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The History of Ayurveda

Exploring the History of the World’s First Medical System

Here we will follow the path that Ayurveda, the world’s first medical practice, has taken through history. From there, we will see the effect Ayurveda has had, and continues to have, on modern medicine.

Why Ayurveda Is Known As The World’s Oldest Medical System

Originating in India, the medical system known as Ayurveda is over 5000 years old, with some claiming its origins go back as far as 6000 years. One piece of evidence that supports this hypothesis is the discovery of Ayurvedic medicine in the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro, which housed an advanced civilization in an Indus River basin dating back to 3000 B.C.

5000 years ago Ayurveda had already classified many different diseases and nearly perfected many different treatments and medicinal recipes. These would go on to cross Tibet and fuse with traditional Chinese treatments, but the fact remains that it is the prototype for modern Chinese medicine. China’s oldest recorded medical book, the Huangdi Neijing, is thought to have been written around 221-202 B.C., which means that Ayurveda predates it considerably. Furthermore, India’s oldest recorded internal medicine treatise, the Charaka Samhitaha, contains sections not just on causes of disease, medicinal effects, and treatments, but also germs, parasites, and antibiotics. Even today it is used as a classic Ayurvedic textbook.

In this way, Ayurveda spread across Silk Road and the Suez Canal to reach Greece, where it had a large and impacting influence on western medicine. There are records describing Hippocrates, the father of Greek medicine, studying Ayurveda while in Persia, and Alexander the Great is believed to have brought home many Ayurvedic doctors after his journey to the east.

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