Ayurveda is the science of life and longevity of ancient India which led the world in health-and-wellness knowledge and practice. It was taught and practiced by sages since time immemorial. Though it was prevalent in India before 3000 years ago, it was perfected into a scientific branch of knowledge with uniform theoretical basis and guidelines for practice about 2000 years ago.
It is a genuine naturalistic system based on the diagnosis of the three humours of the body, viz. vata, pitta and kapha, and treatments aimed at restoring the right balance of these three in the body. It is also based on the theory that man is made of five basic elements, viz. earth, water, fire, air and space.
Unlike the allopathic system of medicine, it focuses more on the holistic spiritual, mental, physical and social wellness and welfare of the man than on the treatment of some diseases. Even in the treatment of the diseases, it treats the root causes rather than the symptoms as allopathic system often does. Ayurveda is traditionally used extensively all over India to maintain the health and prevent diseases rather than to treat diseases after they have set in.
Dietary controls, natural medications, body massages, nasal inhalations, fomentations, continuous pouring of medicated oils, exposure to sun, infusion of medications through the rectum, exercises, etc are used to root out physical and mental diseases, rejuvenate the body and increase resistance to diseases.
United Nations and other world organisations have wondered, in their reports, how Kerala, which has a very low per capita income, tops the charts, keeping far above the developed rich nations, when it comes to health and wellness. It is the widespread practice of traditional and undiluted Ayurveda in its pristine form that has helped Kerala to achieve this enviable position.
The high humidity of the atmosphere in Kerala is helpful in the easy absorption of the massaging oils by the body. The natural abundance of medicinal herbs and the perennially salubrious climate combine with the right medicines to work wonders on the human body and mind. Favourable climate and unpolluted atmosphere are key factors in making purification and rejuvenation therapies in Ayurveda really effective, and Kerala has both of these.
Generally, Kerala is considered the only place in India where Ayurveda is practised in its genuine traditional form with total dedication. Tourists with life-style-related ailments like arthritis, paralysis, obesity, sinusitis, migraine, premature ageing and skin ailments, come to Kerala for holistic Ayurvedic treatment to root out the causes of the maladies.
According to ancient Ayurvedic treatises, the main processes in Ayurvedic treatment are shodan (cleansing), shaman (palliation), rasayana (rejuvenating medications) and satvajaya (treatment for mental wellness). Ayurvedic treatments do not suppress the main symptoms to create new ones as side effects, as allopathic treatment often does.
Unlike Allopathic treatment where the main stress is on medicines, Ayurvedic system is a multidisciplinary approach that removes the root cause of the disease to give a permanent relief to the patient. Corrections in life-style, certain dietary controls, some exercises, proper rest, etc are insisted upon when taking medicines. Powders, tablets, decoctions, oils, etc, made from natural sources, especially herbs, collected and processed as per traditional guidelines, are given for specified periods. Dietary controls may continue even after stopping the medicines.
The increased doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) are reduced through this treatment. Palliative treatment consists of the following measures:-
Panchakarma, or a five-pronged treatment, is used for purification, which is the removal of accumulated toxins and doshas in the body. The five processes are:
Medications of the rasayana variety and external treatment using medicated oils and herbal extracts are used to restore the youthful vim and vigour of those who take the treatment. People suffering from several life-style-related ailments undergo these treatments and become fit as fiddles, returning home fully satisfied. Some rejuvenation treatments are described below:
Rheumatic and paralytic ailments and nervous weakness and disorders are rooted out through this treatment. Herbal oils are kept moderately heated over low flame and applied over the whole body by two or four trained masseurs once a day. Each session lasts 60 to 90 minutes and the period of treatment may vary from 7 to 21 days according to the gravity of the ailment and the condition of the body.
Kizhi is very useful in rheumatism, joint pains, spondilosis, emaciation of limbs, cholesterol and blood pressure. Boluses tied up in muslin bags made up of medications are applied to the whole body or part of it by two or four masseurs for 60 to 90 minutes, making the body perspire profusely. The treatment usually lasts 14 daysNjavarakizhi It is the same as above but the muslin bags contain njavara rice together with other medications.
This treatment is useful in insomnia, vatha predominated diseases, mental tension and certain skin diseases. Medicinal preparations in liquid form are poured in a continuous stream on the forehead of the patient, while he is lying in a thoni (wooden tub), from a dhara chatti (earthen pan with a hole) placed at a prescribed height. Oils, milk, tender coconut water and decoctions of herb extracts are the different fluid mediums used. Dhara usually lasts 7 to 21 days.
Paralysis, arthritis, acute and prolonged constipation, etc are treated with vasthi. In this method of treatment some herbal oils and other medications are applied through the rectum daily for a period of 5 to 25 days.
This is very useful in facial paralysis, severe headaches, dryness of nostrils and such other vatha-related diseases. A cap or head-band is fixed on the head and warm medicated oils are poured in it so that the oils stay on the head without flowing down for 15 to 60 minutes. This may be continued for 7 days.
A very effective treatment for hemiplegia, paralysis, obesity and some other rheumatic ailments, Udvarthanam is done for 14 to 28 days, massaging the whole body using herbal powders.
For obesity and diabetic gangrene, the body is stroked with medicated oils continuously for 45 minutes a day. The usual duration is 14 days.
Prolonged and acute headache, mental disorders, paralysis and certain type of skin diseases are cured through Nasyam in which herbal juices, medicated oils, etc are applied through the nose for 7 to 14 days.
Recommended in osteoarthritis, leukaemia, etc, snehapanam means drinking ghee/oils. Medicated ghee is taken for 8 to 12 days in a proportionately and progressively increasing quantity from the first day to the last.
All type of back pain and spinal disorders are cured through this treatment which lasts for 45 minutes to one hour daily for a specific number of days as per requirement. For this, the patient is made to lie face down and warm medicated oils are kept over the lower back portion, bounded by herbal paste boundary to stop it from flowing away.
Urovasthi is performed for asthma, other respiratory problems, heart diseases and muscular chest pain. It is the same as Kativasthi with the difference that here the oils are kept over the chest.
Ksheeradhoomam, or fomentation with milk, is effective in facial paralysis, speech disorders, Bell‘s palsy and other nervous disorders. Medicated cow’s milk is used for this treatment.