The word “antibiotic” is derived from the Greek words anti denoting “against” and bios meaning “life”. (Bacteria represent life form). Antibiotics can be used for bacterial infections. Antibiotics cause dangerous side effects even though they cure the original infection. Therefore its use requires much caution. Antibiotics can be lifesavers if they are used properly. They effectively fight the microorganisms and curtail their multiplication allowing the body to use its normal defense mechanism.
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Ayurveda texts were written more than 5000 years ago and did not use the word ‘antibiotics’ as used in allopathic systems of medicine. But the microorganisms were described as ‘bhutas’ that cause certain types of diseases. Ayurveda has recommended ways to destroy such organisms. Going one step ahead, Ayurveda even emphasized that by increasing the resistance power of the body to develop immunity against the microorganisms. The preparations for killing the germs and to prevent the recurrence of the infection were named ‘Rasayana’. Nowadays Ayurveda treatment is famous worldwide, originated in India, but spreading globally, especially in America and Europe.
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Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine that addresses not only curing illnesses but also how to prevent the occurrence of diseases. This is done by eliminating the root cause of the disease by a thorough investigation of the body constitution of the individual and the factors both internal and external that are responsible for the disorder. Hence Ayurvedic medicines are effective and provide a permanent cure.
Susruta, the pioneer in surgery has written extensively about preventing infection of the surgical wounds after the operation. He has described various methods of post-operative dressing of these wounds. There he has recommended the use of honey, ghee made of cow’s milk, sesame paste, and using several herbs that possess anti-septic quality. He has advised another method as an anti-peptic which is by fumigating the surgical wound with the fumes of herbs called ‘vacha’ Kustha, and Neem. There is mention of the sun’s rays during sunrise and sunset having germicidal nature.
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Ayurveda has different approaches to health care as it is based on the concept that the life energies present in the body and in the universe are the same and any disturbance in the balance of these two forces results in disease. The life energies named doshas are present in different combinations in the body of each individual making each one distinctly different from the others. There are many different methods that are used to correct the imbalance. They are powders called churnas, ashes called bhasm, syrups and oils, mineral preparations, and other spiritual practices like homas and mantras.
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The ayurvedic concept is based on the principle that healing the atmosphere will heal the individual. Homa is the process of purifying the atmosphere using fire as an agent. The cosmic element of fire brings about the purified medicinal effect to the atmosphere. Homa comprises many Vedic techniques namely vainas, vyharuti, and agnihotra.
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Antibiotics may not be known to Ayurveda but the principles governing them are dealt with in detail by the great scholars of Ayurveda. Infections were given the name of pitta-dushti which means aggravation of pitta dosha. Several detoxifying methods were suggested instead in the treatment of infections. They are purgation namely virechan and raktamoksha which is bloodletting. Various other herbs like neem, haridra, katuka, manjishta, the juice of aloe vera called asava are used for blood purification and to maintain the pitta balance.