The word ‘Kaya’ (body) not only refers to the gross body of a person but to the subtle body as well. This natural alternative medicine recognizes that the body of a person is the product of the constant psychosomatic interactions. The imbalances in the three doshas of vata–pitta–kapha occur sometimes by the mind and sometimes by the body’s dhatu (tissues) and mala (toxin deposits). Hence, the kayachikitsa branch of this system of herbal and holistic medicine, delves deep into ascertaining the root cause of the illness. Then only a suitable treatment is recommended to bring back mind and body into balance. Though the prescription might give an impression that the treatment is meant for the physical body, these in fact have a strong impact on mind and soul of a person. The Charaka Samhita is the most important scripture on kayachikitsa. It discussed the basic principles of treatment (mentioned above), various types of therapies and purification or detoxification methods i.e. panchakarma. But, its thrust area has been diagnosis of a disease. Detail account of various methods of diagnosis, study of various stages of symptoms and the comprehensive management of debilitating diseases like diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis, asthma and arthritic conditions.
The section of Nidana Sthana of Charaka Samhita deals with etiology, pathogenesis and diagnosis of an illness. Six stages of the development of disease are enumerated as aggravation, accumulation, overflow, relocation, build up in a new site and manifestation into a recognizable disease (it is interesting to note that modern medical science can only detect a disease during the fifth or sixth stages of the illness). In kayachikitsa there is always an opportunity to s the disease at each stage preventing its full manifestation.
One of the significant methods of treatment under kayachikitsa is panchakarma. This is a method of reversing the disease path from its manifestation stage back into to its site of original development through special forms of emesis, purgation and enema etc. Another unique aspect of kayachikitsa is rejuvenation called kaya kalpa. The term kaya kalpa means renewal of body. According to ayurveda the human body is made of seven types of dhatu or tissues–structures–plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow and reproductive fluids. To prolong the youthfulness of the body kayachikitsa applies several physical and mental disciplinary methods with special medicinal preparations, to rebuild the body’s cells and tissues after the initial process of detoxification, through panchakarma.
Shalya tantra (surgery)
Contrary to the modern concepts surgery was pioneered by ayurveda in ancient India. It is a significant branch of ayurveda. The name of the sage–physician Susruta is synonymous with surgery. From his treatise Susruta Samhita we come to know that thousand of years ago sophisticated methods of surgery were practiced in India.
The original text of Susruta discusses in detail about an exhaustive range of surgical methods including about how to deal with various types of tumors, internal and external injuries, fracture of bones, complications during pregnancy and delivery, and obstruction in intestinal loop. Susruta was the first surgeon to develop cosmetic surgery. His surgical treatment for trichiasis can be to some of the modern operative techniques used for this eye disease. The use of various surgical instruments is also described in the Susruta Samhita for the treatment. The instruments described were made from stone, wood and other such natural materials.
Shalya Tantra was popular because this could give fast relief as compared to the slow process of recovery from medicines or herbs. Charaka the best–known physician of ayurvedic medicine also recommended for Shalya Tantra in treatment of certain diseases, which required immediate attention like hemorrhoids.
The long foreign rule in India and lack of promotion stalled the progress of ayurvedic surgery in the middle of the second millennium.