Skip to main content

8 branches of Ayurveda । Ashtanga Ayurveda

Eight Branches of Ayurveda

The science of Ayurveda promotes longevity of life. It has been practised for more than 5000 years, since the Pre-Vedic period. Ayurveda aims to create harmony between the body and the mind, thereby curing the disorder between the two, which has been manifested in the form of a disease. 

There are eight branches of Ayurveda, known as Ashtanga (in Sanskrit; Asta – eight; anga – arms; branches) Ayurveda. These branches strive to promote healthy living in the human being, by encompassing the working of the mind, body and soul. 

These Ashtanga Ayurveda are:

1. Kaya Chikitsa (Internal Medicine):

In Sanskrit, kaya means a human body and Chikitsa means treatment. It deals with the ‘Agni’ or fire element in the body. Since Agni is primarily responsible for the digestion and conversion of food to fuel, this treatment mainly deals with the diet that we consume. Proper functioning of the Agni is essential for the metabolic and physiological activities of the body. 

Kaya Chikitsa promotes a healthy lifestyle in the individual by using the technique of diet control. This form of treatment cures all diseases in the body, by correcting the imbalanced Agni in the body.

The imbalance in the tridoshas of the body, i.e., Vata- Pitta- Kapha; sometimes occurs by the power of the mind or by the body's dhatus (tissues) and mala (toxin deposits). 

The Kaya Chikitsa delves deeply to determine the root cause of an illness. After which, a suitable treatment is recommended to balance the mind and body in perfect harmony. The treatment of the physical body significantly affects the mind and soul of a person. 

One of the significant methods of treatment under Kaya Chikitsa is Panchkarma. This is a method of reversing the disease from its manifestation stage to its site of origin and employs the methods of emesis, purgation and enema etc. 

Another aspect of Kaya Chikitsa is rejuvenation or Kaya Kalpa. The term ‘kaya kalpa’ means transformation or renewal of the body. To delay the ageing of the body, Kaya Chikitsa applies several physical and mental disciplinary methods with special medicinal preparations, to rebuild the body's cells and tissues after the initial process of detoxification, through Panchkarma

2. Shalya Tantra (Surgery):

In ancient India, surgery was principally pioneered by Ayurveda and was described in the Sushruta Samhita. Shalya means a cause or factor, which produces pain or causes irritation, and tantra means the technique by which this cause or factor is done away with. The surgical methods, which were initiated by the Ayurvedic sages in ancient India, are collectively known as Shalya Tantra. 

The Sushruta Samhita describes the pre-operative procedures, general procedures, post-operative procedures and anaesthesia during surgery. The use of various surgical instruments (stone, wood and other such natural materials) is also described in the Sushruta Samhita for the treatment. 

It also describes bandages, shastra (sharp instruments), yantras (blunt instruments) and sutures (stitches). Shalya Tantra was popular as it provided fast relief as compared to the slow process of recovery from medicines or herbs.

3. Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry):

This branch of Ayurveda deals with diagnosis and treatment of psychological and psychosomatic disorders like epilepsy, insanity etc. The term ‘bhuta’ has different meanings. Some experts say that bhuta means ghosts and bad spirits who cause abnormal psychological conditions. 

While, other people say that bhuta represents microscopic organisms such as virus, bacteria that are not visible to the naked eye. Ayurveda believes that the past Karma is a reason for the manifestation of several diseases. Bhuta Vidya deals with the causes, which are directly not visible and have no direct explanation in terms of tridosha. 

Bhuta Vidya believes that many illnesses are caused by the disturbance of mind, where rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance), are supposed to be the contributing factors. Bhuta Vidya under the heading 'graha vidya dravya', mentions the use of various herbs and plants for fumigation to make the atmosphere germ-free. 

In addition to these herbs, diet, use of mantras and yogic therapies like meditation and pranayama also are suggested to calm the mind and help get rid of the psychological disturbances in many patients. 

4. Shalakya Tantra (Treatment of diseases above the clavicle):

Shalakya tantra deals with the treatment of diseases located above the neck, i.e., otorhinolaryngology (ENT), dentistry and ophthalmology. This branch tackles the causes, diagnosis, prophylactic measures and curative procedures of the diseases of the head, ear, nose, eye and throat. 

The treatment is mainly done by using shalaka, i.e., a rod or a probe, a technique which has given Shalakya tantra its name. Since it treats ailments above the neck, this branch of Ayurveda is also known as Urdhvanga Chikitsa (treatment of the organs that reside in the uppermost part of the body). 

All the three texts of the Ayurveda, Charak Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtang Hrudaya have discussed this branch and have mentioned 72 types of eye ailments including cataract, conjunctivitis, glaucoma and other problems. 

Shalakya tantra also mentions surgical techniques for the removal of tumours, abscesses and cysts (arbuda). It presents ways to eliminate foreign bodies in the region above the neck.

5. Agada Tantra (Toxicology):

This branch of toxicology was established by Sage Kashyapa. This branch of Ayurveda offers information about the non-living (sthavar), plants/herbs (belladonna, aconite etc.), vegetables, minerals (leads, mercury, arsenal etc.) and animal (jangam) poisons (visha) and the methods of elimination of these poisons from the human body. 

It particularly advocates different antidotes for materials which are poisonous to the human body. 

The three Samhitas describe this branch of toxicology and include description, and disadvantages of food of opposite qualities, drugs and food causing chronic poisoning symptoms. 

In Ayurveda, certain poisons are used as medicines after proper processing and quantification. Precious stones like diamond, ruby and poisonous minerals like lead and mercury were in use for this purpose.

6. Kumarabhritya Tantra:

It is also known as Bala Chikitsa or paediatrics. In Sanskrit, the words mean kumara- child, bhritiya – or nourishment and tantra is a mode of treatment. This branch of Ayurveda deals with prenatal, postnatal baby care and gynaecology. 

Ayurveda aims to create a healthy and disease-free society and with this goal in mind aims to make the baby healthy right from its conception to its growth as an adult. 

This branch of Ayurveda states that the mental, physical and psychological health of a mother is directly linked to the health of the baby. Hence, it has recommended particular diets, nutritional regime and behaviour for women pre-and post-delivery. 

Moreover, Charaka Samhita has accurately described the minute details of the fetus in the mother’s womb, proving the highly advanced nature of this science. This study also describes a technique called punsanvan vidhi, which explicitly describes ways to have a child of the desired gender! 

This branch meticulously dealt with the problem of infertility- its causes and treatment methods. It includes treatments described for disorders like gastrointestinal diseases, teething disorders and rickets. Techniques related to midwifery are also mentioned.

7. Vajikarana (Science of fertility and aphrodisiacs):

This branch of Ayurveda presents various methods and techniques for producing a healthy progeny. It deals with issues like infertility, and other reproductive problems related to the shukra dhatu or the reproductive fluids of the body. 

This branch specifically states that a person should lead a celibate life to improve the quality of the reproductive fluids of the body. Celibacy in men increases the will power, intellect and memory along with aiding a healthy body. The shukra dhatu is said to be directly connected to the ojas or the immunity of the body. 

Hence, Vajikarana has prescribed the therapeutic use of various aphrodisiacs and tonic preparations for enhancing the vigour and reproductive capabilities of men that also strengthens other body tissues (dhatus) like muscles, fats, bones and blood. 

Vajikarana Tantra aims at curing all types of physical and psychological sexual problems like impotence, libido, poor erection and early ejaculation in males and sterility and frigidity in females. 

Ashtanga Ayurveda strongly believed that a weak shukra dhatu was the major factor behind all male and female sexual problems. Vajikarana tantra has guidelines for a normal, healthy and mature shukra dhatu, which is ultimately essential for satisfying and productive sex.

8. Rasayana Tantra (science of rejuvenation or anti-ageing):

Rasayana Tantra or Jara Chikitsa is a branch of Ayurvedic science that deals with preventive measures to ensure a healthy existence. It is a rejuvenating therapy, which rejuvenates a healthy person and restores a diseased person to health. 

Rasayana Tantra aims at longevity, youthfulness, enhanced memory, health, and radiance of complexion along with increased vigour and intellect. The practitioners of Ashtanga Ayurveda recommend various treatments for the wear and tear of the body tissues due to age or diseases. 

They claim that Rasayana Tantra has the potential to retard ageing. Rasayana Tantra improves the metabolic activities, which ensure proper transformation of energy leading to a healthy life. The curative procedure involves boosting the ojas (vital force of life) and immune system, increasing regeneration of cells and tissues in the body. 

Before starting the rasayana schedule, the patient is advised to undergo Panchkarma (cleansing). This helps in the initial detoxification of the body and prepares it for the rasayana processes. 

The rasayana regime includes several physical, mental and spiritual disciplinary activities along with medicines. This technique advises the patient to follow a strict diet along with medication. Amalaki, haritaki, Triphala, brungaraj, ashwagandha, punarnava, chitraka, etc. are some herbs that are used to make rasayana medicines. These are collectively known as rasayanakar. 

Moreover, Bhasma (calyxes) of metals like gold, silver etc., bhasma of jewels like hiraka (diamond), manikya (ruby), moti (pearl), etc. are precious components in the group of rasayana medicines. They are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities. 

8 branches of Ayurveda । Ashtanga Ayurveda
Amla is one of the biggest rejuvenators

These are the eight branches of Ayurveda. Hope this post has helped you understand this science a little more. Hope to see you again!

Related Articles: