Branches of Ayurveda

There are eight divisions of Ayurveda Therapeutics. These are –

  1. Internal Medicine (Kaya Chikitsa)
  2. Surgery (Shalya Chikitsa) – This includes all types of surgeries including the process of extraction of foreign bodies through surgery.
  3. Eye/ENT (Shalakya Chikitsa) – . This is also called ‘Otorhinolaryngiology’ and ‘Ophthalmology’ which includes treatment of diseases in organs in Head and Neck. This also deals with ENT surgeries.
  4. Pediatrics/Gynaecology/Obstretics (Kaumar Bhritya) – This deals with all aspects of women diseases including the birth and management of child.
  5. Toxicology (Agad Tantra) – This deals with management of conditions caused by natural and artificial poisons
  6. Aphrodisiacs (Vajikarana) – This deals with sexual functions and reproduction
  7. Geriatrics/Rejuvenation (Rasayana Shastra) – This deals with administration of elixirs for longevity of life and preservation of health. There are guidelines to delay the onset of old age diseases and to die young as late as possible.
  8. Psychiartry (Manas Rog Chikitsa) – This deals with mental and Psychic disorders including seizures.

The scientific and systematic approach of Ayurveda reflects in the fact that all the eight branches, including the systems of Pediatrics and Geriatrics, were fully evolved even in those ancient times. It is perhaps ironical that Geriatrics is still in its ‘infancy’ as far as Western medicine goes.

The eight branches fulfill the three aims of Ayurveda namely – Prevention of disease, Promotion of health, Preservation of health In each of these branches the emphasis is on prevention, yet methods to diagnose and cure diseases are also given. Even though  ‘Charaka-Samhita’  is primarily a work on ‘Internal Medicine’ (Kaya-Chikitsa), there is a significant statement in the chapters dealing with ‘ENT’ (Shalakya) and ‘Surgery’ (Shalya) . Physicians of ‘Charaka School’ did not perhaps deal with surgical branch because the cases were referred to the physicians of ‘Dhanwantri School’ – known to specialize in Surgery. This is evident from the  shlokas (prose) at the end of these chapters, which when translated, mean –

“The author did not intend to go into the details of surgical treatments and wished to refer such cases to other specialists. Only the medical aspects of diseases are described here”.

Some of the ancient texts on Ayurveda are not available. Among the available texts, the ‘Charaka-Samhita’ by Agnivesha, the ‘Sushruta-Samhita’ by Sushruta and the ‘Ashtanga-Hridya’ by Vagbhata are recognized as ‘Brhattrayi’ meaning ‘The Great Trio’. The ‘Charaka-Samhita’ contains 120 chapters. The number ‘120’ appears to bear some significance as the other two among ‘The Great Trio’ also contain 120 chapters excluding ‘The Uttaratantra’ of ‘Sushruta-Samhita’ which appears to have been added to it at a later stage. There are two other important classics on Ayurveda, namely. ‘Kashyapa-Samhita’ and ‘Bhel-Samhita’. These two also contain 120 chapters each.

Amongst ‘The Great Trio’, ‘Charaka-Samhita’ , a treatise on Internal Medicine, Is considered to be the most authoritative as it represents an authentic thesaurus of the various aspects of this science. It ends with a shloka (prose) which when translated means –

“ The methods of treatment prescribed by Agnivesha are meant both for the healthy (maintenance of positive health and prevent diseases) and patients (cure of ailments). Whatever is mentioned in this work is available elsewhere and things not mentioned here are not to be found anywhere else”.

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