ArshaKerala Ayurveda

Holistic Approach to Health

Ayurveda - a broad overview !

Ayurveda is the Sanskrit name of Indian Traditional Medicine and this name is a combination of two terms – Aayu (life) and Veda (knowledge). Hence Ayurveda could be translated as the “knowledge of life”. Aayu / Life is a combination of mind, spirit/consciousness and body. Like a tripod, they sustain life. So, all states of human being – health or ill health, happiness or sorrow – will have a toll on all three planes of existence, i.e. physical, mental and spiritual.

Body is the seat of Dosha (the functional principles), Dhaatu (the structural principles) and Mala (the metabolic by products).  Dosha, translated as “vitiators”, are three in number – Vaata, Pitta and Kapha. Their state of balance is health and state of imbalance is ill-health. Dhaatu, translated as “sustainers”, are responsible for providing nourishment, providing life, providing envelopment, providing lubrication, providing skeletal support, filling the bones and enabling reproduction respectively. Mala, translated as “impurities”, are three in number – sveda (sweat), mutra (urine) and pureesha (faeces).

Health is when all these three components of life are in a normal state. Health is when the dosha  are in a state of balance, the agni or digestive fire is working properly, the dhaatu are participating properly in the nutritive process initiated by the agni and the mala or impurities are eliminated naturally from the body.

As a medical system, Ayurveda has two purposes:

  1. Maintaining the health of a healthy person through diet and lifestyle regimens. Svasthavritta, daily practices to maintain health and to prevent diseases, is an important aspect of Ayurveda practice.
  2. Curing the disease of a diseased person mainly through medicines and treatments. 

Diseases are essentially caused by a disturbance of the dosha-dhatu-mala triad. The nature of the disease and the suitable treatment for that are all understood and decided based on the understanding of the state of the dosha. Three dosha are the tools to understand any disease named or unnamed, explained or unexplained in Ayurveda. The treatments are mainly of two kinds – samana and sodhanaSamana means pacifying mild to moderately increased doshaSodhana means removing the profoundly increased dosha.

Samana or pacification of increased dosha is made possible through just diet and lifestyle restrictions and internal medications which are in the form of kashaya/kwath (decoction), choorna (powder), arishta/aasava (fermented preparations), lehya (herbal jams), ghrita (medicated ghee) and thaila (medicated oils). Raw materials – from plant, animal and mineral kingdoms – are selected based on their taste, potency, post digestive taste, quality and known actions on the dosha or specific diseases.

Sodhana or cleansing of excessively increased dosha is made possible through vamana (inducing vomiting for kapha), virechana (inducing purgation for pitta), vasti (decoction or oil enema for vata), nasya (nasal application exclusively for head) and rakta moksha (blood-letting). These procedures are popularly known as “panchakarma”.

In addition there are snehana (oleation/lubrication) and svedana (fomentation) procedures which are administered either for samana purpose or for preparation for the sodhana. Among them there are treatments like sirodhara (treatment done on head with medicated oil/buttermilk/milk) which are popularly known as special Kerala treatments, practised worldwide and is also well studied.