Āyurveda, the ‘Science of Life’, originated in ancient India. Although the era in which Āyurveda originated still remains ambiguous, it is fairly certain that it is one of the earliest medical sciences to have evolved globally.
Āyurveda elaborately deals with measures for healthy living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Besides dealing with principles for maintenance of health, it has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illness, which are related to physical, mental, social, and spiritual welfare of human beings.
Rigveda and Atharvaveda, the earliest documented ancient Indian knowledge (1500 years B.C.), have references on health and diseases. Āyurveda is a branch of Atharvaveda, the fourth book of Vedic literature. Caraka Samhita, Susruta Samhita, Astanga Hrdaya are three major classics on Ayurveda which enumerate eight different branches of Ayurveda: - surgery, ear, eye, nose & throat, mental and super natural diseases, therapeutics, paediatrics, toxicology, rejuvenation and vilification. These texts are the most famous and are still consulted by medical practitioners today.
Āyurvedic medicines are made into various forms depending upon end uses. Their chief ingredients (raw materials) are all plant based. Examples of gutikā (pills), abaleha (concentrated decoction), lepa (paste for external application), taila (oil base), asava and arista (both fermented drinks). Āyurvedic medicines may be in the form of chūrṇa (powder), rasa (juice), ghṛta (clarified butter base), kwatha (decoction) and the modern form of tablets.