Ayurveda, the science of life or longevity is the holistic alternative science from India and it is more than 5000 years old. It is believed to be the oldest healing science in existence, forming the foundation for all others.
The methods used to find this knowledge of herbs, foods, yoga, life style, and surgery are fascinating and varied. These revelations were transcribed from oral tradition into written form, interspersed with aspects of mortal life and spirituality.
Ayurveda was organized into its own compact system of health and considered a branch of Atharva Veda. In the 10,572 hymns of the Rig Veda, there are discussions about the three constitutions (doshas): air (Vayu), fire (Pitta), and water (Kapha). The hymns provide information about organ transplants, artificial limbs, and the use of herbs to heal diseases of the mind and body, and to foster longevity. In the Atharva Veda 5,977 hymns contain discussions of anatomy, physiology, and surgery.
External influences on health include the time of day, the seasons, diet, and life style. An entire section is devoted to discussions of the medicinal aspects of herbs, diet, and reversal of aging process.
Ayurveda classifies herbs, foods, and drinks into the following five aspects:
- Elements (property)
- Heating or cooling effect
- Post-digestion effect (final taste after digestion)
- Special Properties
Each aspect has its own therapeutic effects.
Taste: The Sanskrit word for taste is Rasa. It means delight or essence, both of which promote the healing channel which extends from the mouth into the head and brings the essence (one meaning for taste) to the brain. This essence stimulates prana, which in turn stimulates the agni or digestive fire.
Elements: Six tastes originate from the five elements, transmitting their properties: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, or astringent. Everyone requires some amount of each of the six tastes in their diet. However, depending on the individual constitution and season, one must adjust their taste to balance their dosha. The key is to have moderate amounts of each taste.
Energy (Virya): This energy activates tastes. Foods and drinks create either cold or hot energy in the body. Each taste has an associated energy.
Post - Digestive (Vipak): Tastes may change at the end of the digestive process. This is due to the digestive agni (fire) juices in the alimentary tract.
Special Properties (Vishisht Prabhav): Herbs also have some subtler, more specific qualities.
Eat up to 1/3 capacity of your stomach, drink to 1/3 and leave 1/3 for God (Ashtanga Hridayam).
The Ayurvedic determination of eating habits follow-
- When hungry
- Frame of mind
- Time, Seasons and Geography
- Age and Gender