Sanskrit: ayu—life; veda—knowledge of) or ayurvedic medicine is a more than 2,000 year old comprehensive system of medicine based on a holistic approach rooted in Vedic culture. Its conspicuous use of the word veda, or knowledge, reveals its role in early Hinduism and describes its hallowed place in India. Ayurveda also had a tradition of surgery. Two early texts of Ayurveda are the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita.

The Charaka and Sushruta Samhit?s are compendiums of two traditions rather than texts authored by single authors. A third tradition is that of the Kashyapas. The scholarly traditions of ayurveda date back to the time of the Buddha, who died (mahaparinirvana) in approximately 400 BCE. Some plant remedies of ayurveda are mentioned in the earlier Vedic literature 2nd millennium BC, but the formal doctrines of the three humours and other key ayurvedic ideas are first mentioned in the Buddhist Canonical literature. Both the Sushruta and Charaka Samhit?s are the product of several editorial hands, having been revised and supplemented over a period of several hundred years.

The scholar Vagbhata, who lived in Sind at the beginning of the 7th century AD, produced a grand synthesis of earlier ayurvedic materials in a verse work called Ashtanga Samhita. Another work associated with the same author, the Asthanga Samgraha, contains much the same material in a more diffuse form, written in a mixture of prose and verse. The relationship between these two works, and a third intermediate compilation, is still a topic of active research. The works of Caraka, Sushruta, and Vagbhata are considered canonical and reverentially called the Vriddha Trayi, “the triad of ancients”; or Brhat Trayi, “the greater triad.” In the early eighth century, Madhav wrote his Nidana, a work on etiology, which soon assumed a position of authority. In the 79 chapters of this book, he lists diseases along with their causes, symptoms, and complications.

The vast majority of Ayurvedic therapies are herbal compounds. Some alchemical preparations start to enter the ayurvedic pharmacopieia towards the end of the 1st millennium AD in works such as those of Ugraditya (8th century AD)and Sarngadhara (14th century AD). It also provides therapies for the treatment of various vegetable and animal toxins like scorpion, spider and snake venom. It has a whole science of toxicology called agada-tantra as one of the eight branches of traditional Ayurveda.

The Ayurvedic idea is that the organism adapts to the environment and its food, climate etc. This principle of adaptation is called satyma. Through introducing small amounts of a food or medicine, the organism can adapt to it and learn to resist it.