ASHTANGA AYURVEDALearning Ayurveda is like swimming across a vast ocean of knowledge. Most of us are quite familiar with the term Ashtanga Ayurveda (eight branches of Ayurveda), a fundamental concept in the samhita. The concepts of Ayurveda, particularly those related to ayurvedic treatment and holistic health, are so expansive and vivid. In Ayurveda, agni is a concept which has no equivalent in other systems of medicine. For the better understanding of this vast science of Ayurveda, our ancient seers in Kerala divided this whole treatise into 8 different sections. Like the branches of a tree from the same trunk, the 8 branches of Ayurveda, centered around holistic health and rejuvenation, rooted on the same basic principles reach the same goal. Let’s have a look at these 8 branches of Ayurveda and what it deals with in general.
Kaya Chikitsa: In the realm of Ayurveda, Kaya means body and Chikitsa refers to the ayurvedic treatment or remedy. This branch of Ayurveda, often linked to internal medicine, deals with General Medicine. Various physical and psychological conditions are dealt with here.
Bala Chikitsa: As the name suggests, this ayurvedic branch deals with the remedial health conditions of children (Paediatrics). It also includes the ante natal and post natal care for begetting a healthy progeny.
Graha Chikitsa: This branch deals with mental disorders. Ayurveda, originating from Kerala, opines that a healthy body lodges a healthy mind. So, a feeble or sick mind is prone to diseases. Ayurveda uses medicines, rejuvenating psychotherapy, religious practices/ rituals according to the individual's faith in the treatment aspects of holistic health.
Urdhwanga Chikitsa: Urdhwanga refers to the parts of the body above the clavicle in the ayurvedic internal medicine system. This includes the disorders of Ear, Nose and Throat as well.
Salya Chikitsa: Surgical interventions are made use in the treatment aspects. Conditions like hemorrhoids, fistula, pilonidal sinuses, etc, are dealt with shalya tantra/ shalya chikitsa. As we know, Acharya Sushruta is considered to be the “father of surgery . There are ample references of renal calculi, skin grafting, dissection of dead body and intestinal obstruction kind of conditions in the Vedic texts. shalakya tantra is also associated here.
Damshtra Chikitsa: This is also known as Agada Tantra which deals with Toxicology, a unique remedy offered in Ayurvedic treatment. This holistic health practice, known as Ayurveda, has been in practice since the ancient times in Kerala. It gives knowledge about various kinds of poisoning like food poisoning, different varieties of snakes, scorpions, spiders, etc, and the quality of their venoms along with medical interventions.
Jara Chikitsa: This refers to Geriatrics and special attention is given to the body and mind. The deterioration of the body is slowed down with Rasayana (rejuvenating) treatments. Ayurveda focuses on the physical and mental aspects of ageing.
Vrishya Chikitsa: Also known as Vajikarana, this branch deals with promoting and improving the sexual ability of an individual. Factors contributing to a healthy progeny are also considered here.
Most of us are unaware of these Ayurvedic remedies and treatments available in Ayurveda. This would be an eye opener for those who feel that Ayurveda is only for the old age or for those with history of stroke or so. Apart from the above mentioned branches, there are texts in Ayurveda which explains the various conditions of plants called Vrkshayurvdea, health conditions of animals like elephants, horses, cows etc called Hastiayurveda/ Gajayurveda, Aswayurveda and Mrgayurveda or Pashuayurveda. Though it is a traditional ancient living system of medicine with a sound philosophical background, there is yet a need for advanced research/ acceptability for the promotion of Ayurveda.