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A history of Ayurveda and the growth of the Materia Medica

  • Sebastian Pole
    Sebastian Pole

    I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) and the Herbal tradition to help transform health. I have been in clinical practice since 1998.

    Having co-founded Pukka Herbs in 2001 I have become experienced in organic herb growing, practitioner grade quality and sustainable value chains. I am a Trustee of the FairWild Foundation, a Director of The Betonica School of Herbal Medicine and an Advisor to The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and The Sustainable Herbs Project. Fluent in Hindi, a qualified Yoga therapist and passionate about projects with a higher purpose, I am on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life. And that is why I started Herbal Reality and what it is all about.

    I live in a forest garden farm in Somerset growing over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. And a lot of weeds!

    Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006), A Pukka Life (Quadrille 2011), Celebrating 10 Pukka years (2012) and Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea (Frances Lincoln 2016).

    Listen to our Herbcast podcast with Sebastian as the host.

  • 38:36 reading time (ish)
  • Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine

Written by Sebastian Pole

‘Ayurveda is declared to be eternal, because it has no beginning, because it deals with such things that are inherent in nature and because the nature of matter is eternal. For at no time was there a break either in the continuity of life or in the continuity of intelligence’
Charaka Samhita: Sutrasthana 30.29

Historical timetable of Ayurveda

1500 BCE (Before the Common Era) Vedic religion Rg, Yajur, Sama & Atharva Vedas: 125 herbal medicines mentioned in Atharva Veda.

c600 BCE Rise of heterodox traditions of Jainism, Buddhism. Also growth of what is now called Hinduism. Ayurveda as a codified system of medicine is also thought to have appeared at this time.

150 BCE-100CE Charaka Samhita: The earliest complete Ayurvedic treatise. Herbs are here classified by action and morphology. Again reformatted by Drdhabala circa 400CE.

c100-500 CE Sushruta Samhita: Detailed surgical text.  Bhela Samhita.

500CE Dhanvantri Niganthu: An early compilation of herbs into certain functional groups based on the property of the herbs.

c600 CE Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita by Vagbhatta:A collated work on the essence of Ayurveda.

c650-950 CE  Madhava Nidana (aka Rogavinishchaya): The first text committed solely to pathology.

C875 CE Siddhayoga by Vrinda: Early alchemical text.

900-1400 CE Goraksha Samhita: Early hatha yoga text where many Ayurvedic concepts are fused with tantric yogic practice.

1075 CE Chikitsasangraha/ Chakradatta by Chakrapani: Professional Ayurvedic handbook of the medieval era.

1100 CE Dravyagunasangraha. The first Nigantu written by Chakrapani.

c1300 CE Anandakada: An early alchemical treatise.

1374 CE Madanphal Nigantu: A further compilation of herbs and minerals.

1300-1400 CE Sharngadhara Samhita: collected work on Ayurvedic formulas and preparations. First record of pulse taking as a diagnostic method. A pivotal work linking early Ayurvedic thought with new Tantric alchemical techniques.

1449/50 CE Lakshmanotsva: A text describing pulse taking.

1474-1538 CE Jvaratimirabhaskara of Camunda. The first mention of ashtasthanapariksha, the eight methods of diagnosis (pulse, tongue, urine, eyes, face, faeces, voice and skin).

1596 CE Bhavaprakash Nighantu by Bhavamishra: The most important Ayurvedic materia medica treatise.

c1600 CE Ayurvedasutra. A text mixing Ayurvedic, yogic and tantric thought.

C1600 CE Rasaratnsamuccaya. A pivotal alchemical text compiling much earlier thought and theory.

1676 CE Yogaratnakara. A pivotal work reflecting the assimilative trait of Unani and European influences on Ayurveda.

1760 CE Rajvallabh Nighantu: Progressive materia medica.

1815 CE Sangrah Nigantu.

1893 Bhashajya Ratnavali: Govindadasa’s work listing numerous medical preparations and introducing different European diseases.

c1900 CE Nadiprakashan: Shankara Sen.

1924 CE Nighantu Ratnakar.

Sebastian Pole

I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with... Read more

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