Ayurveda: What is health?

The practice of Ayurveda finds its roots in a body of knowledge and principles that were systematized in the Charaka Samhita

Health is defined “as physical and mental well-being; freedom from disease, pain, or defect; normalcy of physical and mental functions; soundness.”

Ayurveda, defines Svastha in Sanskrit as:“sama dosah samagnis ca sama dhatu mala kriyah prasannatmendriya manah svastha ityabhihiyate (Sushruta Samhita, 15.38)

One who is established in Self, who has balanced doshas, balanced agni, properly formed dhatus, proper elimination of malas, well functioning bodily processes, and whose mind, soul, and senses are full of bliss, is called a healthy person .”

In this Ayurvedic definition of health, not only is the western concept of health encompassed, but surpassed due to the other layers; that of the doshas, agni, dhatus, and malas. Hence, Ayurveda views health as a balance of the doshas which are vata, pitta, kapha (in consideration of one’s prakruti), properly formed/functioning dhatus (seven tissues of the body), and proper elimination of malas (waste products). Thus, when Ayurveda looks at a disease, invariably, these aforementioned factors are taken into account and discussed. Unique to Ayurveda, is its understanding and articulation of disease.

 

In western medicine when a disease or a group of symptoms is examined, analyzed, then given a name, the disease has been ‘diagnosed’ and a treatment is based upon this diagnosis of the disease. In contrast, the Ayurvedic approach to disease diagnosis seeks first to define its’ root, or its’ roganam mulakaranani; it is considered as important to define the root of a disease as it is to name a disease. In Ayurvedic medicine, the process by which a disease is understood and diagnosed is called s arvaroga nidanam and is composed of five parts: nidanam (causative factors or etiology), purvarupa (earliest signs/symptoms), rupa (clinical signs/symptoms), samprapti (pathogenesis of the condition), and upasaya (diagnostic tests).  Traditionally, when a disease is being discussed, the five parts of the sarvaroga nidanam will be presented.

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