The eight branches of Ayurveda
Science Of Life
Ayurveda is often misunderstood to be a "Folk" medicine, a good source of home or herbal remedies. But in reality, it is a complete, highly sophisticated and organised system of human life. It is one of the very first systems of medicine developed in India, and it focuses on the prevention of disease. The word Ayurveda is composed of two words; “Ayu” meaning life and “Veda” meaning science so it is science of life.
This Science of life has eight branches:
- Kaya Chikitsa - Internal medicine/ General medicine
- Shalya Tantra - Surgery
- Shalakya Tantra - ENT medicine with Ophthalmology
- Kaumarbhritya - Gynaecology – Obstetrics & Paediatrics
- Agadtantra – Toxicology
- Bhootavidya – Ayurvedic Psychology
- Rasayan Shastra – Rejuvenation & Anti-Ageing
- Vajikaran – Aphrodisiac therapy
Its relevance today is for its herbal based treatments that act holistically and without side effects. So let’s take a closer look.
1. Kaya Chikitsa - Internal medicine/ General medicine
The word “Kaya” means body as well as Agni, digestive fire. In short, it is the science of balancing digestive fire. Ayurveda claims that imbalanced digestive fire (Agni) is responsible for creating a number of health disorders. So if Agni is balanced, it performs correctly and we avoid the onset of disease. Some of the conditions best treated by this branch of Ayurveda are Arthritis, Diabetes, Indigestion, and Hyperacidity. This branch of Ayurveda gives five purificatory procedures performed to detoxify human body called “Panchakarma”. If you want to read more about these five purificatory procedures please refer to our blog on Panchakarma.
2. Shalya Tantra – General Surgery
A special branch of Ayurveda, Shalya Tantra speaks about Surgical techniques. Ayurvedic treatise known as Sushruta Samhita written by the great Indian Ayurvedic surgeon Sushrut gives a highly detailed explanation of Ayurvedic surgery, incision, instruments, suturing and post-operative care. The need for this branch originated to overcome the limitations of oral medicines for certain diseases such as Piles, Fistula, Kidney stones, breast diseases, lumps, tumours and others that need operative procedures.
Three to five thousand years ago in India, Ayurvedic pioneers had already developed complicated surgical procedures to deal with perforation of intestine, obstructed labour, prosthetic surgery to replace limbs, caesarean section and even cranial surgeries. There is reference of Rhinoplasty (cosmetic surgery on the nose) performed during these times, and the great physician Sushrut is known to have performed the first cosmetic surgery in India nearly three thousand years ago.
3. Shalakya Tantra – ENT & Ophthalmology
This branch of Ayurvedic medicine describes in detail diseases above the clavicle, grouping ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) and Ophthalmology under this branch.
Netra Chikitsa (Ayurvedic Ophthalmology), Karna Chikitsa (Otology) Nasa Chikitsa (Rhinology), Mukhroga Chikitsa (Dental care and Laryngology) and Shiroroga (Diseases of head such as Migraine etc).
Many popular Ayurvedic procedures allied with panchakarma such as Shirodhara, Netradhara, Shiropichu, Gandush, and Kaval are explained in this branch for disease prevention & treatment.
4. Kaumarbhritya - Gynaecology – Obstetrics & Paediatrics
Specialised branch dedicated to treat disorders of children. This branch of Ayurveda describes in detail treatment and care right from Conception, prenatal care. It also covers gynaecological issues of infertility and pregnancy complications.
This branch was especially needed for paediatric care, with different dosages for babies, who unlike adults, are unable to describe symptoms. Commonly occurring diseases such as teething disorders, digestive diseases, worms, and nutritional care are described in this branch. A book called Kashyap Samhita is dedicated to Paediatrics in Ayurveda.
5. Agad Tantra (Toxicology)
This Branch of Ayurveda deals with symptoms, antidotes and treatment of various toxins of metal, plant and animal origin, for example treatment of snake bite. In old times, people lived close to nature and many people suffered from snake bites, insect bites, and various toxic tropical plants.
This section also pays special attention to the purification of water and air as these may lead to poisoning and various diseases.
6. Bhootavidya – Ayurvedic Psycho
A special Ayurvedic branch dedicated to diseases of the mind, including the symptoms, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of various psychological illnesses. Ayurvedic experts describe the term” Bhoota” in various ways such as broken spirit or unseen abnormalities that affect the mind of the patient. In modern terms, Bhoota can be correlated to microscopic agents such as bacteria or viruses which are not visible to the naked eye; or idiopathic diseases where cause of disease is unknown.
This branch describes many treatments to improve the mind such as meditation, breathing techniques (Pranayama), chanting mantras, or fumigation to detoxify the environment.
7. Rasayan Shastra - Rejuvenation & Geriatrics
Just as most of our blogs focus on Ayurveda’s approach to prevent illness and to promote wellbeing, so too does this branch of Ayurveda. It is gaining global importance recently for its unique features as it focuses on Rejuvenation and Anti-Ageing.
Ayurveda not only deals with treatment of disease but, more importantly, it is a science of life that focuses on longevity and improving the quality of human life.
As well as various health tips aimed at prevention of disease, it contains treatments, procedures, and herbal mineral preparations to improve the quality of life and to rejuvenate the human body, mind and spirit, foremost by boosting immunity to prevent disease.
8. Vajikaran – Aphrodisiac therapy
Ayurveda has given special importance to the sexual health of men and women. Here Ayurveda focuses on reproductive health and diseases seen in men and women.
Various therapies, ayurvedic medicinal preparations, dietetic suggestions, regimens and health tips are described in detail to enhance libido, strength, excitability, and sexual techniques.
It describes and explains the treatment and prevention of various sexual health issues including common disorders such as premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, infertility, post coital weakness and other diseases.
By Dr. Sagar Vete