Indian Traditional Medicine

Natural Medical:In Mehrgarh, Pakistan, archeologists made the discovery that the people of Indus Valley Civilization from the early Harappan periods had knowledge of medicine and dentistry. The physical anthropologist who carried out the examinations, Professor Andrea Cucina from the University of Missouri-Columbia, made the discovery when he was cleaning the teeth from one of the men. Later research in the same area found evidence of teeth having been drilled, dating back 9,000 years. Ayurveda (the science of living), is the literate, scholarly system of medicine that originated over 2000 years ago in South Asia. Its two most famous texts belong to the schools of Charaka and Suśruta. While these writings display some limited continuities with very ancient medical ideas known from the religious literature called the Vedas, historians have been able to demonstrate direct historical connections between early āyurveda and the early literature of the Buddhists and Jains. It seems that the earliest foundations of āyurveda were built on a synthesis of selected ancient herbal practices dating back to the early second millennium BC, together with a massive addition of theoretical conceptualizations, new nosologies and new therapies dating from about 400 BC onwards, and coming out of the communities of thinkers who included the Buddha and others. Zysk, Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery (OUP). According to the compendium of Charaka, the Charakasamhitā, health and disease are not predetermined and life may be prolonged by human effort. The compendium of Suśruta, the Suśrutasamhitā defines the purpose of medicine to cure the diseases of the sick, protect the healthy, and to prolong life. Both these ancient compendia include details of the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of numerous ailments. The Suśrutasamhitā is notable for describing procedures on various forms of surgery, including rhinoplasty, the repair of torn ear lobes, perineal lithotomy, cataract surgery, and several other excisions and other surgical procedures. The āyurvedic classics spoke of eight branches of medicine: kāyācikitsā (internal medicine), śalyacikitsā (surgery including anatomy), śālākyacikitsā (eye, ear, nose, and throat diseases), kaumārabhṛtya (pediatrics), bhūtavidyā (spirit medicine), and agada tantra (toxicology), rasāyana (science of rejuvenation), and vājīkaraṇa (aphrodesiacs, mainly for men). Apart from learning these, the student of Āyurveda was expected to know ten arts that were indispensable in the preparation and application of his medicines: distillation, operative skills, cooking, horticulture, metallurgy, sugar manufacture, pharmacy, analysis and separation of minerals, compounding of metals, and preparation of alkalis. The teaching of various subjects was done during the instruction of relevant clinical subjects. For example, teaching of anatomy was a part of the teaching of surgery, embryology was a part of training in pediatrics and obstetrics, and the knowledge of physiology and pathology was interwoven in the teaching of all the clinical disciplines. At the closing of the initiation, the guru gave a solemn address to the students where the guru directed the students to a life of chastity, honesty, and vegetarianism. The student was to strive with all his being for the health of the sick. He was not to betray patients for his own advantage. He was to dress modestly and avoid strong drink. He was to be collected and self-controlled, measured in speech at all times. He was to constantly improve his knowledge and technical skill. In the home of the patient he was to be courteous and modest, directing all attention to the patient's welfare. He was not to divulge any knowledge about the patient and his family. If the patient was incurable, he was to keep this to himself if it was likely to harm the patient or others. The normal length of the student's training appears to have been seven years. Before graduation, the student was to pass a test. But the physician was to continue to learn through texts, direct observation (pratyaksha), and through inference (anumāna). In addition, the vaidyas attended meetings where knowledge was exchanged. The physicians were also enjoined to gain knowledge of unusual remedies from hillsmen, herdsmen, and forest-dwellers. Dominik Wujastyk, The Roots of Ayurveda (Penguin, 2003)

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