Is Kerala Ayurveda Treatment Different From Mainstream Ayurveda

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. 

Disclaimer: 

  • 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.

Example –  

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.

Example: 

Khadirarishta and Pushyanuga choorna is mentioned both in Bhaishajya Ratnavali and in Sahasrayogam.

But there are many new medicines which are mentioned only in Sahasrayogam, which is a very great contribution to the field of Ayurveda.

Examples

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.

Example: 

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.

15 thoughts on “Is Kerala Ayurveda Treatment Different From Mainstream Ayurveda”

  1. Dear Doctor,
    Apart from this, there is a different section of treatment combined with Ayurveda and Kalari (Kerala’s traditional martial arts). Some traditional ayurveda families have hospitals for this in various parts of Kerala.

    Reply
  2. Thank you doctor for this nice article.Kerala is popularly known as “Mecca of Ayurveda”.We keralites love Ayurveda very deeply.Most of other states treat Ayurveda as “alternative medicine” while keralites treat it as primary medicine even in bone fracture.In Kerala you can find a lot of Ayurvedic clinics in every small villages.In every Panchayath there must be atleast one Government Ayurvedic Hospital.

    Reply
    • Bone fracture treatment with Ayurveda is prevalent even in other states. It is not limited to Kerala. In Karnataka, There is a famous dislocation and fracture treatment called “Puttur Kattu”. Sushruta was the first doctor of the world to explain about bone and fracture treatment with maximum detail.
      Fracture re-setting nowadays is taken up by the orthopedic surgeons due to advancement of technology.

      The public awareness about Kerala is probably more when compared to other states. But there are also many other states where Ayurveda is equally promoted. Along with Government Ayurveda College, Trivendrum, Gujarath Ayurveda University at Jamnagar, and Benarus Hindu University, National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur are renown universities where Research and development on Ayurveda is taking place.
      Karnataka has the most number of Ayurveda colleges when compared to any other states. Ayurvedic doctors are considered for Healthcare providers in Primary Healthcare Centers in Karnataka.

      Reply
  3. Hopefully some contraption for fracture healing where Murivenna can be applied on the wound is developed even when plaster of paris is used. I think healing with he help of murivenna is much much faster than simply restraining the bone with plaster of paris.

    i have personally experienced the magic of murivenna.

    Reply
    • But that decision should always be taken by a doctor. I discourage self treatment in cases of fracture /dislocation. In most of the cases, if hairline / stress fracture is left unattended, or under-treated, it may lead to complications.

      Reply
  4. ok i meant by doctor only. i was having pain for many years in shoulder, and under consultation of ayurvedic doctor, he recommended murivenna and i got rid of the pain in a few months. my case was not a fracture. more of a ligament/tendon injury.

    Reply
  5. Also i don’t think even the big ayurvedic centres and ayurvedic government colleges nowadays do fracture resetting. only some small specialized traditional bone setters in rural areas do it.

    Reply
  6. Sir, i think ‘Puttur Kattu’ is the treatment offered in chitoor district near tirupati, andhra pradesh (i had read about this place in a magazine), Not Puttur in Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka. But like many traditional rural healers they won’t reveal the herb.

    Also i hope traditional ayurvedic practitioners are able to combine things like x-ray and perfect bone reduction and also use plaster of paris in ways which facilitates medicinal oil application.

    i myself have experienced the benefits of ayurvedic medicinal oil on ligament/tendon injury.
    Some fractures take 2-4 months or even 6 months to heal. This healing duration can easily be brought down with ayurvedic oils. Combination of x-ray, plaster of paris, and ayurvedic oil will be of great service to the patients.

    Reply
    • I am not sure of real place ‘Puttur’. You may be right. But I know a few places in Karnataka, where it is practiced.
      Ayurvedic treatment with modern diagnostic tools and advanced medical technology is the way forward for Ayurveda.

      Reply
  7. Dear DR. Hebbar you are doing a yeoman’s service towards Human health care through Ayurveda sir it is very rude and cruel practice nowadays by keralites that Ayurveda is only from Kerala and only people from kerala back ground whether they have genuine institutional qualifications or not can only do Ayurveda and others who have pg and research scholars are not efficient doctors, we should educate the people that genuine ayurvedic system of medicine belongs to entire nation ,and we should not fall prey to the cheap, deceiving business tricks of some people and respect the system and genuine physicians to which ever state they belong, we have a galaxy of good physicians from allover India including Kerala and vice-versa.
    the initial persons who made Ayurveda as international brand include all persons and institutions from India.

    Reply
    • Mr Ashraf
      Again i am saying Ayurveda is like mothers milk to the people of all states in India,It is the only governments statement that it is coined as alternative medicine and we have no objection if you love Ayurveda but consider that every person of Indian origin loves and adopt Ayurveda as their own system.

      Reply

    • Dear Dr Chari,
      I agree that there are only a few who market Kerala Ayurveda as great and make money. But not all of them. We just cannot generalize the statement. I have many Keralian Ayurvedic doctor friends who are very competitive, knowledgeable, doing incredible research and treatments in Ayurveda, and they are really honest. They never claim that their’s is best. Just because only a few people do it, we should not generalize the statement. It is such a wrong thing to do.

      Reply
  8. Thank you Dr Hebbar my intention is only to caution the public about only few individuals who do malpractice. I have highest regard for the genuine practices of kerala who are my gurus.

    Reply
  9. Good one Dr Hebbar. Off late may ayurvedic cosmetic company is baking on kottakkal for authentic ayurveda treatment and consider kerala as the origin while in reality they fail to understand there are states which are authentic too.

    Reply

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