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About Ayurveda

The founders of Ayurveda postulated a theory called Tridhatu-theory or three life factor theories. Since it explains the working of the living tissue and since it has survived over centuries it is still considerd to be the base on which the edifice of Ayurveda stands.

The theory means that there are three basic elements of life which carry out metabolism of the body. As long as they remain in normal state and in mutual harmony the body continues to be healthy. It is some disorder in them that leads to disease. Ayurvedic treatment consists in restoring harmony among them.

As physical entities or as primal substances (like Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) they can not be demonstrated, they are postulated and are considered to be immanently present in every cell of the body.

A- The Growth Factor-

The first characteristic of a living tissue that attracts attention of an observer is its spontaneous growth. In fact, very tisse of the body is growing, multiplying, reproducing and renewing itself. Cells secrete chemicals from their bodies and form surrounding ground in which they lie. This process of controlled growth continues as long as the tissue lasts. Besides this, the tissue repairs itself, whenever it is injured. It manages to defend itself by producing such defensive substances as antibodies, properdin, opsonin lysozyme etc. In Ayurveda all these formative and defensive activities are considered to be the work of growth factor. Apart from Physical growth such mental qualities as courage, insight, endurance, resistance to diseases, steadfastness, the signs of good growth are also the results of this factor.

This in Ayurveda is called Kapha or Kaphadhatu which literally means the water of life. It is also called ‘Slesma’ which means something that adds new matter to the tissues. The word Kapha can be translated as formative, proliferative or anabolic element of the body.

This growth factor is sustained in its normal state by balanced food, containing all essential ingredients in it, and by proper rest and sleep. Cheerful state of mind also sustains it. In fact exhilaration promotes growth and retards the process of decay.

B- The consuming Factor of life-

The second factor of life is called the consuming or combustive, or catabolic or autoeytic factor of life. In Ayurveda it is called Agni (fire)  that is ignis or Pittam which means the fire of life.

This consuming factor is responsible  for the production of multitude of cellular enzymes which break down food material into such simple compounds as can be utilized for the synthesis of complex structure of the tissues and which oxidize the waste material arising within the tissues to such products as can easily be eliminated through excretory organs. Heat resulting from this biochemical activity keeps the body warm and at the same time chemical energy released from it contributes to the energy of the body.

Besides, keeping the body warm it keeps the skin, the vision and the intellect clear and produces such mental qualities as that of cheerfulness, and bravery.

This factor of life is sustained mainly by physical activity and by such foods and drinks as are stimulating to metabolism. During the period of fasting and during the interval between meals it remains more active.  

C- Harmony between these two factors-
Now, the aforesaid two factors though they work in opposition to each other, function in coordination, and in their balancd state keep metabolism normal. Thus it is harmonious state of these two factors that keeps one healthy. In case, however, the growth factor becomes ascendant the process of metabolism grows slow. On the other hand, when the consuming factor assumes predominance the rate of metabolism becomes more active. Both these conditions predispose one to some sort of disease.

It is lack of agni (fire) or the enzymatic system or in other words predominance of the growth factor that is more common cause of disease, especially, in upper classes. It may safely be stated that it is lack of Agni that results in three – fourths of all diseases. So Ayurveda lays more stress on keeping Agni intact. Charaka says (Chi. 13) that a larger number of diseases arise from lack of Agni (Agnidosat manusyanam rogasanghah prthakvidhah). Vagbhata also easerts the same statement that unless Agni (fire) is weak no disease can arise (Vagbhatasya pratijneyam na mandagnim vina rujah).In the treatment of diseases Ayurveda lays more emphasis on the preservation of the Agni of the patient. Ayurveda lays down objective of the treatment should be preservation of the Agni of the patient (Sarametat chikitsayah Parmagnesca palanam).Again Ayurveda says that ‘he who preserves the Agni saves the life of the patient.  

D- Kapharogas or diseases arising from lack of Agni (fire):

In a normal person the intake of calories is more or less equal to the output of energy, that is, ingestion of calories corresponds to the consumption of calories, but in case the constitutional Agni is deficient and the intake of calories exceeds the output of energy, some products of incomplete combustion are liable to accumulate in the fluids and tissues of the body. For instance, the quantity of lactic acid, pyruvic acid, free-fatty acids, cholesterol, phospholipids, triglycerides etc. More or less increase in the body. Accumulation of such malproducts in Ayurveda is called Kaphadosa or Amadosasancaya and it is said to be the cause of host of diseases (Vyadhinamasrayo hyesa amasafijyotidarunah) all of which come under the category of kapharogas or diseases caused by lack of Agni (fire). Such diseases as Angina, Myocardial infarction, Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, Obesity, Diabetes, Rheumatic pains, Lithiasis, Allergies etc. come under the category of Kapharogas. Besides them all overgrowths such as benign tumours, cysts, hypertrophies and catarrhal inflammations also come under the category of Kapharogas.

Treatment for the Kapharogas consists in total or partial fasting, dieting or taking of fatfee, sugarfree or even saltfree food for some time. For chronic kapharogas physical exercise or walking is a good therapeutic measure. Such drugs and measures as activate Agni or enhance the rate of metabolism cure kapharogas. Excretion of waste matter through purging, emesis or perspiration etc. also is considered helpful.

E-Pittarogas or diseases resulting from the excess of the consuming factor:

Besides Kapharogas there is a second series of diseases which result from the overactivity of the Agni. They are called Pittarogas.

It appears that when a tissue is injured physically or bacteriologically the Agni (fire) of the body is automatically activated, by means of which Necrotic tissue is liquefied and a great amount of defensive substances is produced, which neutralize the invading organisms. Thus excess of Agni (fire) serves the body by disposing of the dead tissue and by giving rise to the defensive substances.

All such diseases as are attended with acute or suppurative inflammation rise of temperature and some destruction of blood come under the category of Pittarogas.

As to the treatment of Pittarogas Ayurved suggests giving of complete rest, administering of such foods and drinks as are light but nourishing and prescribing of such medicines as are supportive, the objective being to enable the body to fight against the invading organisms and destroy them by producing the natural defences, Besides them, Catharsis or promoting the detoxication function of the liver also is considered to be helpful in the treatment of Pittarogas.   

F- The motive factor of life:

The third outstanding feature of the living tissue is its physical or dynamic activity. The cause of this in Ayurveda is called Vayu or Vata the word closelyallied to ‘Vita’ meaning life. Charaka (Su.17) says the Vayu is the very life of the living beings (Sa pranah praninam smrtah). The same author says, the Vayu is the very strength of the body and on it depends the life, (Vayurayur balam Vayuh, Chi 28).

The word Vayu may be translated as the motive factor, dynamic factor, bioelectricity or electrical potential. It is present in every cell though nervous system is called its special seat.

As to its functions Ayurveda states that all types of sensation, motion voluntary or involuntary such as circulation, respiration, electrical waves of the heart and brain, secretory and excretory movements, such functions of the brain as thinking, memory, intelligence, speech, sleep, courage etc, are based on the proper working of Vayu.

This motive factor of life is sustained by nourishing food, relaxation, rest, sleep, cheerfulness and peacefulness of mind. The above – mentioned two factors also in their normal state add to its strength. Fresh fruits and vegetables and cereals made soft and sprouted by putting in water for sometime and taken uncooked also promote this element.

G- Vayurogas or diseases arising from the deficiency in Motive Factor:

Malnutrition, lack of rest and sleep, stresses, strains, tensions. Frustrations, fits of emotion such as anger, grief, fear, worry anxiety, bereavement, deprivation and excess of heat and cold etc. undermine this factor. They do so perhaps by producing a certain toxin or a hormone in excess, which in its turn affects the Vayu adversely. All sorts of poisonous substances have a deleterious effect on it. The organ of the body which is weak and vulnerable is particularly affected and becomes excitable. Excitability in general is the prominent sign of deficiency in the motive factor. Excitability in any organ is called its Vayuroga.

Consequntly the diseases attended with such signs of excitability (or Vayu Vrddhi) as pain, hyperaesthesia, paraesthesia, muscular spasm-or- tension, rigidity, tremors, convulsions, syncopes, depression excitement, restlessness, delusion, insomnia etc. are listed as Vayu rogas. Besides excitability, degenerative changes occurring in the organs belong to the same class. In short, all asthenic and degenerative diseases are considered as Vayurogas.
Regarding treatment of the Vayurogas, all the foods, drugs and measures that strengthen, tone – up or vitalize the body and mind and the means that are sedative, restorative or exhilarative to them may well be prescribed. At the same time all the poisonous foods or drinks should be abstained from.

General contention of Ayurveda is, that it is some Dosa or excess of waste matter or some toxin in the body that brings about disease, therefore, its elimination also should be apart of our treatment. In Vatarogas simple douching of the bowels or light laxatives may be enough to purge the body of its toxins or waste matter.

Temperament -

A particular temperament also predisposes one to disease. In case the constructive side of metabolism is more pronounced in a person, he is said to be of Kapha prakriti or of sthenic or phlegmatic temperament. Such a person is physically stout, but slow in movements, mentally is of calm and quiet nature and less excitable. He, however, is considered to be more predisposed to Kapharogas.

In case the destructive side of metabolism is more distinct the person is said to have the temperament of Agni (fire) or Pittam and is called of Sanguine temperament. Physically he is neither stout nor thin, but of intermediate type. Mentally he is active and alert. He is more sensitive to heat. Such a person is thought to be more susceptible to Pittarogas.

If a person by birth is of asthenic nature i.e. is of low vitality, is easily provoked, or is more or less introvert he is said to be of Vayu prakrti or of neurotic temperament. Physically he is lean and emaciated and mentally more excitable. He is more vulnerable toVayu rogas.

Now, as first thing, it is clear from the above that every organ of the body is subject to three or four types of pathological changes. Hypertrophic or catarrhal type of inflammation in an organ is called Kapharoga of it. If inflammation is acute or of suppurative type the organ is called to be afficted with pitta roga. If an organ has become excitable or has developed signs of degeneration, the organ is said to be afflicted with Vayuroga, and if an organ has developed all these signs in combination, the organ is said to be afflicted with Tridosaroga.

The second thing that stands out from the above is that lack of Agni (fire) or the consuming factor and deficiency in the Vayu or motive factor: these two are the chief predisposing causes of most of the diseases. Hence instead of pruning the symptoms of the disease, Ayurveda tries to remove the predisposition of the body. To that end it employs means to strengthen the Agni or Vayu whichever of them is deficient. So Ayurveda is not a symptomatic but a constitutional treatment. It tries to set right the entire constitution which is chiefly governed by Agni (fire) and Vayu and with their restoration to their normal state; symptoms of the disease subside automatically.

In the end it may be state that Ayurveda is not an exclusive system of medicine. Ayurveda may be defined as a system of medicine with the outlook of three life-factor theory or tridosic outlook. The main characteristic of Ayurveda is that it studies or interprets all medical phenomena in terms of three-life factor theory which is the rock bottom on which the difice of Ayurveda stands and it is this concept that differentiates it from other systems of medicine.

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