This article is in reply to a query by Mr Ashraf, who asks – “Doctor can you please explain about Kerala Ayurveda tradition? Is it different from real Ayurveda?”
Kerala state of India – famous as God’s own country, has a very special and unique tradition of Ayurveda practice. While there are absolutely no difference between the principles behind Kerala Ayurveda practice and Rest-of-India Ayurveda practice, Kerala has added few specialties and additions to the rich tradition of Ayurveda.
- The topic is so vast that a thesis can be written on this. I have made an attempt to touch all the aspects briefly.
- I have used two different terms – Kerala Ayurveda and mainstream Ayurveda. The word mainstream does not mean that the Keralian Ayurveda tradition is inferior. The word only suggests towards the vastness of the area of rest of India. Kerala is a small state when compared to rest of India, geographically.
1. Main treatment methods
Common Ayurvedic treatments:
Both Kerala and mainstream traditions have five Ayurvedic treatments – Panchakarma as the basic treatment methods. Read more about Panchakarma.
Both the traditions have oil therapies. But Kerala gives special emphasis to various types of Ayurvedic therapies.
There are some therapies named in Malayalam (Mother tongue of keralians) which are same as the mainstream tradition.
Pizhichil (Malayalam name) – is the process where medicated oil is continuously poured onto the body, with massage, which is similar to Sarvanga Dhara (General name).
Njavarakizhi – pronounced as – Nyavarakili (Malayalam name) is a process where heat treatment is given with cooked rice, is similar to Shashtika shali pinda sveda (Ayurvedic name)
2. Special Ayurvedic treatments
Keralians have developed some variants of oil treatments .
Example: Thalapothichil and Ksheeradhoomam
3. Text book reference
Kerala Ayurvedic practitioners use Sahasrayogam – a compendium of 1000 Ayurvedic medicines as the reference text book.
In Sahasrayogam, many formulations are from Ancient Ayurvedic text books like Sushruta Samhita, Charaka samhita, Bhaishajya Ratnavali etc.
But there are many new medicines which are mentioned only in Sahasrayogam, which is a very great contribution to the field of Ayurveda.
Vayu Gulika, Dhanadanayanadi kashayam, Kottamchukkadi Tailam etc.
Another main difference is – Kerala Ayurvedic doctors use Ashtangahrudayam as the main text book to follow treatments.
While, rest of the Ayurveda fraternity usually follows Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita as the text book for treatment decisions.
There is no big difference between the explanations of treatments in Ashtangahrudayam and the other two text books.
4. Naming of medicines
Due to the influence of Malayalam language, Keralians tend to add ‘m’ at the end of names of medicines.
Example: Khadirarishta is called as Khadirarishtam.
5. Keratailam version of oil
Since coconut oil is used widely in Kerala, Keralian pharmacies have come up with coconut oil base oils, in place of Sesame oil base.
Usually medicine names ending with Keratailam is prepared with coconut oil base.
Example: Dhurdhurapatradi Keratailam, Asana Eladi Keratailam etc.
6. Herb substitutes
Due to rarity of certain medicines, and availability of other herbs with similar properties, many herbs are substituted in Kerala medicines. It can not really be called as substitute, because they are used since thousands of years.
In the name of herb – Rasna – Vanda roxburghii is used in Kerala, Pluchea lanceolata is used in rest of India.
In the name of herb – Daruharidra, Coscinium fenestratum is used in Kerala, Berberis aristata is used in rest of India.
So, these are some of the differences that I can think of. Might have missed a few points, due to my knowledge limitations. Please share if you know more.