"MEDICAL ACHIEVEMENTS FOR MANKIND"
For countless generations Ayurvedic medical knowledge
'Immunization campaigns' - This principle has saved more lives than any other medical modality – no other medical discovery, not even antibiotics, has saved more lives throughout our history of Western civilization. Some Western scientists will no doubt smart at the revelation that for centuries prior to the West, Ayurvedic physicians in India inoculated villagers to immunize them against the ravages of smallpox before the onset of the rainy season. Systematic immunization campaigns were already part of everyday life.
Thousands of years later pharmaceutical companies have profited greatly from traditional Ayurvedic-medicinal-plants, quietly earning over one Billion Pounds to date from Ayurvedic medical wisdom. It is interesting to note, that these pharmaceutical companies have created drugs for exactly the same medical purpose as previously used in the Ayurvedic medical system – not for a different purpose ! This again clearly reinforces and supports the effectiveness of the Ayurvedic medical system.
Many health care professionals within the NHS like our nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists advocate the Ayurvedic disciplines of Massage, Yoga & Meditation to improve health. Ayurvedic food science with its own ‘dietary knowledge’ is another important discipline waiting to be tapped into.
Some examples of Ayurvedic medical wisdom that has advanced medical science understanding of diseases:
Rauvolfia serpentia, one of the alkaloids ‘reserpine’ from this tropical shrub became the world’s first effective tranquilliser in the late 1950’s for helping heart patients who suffered with hypertension. A second alkaloid from the plant ‘ajmalicine’ is a drug used for heart arrhythmias and to increase blood flow in the brain and peripheral parts of one’s body. Over half a billion Pounds has been generated in sales from this traditional Ayurvedic plant.
Glycyrrhiza glabra, the liquorice extracts of glycyrrhizin or carbenoxolone from this plant was shown to be clinically effective in treating gastric ulcers. This resulted in the first major anti-ulcer drug being developed in the Sixties – ‘CB-carbenoxolone’.
Podophyllum hexandrum, the rhizomes of this herbaceous plant contained the ‘podophyllum’ group of chemicals which have valuable anti-tumour compounds. The famous anti-cancer drugs of the Eighties, ‘Etoposide & Teniposide’ were developed from this Ayurvedic plant to clinically treat some types of Leukaemia and for testicular cancer and small-cell lung cancer. It is currently undergoing further research to treat ovarian cancer.
Mucuna pruriens, the bean from this tropical climbing plant contains significant amounts of the ‘L-dopa’ constituent, which to-day the synthetic version of ‘L-dopa’ is the mainstay for modern drug therapy in treating Parkinson’s disease.
In the ancient Ayurvedic medical treatise of' Charaka Samhita Chikitsa Sthana', Chapter 9 & 26 they describe the treatment. They referred to this plant for treating a brain disease called, 'Kampavata' - Kampa means tremor, while vata is movement. They virtually told us, this plant is for Parkinson's disease, the well-known degenerative disease of the nervous system.
Psoralea corylifolia, the seeds of this Ayurvedic plant produced the ‘psoralens’ drug for skin diseases used in the modern treatment of psoriasis and vitiligo.
Datura metel is a narcotic plant and one of its traditional usages is a pain-killer for severe toothaches where in modern medicine they have developed it into a pre-operative sedative and analgesic drug ‘scopolamine’ (hyoscine).
Centella asiatica, is at the cutting edge of scar management in modern-day plastic surgery where scars are no longer acceptable. Surgeons use the ‘alpha centella cream’ that has the extracts of asiatic acid, madecassic acid and asiaticoside from this Ayurvedic medicinal plant, long famous for its wound-healing properties. In modern terms the plant’s principal terpenoids are responsible for providing increased Type 1 collagen and myofibroblast production as well as decreasing inflammatory reaction.
Cannabis sativa, AIDS patients and terminally-ill cancer patients suffering loss of appetite and nausea are treated with a cannabis derivative like ‘dronabinol’ a powerful anti-emetic. Its sedative, pain-relieving quality has also benefited multiple sclerosis sufferers and is currently under extensive research.
Azadirachta indica, the common neem tree is one of nature’s most powerful natural insecticides and blood detoxifiers. At present the USA patent office has controversially granted over fifty patents for neem-based products ranging from contraceptives to toothpaste.
Coleus forskohlii, a diterpene constituent obtained from the root of this plant ‘coleonol’ is a very useful pharmacological tool used as a cyclic AMP activator in the discovery of new drugs to treat high blood-pressure.
Plastic surgery - long before Hollywood, the legendary Ayurvedic surgeon Susruta 700 B.C. performed ‘nose-jobs’. He produced the famous and far-reaching medical treatise ‘Susruta-Samhita’ (still used in Universities today) where he lists 120 surgical instruments, pioneered rhinoplasty, anaesthetics, artificial limbs, Caesarean sections and lithotomy for surgically removing bladder stones long before these disciplines were introduced to Europe.
Cataract surgery - Cataract in Sanskrit is termed as 'Linganash' which means destruction of the quality that helps one see, in this case transparency. In the Sushruta samhita texts one can find Sanskrit verses which describe the surgery of the cataract as follows -
Step 1 : the patient is asked to keep his gaze towards his nose.
Sanskrit verse = 'Swam Nasaah pashyataha' Swam = self, Nasa = nose, Pashyataha = to look at
Modern Surgery -
Step 1: Superior rectus ( muscle of the eyeball) suture is passed to fix the eye in a downward gaze.
Step 2 - An incision is taken at the meeting of the white ( sclera ) and dark ( inside the limbus ) portion of the eye - which means - at the limbus.
Modern Surgery -
Step 2 - Partial thickness groove is made along the limbus. ( Khurana A.K. 2003. Textbook of Ophthalmology )
Cataract incision is made at the limbus point. Both the surgeries then are done to remove the opaque lens.
Caesarian section - Method of delivering a child
Again in the Sushruta samhita Chapter 4 there are Sanskrit verses which talk about poorvakarma (preoperative) pradhankarma (operative ) and pashchatkarma (post operative ) procedures.
Atharvaveda - manda - 'If the mother is in distress and the child's heartbeat can be heard, the child should be delivered by opening the abdomen"
In the Sushruta samhita - Nidaansthaan- Chapter 8, verse 11 and in Ashtanga Hridaya - Shareerstana - Chapter 2, verse 53.
Verses quote that if the mother is unable to deliver the baby normally and the baby's heart can still be heard then the child should be delivered using instruments to cut open the mother's abdomen.
Modern Surgery -
In condiitions where the prospect of vaginal delivery is not possible even with the help of aids, then the mother's abdominal and utrine wall should be cut open to deliver the baby. However in today's world caesarian section is not used as a last resort but as a safe alternative to the risky vaginal delivery.
( Dutta D.C. 2001. Textbook of Obstetrics. )
Diabetes - Ayurveda first recognized the two different types of diabetes and had a reliable diagnostic test in 545 B.C. for Madhumha (meaning sweet urine) for they recognized the presence of excess sugar in urine from diabetic patients. For example, an important Ayurvedic plant for reducing blood sugar levels is 'Gymnema sylvestre' which modern science has shown how it regenerates beta-cells in the pancreas in order to increase insulin production.
Malaria - in the ancient texts of both Charaka samhita( Chapter 3, verse 53 ) and Sushruta samhita in (Uttarsthana part, verse No:39 ) an atypical ( visham ) fever ( jwara ) called ' vishamjwara' is described which does not conform to the usual pattern of a fever. There are 4 types of vishamjwara (atypical fever ) which are caused by the 'Plasmodium viruses' - the malaria parasites.
Santata jwara - continuous fever - 'plasmodium vivax'
Satata jwara - fever attack twice a day - malaria - 'Plasmodium falciparum'
Anyedushka jwara - fever every 3rd day - 'Plasmodium ovale'
Chaturthak jwara - fever every fourth day - 'Plasmodium Malariae'.
According to modern science all four 'plasmodium' viruses are malarial parasites and the pattern of the fevers match the description given in the above Ayurvedic texts. Malaria can b e cured the Ayurvedic way without resorting to the preventative type of modern allopathic drugs. which do not really help to stop the person contracting malaria, although the ' wormwood' plant-based drugs are effective once malaria has been diagnosed.
Hippocrates – known as the Father of Medicine ( only for the West) was also indebted to Ayurveda. His doctrine on medicine mirrored that of the ancient Hindu medical system where predominant humours (elements) in one’s body and the elements in one’s surroundings were the causes of untold diseases. In his famous ‘Hippocratic Corpus’ he lists important Ayurvedic medicinal plants like Piper Longum, Indian Spikenard and Cinnamon etc, none of which are native to Greece.
'Immunization campaigns' - The ‘vaccine’ principle has saved more lives than any other medical modality – no other medical discovery, not even antibiotics, has saved more lives throughout our history of Western civilization. Some Western scientists will no doubt smart at the revelation that for centuries prior to the West, Ayurvedic physicians in India inoculated villagers to immunize them against the ravages of smallpox before the onset of the rainy season. Systematic immunization campaigns were already part of everyday life, while Britain was still in the primitive Bronze Age.
This important slice of medical history of the first recorded account written in Englsih was recorded in 1715 by one Dr. P Kennedy on his return from Constantinople (Istanbul). His account in English describes how ingrafting of smallpox on two sisters successfully protected them amd others from the epidemic disease. The book entitled, ‘An essay on External Remedies’ by Dr. P. Kennedy (Wellcome Trust Medical Library) reveals how the ingrafting of smallpox was already practice in the East namely in Turkey, part of Persia at that time.
(Research notes from 'Lady Mary Wortley Montagu' by Isobel Grundy - Wellcome Library)
However the greatest Western credit must go to Lady M.W. Montagu, a society literary figure, who introduced this ancient Indian inoculation practice to the West when she returned from Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1718. She had already had her son inoculated in Turkey (once part of the great Persian Empire) with great success, and yet she courted huge controversy in London by having her 3 year old daughter inoculated by the same unheard of Indian method. She was castigated by the Press and the medical profession, (sounds familiar ?) there were calls of 'black magic' and 'the devil at work' critizing this strange practise of inoculation and she was further lambasted as an unfit mother putting her 3 year old daughter at terrible risk, as thousands of people had already succumed and died from the 'pox' epidemic in 1721 London.
The Royal Society found this unique medical intervention difficult to believe for how could inscribing some contagious noxious matter into a healthy body protect them from the killer 'pox' epidemic!
Lady Montagu's 3 year old daughter survived the 1721 epidemic and her critics were silenced. In the 'Flying Post', September 13th 1722, Lady Montagu wrote a scathing piece on doctors.
"As a laywoman, I saw most doctors not as incorruptible professionals or heroic reformers, but as diehards protecting their income and prestige, or as opportunists seizing a new niche in the market."
Lady Montagu felt innoculation was too important to be left to doctors !
This story is nearly 300 years old but it is, as if it happened only yesterday !!
The ancient Indian Ayurvedic method had of course protected her daughter so the inoculation had proved highly successful - medical people started to wake up and take note, then the word soon filtered across the Atlantic to America - the rest is history, thanks to Ayurvedic tradition and Lady Montagu - a determined mother with vision.
More acclaimed Western doctors began investigated this ancient Indian method and in 1767 came a description which is familiar to almost everyone who has had a modern-day vaccination. The surgeon Dr. J.Z. Holwell F.R.S. reported to the Royal College of Physicians, London, how the Brahmins of India went from door to door to inoculate villagers against smallpox. The surgeon describes how small wounds were made on the outside of the arm, between the elbow and the shoulder, and a piece of dry calico cloth with ‘infected pustules’ was rubbed onto the wound – a forerunner for our own modern day campaigns for systematic immunization against infectious diseases.
Much later after this method was proven to be safe and effective, in 1798, along came Dr. Edward Jenner to take all the credit! However his acclaimed published work on vaccination owes a great debt to the East where the revolutionary principle of immunization first came from, although never acknowledged.
Not unlike to-day, where the Western medical profession ego's are indeed very fragile to pay any credit to another medical system like 'Ayurveda'. Smallpox like TB is an ancient not modern disease. Down through the ages there are references to smallpox. Ernest Mackey identifies ‘Sitala’, (the Hindu word for smallpox), as one of the seven Deities on an earthen plate from the famous ruins of ‘Mohenjo-Daro’ 2,900 B.C. And 12th Century images of the Goddess ‘Sitala’ are at various temples in Osian, Rajasthan and at Modhera in Gujarat. (Ref: British Library. Basu- G. Krisha 1978. P.94 & Cult of Goddess Sitala in Bengal. ORW 1996 & 1729. S.K. Mukhopadhyay )
Prevention of diseases through diet - they advocated adopting a low-sodium diet long before modern medicine made the connection between salt and heart disease.
Ayurveda highlighted how the majority of diseases affecting mankind owe their origins to the foods we eat - malabsorption, incompatible foods, powers of digestion, assimilation of the correct ingredients, all sounds modern, yet all this was documented with greater understanding some 2,600 years ago. Translated from the great Sanskrit work of ‘Charaka-Samhita’ and ‘Susruta-Samhita’ respectively,
“the use of a wholesome diet is the only factor that promotes the healthy growth of a man, and the factor that makes for disease is the indulgence in unwholesome diet.”
“a good and proper diet in disease is worth a hundred medicines, and no amount of medication can do good to a patient who does not observe a strict regimen of diet.”
Everyone including GP’s and modern nutritionists can learn a great deal from Ayurvedic food science for it is tailored to a person’s individual constitution and the influence of the passing seasons which strongly affect us.
TB was first described and treated in the Ayurvedic medical system as ‘Kshaya roga’, meaning wasting disease. Still to-day the M. tuberculosis bacterium kills millions of people every year.
Hospitals for man & beast – long before the West, hospitals existed in ancient Ceylon (500 B.C.) and in India Emperor Asoka (305 B.C.) built hospitals which were attached to monasteries and also built hospitals for animals too !
Ayurvedic medical drug preparations – included pills, syrups, oils, powders, salves, emulsions, infusions, tinctures, decoctions, suppositories, plasters, lotions, liniments etc. Modern medicine having adopted many of these preparations.
Massage - an ancient Ayurvedic discipline has now in the last decade become part of the degree course for nurses at the Royal College of Nursing and has been hugely popular among the nurses for it has allowed them to re-discover an ancient healing practise in their clinical world, which is a hands-off system to give people more drugs.
Yoga and Meditation – millions of people worldwide have benefited from these ancient Ayurvedic disciplines for it has helped relieved pain in chronically-ill patients and has provided an important rehabilitation tool for mental health professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists who recommend these disciplines to their patients.
The preventative medicine system of 'Ayurveda' teaches people, very clearly, how to look after themselves in order to prevent diseases. For example ‘Ayurvedic food science’ can play a crucial role in the development of complementary medicine in our NHS. Ayurvedic dietary knowledge is tailored towards a person’s individual constitution, once diagnosed, it will solve all the confusing and contradictory dietary advice so often given out by so-called authoritative sources. But alas, doctors and journalists alike will never see the real medical truth owing to their own ego's and jaundice vision which there is no cure for ! If only modern science could transplant a ' gene of humility' to such people.
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