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- Diagnosis in Ayurveda is based on the ancient conception of ailments in the body generated by three primary kinds of elemental humours: those that accrue from kapha (phlegm), those that are generated by pitta (bile) and, those that result from imbalance of the vata (air). The primary cause of an ailment in the body is regarded as an imbalance between these three fundamental elements. Diagnosis, again, involves three kinds of preliminary tests: by examining the pulse, by looking at the physical features of the patient, and by asking pertinent questions to the patient. While this may sound fairly simple, the exact method of examining the pulse, for example, comes from a long period of experience. Similarly, drawing conclusions from the physical appearance of the patient requires a lot of knowledge and experience. These video clips throw some light on how Ayurvedic doctors use this knowledge for patient treatment.
- Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine that has developed and flourished at least since the time of the fourth Veda, Atharva-Veda. In fact, the sway of Ayurveda, literally, the “scripture of longevity” has been such on the mind of the populace that it has sometimes been called the fifth Veda. It is often thought of as a “holistic” system of medicine that brings into balance the three vital components of the body through the use of herbs and specific dietary practices. Scholars have pointed out that Ayurveda was so developed even in the ancient times that one can find references to surgery within it, referred to as “Shalya Chikitsa.” Not many Ayurvedic doctors practice Shalya Chikitsa now, for that part of medicine has been taken over by modern medicine and hospital based surgery. However, the principles of Ayurveda are still recognized to be universally applicable and therefore, very popular in India and the Indian diaspora. There are many reputed indigenous pharmaceutical companies that produce Ayurvedic medicine for sale all over the world.
- Herbs like Amla, Black Dhatura, Karanj, Unga etc. are basic herbs used in Ayurveda for treating numerous ailments. There is a well prescribed process of preparing herbs for medicinal purposes. This process may include cutting, chopping, peeling, drying, leaching and mixing with other herbs before they can be used for treatment. The Ayurvedic doctor has to be very familiar with these processes to prepare the right kind of herbal medicine. Various parts of the same plant may require collection and preparation at different periods of time. The knowledge of this process of medicine preparation can be passed on from father to son, or taught in a formal course of study. Here are vignettes of how some of these are prepared for medicinal use.
- While Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine, training for it involves many years of study as well as apprenticeship. The apprenticeship could run in the family, as from father to son, or in a more formal setting, as with an acclaimed teacher. This apprenticeship could go on for decades, or till such time that the teacher felt confident in the abilities of his student. In modern times, universities and colleges in India have instituted formal certificates, diplomas and degrees in this traditional art and science of medicine. These formal degrees can range from one to three years. They may also include curriculum on modern forms of medicine to fill the gaps that traditional medicine may have. Presented here are narratives of how long it takes to become good in Ayurvedic practice.
- After the herbal medication has been prepared it can be used in many different ways. It can be used after boiling into a brew or as a powder after the herbal element has been reduced to an ash. It can also be used by leaching out salts from the herb. Salts thus produced from many different herbs can also be combined into a single medicine for specific kinds of ailments. The prescriptive use of these medications is often harmonized by the Ayurvedic doctor according to the age, diet and lifestyle of the patient. Video clips in this section show interviews on how different Ayurvedic doctors think about the use they put these medicines to.
- Ethics in medicine is not a new concern. But it has become much more pronounced in modern times. The issues involved may range from right diagnosis and right treatment to the fees charged to patients, and the administration of insurance and medical bills. This issue cuts across all genres of medicine, traditional as well as conventional. In this section we have video clips that inform us about how doctors following different medical systems talk about fees and ethics in their practice.
- South Asia in general, and India specifically, are regions with immense diversity in culture and language. Because of this conversations about medicine between doctors and patients takes different forms from one region to another. This is especially true when we look at urban, suburban and rural doctor-patient interactions. Added to these is the element of gender. Owing to the somewhat conservative worldview of gender interactions, even doctor-patients conversations might become colored by it. The clips in this section show variations of patterns of conversation in the practice of conventional medicine.
- Like Ayurveda, Unani medicine also relies heavily on examination of the pulse for diagnostic purposes. But here, in addition to the three humours enunciated for Ayurveda, there exists an additional fourth one. These are: Dam (blood), Balgham (phlegm), Safra (yellow bile) and Sauda (black bile). It is the imbalance amongst these four humours that causes disease. Students will get a good glimpse of how Unani doctors interact with their patients and diagnose with the help of pulse examination in these video clips.
- Unani (also spelt Yunani) refers to the tradition of Graeco-Arabic medicine. Like Ayurveda, this also a comprehensive tradition of medicine that goes back of Hippocrates, but owes a lot to the wisdom and experience of Arabic and Persian physicians. India remains one of the most prominent countries encouraging research and education in the field of Unani medicine. Listening to the Unani video clips will make the students aware of not only the concepts used in Unani medicine, but also the integral role of faith in healing.
- Like any other traditional system of medicine, Unani also relies on preparing medicines from herbs obtained from the field or the forest. This involves gathering, processing – either by cutting or other action, and then mixing it with other herbal ingredients to prepare medicines for specific ailments. The videos in this section provide a glimpse into how Unani doctors talk about this aspect of their practice.