The word “ayurveda” is Sanskrit: आयुर्वेद, Āyurveda, meaning knowledge of life and longevity.

Ayurveda was recorded more than 5,000 years ago in Sanskrit, in the four sacred texts called the Vedas: the Rig Veda during 3000-2500 BCE, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda, and Atharva Veda during 1200-1000 BCE.

Ayurvedic theory states that all areas of life impact one’s health, so it follows that the Vedas cover a wide variety of topics, including health and healthcare techniques, astrology, spirituality, government and politics, art, and human behavior.

Current knowledge about Ayurveda is primarily based on “the great triad” of texts called Brhattrayi, which consists of the Charak Samhita, Sushurta Samhita, and Ashtanga Hridaya. These books describe the basic principles and theories from which modern Ayurveda has evolved.

Ayurveda names seven basic tissues (dhatu), which are plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscles (māmsa), fat (meda), bone (asthi), marrow (majja), and semen (shukra). Like the medicine of classical antiquity, Ayurveda has historically divided bodily substances into five classical elements, (Sanskrit) panchamahabhuta, viz. earth, water, fire, air and ether. 

Ayurveda also names three elemental bodily humors, the doshas (called Vata, Pitta and Kapha), and states that a balance of the doshas results in health, while imbalance results in disease. One Ayurvedic view is that the doshas are balanced when they are equal to each other, while another view is that each human possesses a unique combination of the doshas which define this person’s temperament and characteristics. In either case, it says that each person should modulate their behavior or environment to increase or decrease the doshas and maintain their natural state.

Ayurvedic doctors regard physical existence, mental existence, and personality as their own units, with each element being able to influence the others.This is a holistic approach used during diagnosis and therapy, and is a fundamental aspect of Ayurveda. Another part of Ayurvedic treatment says that there are channels (srotas) which transport fluids, and that the channels can be opened up by massage treatment using oils and Swedana (fomentation). Unhealthy, or blocked, channels are thought to cause disease.

Diagnosis

Ayurveda has eight ways to diagnose illness, called Nadi (pulse), Mootra (urine), Mala (stool), Jihva (tongue), Shabda (speech), Sparsha (touch), Druk (vision), and Aakruti (appearance).Ayurvedic practitioners approach diagnosis by using the five senses. For example, hearing is used to observe the condition of breathing and speech. The study of the lethal points or marman marma is of special importance.

Treatment procedures

Two of the eight branches of classical Ayurveda deal with surgery (Śalya-cikitsā and Śālākya-tantra), but contemporary Ayurveda tends to stress attaining vitality by building a healthy metabolic system and maintaining good digestion and excretion. Ayurveda also focuses on exercise, yoga, and meditation. One type of prescription is a Sattvic diet.

Ayurveda follows the concept of Dinacharya, which says that natural cycles (waking, sleeping, working, meditation etc.) are important for health. Hygiene, including regular bathing, cleaning of teeth, oil pulling, tongue scraping, skin care, and eye washing, is also a central practice.