The Ayurveda Tradition

Ayurveda TraditionRecently I have become interested in learning more about Ayurvedic medicine. I have always found alternative methods of healing fascinating. Ayruveda is possibly the most ancient of all medicinal traditions. It is considered to be the origin of systemized medicine because there are no references to foreign medicinal insight found in any of the ancient Hindu writings. Greek and Middle Eastern texts do refer to many ideas and drugs from India. Dioscorides, who was considered to influence Hippocrates, is thought to have taken many of his ideas about healing from India.

The term ‘Ayurveda’ comes from ayur meaning ‘life’ and veda meaning ‘knowledge.’ The first school to teach Ayurvedic medicine was the University of Banaras in 500 BC. Around that time the great Samhita (or encyclopedia of medicine) was written. Approximately seven hundrend years later another great encyclopedia was written. Together, these two works from the basis of Ayruveda.

Basically, the premise for Ayurvedic philosophy comes from the belief that the living and non-living environment is composed of elements earth (prithvi), water (jala), fire (tajac), air (vaju), and space (akasa). Illnesses are considered the consequence of imbalances between the various elements. The goal of Ayurveda is to restore balance. Cleansing is an essential concept to this form of medicine.

The five great elements combine into three basic functional principles or doshas. Space and air combine to make vata. Fire and water combine to make pitta and earth and water constitute kapha. According to Ayruveda, in our bodies, these three doshas govern our phychobiological functioning. When they are balanced, they create health. When they are out of balance, they are the cause of disease.