The birth of the word ‘nature’ as we know it now came from the Latin dictionary from ‘natura’. This word in turn found its basis from ‘physis’ from the vocabulary of the Greek language which broadly means an understanding of all things living around us, including the living as well as the non living but that which was continually adjusting to the changes occurring in our surrounding, our world as we call it now.
Our world, as we have referred to primarily compromises of our home, our planet, named ‘Earth’.
Earth forms a small part of the solar system of our galaxy, we call the milky way. The uniqueness of our planet is its ability to be able to sustain all sorts of life forms, these includes life forms on land, air and water. The primary reason for this is its positioning in the solar system where in it lies extremely close to the sun, third, precisely but neither too close to burn out all life forms owing to the excessive heat emanated from the sun, nor too far to freeze all life forms and doom this planet into subzero freezing temperatures unable to sustain any life forms.
Earth is an extremely large planet and showcases a variety of temperature zones, climatic condition, natural habitats which vary from the tropics to the equator to the two poles or hemispheres as we know them. About 70% of this planet is fluid, occupied by water thus giving a wide range of species to survive and thrive.
Over the past few billion years since the existence of this planet, it has seen various changes, namely atmospherically, geologically and structurally. The environment was an extremely acidic one as the Earth was in its primitive years, this was unstable and unsuitable for major lifeforms as both, the air as well as the water contained extremely high amounts of toxic gases, such nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide in extremely high percentage, this being extremely deleterious to the survival of life forms. Land masses were extremely unstable and were more like semisolid lava that emanated from the core of the earth, no proper land formations or continents as we know them today were present. During this phase, the first life form or what we constitute as basis of nature were formed as electrically charged single and double molecules of various elements that combined together to give birth to the first ‘life forms’.
As the years passed and climatic conditions began to settle down to a much more neutral environment, these single and double elemental organisms eventually began to combine, multiply, develop and eventually evolve to bigger and more complex micro-organisms. These early micro-organisms were called as Plankton’s and were present for at least a few billion years.
By now, the lava on the land masses had begun to cool and form what we call the ‘crust’ of the earth, the land masses which began to form the very basis of life on land, what we call as flora and fauna. The condensation helped give moisture to these land surfaces that were formed thus only making them more fertile to support life in its basic forms.
Billions of years later, the land masses separated, then rejoined and then again separated to form what we know as our continents today. The water bodies also stabilized to form a neutral and an environment friendly towards creating, harboring and nurturing life in various forms. This thus forms what we call the ‘Geological’ evolution of earth.
Nature and Geology go hand in hand since both complement and are necessary for survival of each other. Any damage to nature has an adverse effect on our geology and our geological evolution has helped to support and flourish our natural habitat.
By this time, plankton was abundant in number and was only evolving to form more complicated life forms. The geological landscape of earth boasted of millions of years of lava sedimented over one another, this lead to the deposition of certain oils, minerals, natural substances that would eventually help mankind as and when it evolved. Deposition occurred into various rock surfaces at different levels forming various types of rocks, e.g. Bacolith, lacolith, crystals etc. These substances would form the basis of modern day medication and contents of modes used to treat illnesses and diseases naturally.
The atmospheric conditions also stabilized and there was abundance of oxygen and nitrogen in the air to support all forms of life. Along with these gases were present many other gases, but in smaller percentages. Water vapour has been an essential ingredient in our atmosphere that has given rise to many a meteoric conditions, especially rain and ice, whichever would be required ranging from the conditions of climate as well as location of respective places on the Earth. The earth was protected by the harmful rays of the sun, namely the ultraviolet rays which could destroy and prove to be harmful to life forms, by the formation of a dense layer of ozone, which would neutralize the ill effects of the same, this protective layer around the earth came to be known as the ozone layer.
The ozone layer plays an extremely important part especially today, billions of years later from its formation when it helps check and keep under control green house gases and also helps control radiation from the sun, known to be a primary cause of skin cancer in a large section of our population presently.
Presence of water leads to the formation of major water bodies, majorly forming the oceans as we know them now. Within and, there were lakes, ponds and rivers that would connect the smaller water bodies to the oceans.
The trio of neutral atmospheric conditions, water and land lead to the development of an ‘eco system’ which is more like a self sufficient model for flourishing and thriving of life forms.
It is here, in the earliest eco systems that plants and animals were born, thus giving meaning to the expression called ‘life’. Evolution then took over and simple forms of life began to replicate and multiply to form complex and more intelligent life forms, these included bacteria, fungi, algae, microbes, insects, and fish or aquatic life forms.
It is thus, that life forms spread its tentacles into various forms, each unique in its own manner and capable of surviving on its own under the umbrella of a common ecosystem without hurting or causing harm to it or to any other organism.
Billions of years later, or present day as we know it, life is divided into the plant and the animal kingdom. These are further sub divided into various categories depending on their appearance, origin, manner of living etc.
As evolution further continued, various species were able to adapt to a variety of climatic circumstances available, which included the freezing Polar Regions, to the hot sub Saharan deserts to the tropical humid climate and were able to establish themselves and continue prospering.
Animal life, as we know it, is more dependent on food externally to process and synthesize basic requirements for functioning and stability of the organism as a whole. Plants, on the other hand are self sufficient and majority of them derive their energy from the sun, converting it into food to nourish and facilitate growth. This explains to us that plants as well as the animals are interdependent on one another as well as their surroundings for survival; this forms a delicate balance in the eco system which is essential for the existence for all organisms.
The importance of understanding how we came into existence is thus very necessary because all basis of any sort of treatment, whether natural or artificial are derived from resources provided to us by nature.
Modern medicine derives its sources of understanding to biochemistry, specifically incase of medicines made from plants. This is also applicable to modes of treatments made use of during the Chinese Era as well as Ayurvedic period which inculcated the use of plants for treatment purposes. Modern day antibiotics owe their existence to microbes, Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin, the first antibiotic from a bacterial sample!
It is thus important to know how our so called ‘nature’ has come into existence and how it forms the basis of what we have derived towards methods of healing and treating as we know and use today.
The concept of cure and its evolution.
To understand the concept of cure, we need to first dwell as to why and from where this term arrived.
The word cure derives its origins from the Greek and Latin dictionaries from the terms ‘curare’ or ‘curer’ that basically means to treat somebody or alleviate the suffering and improve their standard of health or their standards of living. Cure also signifies to ‘take ones care’ and look after their needs when they aren’t able to function in a normal harmonious manner.
Cure stems only from the fact that Man, as organism understood the concept of prevention, health and hygiene.
The earliest glimpses of this were found during the primitive age of the ‘homo erectus’ our first ancestors that walked on two feet only. These had evolved from our four legged monkey like ancestors ‘pliphithecus’, the evolution itself from walking on four legs to two took a few million years. Primitive man had few but basic needs, these primarily included food and shelter. In accordance to achieve this, he thus scavenged for food, and tried and tested all things edible around him. He learnt the art of hunting those animals that he could consume.
Eventually, the reason gifted and inquisitive mind of the early man lead him to the discover fire that would keep him warm in winters as he understood the differences in the type of weather as well as the diseases each bought in, but was not able to control or fight them as he had little or no knowledge of the demography that surrounded him.
Thus, as we see, the basis of survival then was to protect and prevent. Even in death, it was seen that the bodies of the dead were either disposed off in isolated places or were burnt or were buried. This again stemmed from an understanding that the decaying flesh could attract microbes and germs that could lead to infection.
Going further down, as civilizations across the globe thrived, each having their own distinct traits and rituals, the first mentions of disease and cures come from the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations
These were highly developed civilization for their era and had a hierarchy system. The concept of illness or sickness was related to upsetting the ‘spirits’ or ‘gods’ or ‘heavens’ and thus cure was more of a ritualistic formality to pacify the angry entity or spirit so as to leave the affected individual and return him back to health. From the point of view of hygiene, the concept of sanitation, of mineral baths was introduced which meant adequate personal hygiene as well as cleanliness and hygienic conditions of one’s surroundings.
They also has their own unique languages, the Mesopotamian writing on tablets while the Egyptians writing on papyrus, detailed notes on certain conditions, their treatments, various laws and regulations were noted, this included the famous ‘Code of Hammurabi’. Even in death, the Egyptians were extremely careful to maintain absolute hygiene by preserving the body, the various organs by the process embalming because of their strong belief in the concept of the after life.
The Acharayas on the Indian Subcontinent,on the other hand were imparting way deeper education to the masses in regards disease concepts and their treatment.
Their compilation, namely the Vedas were a detailed text as to how to diagnose disease and treat the same using various plants, herbs, mixtures from the same and various other processes to cleanse the body. Ayurveda derived its medicines mainly in the form of oil, herbs, concoctions which were given both internally and externally to treat people.. There was also a brief mention of minor surgeries that found mention in the Ayurvedic texts.
As we thus see the correlation, it is the nature and its natural substances from where in treatments were derived, thus only correlating the concept of the ecosystem as mentioned earlier.
Similar to Ayurveda was the system of Chinese medicine; where in the cure was a concept of maintaining a balance between the positive and negative forces of the body, the yin and yang as it was termed. They used a number of techniques including invasive techniques such as acupressure and acupuncture to relieve unwanted negative energies from various parts of the body, this would allow positive energy to restore the balance, thus maintaining health and leading to the patient being cured.
The Siddha system of medicine also followed a similar trend and pattern where in they believed that man consisted of a basic five elements, namely earth, water, fire, air and space. All these forces were meant to coexist in equilibrium in the individual in order to sustain health. Any imbalance due to an excess in any of these was considered as disease and cure was aimed at checking this imbalance and treating the same. Siddha derived a lot of its principles and understanding from the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
As mankind evolved and progressed, the discovery of the antibiotic by Alexander Fleming lead to a mad rush to treat all sorts of illnesses to obtain ‘cure’. Eventually we now understand the ill effects of the same and the number of side effects caused by antibiotics.
Nature, in its substance as we know it has constantly found a manner to evolve and disease producing organisms are evolving rapidly and encountering the action of antibiotics.
In the midst of all this, another system of medicine, Homoeopathy was discovered in Germany around the 1800’s that were founded on the principle of likes curing likes. Here, those substances that caused the illnesses or the symptoms of the same were given to people to cure them of the same, but in minuscule doses. It is extremely interesting to note here that Homoeopathy was founded by an allopathic German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, who out of frustration with the techniques used to treat people of sickness during those days left practice only to pursue a career in translating medical books.
It must also be noted that Homoeopathy was the first system of treatment to give patients complete ‘cure’ without any side effects from the medication taken. The system is also attributed as being the first to identify that a cause in the physical symptom may stem from a disturbance in the mind and this lead to a breakthrough in treatments for mental sicknesses prevalent in the day such as dementia.
Thus we see how the term ‘cure’ has evolved from millions of years of experiencing, understanding, deriving, and experimenting to provide optimum health and free people from illness.
What do we mean by natural cure?
Based on the above detailed analysis if the terms cure and nature or natural as derived we now clearly understand that those means and methods that are available from the environment around us and those which have been evolved from our concepts, our understandings of those particular factors which tend to derange the general neutral balance of an organism and hampers its functioning is termed as a natural cure.
Over the centuries, this has evolved and now various techniques are available to treat illnesses in a non harmful and natural way thus being extremely mild on the body itself but leaving a strong and lasting effect. Techniques are now available to not only tackle physician complaints in the form of oral medication but also to calm the mind, by techniques such as yoga, chakra therapy and reiki.
Our recent understanding of psychology, our exploration into the realms of the min, the conscious and subconscious have allowed us an entry to those frontiers that were unexplored earlier.
At the turn of the 20th century, people were more inclined to the use of antibiotics, due to a lack of understanding the human body and disease in detail as well as that of technology.
Earlier forms of treatments for illnesses included vague methods, being used without any principles or laws or even scientific explanation to justify them. As a result, patient were either left extremely scarred from the treatment given or would end up so weak, that they would die as a side effect of treatment. This continued on all through the 1800’s till the early 1900’s.
Treatments for mental disorders or those who were mentally unstable were far worse with patients being subjected to electrical shock therapy, many of them being burnt or being made worse after the treatment. Many of these patients were subjected to being tied to poles, humiliated and eventually they starved to death.
Mental asylums were plenty by the day and were being used to in a way dump such people since no cure to their illnesses was being found.
It is important to note here that it was the founder of Homoeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann who was the first to identify these states of mental imbalance as disorders or diseases which needed to treated and that the affected individuals needed as much care as those with any physical illness. From there on, there was a much gentler approach to such cases, they were looked at with compassion and treated with care. As a result, many a patients were totally relieved of symptoms and went on to lead a normal life like before.
In today’s times, we see a lot of mind related illnesses either due to some problems in the subconscious mind or that in regards to stress or some incident that may have scarred the individual mentally.
Treatments like reiki, meditation, crystal ball healing and hypnotherapy have helped us reach those subconscious levels and tackle the problem at that level, thus treating the patient, as a result even improving the mental and psychological tendencies at times.
These treatments are not deleterious to the individual and are derived from our understanding of the realm and reality around us thus can be called safe and totally natural.
Physical illnesses have risen over the last few years, thus leading to improper body functioning and causing discomfort to those affected which has also lead many people opting for safer modes of treatment.This is so because as mentioned above in regards to the mental realm of illnesses, even physical treatments for diseases included procedures like leeching, burning of affected parts, amputation of affected parts, placing affected parts into hot oil and bloodletting.
As mentioned earlier, these had no basis or principles whatsoever and many a times lead to the death of the patient.
Thus we see how treatments have advanced over the years to be safer and gentler towards the patient, their sources derived from our natural environment, thus constituting natural cure.
And in depth understanding of natural cure through various civilizations and its impact on present times.
As has been mentioned and seen above, we know how the current systems of treatments have been derived from and somewhere have their roots and origins to a few important regimes of the past.
We shall discuss in detail the various ancient systems of medicine during the important civilizations that have left an impact on the history of mankind.
This refers to the era of the Egyptian empire that lasted till about 33BC. This was a highly advanced system of medicine for its time and extremely simple procedures which were non invasive in nature and was set as per principles laid by in medical texts of the time; these texts were referred to as pharmacopoeia
This concept believed in the presence of higher powers of Gods who were responsible for illness and their pacification would lead to healing the sick and curing them of the illness. This basis was so deeply engraved into the system that an injuries like those caused while fighting a battle or otherwise were dealt with a separate God, those from insect bites, which majorly included bites and stings from scorpions and snakes were dealt with by a separate entity while other illnesses apart from all these was dealt with by a different entity altogether.
Sekhmet was the main goddess who was mainly responsible for healing, for curing and associated with spells and curses were often appeased to in cases of illnesses. Appeasement to her was in the form ingesting or inhaling medicines that often weren’t very pleasant to taste, or injecting the same into various orifices of the body in a hope to appease her, thus treat the patient. There are notings of Greek scholars visiting the Egyptians to understand their work and learn modes of treatment from them. Thus, towards the western hemisphere, Egypt as a civilization was extremely important in shaping the medical practices of that region. The Egyptian scholars noted their data in the earliest form of paper or ‘papyrus’, the most famous being the Ebers Papyrus which included a list of remedies for certain medical conditions. A substantial amount of data is found in the sculptures and drawings on the walls of Egyptian structures and the tombs of their royalty.
Treatments were based on firstly examining the patient, notes of which have been made and preserved in great detail, examining the diseased part thoroughly and deriving a diagnosis from the same.
Medicines were used on a trial and error basis and finally when their action was proven on a particular part for a particular illness, they were inculcated into the mainstream line of treatment. Concoctions and various mixtures were places in clay pots and were kept aside to be prescribed and used as per the particular case. Such untouched clay pots containing medicines were excavated from tombs which had been spared by tomb robbers, thus giving an extremely accurate insight into how practices were during the day.
There have also been notification of conservative methods being used to handle cases where in medication would not help; this was done in the form of bandaging, poultices and local application of medicine to help heal the injury or the diseased part. Care was taken not to expose the part to any external factors that may add onto the infection.
The Egyptians also had an expertise in anatomy, which helped during the mummification process where in important organs were removed from the body without causing any damage to the structure and external appearance of the body itself. Notifications on diet, regimen, foods that may aggravate certain conditions and the concept of hygiene, especially washing of hands and feet, bathing have also been mentioned in their texts.
Herbal medicine also played a crucial role especially in regards medicines extracted from plant sources, namely, opium, cannabis, aloe and fennel seeds. These are even used today as part of our diet and for certain modes of treatment. Medicines derived from molds and fungi were also used extensively.
Surgical instruments derived from stones, rocks and using wood from bamboo sticks were used to carry out minor surgeries as and where needed. Primitive dental treatment was also present as was evident with the discovery of resin material found in the skulls of a few mummies.
Prosthetics or artificial body parts especially those of toes and limbs were also discovered, these helped understand the concept of treating the handicapped and also improving their quality of life.
Thus we see that this era compromised a mixture and combination of religion, spirituality and magic to form its basis of treatment. The sources of all medication and non medical procedures such as surgeries being borrowed from natural habitats and surroundings available during that period.
Chinese medicine was a a meeting point between the eastern and the western concepts of medicine and treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine is several thousand years in comparison to modern medicine which is about a few hundred years old. Historically, the earliest literature on Chinese medicine was written around 500BC to 300BC. This book was called Huang-di Neu-jing or canon of medicine when translated into English and was authored by Suwen and Lingshu. Their book comprises a summary of their knowledge, both medicine wise and theory wise and includes the various systems followed during the day. The Chinese concept of medicine primarily dealt with the balance of yin-yang, the five elements of the body, meridians ie. Channels and the collateral are of the body and the concept of qi, or the vital energy that gave life to the body.
It is thus evident that the Chinese also incorporated spiritualism and the aspect of the mind and internal balance to their concept of disease, medicine and thus cure. There were primarily eight fundamental principles responsible for the maintaining the harmony and health of an individual, these were namely, exterior and interior, cold and head, xu and shi and lastly yin and yang.
Exterior and interior were linked to the seat and understanding how a deep an illness is. Exterior conditions were mostly of a calmer and timid nature not affecting the deeper organs of the body. Interior conditions were usually considered more harmful and affected important areas and organs of the body
Cold and heat, these determined the kind of presentation or the character of the disease. As signified by their names, cold were those that were caused by lower temperatures or exposure to wet weather while hot were those caused by exposure to extremely high temperatures and were thus known as cold or hot syndromes respectively.
Xu and shi where in syndromes of the xu variety signify a weakness or lack of coordination or a particular requirement of the body, thus generally being defined as those linked to deficiency. Shi on the other hand included conditions due to a surplus of certain substances required for body functioning, thus linked to excesses.
Yin and Yang, was the mechanism of maintenance of body equilibrium and helped the body function in tandem. Yin categorized the interior, cold and the xu syndrome, being the milder one of the lot.
Yang signified the graver more dangerous lot that included syndromes of the exterior type, heat and that of the shi.
This helps us understand how deep the Chinese understood the manner in which the body functioned and how a disease process deranged the same.
Treatment wise, the Chinese inculcated various methods to calm the body, calm the spirits that may cause harm to the body, we shall now glance through the same.
Major modes of treatment during the era included Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping and the art of Chinese massage or tui na.
Chinese herbal medicine owes its origin to medicines and decoctions prepared from plants and animal parts. The Chinese were very meticulous to research and study the use of many herbs, plants and parts of trees as well as the use of animal parts such as bones and other body parts for treatments.
The use of metals and chemicals was widely propagated during the era. Chinese herbal medicine was primarily based on symptomatic treatment based on the patients’ illness as per the complaints he had. They were given powders, potions, concoctions and teas were prepared to extract the essential active principles of various plants by boiling them and given to patients to drink.
Acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping were physical methods of treatments where in the weak spot or the affected spot of the body was identified and acted upon. Acupuncture dealt with inserting fine needles into affected areas to release pressures that may have built up thus leading to illness.
Moxibustion and cupping were similar methods aimed at reducing pressures or relieving those spots where there was an excess or deficiency of certain energy.
Massages was also aimed at relieving the energies and to spread them evenly around the body thus to maintain and bring about a balance and treat the patient.
From the above, it is amply clear that practically all of Chinese medicine has its origins in the sources provided to us by nature. All substances whether from plant, animal or mineral were made use of to treat various conditions and more than the physical cause of disease, there was an attempt to bring back harmony to the functioning of the body, thus being totally natural in its nature. This thus gives us an insight into the Chinese era of medicine and their understanding of natural cure.
The Greeks, apart from being extremely good painters, poets and artists also play in important role in establishing the basis and concepts of disease and its treatments in today’s era. The Greek were greatly influenced by the Egyptians in their quest for understanding the concept of treatment and its various aspects. Considered as the crib of civilization in the western hemisphere, they went on to become the civilizers of the ancient world. Personalities that need to be mentioned here are Apollo, who was considered as the Greek God of Medicine, thus hinting to the concept of spiritualism in medicine.
The general perception towards medicine was that of magic and religion combined and that the diseases were caused by the Greek Gods and only their pacification would cure the person of the same.
As a result, many temples were made all over where in the Gods were worshiped, the most famous being the temple of Aesculapius, where many people were brought for treatment. Patients were made to sit silently or put into deep sleep and it was believed that the God would give them instructions or would appear in their sleep. This can be derived as an early form of meditation, going into one’s own subconscious mind where one can seek answers for ones own thought process.
Hippocrates was another figure important in this era; he propagated the theory of humors and discarded the fact that religion and medicine were correlated.
The theory of the four humors was similar to that of the Chinese theory as mentioned earlier and stated that the body health lay in the balance of the four elements of matter, namely earth, air fire and water, the four qualities, namely cold, dry hot and moist and lastly the four humors, namely phlegm, blood, black bile and yellow bile.
He also propagated the use of examination and observing a patient before coming to any conclusion. Hippocrates was also responsible for developing the medical code of ethics, a first kind of a law for all medical practitioners, taken to this day.
The Greeks also gave importance to hygiene, personal and that of the surroundings. The concept of mineral baths was also born during this era where in it was believed that the mineral contents of certain springs or certain substances added in to hot water helped cleanse and clean the body and thus rid the person of his illness.
The Greeks believed that in order to treat, one should be observant and study the patient rather than the actual disease process and that treatment should be aimed at aiding nature heal the patient.
This civilization is also responsible for an in depth understanding in classifying the animals and plants, a system still used today, thus giving birth to early concepts of botany and zoology.
We thus see that even in this case, treatments were derived from the natural sources available and there was an attempt to classify and simplify our understanding of things around us, especially the plants and animals which would further aid and help understand the nature of them and whether they have any medicinal properties and can be used as the same or not.
Ayurveda or the grand old Indian system, of medicine was existent around 5000 BC. The term in itself is derived from the Sanskrit language from the terms Ayurveda or life and Veda or knowledge, thus it deciphers into the knowledge or the science of life.
The basic principles of Ayurveda deal with identifying those factors that cause disease in individuals, correcting the same so that the individual can lead a healthy life without any disease, pain grief or sorrow.
The knowledge of Ayurveda lies in the texts or the Vedas which are four in number, namely rig-Veda, Majuro-Veda, samey-Veda and the Atharva-veda
Of these, the one that contains the knowledge of medicine and treatments or the healing aspect is included in the Atharva-veda
Keeping in similarity with the Greek and the Egyptian systems of medicine and healing, Ayurveda also owes its origins to a divine entity, Brahma who is considered the creator of all earth as per Hindu mythology.
Brahma’s teachings were then passed on to the Indra, the lord of the sky, who in turn passed on this knowledge to various sages, many of who went on to become authorities in the field of Ayurveda.
It is believed that these sages and various other teachers of the day traveled very long distances to congregate in the remote caves situated in the Himalayan mountain ranges. Here they exchanged all that they were taught and they compiled their knowledge and thus the Ayurveda was conceived as a medical science.
Important manuscripts namely include the Charak Samhita and the Sushtura Samhita which contain mainly the medical and also surgical aspects and procedures used during those days.
The fundamental philosophical tenet of Ayurveda was that suffering was disease and contentment was good health. Ayurveda recognized that suffering could be physical, mental and spiritual. Good health meant a healthy body, a sound mind and a good soul. Ayurveda says that just as a man’s spiritual happiness lies n his ability to live in harmony with the external universe, his mental happiness depends on his ability to live in harmony with himself.
It is extremely important to note here that they went a step ahead to actually divide and classify the kind of treatment depending on the particular case, thus forming specialty and super-specialty of sorts.
The branches were, kaya chikitsa or internal medicine, which dealt with disease conditions of the body and their treatment, kaumar bhringaya or pediatrics which dealt with illnesses of the children and adolescent, bhoot vidya or psychiatry which dealt with illnesses related to the mind, shalayka that dealt with conditions of the eye or ophthalmology and the ENT or ear, nose and throat regions of the body, shalaya or surgery, agad tantra or toxicology in relations to poisonings and a knowledge of poisonous plants and other substances, rasayana or medical aid to the elderly or geriatric age group and lastly vajakarana or the knowledge of eugenics and aphrodisiacs whose use was extremely abundant during those eras.
It is thus we see how Ayurveda made an attempt to simplify and classify medical conditions and their treatments. A large number of these early classifications are still used to date thus only reinforcing the importance of the system.
The theory behind this system was that the body or the organism was basically managed by three major factors; these are humors or dosa, body tissues or dhatu and the waste products formed by the body or mala.
The overall progress of the body and its growth is linked to the above three factors and any change in the balance of even one of the factors tends to cause an imbalance in body functioning.
The tridosa or theory of humors consists of three elements, i.e. Vata or wind, pitha or choler and kapha or phlegm. These are are semi fluid in consistency and regulate body function. The humors primarily interact with the five basic body constituents which are blood, flesh, bone, chyle and semen.
Seven basic tissues of the body include rasa, rakta, mamsa, meda, asthi, majja and kapha. They constitute various body parts and contents.
All objects including human beings were composed of five basic elements, the earth, water, fire air and vacuum, another theory during that era and the balance of these five elements meant health and harmony of the organism.
Disease was a product of problems in diet, taking on undesirable habits, not following a healthy life style and a complete lack of exercise. Thus, the mains goals in terms of treatment were to maintain and enhance health, prevent any disease and cure any sickness that the individual might be affected with.
Approaches included the Shodhana Therapy or the purification treatment which aimed at removal of the causative factor of the disease if any. This was specifically used in disorders of the nerves and brain, musculo skeletal problems and certain disorders related to blood and its related tissues.
Shamana therapy or the method of palliation was the technique by which the disturbed humor was identified and restored back to its original state without creating any major imbalance in the body. This was done by putting to use appetizers, certain substances to aid digestion, physical exercise and the exposure to natural elements such as sun and fresh air. The use of sedatives was also introduced in this system.
Pathya Vyavastha aimed at putting emphasis on defining the good and bad habits in regards ones dietary intake, activity, general habits and the emotional states. This was aimed at an general understanding of the lifestyle and regimen and also to maintain harmony at the mental level, thus inculcating the aspect of psychology.
By this we understand that Ayurveda understood the fact that it was important to maintain harmony not only at the level of the mind but also the body to maintain a healthy life free of disease.
Nidan Parivarjan dealt with understanding those aspects of life which were essential understanding those factors that would trigger and precipitate disease conditions and thus how avoiding them would prevent the same.
Satvavajaya involved handling mental disorders and procedures on how to free the mind of thoughts that were unwanted and how freeing the mind of the same could improve ones concentration and memory powers. This dealt with more of a psychological as well as cognitive developmental field which we see today is extremely important in case of children who suffer from such disorders at very early age.
Lastly, Rasayana promoted the improvement of the strength and vitality of the body by consuming those medicinal substances which improved the immunity of the body and also strengthened the body musculature and tissue to prevent easy breaking and trauma to them. These we can link to modern day immunology where in medicines are given to build the body’s natural immunity, thus fight disease naturally.
We can thus decipher that Ayureda has an important role to play in the field of medicine and how we correlate the same today.The treatments were all based on philosophies deciphered from mere observation and evaluation of the surroundings available to us and medicinal substances obtained from the natural sources we can avail of. Ayurveda thus forms an important pillar to supporting our medical understanding and the progress we have made on it in present day.
Samuel Hahnemann, a well established MD physician of that era founded this system around 1796 after quitting his practice owing to medical treatments which were unsatisfactory and gave little or no relief to patients.
Homoeopathy, derived from the words, homoeo and pathos, literally translates into let likes be cured by likes. It is interesting to know that this science was discovered by Hahnemann while he was translating a medical book where in it was stated that a particular drug was responsible for curing malaria because of its bitter taste. This intrigued Hahnemann who took it upon himself to take that drug and see its effects on the self, as he believed that if only the bitterness of that drug was responsible for treating the symptoms of malaria, then all bitter drugs would cure malaria. He thus tested the drug on himself and realized that it causes symptoms similar to those of malaria not only in the self but also other healthy individuals who consume it.
It is thus he deciphered that a substance that has the capability to produce a set of symptoms in a healthy organism is capable of curing identical symptoms in a diseased individual.
This principle of Homoeopathy is termed as natures law of cure and formed the basis of all homoeopathic treatment thereafter.
Hahnemann also inculcated the art and practice of testing drugs and medicines on people, a process called drug proving, which is used even today to test modern day drugs.
The main source of homoeopathic literature was the Materia Medica, a compilation of the remedies whose detailed provings were done and Organon of Medicine, which gave detailed instructions as to how diseases should be treated, their classification, notes in regards diet and regimen and what lifestyle should be followed and maintained if an individual is diseased so as to free himself of it.
Homoeopathy held its basis and modes of treatment on certain fixed rules or Cardinal Principles as they were called. These included the following:
The law of Similia that basically means let the likeness of symptoms treat each other in diseased individuals. In other words, it is deciphered as a condition where in a weak spiritual entity in the body, namely a disease process is overcome by a stronger entity of the same kind which acts through external stimulation or medicine in other words.
The law of simplex, that stated only one remedy can be instilled into the diseased patient at a time, this was again based on the principle of the proving of the symptoms of the drugs whose symptoms were available for referencing in the medical texts.
Law of minimum, advised to administer the required medicine in that quantity which would cause least harm to the patient. This stemmed from Hahnemann’s years of experience and seeing patients ingest large quantities of medicinal substances in the name of cure, many even being extremely poisonous substances such as metals like mercury and lead preparations which ultimately killed the patient rather than cure. Thus the idea was to minimize the suffering of the already harrowed individual by giving extremely negligible doses of medicine.
Doctrine of Drug Proving formed an essential part as it resulted in every drug being thoroughly tried and tested on healthy human beings rather than animals, a first of its kind. Thus, the detailed effects of every single medicinal substance were properly understood and only then were it put to use to treat diseased individuals. Drug Proving is even followed to date and is part of protocol in case of developing and introducing a new medicine in the market today.
Theory of Chronic diseases was also a breakthrough in disease classification and understanding because for once, diseases were classified as acute and chronic and their treatments varied in regards medicines as well as diet and regimen. Thus diseases were categorized as a general and it gave a simpler and better understanding to the medical fraternity which till date would classify them based on names, symptoms and other vague criteria s
Theory of Vital Force, an extremely revolutionary theory for the day stated that the body was governed by a sort of a power not visible to us, but that powers actions and its reactions were visible to the eye. The human body or the organism was just material in nature and was ruled without any limits by this space like power and its balance is what maintained health in the body and that any slight change in the same lead to conception of a diseased state in the body.
This view is similar to the one we see in the Egyptian and the Chinese thought process which also believed that the body was manipulated by a force of sorts that we could not see.
Lastly, the theory of drug dynamization where in the medicinal substances were prepared so carefully so as to neutralize any poisonous effects on the body. Many of these medicines were prepared from poisons which in the crude form could even kill the person. Medicines are obtained from plant, animals and mineral sources.
Homoeopathy also gave importance to disorders related to the mind, the same were classified in detail and the treatment for the same was written about extensively. Symptoms of the mind were especially explored by James Tyler Kent, a stalwart in the field of Homoeopathy.
There are detailed notes of diet, those foods that tend to ease and worsen conditions in case of illnesses as well as in regard clothing and habitat a person should avoid when sick. There was an attempt to understand illness as a whole in regards the patient as well as his surroundings, thus laying the importance as to how small changes in them could alter the state of health and lead to disease.
In conclusion we would like to thus see how this science of Homoeopathy has its basis in nature, it derives its principles from the very systems we see and observe in our surroundings and puts them to use to treat the patient and totally rid him of the illness.
All medicines are also derived from the main sources of nature, ie plant, animal and the mineral kingdom, thus being more inclined towards nature even in this aspect.
Siddha or achievement was that form of medicine developed by the sages through their results from the practice of yoga. It is believed that eighteen saints or siddhars contributed to this system, the most prominent of them being Agasthya. It is also believed that Lord Shiva gave the knowledge of Siddha Medicine to his wife Parvati who passed it down to the siddhars or saints.
The Siddha system was more popular in southern India and used means such as mantras and tantric ideas as well as heavy metals for treatment. There was widely used a preparation called Muppu that was believed to have far fetching medicinal properties.
The mixing of various chemical substances or alchemy was also widely used during this era, this eventually spread to China and the Middle East where ultimately it was widely used.
The basic principles included the fact that there was an ecosystem within the body that was similar to the surroundings of the individual.
Deriving similarity from the Ayurvedic system of medicine, the Siddha system also believed in the theory of elements and few other components called dhatus to maintain the functioning of the body.
In total, there are five elements, namely the munn/solid/earth aspect, the neer/liquid/water, the thee/radiance/fire, the vayu/gas/air and lastly the aakasam/ether/space aspect.
On the other hand, the dhatus were total seven in number, namely, rasa or lymph, kurudhi or blood, tasa or muscles, kozhppu or adipose tissue, elumbu or bone, majjai or marrow and lastly sukkilam and artavam or the male and female hormones respectively.
Vatham signified dryness, lightness, coldness and motility of the organism and it was that aspect of the body which was controlled by the air and wind factor and primarily held importance during the early, growing years of the body. A derangement in this would normally affect the entire body.
Pitham signifies a warmth or heat and governed more of the brain and the nerves of the body, it was an important factor during the working years of life and its affections were mainly limited to derangements of the digestive tract.
Karpam signified weight, hardness and heaviness and was important through the old age or the last phase of life, its derangement mainly affected bones and musculature as well as other soft tissues.
Thus we observe how the Siddha system developed a complicated theory to understanding illness and classifying them so as to make diagnosis as well as treatment easy.
Medicines were given by boiling, dissolving, in the form or powders and they contained many chemical substances and metals in extremely large quantities, The preparation of some of these medicines are still unknown.
The Siddhars had a fine knowledge of Chemistry and inculcated alchemy in order to prepare medicines. They were aware of certain chemical processes, certain reactions of certain chemicals with one another which only helped them understand and prepare better and newer combinations of medicines.
The art of poly pharmacy, where in more than two medicinal substances were mixed together and given to the patient was also used during this era, it thus goes to show the extent to which the people of the day were intelligent.
The concept of Kaya Kalpa, the key to a long and healthy life was also prevalent. In order to achieve this, many attempts were made and the primary method of doing so was to make people ingest a mixture of gold and mercury which was believed to give the individual complete freedom from any sort of disease, thus ensure a long life.
Thus, we get a glimpse as to how previous civilizations have not only taken the time, energy and the patience to observe, study, understand and classify disease conditions as well as their treatments based on each different type.
There has always been an attempt to overall restore the harmonious functioning of the body with whatever means and ways available to them. Even theory wise whether it be the merging of religion and medicine, or the other theories that have been mentioned, the only goal is to restore health and bring about a balance in the body’s working and mechanism, thus making them extremely similar in their aim.
Although a lot of these have been proved wrong and have been discarded, most of them have gone onto form our foundations and basis in regards our understanding as well as our treatment plans in the field of medicine of the present day. The differentiation made way back then as well as the remedies noted in texts from that era are still put to use even today, thus only emphasising how important the scriptures written thousands of years ago are still, even today.
We shall now glance on a few more modern methods of treatments available, which have been derived recently owing to our understanding of the human body in much greater detail with the technology available at our disposal today.
Yoga, an ancient practice has found fame in recent years and is being looked upon as an extremely helpful option for those who would rather avoid modern medicine or for those who have tried the same and failed to get any relief.
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word Yog, which basically signifies a group of practices to maintain ones physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Yoga originated in India and is said to have been properly formed as a science around the fifth century BC. The practitioners of yoga or the yogis were responsible for its spread all over the subcontinent and it eventually spread to the western countries.
There exists a common belief that yoga is basic exercising by putting the body through various postures in extremely complicated ways which is unfounded and untrue.
The better known types of yoga are the Hatha Yoga and the Raja Yoga.
The Hatha Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga combines physics, exercises and those procedures which helps develop mind, body and the soul.
This was popularized by Swami Vivekananda.
The Hatha Yoga on the other hand is a type that deals with the building of strength, both physical and mental by using certain exercises.
Yoga is today a widely used technique of exercise and to rejuvenate one’s body as well as mind.
There have been attempts to study the effects of yoga in certain disease conditions, most being inconclusive and not showing any direct correlation to improvement in the disease condition with yoga.
Yogic exercises, especially Pranayam are known to help build lung capacity and help in respiratory disorders though.
Thus in brief we can see how yoga is being used as a technique to help treat treat people and improve their well being.
Reiki, another form of medicine of the alternative type was founded in the early 1900’s by a Japanese monk named Mikao Usui.
This basically involves the process of healing using the palms or healing using the energy from the hands, thus it is also referred to as a hands-on healing.
Reiki derives its origins from the Chinese system of medicine which states that the body requires equilibrium of energy to be healthy; this includes both good and bad energy.
It makes use of the concept of Chi or qi as has been derived from the Chinese philosophy.
Based on this principle, the healing is carried out using the Universal energy as a guide, the same being transferred in or out of the diseased individual via a Reiki healer or channel, who is trained to transmit these energies, thus act as a medium.
Reiki as such is not scientific nor has its scientificity been proved as yet but it is a technique that has developed greatly and has spread to the western countries in the last few years.
There is no clinical research to prove this science has any medical properties nor any research to show it helps in treating medical conditions.
The word detoxify literally means to clean, thus signifies the process whereby the body and its interiors namely the various mechanisms and systems that run it as well as the essential components responsible for the same are cleaned, in the literal sense.
Procedures that used to attain this namely include therapy by chelation, irrigation, supplementing the body with various nutrients even juices at times, exposure to steam, dietary therapy and fasting.
The primary toxins dealt with through this system are those which develop over a long period through bad eating habits, lack of exercise and a proper regimen. These include metals, any chemicals that accumulate in the body which may have a deleterious effect on the same, micro-organisms that maybe harmful to the body and lastly the secondary products formed by the breakdown of essential proteins, carbohydrates and fats in the body.
This process is facilitated by the body through various organs, the important ones being namely kidneys, skin and liver. All of these help expel toxins from the organism and are crucial to daily functioning.
The skin helps remove toxins through sweat.
Liver secretes bile, which again filters out toxins from the body.
Kidneys are responsible for production of urine, a natural way for the body to eliminate any unwanted substances from the body especially that from the blood.
The role of the gut is also important here as it helps in the formation and production of faeces, an extremely important method of ridding the body of unwanted substances.
We can thus understand that there is a mild correlation between this current method of throwing out toxins from various organs to that of the earlier ancient theories of humors being toxic and their removal restoring health in the body.
Detoxification is carried out in various manners, we shall now glance over the various methods whereby this is achieved.
Supplementation is the process whereby the body is administered with those substances that are important and provide the various nutrients for body functioning.
Herbal method puts into use certain herbs which are known to have a cleansing effect on the body and react with toxins that may have formed in the body, combine with them and get excreted through the various organs as mentioned earlier.
Certain diets and foods are also known to have beneficial effects on the body, when followed. The basic idea here is to relieve the body of the already accumulated toxins by not adding any more toxins but introducing those substances that help in the cleansing process. Foods known to be used for this process include cabbage, broccoli, the citrus fruits especially oranges and sprouts to some extent.
Abstinence from food or fasting is also a method to cleanse the body, this helps the body to burn excessive proteins, carbohydrates and fats and other substances that were stored in order to continue the harmonious functioning of the body.
Hydrotherapy is a process wherein the patient is made to ingest hot water. As a result, there is stimulation of the circulatory system of the body and toxins are excreted through the same. It also leads to sweating, which is again, helpful for the body.
Recent discoveries and advances in the field of microbiology and its correlation to modern diet has led to the infusion of certain foods with certain microbes which help and aid digestion, these are called
Probiotics and they work by improving the lining as well as the functioning of the gut, thereby helping the body throw out toxins. A range of probiotic foods are available and these form an essential part of our daily diet owing to their health benefits.
Exposing the body to heat or steam also stimulates it to secrete toxins, this was earlier done during the Greek era through natural mineral baths and we now use the modern day Sauna setup to carry out the same.
Chelation is yet another method whereby the heavy substances like metals that accumulate in the body are removed.
Physical exercise has always been propagated as a safe and natural way to not only cleanse the body but also help fight disease and keep the body fit, both physically and mentally.
Thus we see and understand the concept of detoxification and how it of immense use and help to the modern day system of alternative medicine having its roots in ancient theories of medicine utilizing all the natural substances made available to us.