The ancient writing Charaka Samhita is a comprehensive manual of Ayurvedic medicine. It is said to be one of the most ancient and reliable treatises on the Indian system of medicine, dates back around 400-200 BCE. Charaka Samhita is often regarded as the foundational text of Ayurveda. It is not known who the writer was; it could have been a group of Charaka students or a man known as Charaka. However, despite this authorship debate, there is a general consensus in India that the Charaka Samhita was an important work in the history of Indian and holistic medicine.
The Charaka Samhita is a very old and very large Sanskrit text on Ayurvedic medicine, but it certainly is not as ancient as the Atharvaveda, which discusses some of the same material. The most ancient of all the Indian Vedas (Veda = knowledge) is Rigveda, composed by poets from different priestly groups, describing our existence and way of living.
What is Ayurveda? The word Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words “Ayur” meaning life and “Veda” meaning knowledge. Ayurveda is the most famous system of Indian medicine and modern holistic medicine, naturopathy. While there are many religious texts all over the world written about the treatment of various ailments, this is probably the oldest scientific text on health and diseases.
Charaka Samhita book takes a penetrating look at all aspects of human life from psychology to ayurvedic medicine to theories of karma and yoga. It consists of eight sections and one hundred and twenty chapters. In this book, there are mainly discussed every detail of Ayurveda, like the list of drugs from plants and animals, classification of various diseases based on the unique symptoms, and signs of a drug interaction. In addition, under Ayurveda, it deals with subjects ranging from including Internal Medicine (Kayachikitsa), Ear, Nose and Throat (Shalakya), toxicology (Vishagarvyrodhikachikitsa), demonology and psychiatry (Bhutavidya), paediatrics (Kaumarabhritya), the science of rejuvenation (Rasayana), infertility medicine and aphrodisiacs (Vajeekarana), surgery (Shalya) including caesarean operations to the proper use of bandages after surgery.
Ayurveda primarily based on holistic principles of treating the body, mind, and spirit together, and not treating them separately like other branches of science. These foundational principles called the Doshas in Ayurveda, underlie all aspects of human life. Primary elements (dhatus) in the ancient Ayurveda text Charaka Samhita are extensively discussed with their functions and non-functions, classification, manifestation, and guna-dosha connection. It also has been discussed how to identify and treat dhatu deficiencies using ayurvedic herbs and herbal formulations. In the Ayurvedic system, the human body is a complex mosaic of five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. How these primary elements mixed and formed the three doshas:
- Two primary elements of air and ether make wind (Vata).
- Two primary elements of water and fire make water-plasma (Pitta).
- The rest of 3 primary elements, water and earth make solid earth (Kapha).
Ayurvedic practitioners are approaching diagnosis by using the five senses and have eight ways to diagnose illness:
- Nadi (pulse),
- Mootra (urine),
- Mala (stool),
- Jihva (tongue),
- Shabda (speech),
- Sparsha (touch),
- Druk (vision),
- Aakruti (appearance).
Charaka Samhita writings are one of the classic texts on Ayurveda. It is considered to be the earliest preserved and most authoritative treatise on holistic, naturopathic medicine. The work was translated into English, German, French, Italian, Russian, and Arabic language.