© 2023 Dr. M. Sheppard

Health Ayurveda Plants Mantra Tovil Treatments

Ayurveda is a very ancient system of medicine developed in India and Sri Lanka about 3000 years ago. The name AYURVEDA derives from the Sanskrit words “Ayuh” (life) and “Veda” (science or knowledge) or healthy living. Ayurveda aims to promote healthy living and cure the body of disease using natural plants, herbs and oils. Ayurvedic doctors train for several years and receive certificates. It is estimated that 75% of the population use Ayurvedic medicine and nowadays many tourists visit specifically for Ayurvedic treatments at the many tourist Ayurverdic Centres.

Buddhism influenced the advent of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC. The ancient Kings of Sri Lanka contributed to the development of Ayurveda. e.g. King Pandukabaya set up ayurveda hospitals in Ritigala.  King Buddhadasa was himself, an eminent ayurvedic physician  and was famed for treating soldiers, horses and elephants.  King Kasyappa constructed ayurveda hospitals in Anaradhapura . King Parakramabahu constructed irrigation works and the Royal Hospital. At Mihintale,there are ruins of ancient ayurveda hospitals and medicinal troughs  from the 9thcentury BC.

One of the fundamental beliefs of Ayurveda is the doctrine of “Tri Dosha” or the Three Vital Forces – Vayu, Pita and Kapha (Wind, Bile and Phlegm), a more accurate interpretation of Vayu is the transmission of energy within the body; in modern medical terms, nerve impulses, muscle contraction and hormonal activity. Pita may not be confined to bile but signifies the whole scope of metabolism and internal heat production. Kapha means mucus, often described as “The Protective Fluid”. The modern concept of mucus as an antibody containing liquid which coats and protects internal linings of the body, seems to fit in with Ayurvedic thinking. When the three, “Doshas” are balanced, the body is in good health. When this equilibrium is disturbed and the balance of these complementary forces become unbalanced and upset, then illness results.

Ayurvedic practitioners like many traditional healers, take a holistic approach to their patients - although individual patients may present with similar symptoms, their cures are individualised and so treatments will differ from patient to patient.

The five elements of medical herbs: leaves, flowers, barks, roots and berries are used to cleanse the blood and the body of impurities. The preparation of Ayurvedic medications is usually a long process with ingredients being ground in a pestle for a prescribed period of time. Juices and extracts of plants are simmered until they are reduced to a fraction of their original volume. Besides decoctions, wines, pills and powders for internal use, Ayurveda also uses poultices, pastes, ointments and oils for external application. Massage with herbal oils, steam baths and bathing in herbal waters are said to be particularly beneficial to patients with migraine, insomnia and arthritis. Methods of treatment vary – while one might have herbal oil dripping from a suspended clay pot onto a patient’s head, another would place the patient in a steam bath like an ancient wooden chest with perforations, in which he or she lies relaxed, benefiting from the vapours of various steamed herbs wafting up from underneath.

Herbal teas are now available and gaining in popularity worldwide. Their ingredients vary. While some might invigorate and energize, others would relax and calm both mind and body. The preventative aspects of Ayurveda recommend codes for healthy living which include dietary and social-cultural norms. Certain foods are considered good while partaking of others such as red meat is discouraged. Vegetarianism and the consumption of dairy products such as milk and curd are encouraged but drinking alcohol and smoking are discouraged.

Ayurveda tries to balance the three vital body functions 'vata' (air). 'Pitta' (bile) and 'Kapha' (phlegm) as well as the harmony between body and soul. Ayurveda is a complete healing system. It therefore promotes general well being as well as curing illnesses.

Access to Ayurveda Practitioners is widely available and they conduct consultations for their patients at their surgeries and some even have hospitals for in–patient treatments. Herbs for Ayurvedic prescriptions are widely available in markets and pharmacies. In addition many people, particularly in rural areas, have a general knowledge of plants used to treat common ailments and grow them in their gardens or collect them from the wild.

Ayurvedic plants are widely used by Eduras during healing in Tovil and by the healers in other curing ceremonies. Housewives commonly utilise concoctions to render First Aid healing for common ailments and also in their cooking to promote family well-being.

(This is only a very brief outline of Ayurveda. Internet provides a wealth of detailed information on Ayurvedic Medicine and Ayurvedic Plants used daily to promote health and well-being and for specialist treatments.)

Ayurvedic Medicine