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The “art of healing” began thousands of years ago with the innovations of the primitive man trying to provide relief to those close to him, in sickness and suffering, motivated by feelings of sympathy and kindness.
In the absence of an obvious explanation, his limited intelligence attributed to disease and other calamities to the anger of God, the invasion of the body by evil spirits or the influence of stars and planets.
As a logical sequence, the medicine he practiced consisted in appeasing God with prayers and rituals and sacrifices, driving out evil spirits from the human body.
There is also evidence that prehistoric man improvised stone and flint instruments with which he performed circumcisions, amputations and trephining of skulls.
It is thus obvious that medicine in the prehistoric era (5000BC) was intermingled with superstition, religion, magic, and witchcraft.
Elements of prehistoric medicine are still present in many countries.
Primitive man may be extinct, but “the supernatural theory of disease” in which he believed is not yet extinct in our modern society.
Hindu medicine is as ancient as Hindu Civilisation. Ayurveda by definition implies “The Science of Life”.(Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word derived from two roots: Ayur, which means life, and Veda, knowledge).
Its origin is traced back to the Vedic times about 5000BC. Ayurveda is a part of the Atharva Veda which solely deals with medicine.
In 1833 Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor of India appointed a Committee to make a report on the existing medical education and institutions in order to revise and improve on Indian medical education.
The Committee submitted their report on October 20th, 1834.
The Committee advises immediate abolition of the Native Medical School and suggested the formation of a MedicalCollege for Indians.
English was chosen as the language of instruction mainly for utilization of the immense wealth of printed work and illustrations in the Western medical literature.
On the recommendation of the committee, a Government Order No.28 of 28th January 1835, Medical College of Bengal was established.
This day is still celebrated as the Foundation day of the Calcutta Medical College. A small hospital consisting of 20 beds was established on 1st April 1838. In 1840 a large Hospital for women was founded with 100 beds to afford instruction in Midwifery.
Assistant Surgeon M.J.Bramley (see image) was appointed as Superintendent with Assistant Surgeon Dr.H. H. Goodeve (see image) as his only assistant.
Pandit Madhusudan Gupta, aBaidya Professor of the Native Medical Institute was transferred with two assistants from the Sanskrit College to the New Medical College. The period of study was for four years and the examination was conducted under the supervision of theCommittee of the Council of Education.
The certificate qualified them to practice Surgery and Medicine.
A glimpse of Ayurveda – The forgotten history and principles of Indian traditional medicine Ayurveda is one of the most renowned traditional systems of medicine that has survived and flourished from ages to date. With the enormous knowledge of nature-based medicine, the relationship of human body constitution and function to nature and the elements of the universe that act in coordination and affect the living beings, this system will continue to flourish in ages still to come. There are many avenues still to be explored by the researchers, practitioners, and experts in the field who carry the responsibility of keeping the traditional systems of medicine (TSMs) alive and contributing to their growth in the future. However, due to many barriers such as lack of literature sources in different languages and insufficiency of awareness about the basic principles and histories of the systems from different ethnic origins, there is a lacuna of exchange of information from systems around the globe. Knowledge of systems from different ethnic origins would bring about the interchange of knowledge and increase the understanding of different systems, and this can ultimately contribute to integration and advancement of herbal drug research when accompanied by collaborative work of researchers from different countries. These futuristic goals can be accomplished when one gains insights into the systems, the principles, and works upon the strengthening aspects common between the variousTSMs. In this review, we have made an attempt to put forth the basic principles of doctrine and history of Ayurveda to contribute to the above-said perspectives.
Current status of Ayurveda and perspectives for its future applications :
In the recent decades, Ayurveda has experienced a considerable shift in its paradigm and a significant change in the outlook of researchers, towards its applications has occurred. The therapeutic principles of Ayurveda focus on Prakriti and tridoshas, and these principles explain that every individual has his unique constitution called as Prakriti. Prakriti determines the characteristic response of each individual to medications and dietary factors. ‘Ayurgenomics’ a recently introduced research field, bridges this gap between genomics and Ayurveda and serves as an aid in the understanding of inter-individual differences in responses to therapies in various diseases.29 It especially emphasizes studying inter-individual variances in patients from identical ethnic backgrounds. TSMs are now been looked upon for recourse to some limitations faced by western medicine, such as the need for individualized therapies, potential side effects and lack of desired therapeutic efficacy.30
Rotti et al, have published several studies correlating the concept of Prakriti in Ayurveda to present-day science. A report indicating the correlation of dominant Prakriti with the Body Mass Index (BMI) and place of birth in individuals was published.31 Studies involving subjects of various Prakriti types viz. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha were carried out to identify molecular differences that affect susceptibility and responses of individuals to various environmental or disease conditions. A classification method for the human population, with respect to DNA methylation signatures, is reported based upon traditional Ayurveda concept of prakriti.32 Ina study involving genome-wide SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) in 262 male individuals from three different Prakriti,it was found that PGM1 gene is associated with energy production. PGM1 was found to be more homogeneous in Pitta Prakriti, than the Kapha and Vata prakriti.33
An integration of the knowledge of modern analytical techniques with a broader perspective for applications of Ayurveda principles can help in its wider acceptance globally. There is an increasing need of proving and fostering the scientific basis of the principles of Ayurveda, to keep this age-old valuable system of medicine, as a living tradition in future.
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