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The ancient Ayurvedic system was astoundingly complete. In the colleges of ancient India, students could choose a specialty from eight branches of medicine.

1. Internal Medicine (Káyachikitsá)
This is related to the soul, mind, and body. Psychosomatic theory recognizes that the mind can create illness in the body and vice versa. The seven body constitutions and seven mental constitutions were delineated here: Váyu (air/energy), Pitta (fire), Kapha (water), Váyu/Pitta, Váyu/Kapha, Pitta/Kapha, and a combination of all three (tridosha). Although finding the cause of an illness is still a mystery to modern science, it was the main goal of Áyurveda. Six stages of the development of disease were known, including aggravation, accumulation, overflow, relocation, a buildup in a new site, and manifestation into a recognizable disease. Modern equipment and diagnosis can only detect a disease during the fifth and sixth stages of illness. Áyurvedic physicians can recognize an illness in the making before it creates more serious imbalance in the body. Health is seen as a balance of the biological humors, whereas disease is an imbalance of the humors. Áyurveda creates balance by supplying deficient humors and reducing the excess ones. Surgery is seen as a last resort. Modern medicine is just beginning to realize the need to supply rather than to remove, but still does not know how or what to supply. Additionally, there are over 2,000 medicinal plants classified in India’s materia medica. A unique therapy, known as pañcha karma (five actions), completely removes toxins from the body. This method reverses the disease path from its manifestation stage, back into the blood stream, and eventually into the gastrointestinal tract (the original site of the disease). It is achieved through special diets, oil massage, and steam therapy. At the completion of these therapies, special forms of emesis, purgation, and enema remove excesses from their sites of origin. Finally, Ayurveda rejuvenates–rebuilding the body’s cells and tissues after toxins are removed.

2. Ears, Nose, and Throat (shálákya Tantra)
Sushruta reveals approximately 72 eye diseases, surgical procedures for all eye disorders (e.g., cataracts, eyelid diseases), and for diseases of the ears, nose, and throat.

3. Toxicology (Vishagara–vairodh Tantra)
Topics include air and water pollution, toxins in animals, minerals, vegetables, and epidemics, as well as keys for recognizing these anomalies and their antidotes.

4. Pediatrics (Kaumára bhritya)
In this branch prenatal and postnatal care of the baby and mother are discussed. Topics include methods of conception, choosing the child’s gender, intelligence, and constitution, and childhood diseases and midwifery.

5. Surgery (Shalyá Tantra)
More than 2,000 years ago, sophisticated methods of surgery were known. This information spread to Egypt, Greece, Rome, and eventually throughout the world. In China, treatment of intestinal obstructions, bladder stones, and the use of dead bodies for dissection and learning were taught and practiced.

6. Psychiatry (Bhúta Vidyá)
A whole branch of Áyurveda specifically deals with diseases of the mind (including demonic possession). Besides herbs and diet, yogic therapies (breathing, mantras, etc.) are employed.

7. Aphrodisiacs (Vájikarana)
This section deals with two aspects: infertility (for those hoping to conceive) and spiritual development (for those eager to transmute sexual energy into spiritual energy).

8. Rejuvenation (Rasáyana)
Prevention and longevity are discussed in this branch of Ayurveda. Charak says that in order to develop longevity, ethics and virtuous living must be embraced.