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A holistic approach to healing

"It's far more important to know what person has the disease than what disease the person has"-Hippocrates
"Every individual is different from another and hence should be considered as a different entity. As many variations are there in the universe, all are seen in human beings". -Ayurveda text Charaka Samhita

Ayurveda and Traditional Medicine is a unique natural health care system that has been in practice in Sri Lanka more than 3000 years ago. The system emphasizes the treatment of disease in a highly individualized manner, as it believes that every individual is unique having different body constitution (‘Prakriti’). It classifies all individuals into different 'Prakriti' types based on the theory of Tridosha; the three body humors; Vata, Pittha and Kapha are named Va, Pith and Sem respectively in Sri Lankan traditional medicine. Prakriti refers to

15506 largegenetically determined physical and mental constitution of an individual. Every person has own unique constitution which determines the biological functions, response to environmental factors, drugs and also susceptibility to diseases making it one of the earliest known concepts of preventive and personalized medicine. Prakriti is also described to be influenced by maternal factors including the intra-uterine environment, food and regimen adapted by the mother during pregnancy (Matur Ahara Vihara) [1]. This basic constitution which is fixed at the time of fertilization generally remains constant throughout the life of that individual. Knowing your own Prakriti will help to understand one’s mental and physical nature, and can predict one’s susceptibility to diseases, thereby assisting in promotion of health, prevention and cure of diseases. The balance and proper functioning of these doshas (humors ) contributes to good health while derangement or an imbalance of one or more of these leads to disease. It may also be mentioned that the Ayurveda system primarily aims at treating the cause of the disease (and not just the symptoms) by identifying the imbalance of the Tridoshas. Ayurveda medicine also explains the food and lifestyle as per individual constitution including the factors which aggravate and pacify doshas.

If personalized medicine is to be realized, a systematic classification of the human population is necessary but modern medicine classifies human population based on largely ethnic consideration. Geographic patterns of genetic variation show that inter-individual variation in drug response is common [2, 3]. This gap can be filled effectively by the approaches of Ayurveda and Traditional Medical Systems, as Ayurvedic classification is independent of racial, ethnic, or geographical considerations. What is required is a connection of individual features (Prakriti) with genetics, as personalized medicine aims to design drugs with maximum efficiency and safety for a particular disorder [2, 3]. Therefore personalized treatment has now become much popular and effective.

The principles of Sri Lankan Ayurveda and Traditional Medicine are mainly based on herbal and natural science. There are thousands of herbs known to these systems, out of which about one thousand five hundred are very commonly used in regular prescriptions. Combinations of the herbs have been practiced and perfected by experience over time. Therefore it is utmost important to select your drug knowing your body type or Prakriti.

Agni Concept in Holistic Approach

The whole internal medicine in Ayurveda and Traditional medicine is based on the treatment of “Agni”, which refers to the digestion, metabolism and process of biological conversion and utilization of energy. Once this process is malfunctioning it results in disease. Every second our body tries to maintain the homeostasis by balancing the energy input and energy output though various ongoing chemical processes. Decrease in Agni contributes to the formation of “Ama” i.e. products of improper digestion or toxin or free radicals or imbalance of cytokines. This in turn leads to excessive accumulation of Ama and disturb the three humors (Tridoshas). If not properly treated and eliminated, Ama will increase the congestion and lead to further weakening of Agni. This is clearly seen in most of the diseases including cancer patients who loose appetite and power of digestion as the disease progresses.
Deepana (treatment for balance of Agni) and Pachanachikitsa (treatments for balance Ama) are very important to restore patient’s digestive power and to correct metabolic defects. This treatment reduces the accumulation of Ama. As the digestive power increases patient regains his/her appetite, and can be harmonized the physiological conditions. Shodanachikitsa (purification procedures) which eliminates vitiated doshas is primarily used in holistic management in disease curing. Ayurveda describes five such purification procedures collectively named as Pancha karma: Vamana (emesis), Virechna (purgation), Nasya (nasal enema), vasthi (rectal enema) and rakthamokshana (bloodletting by leeches, etc). The appropriate shodana procedures should be selected according to the derangement of dosha and condition of the patient. Shodana procedures not only eliminate deranged doshas, but also facilitate the removal of toxins (Ama) and unwanted mala (waste products)
from the body. The congestive features disappear and the patient feels light and relaxed. These purifying procedures remove any ‘clogging’ of srothas (channels) further improving the digestive power.

Rasayanaprayoga improves the immunity and strength of the patient. Sushruta Acharya says clearly that strength / immunity of the patient should be maintained as it reduces the

ACEITE-EN-FRENTE-AYURVEDA12intensity of the disease [4]. Rasayanathanthra is one of the major eight branches in Ayurveda. The classical Ayurveda texts are precise on hundreds of single and poly-herbal formulations that enhance immune system. Invasion of immune system is one of the emerging hallmarks of most diseases. These immune enhancing herbal anti-oxidants can successfully resolve disease progression.
Sri Lankan texts on traditional medicine contain numerous poly-herbal and herbo-mineral formulations possessing immune enhancing and modulating properties. However most of these drugs are in the broad spectrum, and can be used in a variety of diseases by combining the drug with Anupana (other herbal preparations that modulate the properties of the main drug to suit the specific dosha state of the patient).

A healthy person is he whose humors (Doshas) and metabolic state (Agni) are in equilibrium, whose functional activities of the tissues (Dhathus) and excretory products (Malas) are in balance, and the soul (Athma), senses (Indriya) and mind (Manas) feel well”. (Su. Su. 15/41) [5]
Juyal RC et al. Potential of Ayurgenomics Approach in Complex Trait Research: Leads from a Pilot Study on Rheumatoid Arthritis PLOS, 2012: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045752.
Chatterjee B, Pancholi J. Prakriti -based medicine: A step towards personalized medicine. AYU 2011;32:141-6.
Wilson JF, Michael E, Alice CS, Gratrix F, Fletcher B, Thomas MG, et al. Population genetic structure of variable drug response. Nat Gen 2001;29:265-9.
Kaptchuk TJ, Eisenberg DM, The persuasive appeal of alternative medicine, Ann Intern Med 1998;129:1061-5.
Singhal G.D. & colleges, 2007. Susruta-Samhita (English Translation and Explanatory notes) Vol 2. 2ndedn. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan. 579, 580.

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