L Eddie

(Investigator 83, 2002 March)

Ayurveda is the world's most ancient and complete science of natural medicine. It provides a wealth of knowledge and time tested therapies to promote health in both mind and body. [1]

In our present age there has been a dramatic revival in the popularity in various traditional and alternative medical systems; one possible reason for this may be that, People are looking for a healing system that allows minimum intake of chemicals, whose side effects and reactions are well known. [2]  One of these alternative traditional systems is Ayurvedic, an ancient Indian system of folk-medicine.

The name comes from two Sanskrit words, Ayus = life, and Veda = knowledge, which are generally translated as meaning the "knowledge" or "science of life," or sometimes the "science of longevity" [3]referring to its principal objectives, namely, the promotion and maintenance of a healthy and long life amongst those who follow its teachings. However, it was more than just human medicine; it also included the study of animal disorders, (Mrugayurvedam) and plant diseases, (Vrukshayurvedam).

According to tradition the Ayurvedic teachings are of divine origin, being given some 5,000 years ago, to the Rishis, the wisest Brahmin sages of that time, who had met together in a cave high in the Himalayas. They combined their individual revelations into a single body of which was then passed down orally through subsequent generations. It is much more likely that, like most medical systems, Ayurvedic emerged from a body of long established traditional experience that had been handed down orally for tens of thousands of years, until, with the development of writing, it was finally recorded circa 1,000 B.C.E. It appears that this written text emerged at a time of great social change. With an ever growing population the concentration of large numbers of individuals had produced a number of large cites, and this process, in turn, created a great deal of social change. Morgan [4] has suggested that the concentration of large numbers of people in towns and cities resulted in the proliferation of communal diseases and that it was this factor that brought about a new approach to medicine. Another area affected by this change was religion; with a larger concentration of priests and rituals now officially recorded, religions became more formalized.

Just as in Mesopotamia and Egypt, the healing arts had become the responsibility of the priests. Although the priests were, in effect, the first physicians, their principal duty remained the 'spiritual' aspects of illness, for this religious-medical coalition was dominated by strict religious guidelines. With this principal religious emphasis medical treatment of the physical body was always of secondary importance. Thus, the treatments, especially the administration of medicines often had little or nothing to do with curing the sickness, their purpose was to drive out evil spirits. The worse the taste, or the more violent results it produced, the better its efficacy was considered to be, for, it was believed no demon would remain in a body filled with such foul-tasting herbs. Instead it would flee the human body and the victim would be cured; (a remnant of this ancient idea remains with the quite common belief that the worse medicine tastes the more efficacious it must be). [5]

This then was the fatal flaw in the new system; it was based upon many superstitious beliefs of the past. For instance it was accepted that all sickness and death were the result of either (a) punishment from the gods for sins committed; (b) having inadvertently upset some evil spirit; or, (c) the enchantments of some sorcerer, cast at the request of enemies. In such a cultural environment it was accepted that disease and sickness could be negated by various magical processes, and so it was that Ayurveda inherited a flawed system, based upon the teachings of the Hindu religious text, the Atharvaveda which reached its present form around 1,000 B.C.E.

This book, the product of the atharvans, sorcerer-priests and physicians, who believed that all illness was the result of possession by evil spirits, was a sorcerer's grimoire. It contained a collection of ancient superstitions, and listed various cures which comprised protective amulets, magical potions, defensive spells and incantations, as well as seven hundred and thirty-one hymns which were the source of various chants and prayers. Its contents were specifically designed to ward off malevolent influences. Thus, medical treatment was principally of a counter-magical nature. It involved various rituals, magical spells and incantations, prayers and the use of 'powerful' amulets to drive off the evil spirits. They placed little reliance on herbal medicine, except in their application as fumigants, or as protective devices. In this latter application the herbs were worn on the body, usually in small bags tied around the neck, or near the bodily orifices to deter the entry of evil spirits. Such was the nature of this esoteric belief that as Viswanathan noted, While Indian tribal medicine (folk medicine) probably contributed significantly to the development of Ayurveda in antiquity, it is unlikely that the Atharvaveda did so. Nevertheless, it was to the credit of Ayurvedic practitioners that, although they were never able to completely abandon the superstitious principles of the Atharvaveda, [6] they did at least introduce a more practical and empirical approach to medicine.

The first move away from the Vedic restrictions came with the spread of Indian medicine under Buddhism. Under their influence there was a move away from Vedic superstition to a more rational approach which stressed actual observations using the five senses for diagnosis.It is generally acknowledged that Ayurvedic medicine reached its peak around 300-200 B.C.E. when, under Buddhist missionary influence it was spread widely and resulted in the setting up of the first hospitals and veterinary establishments by Emperor Asoka. [7]Although this Buddhist influence was initially beneficial, the emphasis on non-violence and vegetarianism denied physicians access to the knowledge only available from studying human and animal bodies, and so, in the end, it severely restricted the potential for future development of Indian medicine.

Nevertheless, this revolutionary empirical approach led to Ayurvedic physicians making a number of major discoveries centuries before Western practitioners. One of these was the detection of sugar in the urine of those with diabetes mellitus. [8] One practical test, described by Caraka, was to place urine near an ant's nest and observe the response of the ants. If the urine was sweet, indicating diabetes, it would attract the ants. If the ants ignored the urine the patient was not diabetic.

However, this new era of practical medicine was to be short lived, as Brahmanism regained power Ayurvedic medicine once again became dominated by the superstitious guidelines of religion, so that, under Brahmanism Indian science stagnated and disappeared,…[9]Medicine reverted to the old beliefs that disease came from demonic possession, and, once again returned to he ancient practices relying heavily upon omens, incantations and appeals to the individual deities who were thought to inflict specific disorders, or those considered to be the creators of each particular medicinal herb.

Many of the earlier advancements were recorded in the earliest extant manuscripts such as the Susruta Samhita, (the 'compendium' of Susruta), the Caraka Samhita and the Astranga Hrdaya Ssamhi (circa AD 600). These three texts, known as "the great triad" (brhattraya), were to become the basis of Ayurvedic medicine. Although these texts were attributed to specific authors, it is possible they were merely compilations of earlier material from a number of authors or oral sources.

Sushruta was a surgeon and this work was essentially a surgical manual compiled around the 1st century B.C.E. This text dealt with the area of Ayurveda surgery known as, salakya, (foreign bodies) a practice that evolved out of the treatment of injuries sustained in war. The Caraka-samhita was compiled by the physician Charaka, (or, Caraka), sometime during the 1st century A.D. [11]. This treatise was principally devoted to that aspect of Ayurveda known as kayacikitsa, (the theory of the internal fire), or, in modern terms, digestion and metabolism. Although rather mysterious and complex, it became a vital aspect of Ayurvedic, where inadequate digestion leading to faulty metabolism was considered to be the principal cause of illness.

As a result Ayurvedic placed a great deal of importance upon diet, as a basic constituent of maintaining good health. It was not unusual to find authors including dietary and even cooking advice amongst their medical lore; thus, Sushruta recommended that when one cooks legumes, because of the difficulty in their digestion, one should add some pungent spices and oil. [12]. As part of the progress in medicine there was an increasing reliance upon herbal medicines and so we find some seven hundred vegetable based medicines and their applications described in the Susruta-samhita, while in similar fashion the Caraka-samhita describes some five hundred. [13]

Unfortunately, opposed to the many practical ideas introduced by Ayurvedic, in their attempts to understand creation and the cosmos, they developed a number of erroneous ideas that were to lead Ayurvedic completely off course, into an endless array of circuitous meanderings. One of these was the theory of dosas, (humours). Replacing the old ideas that the principal sources of illness were either the disfavor of the deities or demonic possession, this new theory introduced the idea of mystical transcendental forces that existed within the body and which, according to whether they were in balance or imbalance, were responsible for good or bad health; thus,

The Susruta Samhita text says that a person is healthy when all three doshas, the seven types of dhatus (body tissues), all the thirteen types of agnis (fires or enzymes) and all the malakriya (excretory functions) are balanced. In addition, the soul, mind and senses are in the state of complete happiness. [14]

Ayurvedic become so transfixed with these flawed theories that it simply stagnated, and so, adhering to these fallacious theories and generally remote from medical advances elsewhere, Ayurvedic was to persist in isolation as the principal form of community medicine within India. The introduction of Western medicine into India had relatively little effect on the vast population for its use was generally restricted to Europeans and a few wealthy Indians. In the 19th century India with its huge population had relatively few Western trained doctors. Even in the 20th century Ayurvedic remained the principal form of people's medicine for the greater portion of the Indian population.

The reason for this situation was practicality; to best use what services were available. Since the majority of Indian doctors, especially those in rural areas, were Ayurvedic practitioners it was deemed more reasonable to use these resources until, as time and economics allowed, the health system could move towards a more scientific medical system. After independence attempts were made to combine Ayurvedic with Western medicine, however their enormous theoretical differences proved too great a barrier and by 1958 the program had largely been abandoned. Since 1972 Ayurvedic medical schools have largely reverted to their old pre-Western format, although they have included limited areas of Western medicine, principally anatomy and physiology. [15]

So how valid is Ayurvedic as a legitimate medical system?

It is important to note that because Ayurveda evolved in an era very different from our own, it contained many fallacious pre-scientific ideas. Some of these were based upon a blend of empirical observation combined with what, at the time, appeared to be 'logical' reasoning, however, scientific medicine has revealed the naivety of many of these beliefs.

For example, it had been observed from earliest times that when people lost a great deal of blood they usually died, and this led to the assumption that blood must contain some mysterious life-giving force. Progressing from this idea, the fact that women regularly passed blood and bore children, led to the erroneous assumption that wombs must contain blood, and since blood contained an 'animating force', babies were conceived when male semen combined with the female blood in the womb, the sex being determined by the amount of semen or blood present at conception; an excess of semen produced a male child, while an excess of blood produced a female child. [16] It was also widely accepted by Ayurvedic teachings that, at the time of a girl's first menstrual period, because this was her first discharge of blood, that it must be particularly healthy and potent , and, as a result the offspring of a sexual union at that time was certain to produce an exceptional child. As a result of this belief it became the practice to marry very young girls, a custom that continued in India through to the 19th century.

There were also social constraints to the practice of medicine; the general opinion of that age was that women were not deemed worthy of medical attention, so Ayurvedic was intended only to be used to treat males. The only exception were expectant mothers, who, because of the possibility that they might be carrying a male child, were considered worthy of receiving treatment. [17]

Given that the underlying principles of Ayurvedic have changed little since its inception, the system, as it exists today, must be examined in light of its original concepts. A major problem of Ayurveda is its complex, and often contradictory claims. For instance, Ayurvedic accepted that all things were composed of three macrocosmic forces, wind, bile and phlegm. These were represented in the greater cosmos by the Wind, the Sun and the Moon, and present in the human environment as three dosas, Wind, Bile and Phlegm, (a fourth dosa, blood, was added later). As such Ayurvedic was a humoral theory, that is, it is based upon the supposition that these four humours were the underlying basis of all human health.

It claimed that humans were born with a natural balance of these humours, but because of various mundane influences in particular an improper diet, or emotional traumas, the humours become unbalanced; so that the ultimate objective of Ayurvedic was to maintain a balance of these three substances, for … ayurveda defines health as the equilibrium of the three humors and sickness as their disequilibrium. [19] As part of this 'healing' process techniques such as meditation are recommended to deal with underlying mental stress that may be producing the unhealthy practices that are accentuating the poor levels of health.

Ayurvedic theory proposed that these five elemental forces (bhutas) 'united' into three specific duos, called doshas, which controlled the entire process of life and health, maintaining a harmony between the body and the mind. These three dyads, (tridoshas), were: -

1. Vata Dosha comprising Space and Air this elemental dyad controlled human energies and the ability to move;
2. Pitta Dosha comprising Fire and Water. This generated warmth, perception and the body's ability to convert food within the body; and
3. Kapha Dosha, comprising Water and Earth this created the substances that made the human body, all its secretions, and created solidness, strength and structural organization.

While these five elemental forces were considered to be essentially physical components they were also thought to have a transcendental aspect, one that derived from the fundamental creative principles of the cosmos. So, for instance, Agni (fire) was not simply a form of energy or power that produced heat and light, it also possessed a much more intricate esoteric component, one that could,
  … burns away the cloak of ignorance (avidya) and allows the Truth to shine with brilliance. Fire removes doubt from the mother-substance of human heart and replaces it with joy. [20].   To further confuse matters Ayurvedic proposed that all things in the cosmos had been created from four basic elements, Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Apa) and Earth (Prithvi); later they added a fifth element, Space (Akasha). These five elemental forces, (Pancha Mahabhutas) it was claimed, composed the fundamental forces that formed and activated the entire cosmos. This theory appears to have spread from India to the Greeks, from whence it became part of pre-scientific Western "medicine". [21] The defective product of pre-scientific cultures, both the Ayurvedic and Hellenic theories were completely demolished in 1789, when Lavoisier published a list of twenty-three known elements; this number has steadily increased and now 121 are known.

Although, as we now know, these Ayurvedic and Greek theories were erroneous conjectures, nevertheless they were to become a major influence in the thinking of pre-scientific cultures, even persisting in European medicine until the Renaissance. According to Ayurvedic, since humans had been created from these four elements, the character and behaviour of each individual came from the influences of these elements. Thus, anyone with a preponderance of Agni, (fire), would be likely to have a fiery temperament, and be liable to flare up with outbursts of rage and anger.

It was claimed that, at the moment of human conception, each individual was imbued with a mixture of these tridoshas, and from this combination the individual would gain the characteristics that would influence their lifelong personalities. It was accepted that one particular dosha would often predominate the individual, so that their subsequent physical and mental development, (prakriti) would be the result of that particular force. However, it was never quite that simple for the proportion of each element present, the subtle manner in which they combined and interacted, and especially the properties of which particular element was most dominant, all influenced the ultimate composition of the individual.

To further complicate matters while the dominant tridosha the individual inherited was important, there were other dominant forces at work. Thus, the condition of the doshas present in the parents at the moment of conception, in particular their mental state and intentions at the time of conception were vitally important. Of course this rather naïve idea overlooks the fact that conception does not occur at the time of intercourse, but many hours later. Despite this however, Ayurveda did acknowledge the importance of such things as the diet and activities of the mother during pregnancy, the condition of the uterus, and physical and mental familial traits, in 'forming' the future potential of the child.

Ayurvedic theory is constantly at odds with modern Western medical ideas. Thus, while Ayurveda defines seven types of body tissue, with its unique hypothesis on how they are formed, Western medicine identifies twenty-five types of body tissue, (divided into four sub-groupings), that are formed from stem-cells that are genetically predisposed to evolve into the various types of tissue.

Ayurvedic proposes that each form of tissue contains one of thirteen forms of Agni, (fire). This "digestive fire"—the eternal flame that animates our body and our mind—converts food into increasingly more complex forms of tissue. The basis of this entire system of conversion is the food we eat. When ingested, food is broken down by the action of gastric secretion until it reaches the small intestines as chyme, acidic partly digested food. Then, through the action of ahara rasagni the chyme is converted into the simplest and most basic form of tissue, blood plasma. As the process continues this plasma is in turn transformed into the various forms of tissue, blood cells, muscle tissue, fat, bone, bone marrow or nervous tissue. Passing through invisible channels that permeate the entire body, (srotas), the particular type of tissue is conveyed to the part of the body where it is then deposited. Independent of this process is another mysterious creative process that produces reproductive tissue throughout the entire body. [22].

Borrowing from the diagram by Durkin-Longley (p. 111) the Ayurvedic process of metabolism is essentially as follows: -

[1] Food  -  Chyme  -  Blood  -  Flesh  -  Fat   -   Bone     -      Marrow   -   Semen [23]
            /             /                /               /            /              /
[2] Excreta   Phlegm     Bile     Phlegm   Sweat   Hair & nails    No waste products

        [1] = Process        [2] = Waste products produced by process.

The forces controlling this 'conversion process' must be kept healthy and balanced at all times, for in this way,
  … it will enhance ojas…. the most subtle, refined level of the physical body and is the end result of healthy food which is properly digested. It is responsible for a healthy immune system, physical strength, lustrous complexion, clarity of mind and a sense of well being. It allows consciousness to flow within the body. [24]   If, for any reason, the digestive process fails to operate at its full potential the individual becomes susceptible to infections and disease, especially to ama, a toxin that forms in improperly digested food, leading to widespread disease in the body. This theory poses a number of significant problems;

How does the conversion take place?
How are the various forms of tissue able to survive in the acidic environment of the small intestine?
How does the newly formed tissue pass from the intestines into the body?

No explanations are provided! Unlike Western medicine that seeks viable explanations traditional systems tend to rely on simple faith; Ayurvedic simply assumes that these various processes must occur within the body, and therefore, there is no need to question the system!When non-believers express doubt at being unable to find physical evidence of the various mystical processes, believers move to a second level of abstraction. They claim that only true believers can perceive these mystical conduits, and so, ipso factor, no further argument will be considered. Such is the impenetrability of esoteric systems that rely upon cryptic, mystical concepts.

For instance according to Ayurvedic the healthy operation of the human body relies upon mysterious channels, (srotas) which are said to exist on a number of levels within the body, (even down to the subatomic level). Ayurveda proposes sixteen such channels whose purpose is not only to carry food and air into the body, and remove the wastes, but also conduits through which intelligence can flow throughout the body. Indeed, there is even claimed to one that channels the flow of thoughts through the mind.

Another major difficulty is what precisely is Ayurvedic? At the present time there are a number of different forms of Ayurvedic, and many of them, especially the forms promoted, … in the Western Hemisphere may have little relation to Ayurveda of the traditional kind, [25]

While some claim to be the original Ayurvedic, many of the other forms incorporate some of the old teachings but also include a great deal of New Age nonsense along with and the individualistic teachings of the respective promoters of these other systems. Thus, in 1980, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, introduced his own version of Ayurvedic as Maharishi Ayur-Veda. Web sites connected to this technique claim that Ayurvedic had been neglected for centuries, until the,

… Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental meditation, gathered the foremost living exponents of Ayurveda to enliven this age-old knowledge in its completeness and original purity. [26]   Similarly, Deepak Chopra has recently developed a combination of Ayurvedic medicine, Western medicine, and popular New Age ideas, combined into a package of complex linguistics, designed to baffle and amaze the average patient. Basic to his system are mysterious forms of energy, which he calls prana or chi, (the Chinese term for cosmic energy). Chopra asserts that we all contain this special form of energy. However, he goes even further claiming that all humans also contain a great deal of additional information, a variety of "cosmic awareness" that is an integral part of this cosmic energy, and that this data is somehow downloaded from a "cosmic source". The key to our individual development is the way that we use this awareness. He uses a great deal of psycho-babble and terms reminiscent of Christian Science when he refers to such esoteric concepts as "quantum healing" the ability of the mind to heal by utilizing a process to balance the "quantum mechanical body" and that all illnesses will succumb to the application of mental power.

Ultimately, he claims, the forces that control our physical existence are our beliefs and thoughts; these control our emotional state creating the basic chemical reactions that control the life in every cell, and thus the health or illness of the body. According to Chopra it is our perception of the external world that influences our very being and creates our perception of "reality. According to this theory, everything is really only an illusion; there is no reality except what we believe, and so everything, including illness and aging are simply illusions of our own making. This of course means that, since they are only illusions of our minds they can be controlled by our consciousness, so that not only can we slow down our aging process and achieve a state of perfect health, but theoretically we should be able to live eternally.

Like most New Age practitioners Chopra has taken a number of basic facts and scientific principles and twisted them to fit within his own weird and wonderful framework. For instance, it has long been known that there is a relationship between our mental attitudes and physical health; as early as the second-century Galen had observed ... that melancholy women appeared more likely to develop cancer than sanguine women. [27]. However, despite what Chopra and others would have one believe, it is not a simple as being able to switch the mind-body connection on at will. His claims in this are symptomatic of many "gurus" who claim connections between quantum mechanics and human intelligence. Since few people would even know what quantum mechanics are, it is unlikely the average person could, or would, competently examine such claims. Yet, when such claims are examined by competent scientists their invalidity is quickly exposed; as Victor J. Stenger points out, there is,

…no compelling argument or evidence requires that quantum mechanics plays a central role in human consciousness or provides instantaneous, holistic connections across the universe. [28].  
Chopra also has attempted to include aspects of one of the newest areas of scientific research, the still rather nebulous field of Psychoneuroimmunology, (PNI), [29] a subject that encompasses such diverse areas as behavioural sciences, behavioral medicine, psychology, endocrinology, neuroscience and immunology. PNI has revealed interconnections between the operations of the immune system and the nervous systems. Hall et al. [30] [31] and others, such as Olness, [32] have demonstrated that deliberate psychological intervention can produce measurable changes in the immune system. However, while such techniques may help to explain why visualization, hypnosis and biofeedback can assist healing their operation is confined to a level of physical reality, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any transcendental form of reality as perceived by Chopra.

To be fair however, one must always judge upon results. In an appearance on the "Phil Donahue" show, Chopra placed great importance upon a single testimonial as to the effectiveness of his treatment. Marian Thompson, his patient, praised the Ayurvedic treatment that she had used, along with chemotherapy, to treat metastatic breast cancer. At that time, as it often does, the cancer had gone into remission. However, despite the claims by Chopra, Ms. Thompson subsequently died of her disease.

It is interesting to note the comments of Viswanathan, (2000), that,

… while the trend in India is somewhat to technologize the practice of classical Ayurveda, the trend in developed Western countries is to attribute mystical and supernatural characteristics to classical Ayurveda itself. English-language trade books published in such countries have misrepresented classical Ayurvedic practices and theoretical constructs with New Age and other unscientific concepts, including "cosmic energy," "spirits that possess," "vibrations of bliss" that "subtly pervade" all bodily cells, "centers of consciousness" that connect body and soul, "channels of inner intelligence," the "quantum mechanical human body," and purification of the "mind-body." In Perfect Digestion (London: Rider Books, 1995), for example, Deepak Chopra, M.D., a former disciple of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, described agni -- in effect, physiologic digestion -- as "nothing less than a divine power that exists within you and that governs the health of your physiology." Such gibberish is contrary to that which the pioneers of classical Ayurveda centrally advocated: rational medicine. [33]
In conclusion; it should be noted that Ayurveda is not a scientific form of medicine! Despite the semantic connotations implied in the New Age term "traditional medicine" they are nothing more than folk remedies, and founded as they are upon empirical observation and a great deal of faulty logic they are nothing more than unscientific nonsense disguised as reputable medical systems. One will search in vain for any mention of the factual origins of disease or any of the concepts that form the basis of Western scientific medicine.

A common claim made by advocates of alternative medicines is that traditional medicines, based as they are upon a large collection of knowledge, gathered over a considerable period of time, are automatically superior to modern medicine. Ayurvedic relies upon this type of pseudo-logic suggesting that, It provides a wealth of knowledge and time tested therapies to promote health in both mind and body. [34] However, while it is only Ayurvedic practitioners who make such a claim, they offer no factual evidence to support the soundness of Ayurvedic.

There are a number of serious flaws with their assertions; while it is valid when dealing with a legitimate, proven body of knowledge, the same does not apply to a system based upon superstition, supposition, or invalid data. In particular, it does not follow that because medical knowledge is ancient that it is automatically superior; if this were so then, like the Egyptians of old, we should still be using crocodile dung or human urine as major ingredients in medicine. These substances, which featured prominently in the pharmacopoeia of ancient Egyptian physicians, were based upon a collection of medical knowledge that, at the time of Alexander, was already some three thousand years old.

Any form of "treatment" – even the most illogical forms – can be defined as being effective when the many failures are ignored, while a few successful treatments are highlighted. The basic truth of all medicine is that, whatever treatment is applied, most people will eventually recover from their illness.

While it is not disputed that a few of the Ayurvedic herbal and dietary recommendations are valid, the simple fact is that such discoveries are not unique to Ayurveda. Indeed, when one examines the herbal innovations of all cultures throughout recorded history, including our own Western pharmacopoeia, one can find many similar types of discoveries. Humans have been experimenting with herbal medicine for probably fifty to one-hundred thousand years. During that time of trial-and-error, they developed an extensive knowledge of the uses of various herbs, and Ayurvedic did in fact build upon these discoveries and made a number of valuable contributions to early Indian medicine, principally in the areas of the use of curative herbs and dietary practices.

Unfortunately, such discoveries, in whatever culture they were made, were evolutionary cul-de-sacs, for without a proper scientific basis such discoveries could not be built upon. Thus, although the products of the Indian Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) have been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, it was never properly understood how, or why, it was so beneficial. It was only with the development of scientific principles that the essential, healing components of these plants are able to be isolated and studied, that the full potential of the active ingredients are being properly realized. Ayurvedic has never reached this level; it remains at a stage where it is still the practice to throw everything in the mortar, good and bad, mix it up, and hope for the best. Herein lies one of the major differences between modern scientific medicine and Ayurveda. Western medicine, with a scientifically based understanding of medical pathology can differentiate between the good, the bad and the dangerous, whereas Ayurveda operates on simplistic and naïve principles that ignore such concepts.

Since, according to Ayurveda, everything in the cosmos is composed of a few basic elements, each with its own beneficial qualities, then it follows that all substances must contain curative properties. It was on such an irrational basis that Caraka, quoting orthodox Ayurvedic practice, advocated the use of cow dung and urine for a variety of medicinal procedures. [35] In addition, following a similar path of 'reasoning' cow dung and urine was considered more effective than the ordure of other animals since, coming from a 'holy' animal, made them extraordinarily efficacious.

Yet, while practitioners of Western medicine would be aghast at the idea of using such unhygienic materials Ayurvedic encourages the use of such materials. Indeed one of the lesser known aspects of Ayurveda is the belief in the efficacy of drinking one's own urine. Known in India as amaroli, details of the practice are set out in one-hundred and seven verses of text known as the Shivambu Kalpa Vidhi, which is translated as the "Water of Auspiciousness" or, "The Method Of Drinking Urine For Rejuvenation". Part of the Damar Tantra, (another 5,000-year-old document), it advocates drinking urine, generally referred to as Shivambu, (the water of Shiva). The deity Shiva is the principal Hindu deity, and the name means "auspicious" or "auspiciousness" thus the name water of auspiciousness, or Water of Life, Divine Nectar.

Shivambu is a divine nectar!  It is capable of abolishing old age and various types of diseases and ailments...  All the ailments subject to from the very birth will be completely cured. [36]  
While the Ayurvedic emphasis upon being at complete peace with one's self and the world, and for each person to establish a balanced sense of mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, are commendable objectives, they are not unique; these are the fundamental principles of most forms of medicine, including the Western variety.

So what does it have to offer? Very little for Ayurvedic is a stagnant system, There have been no substantial changes in the field of classical Ayurveda since the finalization of the Caraka Samhita. [37].

Despite the many positive claims by the advocates of Ayurvedic it needs to be recognized for what it really is, a stagnant, anachronistic collection of superstitious fables pretending to be a science. It is nothing more than a rather convoluted collection of parochial superstition, religion and philosophy attached to an anthology of archaic folk remedies. As such, is no better than any of the other outmoded pre-technological forms of medicine, and has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to any modern form of medical treatment. As Carroll [38] commented, India with a health system based principally upon Ayurvedic medicine ranks 134th in the World Health Organization ranking of health standards. Given that in 1998 the life expectancy in India was 62.3 years for men and 63.7 years for women compared with 72.9 years for men and 83.3 years for women in the United States. Such figures clearly demonstrate that, in any comparison between medical systems, Ayurvedic clearly does not live up to its assertions that it is the "science of life."

Table 1:


Based upon  5,000 year old theories, that have remained relatively unchanged over that period of time 5,000 years of theories + intensive scientific and medical research using modern technology that has eliminated theories and replaced them with facts.
Number of Elements
Physiology based upon Combinations of the 5 elements formed into 3 biological doshas
Genetic codes
Illness caused by An imbalance of the doshas Infection by germs or viruses, or by a deficiency of certain vitamins.
Healing process Dependant upon bringing the doshas back into balance. Medicines designed to deactivate the germs or viruses, or proper food to overcome vitamin deficiency.
Disease controlled by Agni (fire) Autoimmune System
Thought processes Agni (fire) Electrochemical process
Energy channels
Yes (13)
Number of types of human tissue
Divided into four major groupings
Digestion process  Agni, (fire) present in both body and mind
Digestive system
Body "cooks" food to remove nutrients
Food broken down by enzymes and digestive juices
Development of human tissue Ascending order of complexity, from the simplest to the most complex. Each type of tissue is formed from the tissue that immediately precedes it.  All tissue formed from four basic types of stem cells, each able to form different forms of tissue.

1.    New Light On Ancient Wisdom; at www.maharishi.com/; p. 1.

2.    Kaviraj Partap S., Ayurveda and Longevity, http://www.ru.org/92ayurveda.html

3.    Zimmer, H.R. (1948). Hindu Medicine, Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, p. 54

4. Morgan, K. Medicine of the Gods. http://www.cix.co.uk/~mandrake/ayurveda.htm

5.    Viswanathan, C. Ayurveda Isn't What It Used to Be: Views of an Indian Surgeon. American Council on Science and Health http://www.acsh.org/, April 8, 2000

6.    For instance, omens remained an important aspect of Ayurvedic. Thus the prospects of recovery of a sick patient were believed to be strongly influenced by the dress and demeanor of the messenger arriving at the home of the physician to request their attendance upon the invalid. If the messenger was clean, well-dressed with suitable transportation, it augured a favourable recovery. If they arrived on foot, and were dirty and poorly dressed it indicated a poor prospect of recovery for the patient. First encounters were also important; if while travelling to the patient's home the first person the physician encounter was a person of a low-caste, a beggar or a woman, then this too indicated a dire omen for the patient's recovery.

7.    Durkin-Longley, M.S. (1982). Ayurveda in Nepal: A Medical Belief System in Action. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, p. 113.

8.    Robinson, V. (1943). The Story of Medicine. New York: The New Home Library, p. 140.

9.    Robinson, ibid. p. 142.

10.    Durkin-Longley, op. cit. p. 101.

11.    The History of Medicine and Surgery, Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 23, p. 886.

12.    http://www.ayur.com/food/splsoup.html

13.    BBC Medicine Through Time, Indian Medicine www.bbc.co.uk/education/medicine/nonint/home.shtml

14.    Chauhan, K. P. S. Ayurveda and Longevity, http://www.ru.org/92ayurveda.html

15.    Durkin-Longley, op. cit. p. 122

16. Durkin-Longley, ibid. p. 110.

17. Zimmer, op. cit. p. 94.

18. Interestingly enough, although there are only five elements by manipulating the concept and using water in both the Pitta and Kapha Doshas they were able to obtain three dyadic doshas, making a total of six. There was always a tendency in mysticism to achieve a symmetrical "balance", and since five components are "unbalanced", by using water twice it enables the system to achieve a more natural balance, (3 X 2).

19.    Durkin-Longley, op. cit. p. 103.

20.    The Basic principles of Ayurveda. The National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine (NIAM) http://niam.com/corp-web/index.htm; p. 1.

21.    Like the Indians the Greeks also added a fifth element, quintessence.

22.    Significantly, scientific Western medicine is concentrating on developing techniques to convert stem-cells into various body parts. Their success in this area proves the invalidity of the Ayurvedic theory.

23.    The conversion of food into semen took one month; however, independently of this conversion process, semen was also believed to be produced in every part of the body.

24.    Dr Mary Jo Cravatta, at, cravatta@indolink.com

25.    Viswanathan, C. Ayurveda Isn't What it Used to Be: op. cit.
26.    New Light On Ancient Wisdom; op. cit. p. 1.

27.    Hillhouse, J.E., Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. and Glaser, R. (1991). Stress-Associated Modulation of the Immune Response in Humans. In, N. Plotnikoff, A. Murgo, R. Faith and J. Wybran, (editors), Stress and Immunity, (3-27). Boca Raton, Florida, CRC Press, Inc. p. 3.

28.    Victor J. Stenger, Quantum Quackery at http://www.csicop.org/si/9701/quantum-quackery.html

29.    Ader, R. and Cohen, N. (1975). Behaviorally conditioned immunosuppression. Psychosomatic Medicine, 37:333.

30.    Hall HR, Minnes L, Tosi M, Olness K. (1992). Voluntary modulation of neutrophil adhesiveness using a cyberphysiologic strategy. International Journal of Neuroscience; 63: 287-297.

31.    Hall HR, Mumma GH, Longo S, Dixon R. (1992). Voluntary immunomodulation: A preliminary study. International Journal of Neuroscience; 63: 275-285.

32.    Olness K, (1989). Hypnotherapy: a cyberphysiologic strategy in pain management. Pediatric Clinician North America, 36: 4, 873-874.

33.    Viswanathan, Ayurveda Isn't What it Used to Be: op. cit.

34.    New Light On Ancient Wisdom; at www.maharishi.com/; p. 1.

35.    Porter, R. (1997). The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. Hammersmith, London: Harper-Collins Publishers, p. 139.

36.    Verse 9, Shivambu Kalpa Vidhi.

37.    Viswanathan, Ayurveda Isn't What it Used to Be: op. cit.

38.    Carroll, R.T. Ayurvedic medicine & Deepak Chopra, Skeptic's Dictionary at, skepdic.com/ayurvedic.html