Ayurveda (Samskrit: आयुर्वेदः) is a traditional Indian medical system practiced widely in भारतवर्षः । Bharatavarsha since ages. Although it is considered as one of the many alternative medical systems, its scope is not similar to the scope of conventional medical science or other alternative medical systems. It is important to know that, Ayurveda can not be equated with conventional medical science since the modern medical science deals with the diagnosis and management of diseases affecting only a physical body or mind, whereas Ayurveda focuses on health of an individual who is not merely a physical body or mind but a union of body, mind and life energy. This union of body, mind, senses and life energy has been given the utmost importance while considering any dimension of health in Ayurveda. Thus, the term 'Ayurveda' refers to the knowledge in scriptures describing various methods to obtain health and longevity, by preventing illness in healthy individuals and eradicating the diseases in diseased individuals.
- 1 परिचयः ॥ Introduction
- 2 व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology
- 3 आयुर्वेदस्य परिभाषा ॥ Ayurveda Definition
- 4 आयुर्वेदोत्पत्तेः पार्श्वभूमिः ॥ Emergence of Ayurveda
- 5 आयुर्वेदस्य अधिकरणम् ॥ Adhikarana of Ayurveda
- 6 आयुर्वेदावतरणम् ॥ Ayurveda Avatarana
- 7 आयुर्वेदस्य प्रयोजनम्॥ Prayojana of Ayurveda
- 8 त्रिस्कन्ध आयुर्वेदः ॥ Nature and Subject of Ayurveda
- 9 अष्टाङग आयुर्वेदः ॥ Ashtanga Ayurveda
- 9.1 कायचिकित्सा ॥ Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine)
- 9.2 कौमारभृत्यतन्त्रम् ॥ Koumarabhrutyatantram (Pediatrics)
- 9.3 ग्रहचिकित्सा ॥ Graha Chikitsa (Demonology & Psychology)
- 9.4 शालाक्यतन्त्रम्॥ Shalakyatantra (Head and Neck Treatment)
- 9.5 शल्यचिकित्सा॥ Shalya Chikitsa (Surgery)
- 9.6 दन्ष्ट्राचिकित्सा ॥ Damstra Chikitsa (Toxicology)
- 9.7 रसायनतन्त्रम् ॥ Rasayanatantra (Geriatrics & Rejuvenation)
- 9.8 वृषचिकित्सा ॥ Vrisha Chikitsa (Aphrodisiac therapy)
- 10 References
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
Ayurveda, as the name aptly suggests, is a part of vedic literature originated in भारतवर्षः । Bharatavarsha. It is considered to be the उपवेदः । Upaveda of अथर्ववेदः । Atharvaveda with its main focus on maintenance of आयुः। Ayu. Ayurveda thus offers the divine methods to achieve Ayu and keep away the रोगाः । Rogas that create obstacles in the daily activities of human beings. Ayu (Samskrit: आयुः) is a union of 4 elements namely, शरीरम् । Shariram (Body that has natural tendency to degenerate), इन्द्रियाणि । Indriyas (commonly known as sense organs and motor organs), सत्वम् । Satva (or मनस् commonly known as mind) and आत्मा । Atma (commonly referred to as life energy, consciousness or indestructible spirit). It follows that, subject, scope and application of Ayurveda is not limited to physical body but to all the 4 elements and the union of all these.
व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology
According to आचार्य सुश्रुतः। Acharya Sushruta, Ayurveda is the Veda from where one can obtain the methods to achieve life or longevity.
आयुरस्मिन् विद्यते अनेन वा आयुर्विन्दन्ति इति आयुर्वेदः । (Sush. Samh. 1.15)
āyurasmin vidyate anena vā āyurvindanti iti āyurvedaḥ । (Sush. Samh. 1.15)
Meaning: Ayurveda is the veda where the (the methods to obtain) Ayu lies or the veda from where the Ayu can be obtained.
The term Ayurveda consists of 2 terms namely आयुः। Ayu and वेदः। Veda.
आयुः ॥ Ayu
Ayu is defined as the close union of 4 elements namely
- शरीर ॥ Shariram (Body that has natural tendency to degenerate)
- इन्द्रिय ॥ Indriyas (commonly known as sense organs and motor organs)
- सत्व ॥ Satva (मनस् Manas or commonly known as mind)
- आत्मा ॥ Atman (commonly referred to as life energy, consciousness or indestructible spirit)
Dhaari (धारि), Jeevitam (जीवितम्), Nityaga (नित्यगः), Anubandha (अनुबन्ध) are the terms synonymously used with Ayu. This union is present till the time of death or in other words death is the discontinuation of this union. Therefore Shareeram, Indriyas, Satva and Atma are considered the essential components of Life.
शरीरेन्द्रियसत्त्वात्मसंयोगो धारि जीवितम् । नित्यगश्चानुबन्धश्च पर्यायैरयुरुच्यते ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.42)
śarīrendriyasattvātmasaṁyogo dhāri jīvitam । nityagaścānubandhaśca paryāyairayurucyate ।।(Char. Samh. 1.1.42)
वेदः ॥ Veda
The other term Veda means Knowledge or Wisdom. Vedas are the texts which describe the methods for obtaining what is desirable and for giving up what is undesirable.
आयुर्वेदस्य परिभाषा ॥ Ayurveda Definition
आचार्य चरकः । Acharya Charaka defines Ayurveda as, the Veda which offers knowledge about Ayu, its measurement, various aspects of Ayu like हितायुः । Hitayu (favorable or beneficial life), अहितायुः । Ahitayu (Unfavorable or disadvantageous life), सुखायुः । Sukhayu (comfortable and peasant life) and दुःखायुः । Dukhhayu (Unpleasant, uncomfortable life), in addition to, the knowledge of factors acting as promoters and non-promoters of these types of Ayu.
हिताहितं सुखं दुःखम् आयुस् तस्य हिताहितम् । मानं च तच्च यत्रोक्तम् आयुर्वेदः स उच्यते ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.41)
hitāhitaṁ sukhaṁ duḥkham āyus tasya hitāhitam । mānaṁ ca tacca yatroktam āyurvedaḥ sa ucyate ।।(Char. Samh. 1.1.41)
Meaning : Ayurveda is that, which deals with good, bad, happy and unhappy life, it's promoters and non-promoters, measures and nature.
आयुर्वेदोत्पत्तेः पार्श्वभूमिः ॥ Emergence of Ayurveda
Every new invention has its roots in some necessity. This is the basis for emergence and advancement of any branch of knowledge. Similarly, even some thousand years ago, Ayurveda originated because immense need for this kind of knowledge was felt at that time. This necessity highlights the importance and relevance of knowledge offered in Ayurveda as well as the purpose behind offering the knowledge of life in Ayurveda.
Acharya Charaka throws a light on this by writing that, आरोग्यम् । Arogya ( Health and well being) acts as the root of धर्मः । Dharma, अर्थः । Artha, कामः । Kama and मोक्षः। Moksha which results in श्रेयः । Shreyas (obtaining better fortune) and जीवितम् । Jivitam (longevity). Through the fulfillment of these, life becomes complete socially, physically, psychologically, intellectually, and adhyatmikly. Therefore when in ancient times, common people, Seers and sages performing pious acts experienced impediments in fulfilling these aspects of life due to disturbances caused by diseases, the quest for knowledge of life began. This lead to the emergence of Ayurveda many thousand years ago.
धर्मार्थकाममोक्षाणामारोग्यं मूलम् उत्तमम् ।। रोगास्तस्यापहर्तारः श्रेयसो जीवितस्य च । प्रादुर्भूतो मनुष्याणामन्तरायो महानयम् ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.15,16)
dharmārthakāmamokṣāṇāmārogyaṁ mūlam uttamam ।। rogāstasyāpahartāraḥ śreyaso jīvitasya ca । prādurbhūto manuṣyāṇāmantarāyo mahānayam ।।(Char. Samh. 1.1.15,16)
Meaning: Arogya is believed to be the basic requirement for taking a step towards fulfilling all these पुरुषार्थाः । purusharthas. रोगाः। Roga (Meaning anything experienced as a painful event in life, anything that hurts, commonly referred to diseases) are the destructive events to अनारोग्यम् । anarogya (Ill health) and thus considered to be the obstacles in fulfilling Purushartha. Therefore there is a necessity to know the methods to achieve the desired आरोग्यम् । Arogya or healthy life by eliminating the rogas. This necessity also forms the basis of the unique structure of Ayurveda, the aim of Ayurveda and origin of various concepts that act as basic principles of Ayurveda.
आयुर्वेदस्य अधिकरणम् ॥ Adhikarana of Ayurveda
अधिकरणम् । Adhikarna means the substratum or the object for which the entire knowledge is offered.
Acharya Charaka has clearly mentioned that, knowledge about life offered in Ayurveda is related to the Ayu of त्रिदन्डात्मकपुरुषः । Tridandatmaka Purusha. It is highly recommended for one to understand the concept of त्रिदन्डात्मकपुरुषः । Tridandatmaka Purusha described in Ayurveda to appraise the scope and application of Ayurveda. The entire knowledge in Ayurveda has been offered for this object known as Tridandatmaka Purusha.
सत्वमात्मा शरीरं च त्रयमेतत्त्रिदण्डवत् । लोक्स्तिष्ठति संयोगात्तत्र सर्वं प्रतिष्ठितम् ।
स पुमांश्चेतनं तच्च तच्चाधिकरणं स्म्रुतम् । वेदस्यास्य, तदर्थं हि वेदो अयं प्रकाशितः ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.46,47)
satvamātmā śarīraṁ ca trayametattridaṇḍavat । lokstiṣṭhati saṁyogāttatra sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitam ।
sa pumāṁścetanaṁ tacca taccādhikaraṇaṁ smrutam । vedasyāsya, tadarthaṁ hi vedo ayaṁ prakāśitaḥ ।।(Char. Samh. 1.1.46,47)
Meaning: सत्वम्। Satva (Mind), आत्मा। Atman (Life energy) and शरीरम् । Sharira (Body) are the three basic components. The union of these three components form the tripod of life. The entire life depends and sustains on this union. It must be understood that any one of these is not sufficient to uphold the life individually. When each one of these factors supports other and form a union, they develop the ability to sustain the life. When any one of these factors is absent and their union breaks, the life discontinues. Hence each of these 3 factors and their union hold equal importance. This union is also called as पुमान् । Puman or चेतनम् । Chetan and, this is the object under discussion in Ayurveda. In fact Ayurveda had been brought into the main stream of practice mainly for this object.
आयुर्वेदावतरणम् ॥ Ayurveda Avatarana
Being upaveda of Atharvaveda, Ayurveda also does not belong to any specific author but considered to be सनातनम् । Sanatana or शाश्वतम्। Shasvata. Creation of Ayurveda has also been credited to Brahma.
तदिदं शाश्वतं पुण्यं स्वर्ग्यं यशस्यमायुष्यं वृत्तिकरं चेति ।। (Sush. Samh. 1.19)
tadidaṁ śāśvataṁ puṇyaṁ svargyaṁ yaśasyamāyuṣyaṁ vr̥ttikaraṁ ceti ।।(Sush. Samh. 1.19)
Meaning: Ayurveda is शाश्वतम्। Shasvata (eternal), पुण्यं। Punyam (Pure, Sacred, Auspicious), स्वर्ग्यं। Swargyam (Heavenly or partaking to heaven), यशस्यम् । Yashasyam (Creditable, Glorious), आयुष्यम्। Ayushyam (Giving long life), वृत्तिकरं Vruttikaram (affording a livelihood).
Though Ayurveda is eternal in nature, various Ayurveda संहिता । samhita (Compendia) have described interesting mythological tales about origin, descent and spread of Ayurveda on earth. There are 2 main परम्परा । paramparas (traditions) described to apprise the transfer of knowledge of Ayurveda from देवता । devatas to human beings and this event is termed as ‘Ayurveda avatarana’ (आयुर्वेदावतरण).
It is believed that the knowledge of Ayurveda was recollected by ब्रह्मा । Brahma and not created. Knowledge of Ayurveda is thus said to be received first by Brahma in meditative state by revelation. It was then passed on to दक्ष प्रजापति । Daksha Prajapati. Daksha Prajapati passed on this knowledge to अश्विनीकुमारौ । Ashvini Kumaras. Ashvini Kumaras are recognized as twin brothers who are renowned physicians of devatas. Various mythological tales in vedas describe complex, innovative surgical procedures and medical treatments performed by Ashvini kumaras. Impressed by their fascinating medical knowledge and skills of surgery, इन्द्र । Indra requested them to share this knowledge with him. In this way Indra inherited knowledge of Ayurveda from Ashvini Kumaras and later passed on this knowledge to seers and sages of ancient India. The transfer of Ayurveda from devatas to manushyas (descent To earth) is described by different tales in various treatises. There are mainly 2 traditions of this transfer where one tradition is known as Atreya Parampara (tradition) and the other one as Dhanvantari Paramapara.
आत्रेय परम्परा॥ Atreya Parampara
In ancient India, the sages and seers were engaged in performing various yajnas and pious acts as a part of their practices for adhyatmik enlightenment. When emergence of various diseases started creating obstacles in the तप। tapa , उपवास। Upawas , ब्रह्मचर्य। Brahmacharya , व्रत। Vrata and आयुष। Aayush , immense need to find out a solution for these diseases was felt.
Looking at the plight of mankind, the sages and seers decided to assemble at one of the auspicious sides of Himalayas and search for a solution. ऋषयः। Rushis like Angira, Jamadagni, Vasishtha, Kashyapa, Bhrugu, Atreya, Gautam, Saankhya, Pulastya, Narad, Agastya, Vamadev, Asit, Markandeya, Paarikshi, Ashwalayan, Bhikshu Atreya, Bhardwaja, Kapinjala, Wishwamitra, Ashwamathya, Bhargava, Chyawan, Abhijit, Gargya, Shandilya, Koundilya, Varkshi, Devala, Galav and many other sages were part of this assembly. They all were enlightened and brilliant. They started discussing that diseases are appearing as obstacles in attainment of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Aarogya is the main source for achieving these while, diseases work as destroyers of health, welfare and life. Hence, in order to overcome this problem, they started thinking of means to get rid of these diseases , achieve longevity and the source to find this knowledge. In a meditative state, they saw Indra as a savior, the source to obtain this knowledge. They realized that Indra could be the only source to get the desired knowledge and thus decided to meet him.
ऋषी भरद्वाज। Rushi Bharadwaja voluntarily expressed the willingness to work as representative and hence was deputed by sages to go to the abode of Indra and request him to share the knowledge. In a very short span, intelligent and devoted sage Bharadwaja absorbed Ayurveda knowledge in its entirety, practiced himself to attain happy life and transferred it to other sages. This way, ऋषी भरद्वाज। Rushi Bharadwaja is considered as the first Manushya to receive the knowledge of Ayurveda for welfare of mankind on earth. He then passed on this knowledge to various other sages.
आत्रेय पुनर्वसुः । Atreya Punarvasu was one such sage to learn Ayurveda from Bharadwaja. He then bestowed this knowledge on his 6 disciples, out of the virtue of compassion for mankind and friendliness to share. अग्निवेशः। Agnivesha, भेलः। Bhela, जतुकर्णः। Jatukarna, पराशरः। Parashara, हारितः। Harit and क्षारपाणिः। Ksharapani were the 6 disciples of Atreya Punarvasu. On the basis of the knowledge obtained from guru Atreya, each of these disciples scripted their own treatises. Agnivesha being the most brilliant among them, was the first one to transcribe this knowledge from oral tradition into a compendium. His compendium got recognized by his name as अग्निवेशसंहिता । Agnivesha Samhita. This transfer of knowledge continued. Agnivesha Samhita gained wider recognition than other 5 treatises and thus in the later period, आचार्य चरकः । Acharya Charaka and दृढबलः । Drudhabala expounded this Samhita by their annotations. Since then, this Samhita became popular as चरकसंहिता । Charaka Samhita. Charaka Samhita is regarded as authoritative text for the knowledge of Ayurveda and is included under बृहत्रयी। Brihatrayee (the greater triology of classical texts) in Ayurveda.
धन्वन्तरि परम्परा॥ Dhanwantari parampara
In another parampara (tradition), knowledge of Ayurveda was inherited by काशीराज् दीवोदास धन्वन्तरी । Kashiraj Divodas Dhanwantari from Indra. He then passed on this divine knowledge to his disciples like सुश्रुत । Sushruta, औपधेनवः । Aupadhenav, वैतरणः । Vaitaran, औरभ्रः । Aurabhra, करवीर्यः । Karaveerya, भोजः । Bhoj, पौष्कलावतः । Poushkalawat गोपुररक्षितः । Gopoormeet.  आचार्य सुश्रुतः। Sushruta among these disciples created the treatise named सुश्रुतसंहिता । Sushruta Samhita. This Sushruta Samhita is also considered as one of the authoritative texts in Ayurveda and forms an integral part of बृहत्रयी। Bruhatrayee.
आयुर्वेदस्य प्रयोजनम्॥ Prayojana of Ayurveda
प्रयोजन । Prayojana of Ayurveda means the aim of Ayurveda. It is described as below.
धातुसाम्यम् ॥ Establishment of equilibrium of Dhatus
As per Acharya Charaka, establishing धातुसाम्यम् । Dhatusamyam is the only aim of Ayurveda.
धातुसाम्यक्रिया चोक्ता तन्त्रस्यास्य प्रयोजनम् ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.43)
dhātusāmyakriyā coktā tantrasyāsya prayojanam ।।
Meaning: Establishing Dhatusamyam is the only aim of Ayurveda.
In another discourse, Dhatusamyam (balanced state of body tissues) is defined as आरोग्यम्। Aarogya. Aacharya Charaka defines विकाराः। Vikara (diseases) as धातुवैषम्यम्। Dhatu vaishamya (Imbalance of body tissues). Dhatu samyam is labelled as प्रकृतिः । Prakruti or state of equilibrium of the human system. Vikaras are considered as दुःख । Dukkha and consequently the opposite, सुख । Sukha, is considered as the state of absence of vikara.  Ultimately Dhatu samyam is referred to as Aarogyam (Health) and Sukham (Well-being and happiness). This clarifies that, the aim of Ayurveda is to establish Aarogya or Dhatusamyam which ultimately helps for attainment of Sukha.
व्याधिपरिमोक्षः स्वस्थस्य रक्षणं च ॥ Curative and Preventive Medicine
इह खल्वायुर्वेदप्रयोजनं व्याध्युपसृष्टानां व्याधिपरिमोक्षः स्वस्थस्य रक्षणं च ।। (Sush. Samh. 1.14)
iha khalvāyurvedaprayojanaṁ vyādhyupasr̥ṣṭānāṁ vyādhiparimokṣaḥ svasthasya rakṣaṇaṁ ca।। (Sush. Samh. 1.14)
Acharya Sushruta opines that, the aim of Ayurveda is व्याधिपरिमोक्षः । Vyadhiparimoksha i.e. to alleviate the suffering of a diseased individual by eradicating the disease and स्वास्थ्यरक्षणम् । Svasthyarakshan i.e to preserve the health of a healthy individual by preventing the diseases. Hence, it is clear that Ayurveda focuses on both the aspects of health namely, curative and preventive. The methods of achieving health and longevity by not just treating the diseases but also by prevention of the diseases, have been described in Ayurveda indicating supremacy and the wisdom of ancient Rushis.
त्रिस्कन्ध आयुर्वेदः ॥ Nature and Subject of Ayurveda
The knowledge of Ayurveda is presented as त्रिसूत्र। Trisootra or त्रिस्कन्ध । Triskandha (3 pronged knowledge) covering 3 important aspects viz.
- हेतवः । Hetu (Etiology and diagnosis)
- लिङगानि । Lingani (Clinical presentation, signs, symptoms etc)
- औषधी। Aushadhi (Medicine and various other methods like dietary regimen, lifestyle etc to combat the illness).
This knowledge is offered for betterment of आतुरः। Aatur (Diseased individual- Curative aspect) as well as स्वस्थः । Swastha (Healthy individual: Preventive measures). This rich source of knowledge named Ayurveda will last forever without any change, it is eternal and virtuous which was first known to only Brahma.
हेतुलिङ्गौषधज्ञानं स्वस्थातुरपरायणम् । त्रिसूत्रं शाश्वतं पुण्यं बुबुधे यं पितामहः ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.24)
hetuliṅgauṣadhajñānaṁ svasthāturaparāyaṇam । trisūtraṁ śāśvataṁ puṇyaṁ bubudhe yaṁ pitāmahaḥ ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.24)
सो ऽनन्तपारं त्रिस्कन्धमायुर्वेदं महामतिः । यथावदचिरात् सर्वं बुबुधे तन्मना मुनिः ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.25)
so 'nantapāraṁ triskandhamāyurvedaṁ mahāmatiḥ । yathāvadacirāt sarvaṁ bubudhe tanmanā muniḥ ।। (Char. Samh. 1.1.25)
अष्टाङग आयुर्वेदः ॥ Ashtanga Ayurveda
This entire knowledge of life in Ayurveda is divided under 8 main branches. These are called उपाङ्गानि। Upanga of Ayurveda and as they are 8 in number, Ayurveda is also called Ashtanga Ayurveda.  These 8 branches are as follows:
- Kayachikitsa (कायचिकित्सा): Internal Medicine for systemic diseases caused due to disturbances in Agni (digestive fire)
- Bala Chikitsa (बालचिकित्सा) or Koumarbhrutyatantram: (कौमारभृत्यतन्त्रम्) : Treatment of neonates, infants and children like Paediatrics
- Graha Chikitsa (ग्रहचिकित्सा) or Bhutavidya (भूतविद्या) : Demonology / Psychology
- Urdhvaanga Chikitsa (उर्ध्वाङ्चिकित्सा) : Treatment of disease occurring in head and neck
- Shalya Chikitsa: शल्यचिकित्सा) : Surgical procedures involving use of blunt and sharp instruments, fire, Ksharas (different forms of alkalis) and bloodletting procedures.
- Damstra Chikitsa (दन्ष्ट्राचिकित्सा) or Agadatantra (अगदतन्त्रम्) : Treatments similar to Toxicology
- Jara Chikitsa (जराचिकित्सा) or Rasayanatantra (रसायनतन्त्रम्) : Geriatrics, Rejuvenation
- Vrsha Chikitsa (वृषचिकित्सा) or Vajikaranatantra (वाजीकरणम्) : Aphrodisiac therapy, treatments assisting natural conception and fertility
कायचिकित्सा ॥ Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine)
It deals with Internal Medicine for systemic diseases caused due to disturbances in Agni ( digestive fire). The word Kayachikitsa is composed of 2 parts. First is काय । Kaay, meaning complete physical body composed of multiple अवयवाः । Avayava (various organs and systems) in all the stages of life, while चिकित्सा । Chikitsa refers to the treatment methods. Thus, Kayachikitsa offers the knowledge of treatments for bodily diseases. This branch is commonly co-related with internal medicine. It is believed that imbalances in दोषाः । Dosha, धातवः । Dhatu, मलाः। Mala and अग्निः । Agni are the fundamental causes for development of almost all the diseases. These imbalances can be managed using various orally administered medicines, पथ्यम् । Pathyam or dietary regimens, lifestyle changes and other important methods like पंचकर्मः। Panchakarma. Hence, Kayachikitsa is the branch of Ayurveda that deals with management of systemic disorders.
कौमारभृत्यतन्त्रम् ॥ Koumarabhrutyatantram (Pediatrics)
This branch includes knowledge of treating diseases occurring in neonates, infants and children. Diseases in this age group are considered to be caused by imbalances in nutrition, contaminated breast milk from feeding mother and sometimes some unknown factors or evil forces referred as ग्रह । Grahas. Causes, Clinical manifestations and methods to treat these diseases can be found in Kaumarbhrutya which is also known as बालचिकित्सा । Balachikitsa.
ग्रहचिकित्सा ॥ Graha Chikitsa (Demonology & Psychology)
This is also known as भूतविद्या । Bhutavidya and deals with Demonology & Psychology, a branch unique to Ayurveda. This branch focuses on management of various diseases caused due to unknown etiological factors which might include ill spirits, demons, astrological factors etc. These factors primarily affect चेतस् । Chetas (mental faculties). Hence this branch offers knowledge of methods to fight psychological and psycho-somatic diseases. It includes mention of various शान्तिकर्माणि । Shantikarmas, मन्त्राः। Mantras etc for the treatment of such ailments. Such remedy measures are also ancient and considered unique to Ayurveda.
शालाक्यतन्त्रम्॥ Shalakyatantra (Head and Neck Treatment)
Shalakyatantra is also known as Urdhvaanga Chikitsa (उर्ध्वाङ्गचिकित्सा). It involves treatment of diseases occurring in head and neck and includes diseases of Ear, Eyes, Oral cavity, Nose etc. Shalakya is the term derived from the name of instrument शलाका। 'Shalaka' appearing like a probe. Since most of the procedures performed in head and neck region involve use of this instrument, the entire branch is thus named after it.
शल्यचिकित्सा॥ Shalya Chikitsa (Surgery)
It consists of surgical procedures involving use of blunt and sharp instruments, fire, Kshara and bloodletting and hence commonly referred to as Surgery. Knowledge of various procedures performed using various types of यन्त्रम्। blunt and शस्त्रम्। sharp instruments, क्षाराः । Ksharas (Alkaline Ash like substances), अग्निः । fire and various local treatments for wound healing are described under this section. Many instruments of surgery used in the present day are identical to those mentioned in Ayurveda Samhitas scripted thousands of years ago.
दन्ष्ट्राचिकित्सा ॥ Damstra Chikitsa (Toxicology)
Damstra Chikitsa is also known as Agadatantra (अगदतन्त्रम्). It is a very well-developed branch of Ayurveda which deals with management of cases of poisoning from various sources like snakes, insects, food combinations, natural and artificial poisons etc. It provides details on identification of source of poison, causes, clinical manifestations and methods to eliminate the poison from body. It is commonly referred as Ayurvedic Toxicology.
रसायनतन्त्रम् ॥ Rasayanatantra (Geriatrics & Rejuvenation)
Rasayana tantra is a specialty of Ayurveda. It is also known as Jarachikitsa. Various methods to prevent premature ageing, achieve longevity (by preventing diseases and preserving the health), increase the strength, endurance and immunity are discussed under this branch of Ayurveda. The word जरा । ‘Jara’ means Ageing or senility. Thus, Jarachikitsa also signifies the specialty treatments in Ayurveda for diseases occurring in old age. Therefore, this branch is commonly referred to as Geriatrics but its scope is not limited to the subject of Geriatrics. Detailed description of Rasayana can be found in Rasayana chapter of Charaka Samhita  and other treatises of Ayurveda.
वृषचिकित्सा ॥ Vrisha Chikitsa (Aphrodisiac therapy)
Vrisha chikitsa is also known as Vajikaranam वाजीकरणम् । in Ayurveda. This stream of Ayurveda offers knowledge of methods to preserve sexual health and treat diseases related to reproduction. This involves use of medicines, diet, lifestyle modifications and psychotherapy to correct the imbalances that cause deficiency, impurity, insufficient production and dryness of रेतस् । Retas (Commonly known as शुक्रम्। Shukra. Shukram is one of the 7 Dhatus (body tissues) of पुरुषः । Purusha and it is responsible for reproduction, growth and development. Not equal to but similar to semen). It elaborates on the therapeutic measures for nourishment, fortification and enhancement of the quality and quantity of Shukra. Moreover, it also provides knowledge about methods to increase the libido and use of aphrodisiac agents.
It is extremely important to understand that, in Ayurveda, Sexual intercourse is considered for the purpose of reproduction. Therefore, this branch of Ayurveda is developed to correct the imbalances in the factors responsible for reproduction and developing healthy progeny. This specialty also deals with diseases of infertility resulting from unhealthy Shukra. It is not intended for enhancing only the carnal pleasures like it is misinterpreted many times. Detail description of Vajikarana is found in Vajikarana chapter of Charaka Samhita  and other authoritative texts in Ayurveda.
In this way, Ayurveda offers knowledge of methods to maintain the health and well-being of all the individuals under these 8 branches. Its knowledge is not limited to medicine, cure or therapy but to all the aspects of one's life. Moreover, the knowledge is for all parts of the community since it can be tailored to their needs. In modern times, the influence of bio-medicine on Ayurveda is leading to its medicalisation. The current over medicalisation of society is a potential threat to human health and well-being. Ayurveda can provide essential teachings and practices to counter-balance this current trend through encouraging population's self-reliance in its health. And for that, the practice of Ayurveda needs to be applied at individual, community and health care provider levels and not be limited to the medical system.
- Sushruta Samhita (Sootrasthanam Adhyaya 1)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthana Adhyaya 1)
- Swami Krishnananda, The Heritage of Indian Culture (Chapter 4)
- Charaka Samhita (Sootrasthana Adhyaya 9 Sootra 4)
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sootrasthanam Adhyaya 1)
- Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam, Rasayana pada, Adhyaya 1)
- Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam, Vajikarana Pada, Adhyaya 1)
- Mathpati MM, et al., Ayurveda and medicalisation today: The loss of important knowledge and practice in health?, J Ayurveda Integr Med (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaim.2018.06.004