Ayurveda, is very vast hence it’s divided into eight branches, which are collectively called as Ashtang Ayurveda. Like any other modern medicinal therapies, Ayurveda believes in specialized treatment for different body parts. Thus, the medicinal art have been categorized under branches that deal with psychiatry, internal medicine, treatment of eyes, ears, nose, throat and head, toxicology and gerentorology separately. Ayurveda is a very elaborate and vast medicinal science. It deals with several kinds of complex ailments and surgeries. The science of Ayurveda is divided into eight different categories in order to clearly demarcate the treatment of one ailment from another. That is why the science of Ayurveda is often referred as Astang Ayurveda i.e. the life science with eight branches.
Ayurveda is an ancient medicinal science. It originated in the Indian subcontinent about 5000 years ago and is considered to be one of the most advance medical therapies existing in the world till now.Ayurveda is the first ever medicine system to categorize pediatrics, aphrodisiacs and surgery as the branches of any medicinal science.
"Kaaya baala graha urdhvaanga shalya damshtra jara vrshan Ashtau angaani tasyaahuh chikitsa yeshu samsthitaah."
Which are 8 branches?
1. Kaaya Chikitsa (Internal Medicine),
2. Baala Chikitsa (Treatment of Children/Pediatrics),
3. Graha Chikitsa (Demonology/Psychology),
4. Urdhvaanga Chikitsa (Treatment of eyes, ears, nose, throat and head)
5. Shalya Chikitsa (Surgery),
6. Damstra Chikitsa/Agad tantra (Toxicology)
7. Jara Chikitsa (Geriatrics, Rejuvenation),
8. Vrusha Chikitsa (Aphrodisiac therapy).
Description about 8 branches
Kayachikitsa( Internal Medicine)
- Ayurveda is the holistic approach, which is mainly concerned with the treatment of the body kayachikitsa, is the first branch of Astanga Ayurveda or eight-branched Ayurveda that deals with general medicine. The total treatment procedure is called Kaya Chikitsa (or internal medicine), wherein kaya means 'body' and chikitsa means 'treatment'. Kaya Chikitsa mainly deals with the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of general diseases, such as skin disorders, diabetes, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis and many other disorders.
- Charaka Samhita is the most important scripture on kayachikitsa. It discussed the basic principles of treatment, various types of therapies and purification or detoxification methods. According to this natural treatment, the body of a person is product of the constant psychosomatic interactions and diseases caused are due to the imbalance caused in the trishods of the body. This imbalance caused in the three doshas of vata-pitta-kapha is sometimes, caused by the mind and occasionally by the body's dhatu (tissues) and mala (toxin deposits). It is then that the kayachitikitsa branch of ayurveda comes to assistance.
- Kayachitikitsa is the branch of herbal and holistic medicine, which delves deep into ascertaining the root cause of the illness. The entire Ayurvedic therapeutics is based on the concept of Agni. The concept of Kaya (Agni) is unique and is responsible for bio- transformation. As it is known that energy can neither be created nor can it be destroyed. In human body, Kaya provides the necessary energy for all bodily activities. The energy provided is derived from the food we eat and the air we breathe. The biological system of the body transforms this energy to one, which is utilized by the cells. The Treatment There are six stages of the development of disease are enumerated as aggravation, accumulation, overflow, relocation, build up in a new site and manifestation into a recognizable disease.
- In kayachikitsa, there is always an opportunity to stop the disease at each stage, thereby preventing its full manifestation. One of the significant methods of treatment under kayachikitsa is panchakarma. In this procedure, the body is purified and cleansed from the vitiated dosha to achieve the state of homogenizes and happiness. In short, this method mainly deals with reversing the disease path from its manifestation stage, back into to its site of original development, through special forms of emesis, purgation and enema.
- Panchakarmas means five treatments—Vamana (Emesis), Virechana(purgation), Basti (Enema), Nasya(Nasal Medications), Raktamoksha (Different forms of bloodletting)
- In the kaya chikitsa ‘Agni’ – the digestive fire in the body is given utmost importance. It is responsible for the metabolism in the body. The imbalance to this ‘Agni’ is the cause for many diseases. Kaya chikitsa deals with the treatment of general ailments, by regulating the digestive fire. Basically Agni is responsible for conversion of food into the body elements. Diseases emerge due to malfunctioning of the Agni and hence if the Agni is set right again, then the patients get cured. Hence the whole treatment in Ayurveda is based on the concept of Agni.
- Modern equipment and diagnosis can mostly detect a disease during the fifth and sixth stages of illness.Áyurvedic physicians can recognize an illness in the making before it creates more serious imbalance in the body. Health is seen as a balance of the biological humors, whereas disease is an imbalance of the humors. Áyurveda creates balance by supplying deficient humors and reducing the excess ones. Surgery is seen as a last resort.
Baala chikitsa /Kaumára bhritya ( Paediatrics)
- Kaumarabhritya or Bala Chikitsa deals with all diseases of the infants. According to Acharya Susruta it deals with diseases of Kumara or child, qualities of a wet nurse, causes of vitiation of breast milk and its mode of purification, diseases due to intake of this vitiated breast milk, its treatment and the influence of grahas on the child which leads to diseases or can be said as the infections and its treatments and affections of childhood. According to Acharya Harita antenatal care and management of Puerperium also come under this branch.
- Kaumarabhritya literally it means nurturing a child from pregnancy to adolescence. The modern branches Obstetrics, Gynecology and Pediatrics come under this branch. This branch deals with diseases of children. There are three aspects that must be remembered while treating children-they are Children cannot explain their complaints, the dosage of medicine is different for them, the medicines given to them must be palatable to them. Due to these conditions, treating children is done in a different manner. Hence a separate branch is devoted for them.
- There is another peculiarity of Ayurveda that it emphasizes on breast milk for feeding the babies and yet another important factor is, if the breast milk is not proper in quality it may also produces diseases in baby and hence needs to be purified by certain herbs for treating the child.
Graha chikitsa /Bhúta Vidyá (Psychiatry)
- Bhuta Vidya is defined as a science of spiritual healing. It deals primarily with the mental diseases, children’s diseases, and diseases that do not follow the theory of Tridosha balance. This subject does not have a specific text. Rather it is directly linked with the Atharva Veda and other religious texts. The theory of spiritual healing, in general, is based upon chanting or sound therapy, called Mantra in Sanskrit. Mantras are composed using specific vowels and consonants. Hindu and Buddhist religious practitioners believe that the repetition of mantras links them with deities, and yields supernatural powers that can be used to cure many diseases.
- It dictates the diagnosis and treatment of mental diseases. This branch of Ayurveda deals with diseases like insanity, epilepsy and diseases caused by affliction of external factors such as evil spirits. In other words it may be known as the branch that deals with the treatment of psychosomatic diseases. It treats the conditions like Insomnia, Depression and stress etc.
- According to Acharya Susruta it includes all the diseases pertaining to Urdhvanga – Area above the clavicle i.e., eyes, ears, nose, mouth, throat,teeth and head etc and its treatment. It comprehends the faculties of Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology. The branch is also called “Shalakaya Tantra.” Because of the use of special kind of instrument called as “Shalaka” (probe).Following are the sub branches of shalakya tantra Netrachikitsa(ophthalmology),karnachikitsa(otology),Mukharogachikitsa( oral health,dentistry and laryngology),and Shirorogachikitsa( diseases of cranium)
- Shalakya Tantra deals with the etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, prevention and treatment of diseases that are located above the neck region such as the head, ear, nose, eye and throat. Sushruta reveals approximately 72 eye diseases, surgical procedures for all eye disorders (e.g., cataracts, eyelid diseases), and for diseases of the ears, nose, and throat.Acharya Nimi is considered as father of this branch.
Shalya chikitsa (Surgery)
- Salyatantra analogous to Surgery of Modern Medicine. Surgical methods of Ayurveda existed long before they were invented in the west. Ancient texts of Ayurveda describe many details on surgery.Acharya Susruta is considered as the father of Surgery. In the ancient India, surgery was principally pioneered by Ayurveda. Shalya Chikitsa is a significant branch of Ayurvedic science. The name of the sage-physician, Susruta, is synonymous with surgery. From his treatise Susruta Samhita, we have become aware of the thousands of years ago sophisticated methods of surgery that were practiced in India.
- This branch deals with various surgical and orthopedic procedures. Removing foreign bodies either of exogenous (Sand, wood, stone, arrow,sword,warfare materials etc) or endogenous origin (pus, dead fetus, extravagated blood etc.)From the body. It also deals with the diagnosis and management of inflammatory swellings and description of various uses of surgical instruments. It also explains the mode of preparation, properties and applications of various cauterizes (alkalis, fire etc.)It is carried out only for diseases, which cannot be cured by medicines. It explains the management of the conditions like trauma and Fracture, Ano-rectal diseases, Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, Joint dislocations etc.The ancient Ayurvedic knowledge of surgery was well developed in the time of the rishis and munis, and was prestigious and well known throughout the ancient world. The medieval healers, however, did not preserve nor develop this tradition, because they had little time to study and practice surgery with all its complex knowledge and specialized manual skills.
- The elaborate description about various kinds of instruments such as scissors, scalps, holders, etc., is really amazing. Sushrutacharya also described various operations such as urine stone, piles, fistula; cataract, even perforations of abdomen. Sushruta has been accepted as the father of “plastic surgery”. A different kind of surgery is very effective known as ‘Ksharsutra’ which is used in ‘fistula in ano’.
Visha chikitsa/Damshtra chikitsa (Toxicology)
- This particular branch deals with the treatment of poisons. Poisons may be animal oriented, plant oriented or derived from ores. Texts give elaborate description about various snake bites; scorpion bites etc. with their symptoms and treatment. Topics include air and water pollution, toxins in animals, minerals, vegetables, and epidemics, as well as keys for recognizing these anomalies and their antidotes.
- The traditional practice of toxicology is still practiced by different families of vishavaidyas (poison doctors) who claim to be specialists in toxicology. In fact, their knowledge is quite limited compared to earlier physicians, but people in the villages still benefit from their ability to deal with poisonous bites. In ancient times, it was the job of Vishavaidyas to protect members of the royal families from being poisoned, as well to poison enemies of the kings. One method was to use vishakanyas (poison girls). These women would begin to take poison in small doses starting in childhood, developing immunity as snake handlers or beekeepers do now. Later on, when they were grown, their kiss or bite could poison enough to paralyze or kill. Nowadays vyavaharayurved (jurisprudence) is an integral part of this branch.
Rasayana chikitsa/Jara Chikitsa(Rejuvenation)
- Deals with the methodology and medications to preserve youth or maintain lifespan even prolong it, promote intelligence and strength and give immunity to resist diseases. This branch deals with the diseases associated with the aging process. It actually provides ways to prohibit the aging process to some extent. Rejuvenation of body tissues is possible according to Ayurveda by using this branch. This branch needs to be emphasized more for increasing longevity of and quality of life.
- Rasayana Tantra is defined as the science of practices promoting long life and good health. It deals with the problems of untimely old age and poor immunity. It suggests measures to check aging and to increase lifespan and brain health. It deals in rejuvenation and restoring the youthfulness of an individual and deals with various therapies and herbs that have to be taken to restore the youth & vitality. They are anabolic, adaptogenic, immune modulators, Neuro endocrine modulators and Free radical scavengers.Rasayana is the one used to promote rasa and allied tissues (saptadhatu)
- Rasayana Chikitsa deals with various aspects of preventive health care. This branch of Ashtang Ayurveda aims at achieving a long and healthy life. It includes longevity, improved memory, health, youthfulness, glow, complexion, generosity, strength of body and senses.
- Vaji actually means horse and karana means to follow. This part deals with remedies for increasing the quantity of Semen when it’s scanty, methods for purification when vitiated, replenishing its losses and methods for improving virility. Vajikarana Tantra is defined as the science of purification of male and female genetic organs.
- As per ayurveda sex is one among the essential component of human life that enhances his health and grants him the endurance and the power to pave way for his future generations. This branch is also known as Vajikarana and it deals with the aphrodisiacs therapy for being paid with good descendants and virility. Vrishya Chtikitsa is a branch of Ayurveda that explains the art of producing healthy progeny for the creation of a better society. It deals with various diseases like infertility and conditions relating to weak shukra dhatu or the vital reproductive fluids of the body. Vrishya Chtikitsa is also known as Vajikarana, which means the medicine or therapy by which a man becomes capable of copulating with a woman
- It washes away the problems related to infertility in men and women. In this branch there is a mention of variety of aphrodisiac medicines and even food material. To produce best progeny is also an important aspect of life.This section deals with two aspects: infertility (for those hoping to conceive) and spiritual development (for those eager to transmute sexual energy into spiritual energy).
- Globalization in the world has led to attract more n more people around the globe to show interest in the eastern medical system Ayurveda. This ancient system has eight branches called “Ashtanga Ayurveda”. Ayurveda is age-old and time tested. Since times immemorial this system of medicine has been in use and has proved to be result oriented and justified. It would be of good concern to ponder over the fact that the same herbal drugs and formulations that had been used hundreds of years ago are still in use. There have been little or no replacements whatsoever.
- Although the system has eight branches of treatment, the basic mode of all these eight disciplines is the same. They are used in two ways. They are preventive and curative. Ayurveda gives more importance to the preventive aspect of medicine. It insists more on the the positive side of regular daily practices (Dinacharya) to prevent diseases than treating the negative side of health, the diseases.
- Though this life science is divided into eight branches for simplification of our understanding, yet it is so vast and explanatory that each of these branches takes years and years for mastering.