Records show that in India during the Indus Valley Civilization (6000 BC) Ayurveda was practiced extensively. Excavations reveal that many of the herbs now being used were also part of their healing system in such early days. During Vedic period (4000 BC) it was more developed and studied under different schools. Many formulations and treatment procedures were well explained in Adharva Veda. During the period of Ithihasa (2000 BC) Ayurveda was developed into an independent science and was referred as 5th Veda. In 1000 BC (Samhita period) Ayurveda was further expanded and studied under many branches in different schools like General Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry etc. The main schools during that period are Charaka (General Medicine), Susrutha (Surgery), Kashyapa (Pediatrics, Gynecology) etc.
In Kerala, Ayurveda was practiced whole-heartedly because of the ardent support of its rulers. Since Kerala was never under the direct rule of the British government, Ayurveda received the constant support of the rulers. Many of its families were practicing different branches, but collectively they have been traditional believers in the science and life sustaining natural power of Ayurveda. It must be remembered that Ayurveda, Yoga and Tantra were thus protected and respected in Kerala than in any other part of India
Ayurveda is a life science dedicated to the importance of food cure, with the cause of disease highly attributed to incorrect diet.
Our diet is an essential factor for the formation of our body. It is clearly mentioned in ‘Charak Samhita’ that consuming improper diet in improper way is the main cause of ‘Disease’.
According to ‘Charak ,”An appropriate and suitable diet in a disease is equivalent to hundred drugs and any quantity of drug hardly compares to good results in disease without following proper dietetic regimen”
” When diet is wrong medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct medicine is of no need. “
[Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb]
Ayurvedic classics have mentioned following principles for living full span of life with perfect health.
Diet should be regulated taking into account the ‘Desha’(territory), ‘Kala’ (Season as well as time of the day) etc. One should be in a habit of taking all six ‘Rasa’ (tastes) in order to prevent nutritional deficiency disorders.
Time of consuming food: A person should take meal only when he feels hungry. Lunch should be taken early between 12 and 1P.M. this coincides with the peak Pitta period, Pitta is responsible for the digestion. Ayurveda recommends that the lunch should be the largest meal of the day. The supper should be lesser and lighter than lunch
Quantity of food: Generally half of the capacity of stomach should be filled with solids, ¼ th with liquids and rest kept empty for the free movements of body humors.
Sequence of consuming food: Madhur (sweet) rasa food like fruits are advisable to take in the bigining of meal, food with Amla and Lavana (sour and salty) rasa in the middle and Katu,Tikta,Kashay (bitter ,astringent and pungent) foods should be taken at the end of meal
The whole world and every person in it is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether.
These five elements interact in each individual to form the three doshas; Vata Dosha, representing ether and air; Pita Dosha representing fire and water; and Kapha Dosha, representing water and earth. For a disease-free body and perfect balance of wellbeing, these vital forces should be kept in harmony with each other. Thus, in Ayurveda, recommended prescriptions of diet maintain the tri-dosha system, bringing harmony to the body and mind.
An example of dietary advice pertaining to each individual dosha, is the recommendation that Kapha-dominant people should avoid ghee and butter, Pita-dominant people should avoid chili, and Vata-dominant people should avoid raw vegetables. There is no standard diet for everyone, nor any minimum daily requirements. The food we take and the manner in which we take it should be in harmony with our nature.
Ayurvedic dishes are known for their exotic taste, aroma, texture and colors. Dozens of spices, including cardamom, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander and ginger enhance nutrition in the food, along with the taste! Ayurveda recommends only freshly cooked and natural food; there is no substitute for this if one seeks to live a healthy life.
The water we consume should be warm and preferably boiled with herbs; to enhance the nourishment and easy digestion of food, along with the right dietary habits.
Every principle of diet should be given close attention, in establishing the basis for a long, youthful life. The right environment in which to take meals is also an important consideration in Ayurvedic lifestyle theory. One should eat mindfully, with full attention on the food they are eating. Food should be simple, fresh and easily digestable, containing lot of vegetable and natural spices. Taken in an environment of calm and meditation, diet can be an effective treatment therapy in itself.