History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda has a long and turbulent history. It is the oldest known continuously practiced medical system in the world. Ayurvedic theory has influenced the development of many other medical systems including Chinese, Arabic, Greek, Tibetan and modern medicine.
As the origin of Ayurveda pre-dates written records, it is not exactly clear where and when it was first established. It is estimated to be between 5-10 000 years old. Ayurveda is generally considered to have been revealed to sages in the Himalayas, during meditation.
Nepal has a special place in the history of Ayurveda. It is thought by many that the original knowledge of Ayurveda was obtained in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal. There are thousands of ancient Ayurvedic manuscripts located here. In addition, the biodiversity of Nepal makes it is a fertile region for many Ayurvedic herbs. The geology, with mountains facing north, south, east and west, encourage the growth of unique flora.
The knowledge of Ayurveda was passed down orally for generations, and then eventually recorded as part of the vedas - the oldest books known on Earth. The vedas are vast texts that incorporate information on all aspects of society and life - politics, economics, religion, science, mathematics, architecture, and so on. The information on health and longevity is known as "Ayurveda" - the science of life.
Ayurvedic knowledge and practice flourished for several centuries, when many of the well known Ayurvedic texts were written. However, foreign invasions in India resulted in the loss of many of the texts and practices. When India was occupied by the British, Ayurvedic medicine was not supported and instead western medicine was introduced. Nepal has never been invaded or ruled by foreign forces, so many of the ancient texts survived and Ayurveda was practiced without interruption.
After India gained independence in 1947, Ayurveda was once again formally recognized by the state. The Government supported the establishment of institutions to teach Ayurveda, Ayurvedic hospitals and the use of Ayurvedic medicine.
Today, Ayurveda is a popular form of treatment for many people around the world. Its use is widespread in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The value of many Ayurvedic herbs and therapies is now becoming recognized and clinically validated, and there is increasing interest in Ayurvedic systems of healing in the Western world. This is because it is a holistic, natural and effective healing system. It recognizes the individual as unique, as more than only a physical body, and with an inherent healing capacity.
Scope and definition:
Veda means "knowledge", and ayus is defined as "life". Ayurveda is usually defined as the "science" or "knowledge" of life. However, "life" has a broad meaning in the Ayurvedic context. Human life is considered to have four dimensions - physical, mental, sensorial, and spiritual. Living a healthy and balanced life must therefore take into account more than just the physical body.
According to Ayurveda, to be "healthy" is not only the absence of disease. It is the state of balanced functioning of all aspects of the human body, including the mind and soul. These are equally important pillars of health. In this regard, Ayurveda can be considered to be the original "mind-body" medical system.
The Ayurvedic definition of "life" means that the scope of this science is extensive. There are eight classic, comprehensive branches of Ayurveda were developed due to this complexity:
Head and neck (ear, eye, nose, throat)
Fertility & conception
The timeless tenets of Ayurveda are based on the natural world. As such, they are considered universal and eternal. That is, Ayurveda is not considered to be relevant only to a particular time, place or people. Ayurveda is considered to offer guidance on how to live a healthy, balanced and harmonious life to all people, through all ages.
Ayurveda is a science based on detailed theories and principles. These theories explain evolution and define the environment, human beings, and how they relate to each other. The main principles are:
Three primordial forces (Triguna):
The three forces (gunas) represent the phases of creation, as well as the qualities of the mind. Everything in the universe is influenced by the triguna (sattva, rajas and tamas). In the theory of evolution, sattva brings into creation and is pure consciousness, rajas is a maintaining and moving force and tamas represents the cohesive unity or destructive force. In the human mind, sattva is purity or goodness, rajas is action and passion, and tamas is ignorance or darkness.
Five Elements (Panca Mahabhuta):
The universe is composed of five elements. Everything in the universe, including human beings, are made up of different combinations of the same five elements. These elements are earth (prithvi), water (apa or jala), fire (tejas or agni), air (vayu) and space (akash).
Three biological forces (Tridosa):
In humans, the five elements combine to produce three primary life forces, or three "biological humors". The Ayurvedic term for this is dosa. As there are three, they are referred to as the tridosa (tri meaning three).
The three dosas are vata, pitta and kapha. Each dosa is made of the five elements, however each has a predominance of one or more elements. Vata has a predominance of the elements of air and space and is responsible for movement, Pitta has fire as the dominant element and controls transformation, and Kapha has predominance of water and earth and represents cohesion.
All humans have the three dosa present in different proportions. This unique combination of tridosa is responsible for our unique natures. Knowing your constitution assists both in preventing as well as curing the diseases. (see fact sheet on constitution for more information).
Ayurveda has a distinctive concept of how the human body is structured and functions. Very important aspects of health include digestion and accumulation of wastes. The digestive system is considered the key to good health. It is called jatharagni, meaning digestive fire. The state of agni determines how well food is assimilated into the body.
If agni is weak, if too much food is consumed, or if food is eaten at an inappropriate time, it cannot be digested adequately. Rather than nourish the body, the food is transformed instead into a toxic residue known as ama. The waste (ama) circulates around the body and ultimately creates disease (imbalance).
The basic tissues which maintain the body are known as dhatus. There are seven dhatus - plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow and reproductive fluid. The quality and quantity of each dhatu, and its balanced functioning, is another important factor for good health.
Mala are the waste materials produced as a result of various metabolic activities in the body. The main mala are urine, feces and sweat. Proper elimination of mala is equally important for good health. Accumulation of mala causes blockages in the body which result in manifestation of various diseases.
There are also invisible aspects to the human body, such as marmas (sensitive points), cakras (energy centers), nadis (energy channels) and prana (life air). This is more advanced theory relating to the subtle body.
Ayurveda and diet:
Ayurveda considers diet and digestion to be prime factors in good health. There are a variety of guidelines to ensure adequate nutrition as well as assimilation of nutrients.
A diet which consists of a lot of meat, alcohol, caffeine, processed or frozen foods, fried foods, dairy products and white sugar and flour is very toxic to the system. According to Ayurveda, these types of foods produce ama.
Ama is a residue that circulates in the body and creates disease. It can also give you bad breath, constipation, dull skin, dark circles under the eyes, acne, and so on. To avoid producing ama, attention needs to be paid to what you eat, how you eat, and when you eat.
What to eat?
The most important thing is to choose food that is fresh, usually cooked, tasty and easy to digest. It should be seasonal and not excessively spiced. Avoid eating stale, left-over, processed or refined foods.
Fresh, natural foods provide you with a lot of energy, vitamins and minerals, and are low in fat. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and salads should form the basis of your diet. Drink herbal teas, milk, water (with honey, lemon or lime juice), fruit and vegetable juices.
Do not mix too many food items at one meal, and eat foods that complement each other in taste. It is also important to eat according to your constitution. There are specific dietary recommendations based on individual constitution, which can be found in the fact sheet on constitution.
How to eat?
Eat in clean, peaceful and pleasant surroundings, and concentrate fully on the food you are consuming. Chew food thoroughly, and do not rush your meal. Appreciate and respect the value of the food provided. If you feel tired or heavy after a meal, it is a sign of improper eating. Avoid talking, standing or lying down while eating. Don’t completely fill your stomach - allow some room for air to circulate and the food to be digested properly.
When to eat?
Avoid eating when you are upset or angry. Eat only when hungry, and leave at least four hours between meals to ensure that food is properly digested. It is best to establish a regular eating routine, with lunch being the largest meal of the day. This is because the power of digestion correlates with the movement of the sun. When the sun is at its peak in the sky (midday), digestion is strongest.
Do not eat heavy foods in the evening, or for two hours before you go to bed. Fasting for one day every two weeks is considered beneficial for the digestive system. On this day, drink only water or juices. Fruit can also be eaten.
Each person has a unique constitution (prakriti), which is determined at the time of conception. Your constitution reflects the proportion of each of the five elements present. In humans, the elements combine into "biological forces" (influences), known as dosa. There are three dosa - vata (air and space), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth and water).
The predominant dosa is manifested in the body as physical characteristics, which reflect the nature of the relevant element/s. For example, people with a vata dosa display characteristics related to the space and air elements - they are active, restless, mobile. Those with a kapha dosa (earth and water) are usually very solid, stable and slow.
There are seven main categories of dosa type - single (vata, pitta, kapha), dual (vata-pitta, vata-kapha, pitta-kapha) and equal (vata-pitta-kapha). It is very rare for a person to be a single dosa constitution, or to have all dosa present equally. That is, most people are of a dual-dosa type (all dosa are present, but two are predominant).
The value in knowing your constitution is that it enables you to live in balance. Once you know your constitution, you can select a complementary diet, lifestyle, daily routine and activities accordingly. This information is mentioned briefly below.
Long checklists of characteristics are commonly used to determine your constitution. But a quicker and easier way is to read the descriptions below and see which resembles you most closely. If you identify equally with two, it is likely you are of a dual constitution. A consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor is the only way to really confirm your dosa.
Description: Enthusiastic and vivacious, imaginative and creative, thin physique, bony, protruding joints and visible veins, dry skin, light sleep, erratic routine, variable appetite, learns quickly, dislikes cold, loner and non-conformist.
Diet and lifesyle advice: Eat warm, dense, heavy foods, use oil and butter, increase salty, sour and sweet tastes. Avoid light, dry and gas promoting foods, or raw foods. Establish a regular eating and sleeping routine. Avoid excessive traveling, watching TV, computer work, and stimulating activities.
Description: Organized, precise and active, sharp intellect, articulate speech, average build, fair skin (freckles or that flushes easily), red or fair hair, irritable, intense, strong appetites, dislikes heat, leader.
Diet and lifesyle advice: Eat cool or warm foods, but avoid very hot and spicy foods. Bitter, sweet and astringent tasting foods are good to include. Reduce use of oils, butters and fats. Exposure to the sun and heat, and excessive exercise should be avoided.
Description: Calm and slow, solid and stable, patient, larger build, very good endurance although often lethargic, romantic, regular routines, even disposition, like to belong to a group or community.
Diet and lifesyle advice: Eat warm, light, dry foods. Use a minimum amount of butter, oils and water. Pungent, bitter and astringent foods are good, but avoid sweet and salty foods. Dairy products and fried, heavy foods should be reduced. Avoid sleeping excessively (or during the day), overeating and inactivity.
There are many specific terms used in Ayurveda. A lot of these words are in Sanskrit, and can have multiple meanings. Below is a list of some of the terms used in this website, and their meanings
|Abhyana||Ayurvedic massage, to smear or anoint with oil|
|Agni||fire, light, heat|
|Ama||a toxic material produced from undigested food|
|Ayus||life - the combination of body, mind, senses and soul|
|Basti||medicated, herbal enema used to cleanse the colon|
|Cakra||invisible energy center of the body|
|Caraka||an ancient Ayurvedic physician|
|Dosa||fault, deficiency, that which contaminates|
|Jatharagni||digestive fire, gastric juices, digestive enzymes|
|Kapha||phlegm, mucus, one of the biological energies|
|Mala||impurity, wastes excreted out of body|
|Ojas||vigor, strength, vitality, the essence of all tissues|
|Panca karma||five types of elimination therapies|
|Paschat karma||post therapy after panca karma|
|Pitta||fire, bile, one of the biological energies|
|Purva karma||preparation for panca karma|
|Prakriti||nature, constitution, original nature|
|Rakta mokshana||blood letting (rarely performed today)|
|Rasayana||herbs, foods or activities that prevent aging and promote longevity|
|Shiro dhara||pouring a continuous stream of oil on the forehead|
|Sneha||lubricant, oil, fat|
|Snehana||lubricating, anointing, rubbing with oil|
|Swedana||sweating, to perspire,|
|Susruta||an ancient Ayurvedic surgeon|
|Tridosa||the three dosa|
|Triguna||the three qualities of Nature|
|Vamana||the act of vomiting, emesis|
|Vata||wind or air, one of the biological energies of the body|
|Veda||ancient books of knowledge, sacred knowledge|
Nepal’s strong wind has caused thousands of medicinal herbs to grow their roots deep in its earth. Over 2100 medicinal herbs are indigenous to Nepal. The mountains and plants, sun, rain and wind contribute to a very high degree of healing energy that resides in plants.
Ayurvedic medicine utilizes commonly available herbs, as well as herbs indigenous to India and Nepal. Some of the more widely available herbs that are used include ginger, coriander (cilantro), cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, garlic, turmeric and basil. These are used in a variety of ways to produce herbal remedies for many different conditions.
Other herbs used are unique to Ayurvedic medicine, and may not be as familiar. This includes:
Amala (Indian Gooseberry): this fruit is considered to be the highest known natural source of vitamin C. This is retained even if the fruit is dried or cooked. It is considered calming and cooling.
Ashwaganda (Winter cherry) the root of this shrub is also known as Indian ginseng. It is beneficial for mental functions, strengthening of the body and increasing immunity.
Brahmi (Indian Pennywort) is a common plant which is considered an excellent tonic for memory, intelligence and longevity. It is also good for associated conditions such as senility, insanity, epilepsy.
Guggul (Indian Bedellium) the resin from this bush is made into a powder or compressed into pills. It is good for the circulatory, nervous, digestive and respiratory systems.
Neem - the roots, bark, fruit, leaves, juice, oil and flowers of this tree all have a medicinal use. It is used as a blood purifier, for detoxification, inflammation, fever and skin conditions.
Shilajit (mineral pitch, asphalt) - this black, sticky mineral is called the "sweat of the rocks". It ooozes from the Himalayan mountains, and is considered beneficial for the urinary and nervous systems. It also rejuvenates and is considered an aphrodisiac.
There are also herbal compounds:
Triphala - a combination of three fruits (haritaki, bibhitaki, amala) which is internally cleansing. It is a mild laxative, nutritional supplement and is also used for cleansing the eyes.
Trikatu - a combination of three pungent herbs (black pepper, long pepper and ginger). This is a classic formula used to enhance digestion, respiration and immunity.
Chywanprash - this is a supplement made from around fifty different herbs, used for rejuvenation, energy and strength. The base is an amala jam, and the original formula is thousands of years old.
Is Ayurveda treatment expensive?
Various people have passed differing judgements on whether something is expensive or of good value. On this subject John Ruskin (an English social reformer, 1819-1900) said: "There is hardly anything in this world that someone cannot make a little less well and sell a little more cheaply, and the people who only judge things by their price fall deservedly prey to such practices. It is unwise to pay too much, but it is an even worse thing to pay too little. If you pay too much you lose a little money, and that is all…."
You can always decide whether to drive a small car, a medium-sized car or a luxury limousine. No price can be high enough for what Ayurveda has to offer - to create the basis for health from within each individual. Ayurveda offers the opportunity of recovering an equilibrium within oneself. In this there is the long-term possibility of huge savings and a high degree of contentment, of happiness for each individual. Ayurveda is not a "quick cure". Nature’s rhythm needs time, just think of the seasons, the motions of the earth and of the planets. There in the cosmos there are no short cuts or short circuits. Whoever opts for Ayurveda works for the most part by oneself. The treatments, herbs, oils, applications, advice on the daily routine, advice about nutrition, yoga, meditation, colour and aroma therapies, immersion in ancient writings, merely support in a wonderful way the individual process of finding oneself. And if at the end of a treatment an individual feels healthy, full of energy, attractive and lovable, he/she has achieved for him/herself something of the highest value. Seen from this perspective the prices charge by the Ayurveda Health Home P. Ltd. represent good value - worth the money. The charges serve to cover the costs and to give the employees a living and a reasonable future. In addition to their investment the German partner are providing at no cost their man-time power. All the profits will be reinvested in the planned Ayurveda projects of the Ayurveda Health Home P. Ltd. to the benefit of Nepal’s development, to develop a pancha karma centre in Nepal.
Ayurveda legend of Nepal:
Nepal has the highest mountains on earth. The wisest human beings have always withdrawn into the mountains because a special spiritual strength emanates from them.
Nepal’s strong wind has caused thousands of medicinal herbs to grow their roots deep in its earth. Over 3500 medicinal herbs are indigenous to Nepal. The mountains and plants, sun, rain and wind contribute to a very high degree of healing energy that resides in Nepal. Nepal in itself is a "place of strength".
It is told, over thousands of years ago "visionaries" or "rishis" from the Himalayas "received from God" the teachings of life, the sacred natural law of all life. For thousands of years healers in Nepal have been practising Ayurveda and have constantly adapted it to the vicissitudes of life. Nepal has never been subject to foreign political and cultural influences. For this reason ayurvedic knowledge is still rooted in the minds of the people, even if this is still only subconsciously. An example of this is the massages, which are still given in every family. Every baby is massaged by mother once a week even into its third year of life, and the mother also receives a massage soon after giving birth, because they know how important how important oil and touch are for mother and child. Even today, in almost every family there is a knowledge of the effect of certain spices and herbs specific to the season of the year. The rituals still extant at various festivals have their roots in the interplay between all the powers of the cosmos.
There is an abundance of so-called "grandmother wisdom" in Nepal that is passed on from generation to generation. Knowledge about medicinal herbs is also still very alive.
Ayurveda in Nepal always incorporated a person’s spiritual development, with the result that medicine was never limited to isolated aspects of a person or to the prescription of medication. The whole person was always considered from his/her four-dimensionality: body - senses, mind and soul.
4000 of the old Sanskrit texts are still extant in Nepal