The ancient Indian Herbal Health care
“One who bears in his attractive four hands conch, chakra, a set of leeches and a pot with ambrosia, whose fine, shining and pure upper garment makes him appear especially wonderful, whose eyes are like lotus flower, whose bright bodily luster is of the color of a fresh rain cloud, whose beautiful waist is adored by a magnificent yellow dress and who burns away all diseases just like a forest fire, to such a Lord Dhanvantari – God of Ayurveda, I bow respectfully.”
Ayurveda is a branch or Upaveda of Athar-Veda which deals with the curing of diseases and suggests remedies to enhance and increase ones lifespan. It is the oldest known existing health care system and is a great heritage of India. The importance attached to a good healthy living can be judged from the fact that – the four principle texts of Hinduism are called Vedas and all other branches of learning are called either Shastras or Vidyas, but the branch of learning dealing with health is called Ayur-Veda.
The ancient Hindu system of learning was a fully integrated education system and not an isolated study of the various systems. A pundit had to study and master all branches of knowledge in order to get a proper all round knowledge. Hence apart from studying the Vedas one studied various Shastras like Sabda Shastra – grammar and literature, Shilpa Shastra – manual training in arts and crafts including mathematics. Chikitsaa Shastra – The science of medicine, Hetu Shastra- Logic and philosophy, Aadhyaatma Shastra – Spiritual science, Jyotishya Shastra or Astrology, Paka Shastra – the art of cooking etc., etc. In fact its written that:
“Ekam saastramadheeyaano na vidyaachchaastra nischayam,
tasmaat bahusrutah saastram vijaaneeyaat, chikitsakah
“By the study of a single Saastra a man can never catch the true import of this science of medicine. Therefore a physician should study as many allied branches of science or philosophy as possible.”
So, in those days when someone wanted a solution he would get a multi pronged in-depth advise. To give you a hypothetical example: if you order “marriage prospects” forecast, an ancient pundit will give you the following advise:
1. Astrologically suitable periods and remedies, 2. Right food, Ayurvedic herbs and exercise to make you look better to improve your chances, 3. Right poojas and mantras, 4. Right lessons from Kamasashtra on how to dress and talk to attract the opposite sex!!
Apart from Atharveda and the famous ayurvedic classic Charka Samhita, ayurvedic tips and prescriptions are given in a lot of places in Vedas and other scriptures in coded form. Take the following famous verse in praise of Lord Ganesha for example :
“Gajaananam bhoota ganadhi sevitam
Kapitwa jamboophala chaaru bhakshanam
Umaa-sutam shoka vinaasha kaaranam
Namaami Vighneshwara paada pankajm.”
Meaning: “O elephant headed Lord, who is served by a host of Ganas, who is fond of the juce of Kapitta and Jamboo fruits, O son o Uma and the remover of obstacles, I bow before your Lotus feet.”
There is a coded herbal remedy for a very common decease in this verse. Ganesha is not the son of Uma. Uma was Lord Shiva’s first wife who immolated herself during the Daksha Yagna. Ganesha was the son of Parvati. So why did the Rishi say Uma-sutam meaning son of Uma? This is the coded hint. Uma also means sweet in Sanskrit. Sutam also means urine. So for those who know the proper decoding method, this famous Sholaka is a remedy for diabetics – sweet-urine!! – “If you take a little quantity of juice of Jamboo fruits you will not get diabetics.” Similarly most of the verses of Shree Rudram in Yajurveda also have coded instructions for herbal remedies for various problems. That is one of the reasons why the Ayurvedic pundits of south India recite these verses while preparing the Ayurvedic medicines, recite the verse while giving it to the patient and ask him to recite it while taking the medicine. That is tradition for you!