The name, Ayurveda, conjures up images of long- haired sages, dispensing herbal 'cure-all' remedies. Surrounded in mystery, This science elicits different reaction -from romantic revivalism to west -oriented rejection, from complete acceptance to total rebuttal. What is this science? This book unravels the mysteries of the dosha-dhatu-mala concepts, which form the basis of Ayurveda. The fundamental principles have been so explained that almost magically the dhatus (tissues) constitute the ruled and mala, their products. Simple herbal remedies are suggested that can be kept at home to treat illnesses during childhood, adulthood and old age.
Sharadini Dhanukar (Dr) is Professor of Pharmacology, Seth G.S Medical College & K.E.M Hospital, Bombay. She has done extensive research in Ayurveda. One of her Marathi books, Phulwa has been awarded by the Maharashtra government
.Urmila Thatte (Dr) is Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Seth G.S. Medical College & K.E.M Hospital, Bombay. A keen student of clinical pharmacology and Ayurveda, she has many articles to her credit in both national and international journals.
Human beings are nature’s unique creation. Inanimate and animate objects follow nature’s laws. Existence or survival depends on learning to live with nature. Somewhere during the renaissance period human beings in an attempt to understand nature and conquer it developed an attitude to drift away from its all encompassing effects. Rapid scientific progress diverted our mind to ignore certain phenomena like animals birds, trees and flowers. We tend to ignore the fact that the human body does react to nature’s ever-changing moods and suffer. Chronobiology seasonal variation dietetic changes environmental alteration and changing lifestyle due to industrialization are all contributing factors.
Modern scientific medicine has concentrated to a large extent on curative or system regulating medicines. Preventive medicine has not made much progress except for the handful of vaccines and improvement in potable water sanitation and basic cleanliness. In this context it is essential for us to turn to Ayurveda. As a holistic science it tends to consider various factors which help human beings to achieve healthy living. Analytical data as envisaged by the modern scientific mind may not be available in Ayurvedic texts but sound observational concepts therein have stood the test of time for thousands of years. The use of naturally occurring plants and minerals do indicate their philosophy of mutual beneficial effects of living and non living earthly components on the evolution and existence of human beings.
The need of the hour is to look at the various aspects of this holistic science and revalidate the principles of Ayurveda in a language easy to understand. Thus almost magically doshas become the governing council or managerial cadre of the organizations that is the body dhatus become the ruled or lay people and mala their products. Democracy is the form of government that the body prefers and the authors very nicely describe the intricate relationship existing between the individual components. Harmony is health is the adage they emphasize.
The most interesting section of this immensely readable book is the part where you can find out about your own constitution. Once you do that the next few chapters help you to choose your lifestyle or and diet and vary it to suit the seasons and remain healthy.
“My friend’s mother is suffering from renal cancer. It’s actually a recurrence. She had been operated upon some three years ago and her kidney with the tumour had been removed. She was well till four months ago when she developed a cough and backache. An X-ray of the chest and a bone scan struck the final blow. With widespread metastases, she has been given only four months at most. Tell me, is there anything Ayurveda can do? Whom can we go to?”
When all else fails, and one sees only darkness at the end of the road, the patient or his/her relatives turn to this science—clasping as it were, the last straw. It is not only cancer that draws patients to vaidyas (Ayurvedic doctors); hordes of people can be seen outside clinics of Ayurvedic doctors seeking remedies for diseases ranging from bronchial asthma to psoriasis, from jaundice to epilepsy.
At the more mundane level, we all use principles of Ayurveda in our day-to-day living. After all, when we suggest substitution of yoghurt in the diet by buttermilk, or when we advise patients with piles to add yam to their diets or when we give laddoos made from ahaliva to increase lactation in a new mother we are merely practicing what is preached in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is ingrained in most Indians—we grow up with this medical system. Personal experience makes many of us strong converts to Ayurveda and some of the tricks described in ‘grandma’s pouch’ often seem miraculous. Yet many doubts linger – how, when, why are the questions that haunt the scientifically inclined. And due to a paucity of acceptable answers the system of medicine that is actually a brilliant exercise in logic and observation gets relegated to the status of folk medicine.
Ayurveda has withstood the most stringent of tests that of time. It is a science that has overcome attacks on its veracity. It has science that has overcome attacks on its veracity. It has weathered changing political winds and has thrived in the hinterland of the country. Ayurveda is one of the most ancient systems of medicine in the world it is an extension of the Atharvaveda it is a mixture of science art and philosophy. The name Ayurveda denotes knowledge of life’—and that precisely is the essence of Ayurveda. It not only gives recipes for treatment of illness, but discusses at length ways to prevent any form of disease. It may sound clichéd to the veteran reader, but in reality there are many astute observations made in the crisp but brief stanzas that it would shake anyone out of his complacence.
It is believed that early Greek and Arabic medicine imbibed some thoughts from Ayurveda. Early western medicine was also influenced by these thoughts, since the concepts of humeurs (melancholy, phlegmatic and bilious) were described in the early writings of the time. For various reasons the holistic approach was substituted by the reductionist, to give birth to classical western medicine. In India, successive Mughal and British invasions relegated Ayurveda into the background. Also, down the line, as industrialization and urbanization progressed, and material pleasures came to dominate our lives, we turned away from the principles of Ayurveda—basically pro-nature and strictly disciplined as they were. Thus, a holistic, patient-oriented approach was replaced by a disease-oriented study or diagnosis based on recognition of a symptom.
Looking at the perspective and taking a lesson from history, it seems that the time has come to re-adopt some of the teachings of Ayurveda and not blindly ape the west. Experience is probably the best teacher in the world and seeing is believing, is it not? When we look around we see several examples where western medicine fails to find answers and soon doubts on the perfect health care system start cropping up in our minds. The misconceptions surrounding ghee consumption are exemplary: Can you remember a day when your grandfather did not have ghee (what the west calls ‘clarified butter’) on his roti (bread)? We are told that ghee is anathema to good health. Your grandfather probably lived to be a healthy 80 or 90 years! And today’s generation which lives on alien philosophies that are as foreign to them as the culture that evolved them, suffers from all sorts of cholesterol related diseases leading to premature morbidity, if not fatality—and that too without enjoying that occasional hot, steaming rot i with the mouth-watering liquidized ghee! In actual fact, Ayurveda teaches us that ghee is better than butter as its qualities change during the conversion process. When butter jc heated and filtered, the resultant product (ghee) is not only harmless, but on the contrary, can prove beneficial if used properly. Ghee is in fact used as a vehicle for several drugs. Surprisingly, in Ayurveda it is described as a lubricant for the blood vessels and is supposed to delay the aging process—a concept that is exactly contrary to what allopathy teach & The most interesting aspect of our heritage is that we have, to put it dramatically, inherited the world in Ayurveda. And, instead of capitalizing on it, we look westward in search of remedies. We do not mean to denigrate allopathy; yet, it is worthwhile to study, verify and adopt some of the tenets of Ayurveda. After all, concepts related to our constitution, chrono-pharmacology and individualization of therapy, which originally constituted the backbone of Ayurvedic therapy, are only now being introduced into the contemporary field of medicine. Should we not pause and ponder?
This book attempts to enlighten the layman on the fact that Ayurveda is not ‘folk medicine’ or a form of therapy to turn to when all else fails, It is a form of lifestyle adopted to maintain good health. We will now explore together the mysteries of Ayurveda, and read about the principles on which this science rests. We will discover the ways in which we can incorporate Ayurveda into our daily living, without making radical lifestyle changes, so that we can live in a state of positive health. After all, every system of medicine promotes the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’. Ayurveda can help us to live a healthy life by preventing disease and you shall read in simple words how this is possible.
We do not want to promote romantic revivalism nor do we wish to force any changes in opinion. We only wish to place facts as they appear in various textbooks of Ayurveda and hope that these will help in discovering your body’s secrets during your journey with us.
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