An American who consulted a famous Vaidyar or Ayurvedic physician in Kerala was intrigued by his methods methods of diagnosis that were quite different from that of a practitioner of western medicine. To begin with the vaidyar just looked at him carefully, observing his movements, the contours of his body, the color of his skin and eyes, the shape of his nose, lips, hair, and nails. In the next step, the sense of touch was used by the physician as he pressed down on different parts of the body. This was followed by ‘listening’ to the body sounds. Next came examination through smell, and finally examination by taste. The vaidyar explained that this process was known as “ rogi pariksha” – ‘rogi’ means patient, and ‘pariksha’ is examination. This careful examination of the patient using all the five senses of the physician is important because cures are tailor-made for each individual. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the patient’s unique constitution is essential.
Five Diagnostic Tools
Of course, diagnosis at the disease level is equally important. This part of the diagnosis is known as ‘roga pariksha”. ‘Roga’ means disease, and the diagnosis is made through five tools of evaluation known as “pancha nidana.’ The first step in evaluation is nidana, which is to determine what has caused an imbalance in the body’s vital energies, for according to Ayurveda, balance is the key to perfect health. The imbalance can be caused by inappropriate diet or lifestyle, changes in the weather, injuries or any kind of trauma. In Ayurveda, identifying the cause of imbalance and avoiding it is the first line of treatment.
The next tool for diagnosis is purva rupa, or identifying the preliminary signs of the disease. These are symptoms that appear before the disease, and are warning signs that all is not well. Each disease has specific warning signs. Knowledge about the preliminary signs and symptoms of a specific disease can help you to take certain steps to fight the disease.
The third tool of evaluation is rupa or study of the symptoms of the disease itself. Rupa is used if a disease has progressed, and the severity and number of symptoms give a clear indication of the type of cure and the length of time needed to complete the healing process. Many diseases have very similar symptoms. To pinpoint the exact illness, the next diagnostic method known as upashaya is very important. This is an exploratory treatment to rule out possibilities and it was very important in ancient times when modern methods of laboratory testing did not exist.
Finally, there is ‘samprapti’, which is a thorough study of the pathway and progression of the disease, from its cause to its actual onset. Once this is done, the right treatment for a permanent cure can be started. As anyone who has gone to a vaidyar will tell you, when you go to visit and Ayurvedic physician, whether it is in Kerala or in any other part of India, be prepared to talk about yourself- for a personalized knowledge about a patient is Ayurveda’s most powerful tool for diagnosis and cure.