Ashtang Ayurveda- 8 faculties of Ayurveda

In 1000-800 BC, Ayurveda was divided into 8 branches/specialities,  which are known as “Ashtang Ayurveda”, namely-

1) Kayachikitsa-Internal medicine
2) Bala chikitsa/Kaumar bhrutya- Obstetrics, Gynaecology and paediatrics
3) Grah-chikitsa- Psychology, Parasychology and treatemnt according to Daiva-vyapashraya Chikitsa(Non-pharmacological/ divine healing)
4) Urdhwang Chikitsa/ Shalakya Chikitsa- Ear, Nose and Throat diseases and diseases of eye and other diseases affecting head and neck.
5) Shalya tantra- Surgery
6) Danshtra Chikitsa/ Agad tantra- Treatment of poisons due to bite of poisonous animals.
7) Jara/ rasayan chikitsa- Rejuvenation
8) Vrushya/ Vajikaran Chkitsa- Treatment for improving sexual power and for acheiving better progeny.

Let us discuss one by one:


Out of the 8 branches, Kayachikitsa gained more popularity. Kaya means body, mind or agni and chikitsa means treatment procedures. Kayachikitsa is the tretment of physical and psychological diseases like jwara(fever or pyrexia)etc. Most of the bodily diseases are the result of the disorder of Agni or metabolism. It can therefore be labelled as Internal Medicine.Panchakarma or five purifactory procedures, are the sub branches of Kayachikitsa. It also deals with all the diseasesof body like Jwara(fever), Raktpitta(Coagulation disorders), Soth(eodema), Unmaad(Psychosis), Apasmar(Epilepsy), Kushtha(skin diorders), Prameha(Diabetes) etc. Kayachikitsa deals with the treatment of all these diseases.

Kayachikitsa is that which treats the abnormality of agni and brings it to the normal condition. The physician who can treat agni properly, becomes succesful in his/her treatment.

1) Treatment procedures that reduce pain are called as Kayachikitsa.
2) Those procedures, which remove the cause of the disease or Nidan are called Kayachikitsa.
3) Those procedures that destroy the amalgamation between aggrevated doshas and weak tissues and channels or organs are called Kayachikitsa.
4) Treatment should aim at establishing the eulibrium of tissues, doshas and waste products.
5) The correct treatment cures the disease without producing any side-effects or other disease in the body.
6) The treatment should be directed at removing the causes that produce vitiation of tissues and introduce measures that will establish the balance of tissues and doshas.
7) Physician, attendant, medicine and patient are four factors responsible to cure the diseases. When these factors are present with their four best qualities each, the treatment is always succeful.

Trividha Chikitsa:

1. Yukti-vyapashraya(Objectively planned therapy):

Rationally or objectively planned therapy means use of specific medicines along with dietary regimens, carried out by taking into consideration the fundamental priinciples of Ayurveda. Most ayurvedic medicinal practise today falls within this field and it is specific to problems with a clearly defined physical orgin and pathology. It generally consists of prescribing diet, herbs, exercise and lifestyle recommendedations opposite to the aggrevated doshas taking part in the disease.

This therapy consists of two types-purification and palliation. The Purifactory-samshodhana or Panchakarma procedures are used not only for cleaning the channels in the body but to drive out toxins, waste products and aggrevated doshas. Samshaman or palliative treatment aims at bringing equllibrium in doshas and dhatus.

2. Sattvavajaya(psychological therapy):

This can be called as psychotheray. It consists of developing the sattvik quality of the mind for gaining self-knowledge and freedom from desire. It uses the practices of yoga and meditation to promote longevity. This is also useful in increasing the qualities of rejuvenation therapy and treat disease, particularly mental disorders.

3. Daiva-vyapashraya(Spiritual therapy)

This can be defined as devine therapy and the field of this therpy is beyond the level of mind as it affects higher consciousness and planets.

Spiritual therapy is applied to diseases that are neither purely physical nor psychological and whose formation cant be explained from evident causes. It consist of various subtle, religoius or occult methods to wardoff negative influences. Such methods include chanting mantras, the spiritual use of herbs and germs, rituals for giving good fortune(mangala), offerings of oblations(bali), offerings in general(upahara), fasting(upavasa), pilgrimages(gamana),performances of prostration(pranipata), fire sacrifices(homa), ceremonial penance(prayacchitta) and rituals for well-being(swatiayana).

Chikitsya Chatushpaad:

4 essential factors for medical treatment

The prognosis of any disease-whether the disease is easily curable, difficult to cure or incurable-depends upon its nature and the healthy combination of the four factors required for the successful treatment: the physician, the medicine, the attendant and the patient himself. Hence the prognosis and these 4 factors have to be considered together. For curing any disease a coordination os these 4 factors is most essential, because it leads to the establishment of equilibrium of the tissues.

1) Vaidya: Physician

Among these 4 factors the physician is of utmost importance, because he is the person who manage the remianing three factors. The following are the qualities of a physician- He must be alert, observe perfect cleanliness, have a long and fruitful practical experience, have a thorough and complete knowledge.

2) Paricharak: Attendant

An attendant-who may be a nurse, relative or a social worker-must have the following 4 qaulities-He should have a technical knowledge, must be prompt and alert inhis service, must have sympathy for the patient, must observe cleanliness and neatness.

3) Aushadha: Medicine

An ideal medicine should possess abundant good qualities, have qualities of acting against dosha and disease, must possess the potentiality, must maintain its original properties.

4) Rugna: Patient

The following are the qualities expected in an ideal patient:

One must have good memory so that he is able to give correct information, must be co-operative and must behave according to the instructions given by the physician, should have courage, should be able to express ones ailments in proper words.

Thesevirtues are responsible for the success of the treatment.


To this particular speciality Charak has used the term

“Kaumarbhrutyaka” Sushrut
“kaumarbhrutya” or “kaumaratantra”;
Kashyap “Kaumarbhrutya” and both Vagbhatas and Harita

It can be corelated with Peadiatric-Gyneacology and obstetric sciences of modern world.

Chakrapaani commenting upon the verse of Charak Samhita says that the subject concerned with “Bharan” of kaumara comes under kaumaarbhrutya. The word “bharana” is explained as “procuring, carrying, bearing or act of bearing also in womb, bringing, maintaining, supporting and nourishing”etc. Accordingly the subject concerned with achievement of conception, its maintaineance and delivery, then its protection, support and nourishment comes under the preview of Kaumarbhrutya. To know the physiopathologies of acheivement of conception, the knowledge of anatomy and physiology of female reproductive system, descend of embryo as well as abnormalities of artava and yonivyaapad(menstrual and other gyneacological disorders) is essential, because in the presence of mentrual or other gynecological disorders women may not conceive.

Sushrut says that subject related to “bharan”(nourishmnet) of kumara(child), wet nurse, disorders of milk and their treatment, diseases of the child caused by consumption of vitiated milk and affliction by grahas(super natural forces ) along with their treatment is described under kaumarbhrutya. Grah is invisible, probably can be corelated with viruses/ bacterias. This reveals that “Putana”- a feminine evil charachter, that came to kill lord krushna in his childhood, was nothing but the viral infection as per the above discription.

In addition to this, antenatal management, embryology, abortions, normal labour, management of peurperium and neonate are also parts of this branch. In the measures of acheivement of conception, the knowledge of gynecological disorders is essential, birth and proper brought up of a son is very essential. Menstrual and gyneacological disoreders influence impregnation, non-observance of regulations prescribed or negligence during menstrual period, rutukala(optimum period for fertilization) and pregnancy as well as improper management during labour can produce certain abnormalities in the child, similarly improper management of puerparal women can influence nourishment and brought-up of the child. In other words, to get a physically and psychologically healthy and handsome child, knowledge of gyneacological disorders along with their treatment, physio-pathologies of menstrual cycle, pregnancy, labour, puerperium along with their management and treatemnt of disorders of these stages is essential. Garbha or “embryo” is nourished and maintained by the women. Naturally! knowledge of her management becomes a part of the management of a child. Hence in this 2nd branch of ayurveda, Peadiatrics along with gynac-obstatrics, are included.


Graha Chikitsa is mainly concerned with the diseases acquired or inherited from apparently unknown causes. This branch of Ayurveda specifically deals with the diseases of mind or psychic conditions, which can be caused by super natural forces or invasion of some evil spirit. Different experts have explained the word “bhuta” differently. Some experts say that ‘bhuta’ means ghosts and similar bad spirits who cause abnormal psychological conditions. Others say ‘bhuta’ represents microscopic organisms such as virus, bacteria that are not visible to naked eye.

 In modern terminology, it can be considered as idiopathic diseases in which the exact cause of disease is unknown. In most cases illness is caused by the disturbance of mind, where rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance) are supposed to be the contributing factors. Ayurvedic treatment methods for diseases affecting mind are mostly based on astrology, mantra and tantra. According to Ayurveda acharyas, mental diseases are caused due to the action of bhutas (bhootas – evil spirits or supernatural powers). The evil spirits can be Gandarvas, pisachu (devil), bhoota (ghosts), atma (spirits), etc. These supernatural elements cause trouble in the functioning of normal human mind.

As the people of ancient era were believers of super natural powers and evil spirits, this branch of ayurveda was named the same. However, these days the problems and ailments dealt under the Graha Chikitsa or Bhut Vidya can be related to modern psychiatry. This branch of Ayurveda deals basically diseases like insanity, epilepsy.

The exact patho- physiology of these disorders is to be extensively researched. Bhuta Vidya mentions the use of various disinfectant plants under the title of  ‘graha vidya dravya’ for fumigation to make the atmosphere germ free. This is done using small plant sticks with disinfecting characteristics like samidha to enhance the atmosphere around the patient. Proper diet is also important in Graha Chikitsa , as certain foods enhance or dilute the effect of the three gunas, so as to restore  mental harmony.Guggul, Harenu, Muster seeds, shirish etc. In addition to this herbs, diet, use of mantras and yogic therapies like meditation and pranayama to pacify the psychological disturbances of a patient. This branch of Ayurvedic science mainly tries to explore the unknown and the hidden facts of particular diseases.

Among the Ashtangas, Urdwang Chikitsa or Shalakya Chikitsa or Uttamanga Chikitsa or Jathrurdwa rog chikitsa or E.N.T.and Opthalmology is explained as the best for existing in the Shiras which is the  seatfor all the vital organs(Prana, Indriya, Marma etc.

The Shalakya Tantra gives the detailed discription of the diseases of the following parts
1) Ear Diseases
2) Nose Diseases
3) Throat Diseases(lips-Teeth, Gums, Tongue, Palate, Throat etc.)
4) Eye Diseases
5)Shiro-rogas(Head diseases)
All these are sensory organs seated in the shiras so only this branch of the medicine is given prime importance among the 8 branches of Ayurveda.
Again in this branch opthalmology(Netra-rogavigyana) is having utmost importance because eye is the organ for visual sensation, if vision is lost merely everything is lost-A blind man, though rich can not enjoy the world, so only it is explained that-” Sarvendriyanam Nayanam Pradhanam”(i.e. among all the organs eye is most important)


Shalaka(Variou Probes) is an instrument used to pierce or to cut the Netra-patalas(Tunics of eye ball)Though it is mentioned as Netra patalas it is also applicable to the ear, nose and Throat. Due to frequent use of Shalaka in the diagnostic and tretment procedures of this branch, it is named as SHalakya and the Science (Tantram) is named as Shalakya  Tantram.


The Specialist of Shalakya is known as Shalakini or Shalaki. Nimi is considered as the pioneer of this Science. He studed Shalakya from Indra, along with Atreya. Kashyap, Dhanwantari, Aalambayan.  Other Sage Scholars who worked on Shalakya are as follows-Kankayan tantram, Karala Tantra, Garghya, Galav Saatyaki, Bhoja, Bhrugu, Shaunak etc.

Classification of Diseases:
Sr.No. Name Of Organs According to Number of Diseases explained in detail
1 Eye diseases Shushrut 76
2 Ear Diseases Shushrut 28
3 Nose Diseases Shushrut 31
4 Mukha-rog Shushrut 65
5 Shiro-rog Shushrut 11


One will surprise but it is true that Shalya-tantra i.e. Surgery is 5th faculty of Ayurveda. We tend to think of “SURGERY” as a high-tech modern science, but the fact is that surgery has a history dating back more than 5000 years. In the 5th century BC, a celebrated Ayurvedic physician and surgeon, Sushruta, was enlighting a path which would be travelled by surgeons in the centuries to come. He lived, taught and practiced his art on the banks of the River Ganga in India. Many of Sushruta’s contributions to medicine and surgery preceded similar discoveries in the Western world. He had a deep knowledge of anatomy, etiology, embryology, digestion, metabolism, genetics and immunity. The tretise named-Susrutha Samhita, is written by him. Much of what we know about this inventive surgeon is contained in a series of volumes in this sacred text.

Astonishing Facts:  It may seem incredible, but Sushruta conducted complicated surgeries like cesareans, cataract, artificial limbs, fractures, urinary stones and even plastic surgery and brain surgery! He is considered to be the father of Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery!His technique for repairing the disfigured nose with a flap of skin from the forehead is practiced almost unchanged in technique to this day.

Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient India, and Sushruta was the first to prescribe the use of wine with fumes of cannabis for anaesthesia. Sushruta was also perhaps the first surgeon in the world to describe different types of surgical instruments. Over 120 surgical instruments, 300 surgical procedures and  8 categories of human surgeries viz. cutting, probing, scratching, piercing, inserting, excision, puncturing and stitching, are desribed in ancient surgical branch.

In addition, he was the first surgeon to teach by performing operations on inanimate objects such as watermelons, clay plots and reeds- the forerunner of the modern practice of surgical workshops. The Susrutha Samhita contains the first known description of several operations, including the uniting of bowel, the removal of the prostate gland, the removal of cataract lenses and the draining of abscesses.


Agada tantra or toxicology is a branch of Ashtang Ayurveda, which includes the science of poisons. The tradition of Agada tantra practice is very ancient. It originated from the school of toxicology, which was founded and run by Kashyapa, also known as Vriddhakashyapa, the great saint and medical practioner.

Damstra or Visha chikitsa, as the Aganda Tantra is popularly known, deals with various methods of cleaning the poisons out of the body as well as recommends antidotes for particular poisons.Poison (Visha) is defined as any substance that gains entry into the body (exogenous) or formed in it (endogenous) that is capable of endangering life or that can impair health. Knowledge of the origin, development and toxicity manifestation of accumulated poisons and suitable remedial measures are an integral part of health.

There are two types of poisons that have been described in the Agada tantra- the Natural poisons and the Artificial poisons. The natural poisons are classified as inanimate (Sthaavara) and animate (Jangama). Inanimate poisons or the Staavara comprise of poisons that have plant origin and toxic minerals, metals or metal ores that are found inside the earth. Animate poisons or Jangama consist of the venoms of animals like snakes, scorpions, worms, insects etc.

Artificial poisons are the invented poisons which are prepared by combining different kinds of animate and inanimate poisons. This branch also deals with air and water pollution, which are basically the causes of various dangerous epidemics. Present food habits, life style and mental attitudes etc, are entirely different from the past. The basic essentials of a healthy life such as air, food and water are all polluted and the resultant hazards paint a gloomy picture for the generations to come.

Apart from the above mentioned poisons, the three samhitas described about this branch of toxicology, also include the description and disadvantages of food of opposite qualities, drugs and food causing chronic poisoning symptoms. Sushruta’s coverage of toxicology goes into great detail regarding symptoms, first-aid measures, and long-term treatment, as well as classification of poisons and methods of poisoning.


The disease preventive and health promotive approach of ‘Ayurveda’, which takes into consideration the whole body, mind and spirit while dealing with the maintenance of health, promotion of health and treating ailments is holistic and finds increasing acceptability in many regions of the world. Ancient Ayurvedic physicians had developed certain dietary and therapeutic measures to arrest/delay ageing and rejuvenating whole functional dynamics of the body system. This revitalization and rejuvenation is known as the ‘Jara chikitsa or Rasayan chikitsa’ (rejuvenation therapy).

The word Rasayan is made up of 2 sanskrit words-Rasa(nutrition) and aayan(transportation in the body). Thus rasayan refers to compound preparations sontaining multiple herbs and mineralsthat improve transportation of nutritional materials to body tissues. The fundamental underlyiing theme of Rasayan is nutrition. They are the part of overall balanced diet. Rasayans are claimed to improve vitality, rejuvinate body tissues, improve immunity and prevent ageing. Rasayanas may act in variety of ways by improving the nutritional value ofthe food, digestin and absorption of nutrients, transportation of nutrients to tissues, bio-availibility of nutrients, metabolism of nutrients in tissues, immunity and by cleaning the strotas(microcirculatory pores or channels)which improve uptake of micro-nutrients. Basically Rasayans are classified into three categories:

1) Ajasrika rasayan(nutrition, diet) is  taken regularly with food as nutrition.
2) Kamya rasyan(normal health promotor)is indicated to improve vigor, vitality and to make a healthy person feel better.
3) Naimitik rasaya is indicated to improve vitality in a particular disease.

Kamya rasayan is further divided into 3 categories:

a) prana-kamya rasayan-promotor of life vitality and longetivity.
b) Medha kamya rasayan-promotor of intellect
c) Shri kamya rasayan- promotor of skin complexion and luster

Ayurvedic physicians should be consulted to determine, the appropriate rasyan required depending upon the health needs. Traditionally, Rasayana drugs are used against a plethora of seemingly diverse disorders with no pathophysiological connections according to modern medicine. Though, this group of plants generally possesses strong antioxidant activity, only a few have been investigated in detail.


Vajikarana or Vrishya chikitsa is a one of eight major specialty of the Ashtanga Ayurveda. This subject is concerned with aphrodisiacs, virility and improving health of progeny. As per Charak Samhita, by proper use of these formulations, one becomes endowed with good physique, potency, strength, and complexion and sexually exhilarated and sexually potent.

This in turn is helpful in many common sexual dysfunctions, including Infertility, Premature Ejaculation and Erectile dysfunction. The therapy is preceded by living in strict compliance with the directions mentioned in Ayurvedic classics, various methods of body cleansing and other non-medicinal strategies like sexual health promoting conduct, behavior and diet. Certain individualized herbal and herbo-mineral combinations are administered as per the nature of a person according to the Ayurveda. Many limitations need to be considered before.

In Sanskrit, Vaji means horse, the symbol of sexual potency and performance thus Vajikaran means producing a horse\’s vigor, particularly the animal\’s great capacity for sexual activity in the individual. Literally the Vajikaran is not exactly aphrodisiac but the current connotational meaning is same.

As per Charak Samhita, By proper use of these formulations, one becomes endowed with good physique, potency, strength, complexion and sexually exhilarated and potent like an 8-year-old horse.

“The man who seeks pleasure should resort to Vajikaran, i.e., vilification therapy regularly. The Vajikaran bestows contentment, nourishment, continuity of progeny and great happiness. The medicines or therapy by which the man becomes capable of sexual intercourse with the woman with great strength like a horse, which endears him to women and which nourishes the body of the person is known as Vajikaran. It is best promoter of strength and vigor.”

However, the main aim of Vajikaran is always successful copulation for healthy reproduction, with sexual pleasure being just an additional benefit; therefore it is considered a part of ‘eugeny.’ However, this therapy is also described under various sexual and reproductive disease i.e., Klaibya or Erectile dysfunctions, Bandhyatva or Infertitily, Shukraghata Vata or azospermia and premature ejaculation.

Vajikaran chikitsa requires living in strict compliance to the directions mentioned in Ayurvedic classics. It involves various methods of shodhan (body cleansing) through vaman (emesis), virechan (purgation) and swedan (sweating). After the Shodhan therapy, based on the prakriti of the individual\’s imbalance (doshic body constitution-Tridosha theory), certain herbal and herbo-mineral combinations are administered. Other components in the therapy involves improving health and pleasure in general like, massaging with medicated herbal oils and herbal baths, wearing of fragrant garlands, anointing the body with fragrant herbal pastes, listening to music, etc.