatherapy as two different parts of the Complementary and Alternative medicine but I take great privilege in revealing the fact that Aromatherapy is an innate or in-built part of Ayurveda, the 5000 years old ancient healing methodology. Ayurveda is proudly celebrated as the Mother of all healing sciences as it has given birth to numerous traditional healing methodologies like Unani, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Acupuncture, Herbalism, Siddha, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Traditional European Medicine and much more.

Aromatherapy is not a separate branch of Ayurveda but it is a vital part or an incredible way of treating illness in Ayurveda through the use of ‘aromatics’ and later given a separate name by Rene Maurice Gattefosse, known as the father of aromatherapy. It’s high time to put an end to this endless myth whether Ayurveda and Aromatherapy are the two poles apart? Let’s analyze.

Holistic approach: Ayurveda is a holistic healing approach that considers an individual as an entity and as a ‘Whole person’. This ancient science considers the physical, mental, emotional, environmental and sociological reasons contributing to a particular illness of an individual. While prescribing medications, Ayurveda does not stop with giving herbs or oils as remedies for a disease instead it suggests regular practice of yoga, meditation, taking an Ayurvedic diet, an Ayurvedic routine and certain other lifestyle changes according to an individual’s body type (doshas) and the unique constitution known as Prakriti. On the other hand, Aromatherapy is also a holistic method that considers the connection between mind, body and spirit.

Use of aromatics: Ayurveda makes use of aromatics to prevent and treat various health conditions. This is because it believes that the strengthening of the five human senses promotes healthy living. Inhalation of the aroma of plants and the essential oils extracted from those plants is trusted to enhance the sense of smell and directly contributes to mental health and treats hormonal imbalances.

This is the basic reason behind the use of incense sticks and other aromatic herbs and oils like sandalwood and tulasi in religious rituals and prayers for instilling the spiritual feeling. When it comes to Aromatherapy, this attribute of using aromatics needs no explanation as Aromatherapy makes use of Ayurvedic essential oils and trusts that the aromatic compounds and therapeutic properties present in these oils helps in healing illnesses invariably.

Abhyanga or the Ayurvedic massage therapy: Ayurvedic massage therapy involves the use of remedial oils like sesame oil, coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil and few other vegetable oils along with effective essential oils. It is a vital part of Panchakarma or the detoxification therapy, where the toxic substances of the body are removed and it inhibits the growth of harmful bodies through systematic massage.

Marguerite Maury, pioneer of Aromatherapy and the celebrated French Aromatherapist, in the traditional British Aromatherapy has talked on the benefits of using essential oils on dermal application through effective    massage techniques, where the concept of massaging itself is indigenous to Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic essential oils: Ayurveda is the oldest of the existing medicinal practices in the world and has a recorded use of herbal plants for more than 5000 years ago. Essential oils are nothing but the highly concentrated liquids extracted from plants and are often known as the essence of the herbal plants. Aromatherapy makes use of these essential oils to reiterate the fact that we are a part of nature and it is safe and secure to treat our illnesses in a natural manner. Dr. Light Miller in her famous book ‘Ayurveda and Aromatherapy: The Earth Essential Guide to Ancient Wisdom’ talks about the importance of doshas and the perfect essential oils for each dosha.

For Vata Dosha: Lemon, Eucalyptus, Cinnamon, Basil, Ginger, Angelica, Cajeput, Anise and Rosewood.

For Pitta Dosha: Sandalwood, Lime, Peppermint, Chamomile, Yarrow and Coriander.

For Kapha Dosha: Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Niaouli, Sage, Basil, Savory, Clove and Hyssop.

Vata, Pitta and Kapha is not Greek or Latin in the world of Aromatherapy but it just indicates the predominance existing in an individual’s constitution and these essential oils are said to treat the dosha imbalances with their healing properties.

Limbic System: According to Ayurveda, the sense of smell is connected with the limbic system. This helps in recollecting the memories of a place or a person associated with an aroma. Limbic system is a vital part of the brain that stimulates the function of the nervous system, determines the body temperature and blood sugar level, enables the process of respiration, and controls sexual feelings, sleep and awake responses and much more.

The underlying principle behind limbic system and Ayurveda is that the inhalation of aromatic essential oils with healing properties fosters the essential oil molecule to pass through the nasal passage and reaches the limbic system ultimately as nerve impulses following which, the hypothalamus passes the message to other parts of the body to rejoice, relax, control hunger, hormonal imbalances, thirst and many other feelings. Even Aromatherapy indicates the same mechanism of aroma through the limbic system in healing illnesses.

Hope this information is more than enough to prove that the concept of Aromatherapy has been a part and parcel of Ayurvedic healing methodology since ages till it was given birth under a new name ‘Aromatherapy’ by its father Rene Maurice Gattefosse. Nothing to wrestle or protest but I end this post with the pride of finding something unique and exceptional in all the healing sciences that is nothing but ‘Human beings are special naturally’.

Thought for the day:

‘Healing,’ Papa would tell me, ‘is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.’
-W. H. Auden

Suggested Reading:

  1. Ayurveda & Aromatherapy: The Earth Essential Guide to Ancient Wisdom and Modern Healing By Dr. Light Miller, Dr. Bryan Miller
  2. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance with Essential Oils By Gabriel Mojay
  3. The Aromatherapy Companion: Medicinal Uses/Ayurvedic Healing/Body-Care Blends/Perfumes & Scents/Emotional Health & Well-Being (Herbal Body) By Victoria H. Edwards

Reference Links:

  1. Aromatherapy from Ayurveda’s Perspective by Yayoi Stavish
  2. Ayurveda and Aromatherapy by AllHealthyFamily News
  3. The Limbic System by Suzanne Bovenizer CMT, CST

Importance of Ayurveda in the West

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Modern world has gifted us with enormous innovative tools and techniques that have made life easier to live. But an explicit insight on the pros and cons of this massive technological development instinctively fills our mind with a wide range of chaos! The more the world progresses technically, the more the human life steps ahead in stress, ailments and an innate mechanical progress. Thus life becomes so insensible that one is always deemed with worries and stress. What could be the apt antidote to this malady? Ayurveda stands distinct as the most holistic remedy to end this mechanical life and mark the start of a natural way of living filled with eternal bliss! This is the reason why Ayurveda is widely recognized in the west in recent times.

Ayurveda serves as the root for Traditional European Medicine (TEM), Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Unani – a natural system of healing of the Middle Eastern world. This is the strong reason why Ayurveda is rightly called as the ‘Mother of Natural Healing’. With its genesis in ancient India, the essence of Ayurveda spread to the west with the advent of many foreigners who translated the Ayurvedic encyclopedias namely Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita to Arabic, Latin, German and English.

It is a well known fact that the first major plastic surgery in the western world was performed in 1815 by Carpue who spent 20 years in India to study the Ayurvedic surgery methods. Amazing right!!! This is just a single piece of information that is known to the world and there are much more Ayurvedic secrets to be revealed and relived.

Importance of Ayurveda in the West: Western Culture is more secured with massive man-made technologies that are strong enough to weaken the resources of nature of which human resource forms a major part. Decrease in physical efforts makes life more involuntary thus increasing the mental stress. Apart from this, the modern medical system deals only with the ailments rather than their root causes, resulting in a temporary relief with more side effects that make the ailments permanent and vulnerable. Thus, people are drawn towards the most dependable holistic approach that has a unique gift of a meaningful, mentally strong life with eternal peace for every individual.

To add more life to the fact that Ayurveda has found its place in the west, down comes the sturdy list of causes that has made the western world to feel the importance of Ayurveda.

  • Self-Realization for a Divine Living: Ayurvedic healing methodology includes a wide range of techniques of which Yoga, Meditation and Rejuvenation of the body and mind with effective Ayurvedic oils have gained wide attention in the West. These forms of practice leads to self-realization thus making one to realize the true purpose of living, paving way to eternal satisfaction and ecstasy of leading a meaningful life. Ayurveda serves its sole purpose of making one to realize self and live in harmony with self and nature thus giving comprehensiveness to human existence.
  • Good for All: Unlike modern medical system, Ayurveda is good for all individuals irrespective of their status of health. With its elegant regime, Ayurveda dignifies the diseased and strengthens the stronger ones leading to health and longevity.

Apart from this, Ayurveda remains as the most natural, less expensive medical system with homemade remedies of defensive nature. Effective utilization of Ayurvedic natural herbs, spices, vegetables and natural Ayurvedic Essential oils in your day to day living will support longevity and help you in the long run.

Ayurveda can be made more efficacious if its real essence is absorbed and utilized effectively. Studies have proved that Ayurveda is effective in the treatment of acute chronic diseases like diabetes and the integration of Ayurvedic Healing system with Modern therapy can pave way for finding a solution for some of the life threatening diseases like cancer.

One final yet valid reason that makes the West fascinated towards Ayurveda is its approach towards the patients that is lifted high with a sense of personal touch and care that is often missing in the western medical system.

As a true believer and benefiter of Ayurveda, I take this opportunity to thank all those strenuous efforts of the invaluable immortals who strived a lot in  bringing the knowledge of Ayurveda to the west that has served numerous people in the past and will continue to serve in the future as well!!!

Thought for the day:

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.” –Hippocrates

Suggested Reading:

  1. Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide to Traditional Indian Medicine for the West by Frank John, M.D. Ninivaggi
  2. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western Science by Claudia Welch
  3. Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners: Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles by Amadea Morningstar

Reference Links:

  1. Ayurveda by Wikipedia
  2. Meditation by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  3. Differences between Ayurveda and Modern Medicine (Allopathy) by LuzySalud