In Ayurveda, aahar is very important. That which passes through the process of aaharan is called aahar. Food, despite being basic to life is also destructive of it which means food can be cause of ill-health, diseases to life-threatening situation to death finally. Food has to be adequate in terms of amount/quantity as well as calories and balanced in terms of nutrients. Food is more than calories. Food has got socio-cultural and psychological values also. It is here, that Ayurveda scores over other systema/pathies.
In Ayurveda, any substance taken as aahar (food) has guna (property), veerya (potency), vipak (resultant of metabolism), and above all prabhav (impact). Rasas undertake Gunas and is undertaken by veerya which is suppressed by vipak and finally prabhav makes all of them resultant. Therefore, our food should be such which provides us calories needed as per age and special conditions eg pregnancy and lactation and disease or recuperation. Calories must come in balanced form in terms of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Food is consumed as solids or semi-solids and liquids. Salads constitute important segment of food. Water other than different kinds of fluids is needed and must be pure and adequate depending upon age, occupation, special conditions, exercise and seasons.
Ayurveda is one of the great gifts of the sages of ancient India to mankind. To fall sick is natural. Strange, but true! How come? The reason lies within us, our bodies. As is known, our body is governed by the phenomenon of wear and tear. More the tear breakdown more is the possibility of falling sick. In Ayurveda, this body of ours is considered to be a universe in miniature. This body or any living organism is composed of Pancha mahabhoots (agni, jal, prithvi, vayu and akash) and is controlled by the laws of nature governing the universe. From panchmahabhoots, emerge the three doshas- vat, pitta, kaph.
They give rise to daihik prakriti (physical traits/temperament). Besides, satva, raja, and tam are the mansik (mental/emotional/psychic traits or temperament). Ayurveda is the oldest scientific medical system in the world with a record of clinical experience to validate it. However, it is not only a system of medicine in the conventional sense of curing disease. It is also a way of life that teaches us how to maintain and protect health. It shows us how to both cure disease and promote longevity. The naturalness of taking risk is matched with a natural desire to remain healthy, because the first requisite of the happiness is health.
Ayurveda, the 5000 year old medical system, origin of which can be traced back to the Indian subcontinent focuses more on healthy living than treatment of diseases. Ayurveda conjugation of two Sanskrit words ayus (life) and veda (related to knowledge), literary means the `science of life`. The earliest concept of Ayurveda was put into writing by VedaVyasa, the famous sage and shaktavesha avatar of Vishnu, Dhanvantari in Atharvaveda, which is one of the four most ancient books of Indian knowledge, wisdom and culture.
Eight disciplines of ayurveda treatment, called ashtangas are:
1. Kaya Chikitsa (Internal Medicine): Kaya means living human body. This treatment includes all diseases situated in the body.
2. Shalya Tantra (Surgery): Describes about pre-operative procedures, general procedures, post-operative procedures, anesthesia and marma`s (vital points). It also describes about bandages, shastra (sharp instruments), yantras (blunt instruments) and sutures (stitches).
3. Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry): Deals with spiritual healing.
4. Shalakya Tantra (Treatment of diseases above the clavicle): It`s a division of otorhinolaryngology (ENT) and ophthalmology.
5. Agada Tantra (Toxicology): Deals with treatment for food poisoning, snake bites, insect bites, dog bites etc.
6. Kaumarabhritya Tantra (Pediatrics): Deals with health and diseases related to children.
7. Vajikarana (Purification of the Genetic Organs): Deals with male and female genetic organs.
8. Rasayana Tantra (Health and Longevity): Deals with prevention of diseases and improving immunity and rejuvenation.
There are three main Ayurvedic texts Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita and the Ashtangha Hridaya Samhita. Sushrut Samhita, the most authentic compilation of Sushruta's teachings contains 184 chapters and description of 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources. Charaka Samhita, written by Charaka is arguably the principal classic reference. It gives emphasis to the triune nature of each person: body care, mental regulation, and spiritual/consciousness refinement. The third major disquisition is called the Ashtanga Hridaya, which is a concise version of the works of Charaka and Sushruta.
The health as is known is a state of the body as defined by the World Health Organisation, health is not mere absence of infirmity but a state of physical, mental and social well-being. One of the two objectives of Ayurveda is to prevent the arrival of disease- state of ill health, a guest which comes unannounced, uninvited and persists its stay. In other words, promotion of positive health is the sheet-anchor of the approach of Ayurveda.
The second, and less important, is the cure of disease. Ayurveda, thus is mainly basically and primarily aimed at prevention of disease and promotion of positive health. Needless to say, Ayurveda is not merely a system of medicine. It is more than that. Ayurveda is also not a `Science of Life`. The biological sciences, no doubt, form part of the theory and practice of Ayurveda. It is the philosophy of life, art of living and a science of longevity. What is right, good and proper for happy life is Ayurveda. Ensuring long life, too, is one of the objectives of Ayurveda. Hence, Ayurveda is more than a system of medicine.
The concept of prakriti is a unique contribution of Ayurveda to the human endeavour of preventing physical and mental/psychic infirmities and achieving social well-being and thereby, staying healthy. The prakriti is daihik(physical) as well as mansik(mental/psychic) one. Understanding them (prakritis) is the key to immunity against encroachment of one`s physical, mental and social spaces by diseases. The daihik prakritis are seven in number. Three are uni-dosic, three are bi-dosic and one is tri-dosic.
On the other hand, mansik prakritis are also three in number and each one is identified with satva, rajah and tamas. The prakriti of an individual is also determined by factors like jati (race), kul (family) and kshetra (habitat). In order to prevent disease and promote positive health, we should follow regulations designed for different seasons and day-night. In these, regulations are included rules of aahar (food), vihar (life-style), and nidra ( sleep). One should never forget that health is a state and a state is always liable to change, following the principle of `negation of negation`, i.e., from health to ill-health to health to ill-health and so on.
Ayurveda emphasizes more on prevention of diseases rather than its cure. The treatment given is not only to the ailments or the affected parts, but to the person as a whole. This creates an environment for purifying the body naturally, which eliminates all toxic imbalances, enabling to regain natural resistance from diseases and attain good health.
Ayurveda provides detailed instructions of daily regimen, seasonal regimen, food, sleep and sexual behavior so that health can be optimized and illness healed. Ayurveda is grounded in metaphysics of the five elements, earth (prithvi), water (jal), fire (agni), air (vayu) and ether or space (akash). Ayurveda stresses a balance of three elemental energies or humors: vata, pitta and kapha.
Ether and air combine to form Vata dosha, which governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force that directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination. Fire and water form Pitta dosha, process of transformation or metabolism. Water and earth elements combine to form the Kapha dosha, which is responsible for growth, adding structure unit by unit. Another function of the Kapha dosha is to offer protection.
Ayurveda holds that each human possesses a unique combination of Doshas as the ratio varies from person to person. Altogether, Ayurveda is not only treatment but a way of life. It uses herbs, herbal-mineral combination, massage, meditation and yoga for ones physical, mental and spiritual well being because of which the medicinal system has no side effects. Moreover, Ayurveda gives you an in-depth knowledge of life and helps achieve - dharm, arth, kama, moksha.