AYUR-VEDA is the oldest existing medical system, having its heritage in ancient India. It is recognized by the World Health Organization and is still widely practiced.1 The All India Ayur-Veda Congress (representing Ayurvedic physicians) has a membership of over 300 000, and 108 Ayurvedic colleges in India grant a degree after a 5-year program. Yet, until recently, Ayur-Veda has been virtually unknown in the West. Current interest in disease prevention and health promotion has led to its investigation by a growing number of Western physicians who are finding it to add valuable knowledge that is complementary to modern allopathic medicine.
The word Ayur-Veda comes from two Sanskrit roots: Ayus, meaning life or life span, and Veda, meaning knowledge or science. Ayur-Veda is therefore translated as "the science of life," which emphasizes its orientation toward prevention. The major textbooks of Ayur-Veda, the Charaka Samhita2 and Sushruta Samhita,3 cover