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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 105-113

Traditional Indian medicine and traditional Chinese medicine: A comparative overview

1 Department of Meridians and Acupoints, School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China
2 Department of Experimental Acupuncture-Moxibustion, School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China
3 Department of Meridians and Acupoints School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine; Shanghai Research Center of Acupuncture and Meridian, Shanghai, China

Date of Web Publication24-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Xueyong Shen
School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1200 Cailun Road, Shanghai 201203
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_29_19

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Traditional Indian medicine or Ayurveda (阿育吠陀) and Traditional Chinese Medicine remain the most ancient yet living traditions. These are the two great traditional medicines with rich philosophical, experiential, and experimental basis. Both the systems have been developed and enriched by thousands of years of practices, observations, and experiences. As India and China are neighbors, some exchange of medical ideas and practices might have occurred between the two nations since ancient times. Therefore, when the two traditional medicines are examined closely, many similarities become apparent in the theories and practices along with individual differences.

Keywords: Acupuncture, ashtanga ayurveda (阿斯汤加), ayurveda (阿育吠陀), traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Indian medicine

How to cite this article:
Elahee SF, Mao H, Shen X. Traditional Indian medicine and traditional Chinese medicine: A comparative overview. Chin Med Cult 2019;2:105-13

How to cite this URL:
Elahee SF, Mao H, Shen X. Traditional Indian medicine and traditional Chinese medicine: A comparative overview. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 May 23];2:105-13. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2019/2/3/105/267700

  Introduction Top

Traditional Indian Medicine (TIM) and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are both age-old therapeutic systems, having been practiced and developed for thousands of years in India and China, respectively. Both systems have been adopted by large populations in the lands of their origin as well as other parts of the world. India and China being neighbors, some sort of exchange of culture and customs were likely to have occurred between them and the same might also have occurred in the systems of medicine as well. If both systems are examined together, many similarities surface among them along with individual differences. Some of these aspects are discussed here for academic interest.

The discussion may conveniently be divided into two sections:

  1. TIM/Ayurveda (阿育吠陀), its philosophy, theories, and principles of treatment
  2. Comparison of Ayurveda with TCM.

  Traditional Indian Medicine/Ayurveda Top

TIM/Ayurveda is a system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. It is considered one of the world's oldest healing systems, originating in India at least 5000 years ago. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally translates as “the wisdom of life” or “the knowledge of longevity” (it is a compound of “ayus” meaning life or longevity, and “veda” meaning deep knowledge or wisdom). Ayurveda thus views health as much more than the absence of disease, rather a means to keep the organism in positive health as much as possible, by following healthy lifestyle, nutritious diet, and also to treat illness using remedies from natural sources.[1]

Ayurvedic definition of health

Health is defined from an Ayurvedic perspective as a gracious, tranquil, content, joyous, bright, and clear state of the body, senses, mind, and spirit, including the balanced state of one's natural constitution. Everyone has a constitution that is specific to him or her, and drifting away from that constitution creates health imbalances; if such imbalances are not taken care in time, they may lead to illness.[1]

  Evolution and Development of Ayurveda Top

The science of “Ayurveda” is closely related to Hindu mythology. The main classical Ayurveda texts began with legendary accounts of the transmission of medical knowledge from various gods to sages, and then to physicians.[2] It says that medical science existed from time immemorial and God Brahma (梵天) transmitted the basic principles of this system of medicine to God Prajapathi, who, in turn, inculcated it to Aswani twins (双马童), the Heavenly physicians, who taught it to God Indra (因陀罗). Indra, in turn, taught it to Varadwaz, an earthly saint sent by other saints of the earth who were worried by witnessing numerous death of fellow human beings because of various diseases. The saints met in a world congregation to rescue humankind from the clutch of untimely death from diseases and decided to send Varadwaz to Indra. Varadwaz went to Indra who taught him the system of therapeutics in details. Varadwaz later came back to other saints, met them in another congregation and taught them what he had learnt from Indra.[3]

Initially, the knowledge of therapeutics was transmitted from generation to generation as an oral tradition. It was then recorded about 5000 years ago in Sanskrit, in the four sacred religious texts called the Vedas: Rig Veda (《梨俱吠陀》3000–2500 BCE), Yajur Veda (《夜柔吠陀》), Sam Veda (《娑摩吠陀》), and Atharva Veda (《阿达婆吠陀》1200–1000 BCE).[4]

Around 1500 B.C., Ayurveda's fundamental and applied principles were compiled, organized, and enunciated. The Atharwaveda, one of the four Vedas, contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda is said to be originated and developed from these hymns.

Ashtanga Ayurveda (阿斯汤加)

According to myth, Ayurveda had been composed by Brahma as a subdivision of the Atharwaveda. It consisted of a hundred thousand slokas or verses, comprising thousand chapters. However, considering the short span of life and limitations of the memory of human kind, he summarized the subject into eight parts known as Ashtanga Ayurveda, which are as follows:[3] (1) Shalya Tantra (外科) or Surgery: Shalya Tantra deals with the management of surgical diseases and the description and uses of various surgical instruments. (2) Shalakya Tantra (耳鼻喉科) or Eye, ear, nose and throat (ENT): It deals with the diseases of the eye, nose, ears, and throat and their treatment. (3) Kaya Chikitsa (内科) or Internal medicine: Kaya Chikitsa is the study of therapeutics of diseases of human, to be treated by medicines. (4) Bhuta Vidya (精神病学) or Demonology: It includes psychiatry and therapeutics of influence of evil spirits. It deals with the rules to perform various religious procedures for treating such conditions. (5) Kaumarabhrtya (妇产科) or Maternity and Childcare: Kaumarabhrtya is related to the treatment of diseases of infants and maternity. (6) Agada Tantra (毒理学) or Toxicology: This deals with the diagnosis and treatment of poisonous bites of snakes, insects, spiders, mice, etc.. (7) Rasayana(老年学) or the Science of Rejuvenation: It deals with the preservation of youth and prolongation of life, promoting intelligence and strength, and increasing resistance to diseases. (8) Vajikarana Tantra (生育学) or the Science of Aphrodisiacs: This deals with the treatment of sexual disorders.

  Great Literary Works of Ayurveda Top

Among the written version of Ayurveda, there are two most authoritative works still extant and need to be mentioned.

[TAG:2]Caraka samhita (《遮罗迦集》)[/TAG:2]Carakasamhita(《遮罗迦集》) [Figure 1] is a complete compendium of medical information, dealing with medical aspects such as etiology, symptomatology, treatment, and medical care in health and in disease. Written partly in verse and partly in prose, its language bears a resemblance to that of the Brahmanas. The text is the record of teaching by Ayurvedic stalwart Atreya Punarvasu to his students. There is some uncertainty about the identity of Caraka who is believed to have flourished in the sixth century B. C.
Figure 1: Caraka and caraka samhita

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Sushruta samhita (《遮罗迦集》)

Sushruta Samhita (《遮罗迦集》) [Figure 2] is another great work, equal in importance to the Caraka Samhita. This deals with the surgical diseases and diseases of the special organs such as the eye and ENT. This work is ascribed to surgery stalwart Dhanvantari. Sushruta has recorded the precepts of this puranic personage Dhanvantari. In the ancient system of medicine, surgical and medical diseases were not categorized into clear-cut divisions, as they are today. However, there were some specializations, such as medicinal practitioners, surgical practitioners, eye, and ENT practitioners. The age of Sushruta is not known. It is generally believed that Sushruta lived sometime around 600 B.C.[5]
Figure 2: Sushruta and sushruta samhita

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  Philosophy and Principles of Ayurveda Top

Five elements (五元素 Pancha mahabhuta) [Figure 3] theory of Ayurveda: According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the universe and human body are made of five prime elements or Pancha mahabhuta, namely, prithvi (土earth), aap (水water), tejas (火fire), vayu (气air), and akasha (空间/大气space/ether). Every physical object in the universe is composed of these five physical elements, which are present in different proportions in different structures of the body.
Figure 3: Five elements theory of Traditional Indian medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine

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These elements are not only to be considered as purely physical substances but also as energetic patterns. Each element has specific qualities and the following reveal how these elements manifest in the natural world:[1] (1) Earth element is cold, heavy, solid, stable, and dry. This element is exemplified by dirt. (2) Water is cold, mobile, heavy, soft, and liquid. This element is exemplified by the ocean. (3) Fire is hot, subtle, mobile, dry, and sharp. Its clearest manifestation in nature is the sun, which provides warmth to the earth and sky. (4) Space, as in the sky, is vast, cold, light, and clear. It enables all other things to have a place to take form and exist. (5) Air is dry, cold, rough, and full of motion and to understand these qualities, one may consider what it is like to be whipped by an aggressive wind.

The five elements exist at all times in all things, including all living and nonliving bodies and the whole universe. Every cell, tissue, and organ of the body is made up of all five elements. In Ayurveda, the most basic building blocks of the material world are considered to be these five elements.

[TAG:2]Three Doshas (生命能量 Triad of Constitutional Functional Correlates)[/TAG:2]

Ayurveda groups the five elements into three basic types of energy or functional principles that are present in everybody and everything. Dosha literally means fault or impurity. This is a specific word used by Caraka and Sushruta. As long as the doshas are normal in quality and quantity, they maintain harmonious psychophysiology. The moment they go out of balance, they corrupt or vitiate the dhatus (bodily tissues) leading to diseases. However, physiologically, dosha means three principles that govern the psychophysiological response and pathological changes.

These three physiological correlates are products of the Pancha mahabhuta (five elements). The five elements in the body combine in different proportions to form three constitutional principles or doshas. These are as follows: vata (风型), pitta (皮塔), and kapha (土型). They control voluntary and physiological functions of body movements and support the body in a normal and healthy state when they are in equilibrium. In an imbalanced state, they may disturb structural or functional elements of living creatures and then cause disorders and even diseases.

Thus, the tridosha plays an important role in the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases.[6],[7] The three doshas are as follows: Vata (风Bayu), Pitta (胆汁Bile) and Kapha(痰Phlegm). Vata (Bayu): Composed of air and space, it is dry, light, cold, rough, pervasive, mobile, and clear. As such vata regulates the principle of movement in the body, any bodily motion such as chewing, swallowing, nerve impulses, breathing, muscle movements, thinking, peristalsis, bowel movements, urination, menstruation, etc., requires balanced vata. When vata is out of balance, any number of these movements may be deleteriously affected. Vata is characterized by mobile nature of wind (air) energy. Pitta (Bile) is composed of fire and water. It is sharp, penetrating, hot, light, liquid, mobile, and oily. Pitta's domain is the principle of transformation. Just as fire transforms anything it touches, pitta is in play any time the body converts or processes something. Thus, pitta oversees digestion, metabolism, temperature maintenance, sensory perception, and comprehension. Imbalanced pitta can lead to sharpness and inflammation in these areas in particular. Pitta embodies the transformative nature of fire energy. Kapha (Phlegm) is composed of earth and water. It is heavy, cold, dull, oily, smooth, dense, soft, static, liquid, cloudy, hard, dense, and thick. As kapha governs stability and structure, it forms the substance of the human body, from the skeleton to various organs to the fatty molecules (lipids) that support the body. An excess of Kapha leads to an overabundance of density, heaviness, and excess in the body. Kapha reflects the binding nature of water energy. All three doshas can be found in everyone and everything but in different proportions.

Characteristics of each dosha

Vata characteristics

A vata predominant person displays the following traits:

Body constitution

Individuals of this constitutional type are lean, unattractive, have rough and dry body surface, scanty or sparse curly hair, weak, broken, indistinct voice, unsound sleep, dislike for cold, have creaking joints while moving, brisk movements, prominent veins, possess little strength, and are incapable of heavy exertion.


The appetite and digestion are often variable, going up and down, yet often lean toward “eating like a bird” and constipation.


They are infecund, vain, jealous, cruel, thievish, impulsive, ungrateful, talkative, hasty, easily excitable, easily subjected to fear, inconsistent, unsteady in friendship, and fond of music and dance. They have quick comprehension, poor memory, the habit of nail-biting, and teeth grinding in sleep, have a few friends, little wealth, short lifespan. They also tend to be creative, think abstractly and often speak rapidly with a thin, raspy, high-pitched, or crackly voice. Vata predominant people are also prone to fear and anxiety and have trouble focusing on one thing at a time.

Pitta characteristics

A pitta predominant person displays the following traits:

Body constitution

They have unpleasant look, wrinkled skin, soft, yellowish complexion, fingernails, palms, soles, palate, tongue and eyes, copper-colored lips, freckles, moles, dark spots, small eruptions, baldness or gray hair, quick setting of old age, susceptibility to stomatitis, copious urine, sweat and stools, unpleasant body odor, aversion to warmth, moderate strength, moderate sexual prowess, helping disposition, possession of wealth, and moderate longevity. They are medium build, with average height and weight. The physical features can be sharp and fiery (red hair, for example), precise and well-defined.


A pitta predominant person usually has a ravenous appetite, keen digestion, and strong metabolism and may “roar” when hungry.


A pitta nature makes one passionate, an initiator, directed, and focused. A sharp, probing intellect, and the ability to focus intently can lead such people to doggedly investigate and get to the core of a matter. This same fire can also make a pitta primary person easily irritable, fussy, quarrelsome, indomitable, angry, judgmental, and critical. Such people are seldom overcome with fear, intelligent, and have a good memory.

Kapha characteristics

A kapha predominant person displays the following traits:

Body constitution

They have a large, stout frame as a general kapha characteristic. The features are rounder, larger, thicker, and often smoother than those with vata or pitta predominance. They have oily, smooth, firm, compact, well-developed body, cheerful face, melodious voice, fond of sweet taste, good appetite, and digestion. They are strong in enduring pain or fatigue.


The appetite is consistent and regulated. The metabolism tends to be slow, and they may accumulate weight more readily and have more difficulty losing it. As the digestion can be sluggish, the suffering person may feel sleepy or tired after eating.


A kapha person may be described as “down to earth” or “solid as a rock;” there is a tendency toward being grounded, stable, patient, compassionate, and nurturing. Once a kapha grabs hold of something, he or she holds on tight – this frequently means a person with good memory and/or firm beliefs. These same qualities also make kapha persons prone to inflexibility, possessiveness, hesitancy toward change, jealousy, and inertia. They are slow in activities, slow in the formation of opinion, respectful toward superiors, obedient toward preceptors, seldom agitated or upset, broad-minded, liberal, altruistic, grateful, self-disciplined, steadfast in enmity or friendship, and they are true to their words and well-versed in science and arts. They have patience, selflessness, amiable disposition, sexual propensities above normal, possession of large fortune and prosperity, fine health, and long lifespan.

A person with dominant kapha is supposed to have uttam prakriti (superior personality and constitution), where as the one with dominant pitta is considered to have madhyama prakriti (medium constitution), and the one with dominant vata is supposed to have heena prakriti (inferior constitution).

[TAG:2]Sapta Dhatu ( 七层体组织 Seven Basic Body Tissues)[/TAG:2]

Dhatu means tissue which holds the organs together, the constructing and cementing material of the body. They are bound with body organs, hence considered to be structural constituents. They remain in equilibrium in normal health; their imbalance leads to various disorders and if ignored, can prove fatal. Dhatus are made of sthayi (permanent) and asthayi (temporary) constituents. The permanent constituents consist of basic tissues that support the body, provide structural unity, and are lasting. The temporary constituents nourish, sustain, and maintain the permanent constituents. The tridosha (kapha, pitta, vata) influence the constituents through their activities. Disturbance in any of the tridosha is manifested in body constituents and the dhatus become impaired.

There are seven dhatus (body tissues), namely rasa (血浆plasma), rakta (血液Blood), mamsa (肌肉muscle), meda (脂肪fat), asthi (骨bone), majja (骨髓,神经组织bone marrow, nerve tissue), and shukra (精semen)/artava (卵ovum). They have specific functions in the body. Rasa nourishes the body, strengthens blood, and vitalizes the mind. Blood nourishes flesh, gives bright and clear complexion and invigorates life processes. Flesh promotes body strength and nourishes fat tissue. The body unctuousness comes from fat tissue and it generates the steadiness of the limbs, nourishment of the bone tissue, and perspiration. Support of the body and nourishment to bone marrow are given by the bone tissue. Bone marrow occupies bones, gives body strength, promotes sperms or ova, and enhances sexual interest. Specific disorders are the result of increase or decrease in the quality and quantity of these constituents.

The upa-dhatu, the secondary constituents, are the by-products of the seven constituents, namely, breast milk, menstrual blood, tendons, blood vessels, fat, ligaments, teeth, hair, etc., Mala (waste products or excretions) are the by-products of dhatus. All the properties of dhatu are applicable to mala. Excretions in their normal measure are related to normal state of health. Abnormal change in the volume, color, compactness, and smell of mala are indicative of disorders.[6],[7]

Prakriti (体质 body constitution)

This the inherently balanced constitution of a person. The three doshas, representing five elements, are present in everyone to some degree. They are all the integral parts of the body constitution. Every person is born with his/her own unique dosha balance, with individual differences. This is known as prakriti of a person.[1]

The combination and proportion of vata, pitta, and kapha of everybody are determined by the genetics, diet, lifestyle, and emotions of the parents among other factors, at the time of conception. The combination of the three doshas, which forms the person's constitution and is set at conception, is the prakriti, which is simply the unique psychophysical makeup and functional habits of a person.[7]

Vata, pitta, and kapha are each essential to our physiology in some way. Each of them has a very specific set of functional role to play in our body. When they are out of balance, one gets sick. Some people are dominant in one principle – either vata, pitta, or kapha while others have two doshas that come to the fore, though one of the two is often primary. Still, others possess a fairly equal balance of each vata, pitta, and kapha (this is called tridoshic), though this is rare.

How to determine one's constitution (Prakriti): The constitution of an individual is determined as to what are his qualities, tendencies and proclivities – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Does he possess a predominance of one of these doshas? Or does he find that the qualities of one come forth strongly, while he also displays a number of characteristics relating to another dosha? This is also regarded as Ayurvedic blueprint of a person.[1]

Vikriti (失衡 imbalances)

Vikriti is the imbalances in the constitution, one's current imbalanced state. In Ayurveda, all ill health is viewed fundamentally as a dosha imbalance (called vikriti). Dosha imbalances can manifest in various stages, from a general feeling of “something is not right” all the way to diagnosed illnesses with serious complications. To treat this imbalance, Ayurveda presents vast modalities of treatment but whatever the treatment, the goal is to reestablish the person's natural balance of vata, pitta, and kapha.

To achieve this balance, Ayurveda focuses on two key principles: Removing the exiting cause and treating the lingering imbalance with the opposite.

An ayurvedic practitioner works with these two principles, providing an in-depth analysis and skillful selection of the vast modalities of treatment to create a customized health restoring plan.

Vyadhi (疾病 disease) and its etiological factors

Vyadhi is a condition that causes discomfort to the body and mind. Vyadhi is produced by three factors, namely, asatmendriyartha samyoga (Incompatible contact of the sense organs and the sense objects, leading to the stressful transaction), Prajnaparadha (Errors of judgment or willful excesses in conduct), and Parinama or kala (Impact of time in terms of seasonal variations and aging).

The main etiological factors of disease are Hina (inadequate or poor), Mithya (improper or perverse), and Ati (excessive) association, contact or union of kala (season), artha (object of senses), and karma (activities or functions). Disequilibrium of the doshas gives rise to rogas (disorders). The resulting disorders may again be Nija (Endogenous syndromes arising from the body itself, having internal etiological factor), Sadhya (Curable), and Asadhya (Incurable) types. They are further subdivided into Susadhya (Easily curable) and Krichra (Curable with difficulty), Yapya (Controllable but not curable), and Anupakarma (Nonresponsive to any type of therapy, Fatal).[6]

Examinationof the patient

Examination of the patient in Ayurveda is performed through observation, inspection, palpation, olfaction, auscultation, examination of body temperature, pulse, and tongue. There are six kinds of tastes to be tasted, for example, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Each taste is a composite of two elements. For example, sweet is earth + water.[6]

Chikitsa(治疗 treatment)

There are varied modalities of treatment in Ayurveda. The type and nature of the disorder determine the mode of therapy. Charaka described three types of treatments, Daiva vyapashraya (卜卦治疗Divine therapy), Satva vajaya (精神治疗Psychotherapy), and Yukti vyapashraya (理情治疗Rational therapy). The treatment includes not only drugs and diet but also nondrug measures such as Satva Vajaya Chikitsa (psychotherapy).

Before commencing any treatment, it is necessary to determine the type of disorder; whether the disorder is Nija (Endogenous, arising from internal cause like the imbalance or aggravation of doshas) or Agantuja (Exogenous, caused by trauma or external factors). The agantuja types sometimes need urgent medical intervention, which, if delayed, may lead to complications or deterioration of health, even to the death of the patient. These are called the Ashutva (emergency) disorders. Head trauma, severe bleeding due to accident, sudden environmental changes, injuries caused by hard objects such as thorns, pointed stones, bones, and metallic substances. Shalakya treatment (surgery) is also recommended for some of these conditions. The branch of surgical treatment pertaining to acute conditions is termed as Ashu-Atyayika (Disorders of emergencies). Charaka and Sushruta had discussed these in detail.

Trisutra ayurveda

Ayurveda has two main medical objectives. One is to prevent disease and promote health, the other is to treat diseases.

To achieve these objectives, one has to know that ayurvedic therapeutics consists of three main components (Trisutram), Hetu (病理学Etiology), Linga (症状学Symptomatology), and Aushadha (治法Therapeutic measures).[8]

Hetu (etiological factors)

Classically, the main etiological factors are the result of improper application of intelligence, inappropriate use of the sensory faculties, and disturbed qualities of the seasons.

Linga (symptomatology)

Symptoms and signs of a disorder indicate the organs affected, nature, and severity of the disease; they also guide the practitioner to select the remedy.

Aushadha (therapeutic measures)

Therapeutic measures are divided into two categories: measures for healthy individual to maintain and improve health and measures for sick individuals to be cured of disease. Ayurveda emphasizes prevention more, but when a person is ill, early treatment of the disease is recommended.

  Therapeutic Measures Top

Ayurvedic way of treating a patient is a complex approach. This includes not only rational treatments but it also considers some unexplainable measures, some subtler aspects in the causation and treatment of diseases. Basically, there are three approaches in Ayurvedic treatment, Deva vyapashraya Chikitsa (Divine therapy), Satva vajaya (Psychotherapy), and Yukti vyapashraya chikitsa (Rational therapy).

Deva vyapashraya chikitsa (divine therapy)

Man is affected not only by perceptible etiological factors but also by certain imperceptible factors. Man often commits certain actions against laws of nature for which he often suffers diseases not responding to conventional treatment. Then, the Deva vyapashraya approach is applied to treat such conditions. This includes “mantras” (religious recitation), prayers, and certain rituals to intensify spiritual feelings and thinking.

Satva vajaya (Psychotherapy)

Mind plays a important role in the causation and treatment of diseases. The positive role of mind helps in fast recovery while negativity accelerates the disease process. Satva vajaya is defined as restraining the mind from harmful objects, i.e., negative thinking, negative beliefs, negative memories, etc., This is achieved through meditation and yogic thinking.

Yukti vyapashraya chikitsa (Rational therapy): This includes mainly three approaches as follows: Nidana Parivarjanam (Avoidance of causes), Samsodhana (Correction), and Samsamana.

Nidana Parivarjanam is an approach to treat diseases by avoiding the activities and the food which favor the disease process. For instance, a troublesome disease like migraine can be treated simply by avoiding Pro-Pitta-Vata foods such as sour, pungent, and hot foods. The avoiding of provoking mental factors such as anger, anxiety, grief, and alike will add to the benefit. Avoidance of Pro-Kapha-Vata food (all cold things) is certainly helpful to the patient of asthma which is caused by vitiation of these Doshas.

Samsodhana is to remove some harmful things from the body. This includes removal of Doshas by certain therapeutic measures and surgical removal of some harmful things from the body. Ayurveda has developed certain measures to mobilize the Doshas and other harmful factors from the body by Snehana (Oleation) and Swedana (Fomentation) to bring them to alimentary canal and then to expel them through Vamana (Therapeutic emesis), Virecana (Purgation), Niruha (Enema with plants decoctions), and Anuvasana (Medicated oily enema). To clean cranial structures being most complicated, special measures of Nasya (Nasal treatments) are suggested. These five cleaning procedures are known as “Pancha karma” (Five measures) which is very effective to eradicate as well as prevent diseases.

Samsamana, a palliative therapy applied when the patient is not able to undergo Samsodhana treatment, is also used after Samsodhana treatments. This includes Ahara (Wholesome food), Vihara (Wholesome activities), and Aushadha (Medicaments).

In Ayurveda, the main source of medicaments is plants. Minerals and animal products are also used, but they are generally used after being processed with some plants. In Ayurveda, anything which cures a disease without producing new disorder is medicine. Ayurveda is a wisdom that cannot make one immortal but it can bring one close to an excellent state of well-being, not only at physical and mental level but also at spiritual level that can lead to a feeling of immortality.[8]

[TAG:2]Yoga (瑜伽)[/TAG:2]

In the continual process of transformation of lifestyle and beliefs, the ancient Indians also developed a unique health, self-disciplined, and self-promotional approach called Yoga. It is a physical and meditational exercise that generates the desire to help humans achieve their highest potential of life.

Yoga was mentioned in the Vedas 7000 years ago. Patanjali, the distinguished stalwart of yoga, wrote one of the most important books on yoga about 4000 years ago.[9] Yoga consists of many postures which varies from sitting and lying to various movements, aimed at toning up the body which stimulates certain “Chakras” (reflex centers) and “Nadis” (blood vessels) for gaining full vitality. Each posture can be divided into three main categories, such as body movements, control of mental activities, and respiration techniques.

Suchi veda or marma chikitsa (针刺 needlepuncture)

Ancient India had also a needle pricking treatment in the name of “Suchi Veda” in its indigenous traditional therapeutics about 3000 years ago. This “Suchi Veda” was a subsidiary to the religious book Vedas.[9] However, this practice did not flourish as the herbal medicinal treatment did. Furthermore, there is no record of its consistent use in early or late Christian era, including middle ages.

Different types of instruments made of stone, bone, or metals were used to puncture different parts of the body in Suchi Veda, to treat various ailments. The word “Marma” was used as pricking points in Ayurveda texts. Ayurveda stalwarts Caraka and Sushruta also knew many critical points in the body which were known as “Lethal Marma” which were often used by the martial art experts as well as the physicians to save patients from critical health conditions.[10] Marma points (Ayurvedic pressure points) are important pressure points on the body, much like acupuncture points. One finds the first reference to them in the Atharva Veda, and they were elaborately dealt with by the ancient scholar Sushruta. Like Chinese acupuncture points, marma points are measured by the finger units relative to each individual.

  Comparison between Traditional Indian Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine Top

Traditional Chinese medicine

According to Encyclopedia Britannica(《大英百科全书》), TCM is a system of medicine at least 23 centuries old, that aims to prevent or heal disease by maintaining or restoring yin-yang balance. The earliest known written recordof Chinese medicine is the Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) [Figure 4] from the 3rd century BCE. This is the oldest received work of Chinese medical theory, compiled on the basis of shorter texts from different medical lineages. Written in the form of dialogues between the legendary Yellow Emperor(黄帝) and his ministers, it explains the relation between humans, their environment, and the cosmos, on the contents of the body, on human vitality and pathology, on the symptoms of illness, and on how to make diagnostic and therapeutic decisions in light of all these factors. That opus provided the theoretical concepts for TCM that remain as basis of its practice today.[11],[12]
Figure 4: Huang Di Nei Jing(《黄帝内经》Inner Canon ofthe Yellow Emperor)

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Huangdi's work takes the theories of yin-yang (阴阳), five elements (五行), zang-fu (脏腑), meridians and collaterals (经络), mentality and spirit (心神), qi and blood (气血), body fluid (体液), seven emotions (七情) , and six exogenous pathogenic factors (六淫) as the basic knowledge of TCM, and acupuncture and moxibustion (针灸) as the main therapeutic technique. It explained the physiology and pathology of the human body, the principles of diagnosis, the prevention and treatment of diseases from the perspective of atheism, holistic conception, the viewpoint of development and change, and the relationship between the human body and the natural environment. This laid a theoretical foundation for Chinese medicine and pharmacology, including acupuncture and moxibustion.[13]

In essence, traditional Chinese healers seek to restore a dynamic balance between two complementary forces, yin (passive) and yang (active), which pervade the human body as they do the universe as a whole. According to TCM, a person is healthy when harmony exists between these two forces. Illness, on the other hand, results from a breakdown in the equilibrium of yin and yang.[12]

TIM and TCM may be compared as follows:

Origin of traditional Indian medicine and traditional Chinese medicine

The origin of TIM or Ayurveda is related to Hindu mythology, which says Ayurvedic medicine is divine in origin. God Brahma transmitted it to humankind through other gods and human sages. It was later only improvised and added by other stalwarts of Ayurveda in different era on the basis of their own experiences. In the beginning, it was transmitted to sages in meditation, later through verbal transmission from generation to generation. It was first recorded in written version about 5000 years ago in Sanskrit, in the four sacred texts entitled the Vedas. There are two great literary works of Ayurveda still extant, written about 600 B.C, namely, Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita.

TCM is human in origin and was developed empirically in ancient China by practitioners of different era and was transmitted from generation to generation as a tradition. In the written record, acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies date back at least 2200 years, although the earliest knownwritten work of Chinese medicine is the Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) from the 3rd century B.C.[12]Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) is the most important ancient text in Chinese medicine as well as a major book of Daoist theory and lifestyle. The text is structured as a dialog between the Yellow Emperor and one of his ministers or physicians, most commonly Qibo (岐伯), but also Shaoyu (少臾).[14] According to a 2006 overview, the “Documentation of Chinese materia medica (CMM) dates back to around 1100 B.C. when only dozens of drugs were first described. By the end of the 16th century, the number of drugs documented had reached close to 1900. Moreover by the end of the last century, published records of CMM had reached 12,800 drugs.”[15]

Basic principles of traditional Indian medicine and traditional Chinese medicine

Ayurveda and TCM have many commonalities. The focus of both systems is on the patient rather than on disease. Both systems fundamentally aim to promote health and enhance the quality of life, along with therapeutic strategies for the treatment of specific diseases or symptoms in holistic fashion.

Almost half of the botanical sources used as medicines in TIM and TCM have similarities; moreover, both systems have similar philosophies geared toward enabling classification of individuals, materials, and diseases.

Ayurveda holds that the universe is made up of combinations of the five elements (Pancha mahabhutas). These are akasha (space), vayu (air), teja (fire), aap (water), and prithvi (earth). The five elements can be seen to exist in the material universe at all scales of life and in both organic and inorganic nature. In biological system such as humans, five elements are coded into three forces, which govern all life processes. These three forces (kapha, pitta and vata) are known as the three doshas or simply the tridosha. Each of the doshas is composed of one or two elements. Vata is composed of space and air, Pitta of fire and water, kapha of water and earth. Vata dosha has the mobility and quickness of space and air; pitta dosha has the metabolic qualities of fire; kapha dosha has the stability and solidity of water and earth. The tridosha regulates every physiological and psychological process in the living organism. The interplay among them determines the qualities and conditions of the individual. A harmonious state of the three doshas creates balance and health; an imbalance, which might be an excess (vriddhi) or deficiency (kshaya), manifests as a sign or symptom of the disease.[16]

TCM considers the human at the center of the universe as a sensor between celestial and earthly elements. Wood, fire, earth, metal, and water are the five elements of the material world. The world is a single unit and its movement gives rise to yin and yang, the two main antithetic aspects. The actual meaning of the term yin and yang is “opposites but interconnected,” such as the positive and the negative. However, TCM considers that yin and yang are not absolute but relative. Consistent with the modern view of homeostasis, yin and yang are interchanged to meet the view that “yang declines and yin rises” or “yang is raised to produce a decline of yin.”

The four bodily humors (qi, blood, body fluids and essence) and internal organ systems (zang fu) play an important role in balancing the yin and yang in the human body. The proper formation, maintenance, and circulation of these energies are essential for health. When the two energies fall short of harmony, the disease develops. The physician takes into account this concept while treating patients. Herbs, acupuncture, and moxibustion are usually used to correct this imbalance of yin–yang in the human body.

As of relation of the five elements with the organ system of the body, TIM theorizes that all the five elements constitute every tissue, every organ, whereas TCM ascribes one element to one organ, namely wood to liver, fire to heart, etc.

Diagnostic methods

In TIM, examination of the patient is conducted through observation, inspection, palpation, olfaction, auscultation, examination of body temperature, pulse, and tongue. Out of these, palpation of the pulse is a very important step of examining patients and concluding a diagnosis.

In TCM, there are four diagnostic methods, namely, (i) inspection, (ii) auscultation and olfaction, (iii) inquiring and (iv) palpation(望闻问切), to comprehend the pathological conditions of the patient. They cannot be separated but relate to and supplement one another. Inspection of tongue and palpation of the pulse are considered two important steps in the examination and diagnosis of the patient. Diagnostic methods of extrapolation and conjecture are similar in TIM and TCM.

Yoga and qigong (气功)

Yoga is a unique health, self-disciplined, and self-promotional approach. It consists of many postures aimed at toning up the body which stimulates certain “Chakras” (reflex centers) and “Nadis” (blood vessels) for gaining full vitality. Each posture consists of certain body movements, control of mental activities, and respiration techniques. Yoga is a modality to gain positive health and mental tranquility to achieve the highest level of self-realization.

Qigong, literally life energy cultivation, is a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality, and martial arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, qigong is conventionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi or life energy. According to Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian philosophy, qigong allows access to higher realms of awareness, awakens one's “true nature,” and helps develop human potential.[17] Here, both TIM and TCM emphasize the cultivation of life energy and spirituality to achieve the highest potential of man.

Suchi veda and acupuncture

Suchi veda or treatment by pricking with needle was a part of Ayurveda since ancient times. Different types of instruments made of stone, bone, or metal were used to prick the body to treat various diseases, as in the early history of acupuncture. The word “Marma” was used as pricking points in Ayurveda texts, much like acupuncture points of the TCM. Like Chinese acupuncture points, marma points were measured by finger units relative to each individual.

The meridian or energy channel system such as “Dhamini” (动脉arteries), “Sira” (静脉veins), “Srotan” (main meridians), and “Nadis” (collateral vessels) have also been described in Ayurveda. Nadis penetrate the body and run from head to feet distributing vital energy, like Qi in TCM, all over the body. According to Indian philosophy, Marma points (like acupoints) are hollow depressions beneath the skin surface which regulate the flow of vital energy throughout the body and act as step-up transmitters maintaining the right flow of energy without fluctuation.[10]

According to TCM, the meridians and collaterals are pathways in which the qi and blood of the human body are circulated. They pertain to the zang-fu organs interiorly and extend over the body exteriorly, forming a network and linking the tissues and organs into an organic whole. Acupuncture points are the specific sites through which the qi of the zang-fu organs and meridians is transported to the body surface. They are also the loci of response to diseases.

There is a lot of resemblances between Ayurvedic nadis and TCM meridians, which may be compared as follows [Table 1].[9]
Table 1: Relationship between Ayurvedic Nadis and TCM Meridians

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It is worth noting here that though Suchi veda was a modality of TIM in ancient India, there is no record of its consistent practice afterward throughout the Christian era and middle ages. There is a record of dissemination of Chinese acupuncture in India in the 6th century,[13] but its use was also not persistent afterward, till it was re-introduced in India in the mid-twentieth century, by a Chinese trained Indian physician in 1959.[18] Currently, the practice of acupuncture is fast developing in India, and recently, its central government also declared state recognition to acupuncture as an independent system of therapeutics in the health-care system of the country.[19]

  Conclusion Top

TIM and TCM are both great and age-old traditional medicines. Both are based on concrete philosophical and theoretical foundation; enriched by thousands of years of study and practice of many authors and stalwarts of medical science both of ancient and modern era. Each system has been serving humankind to get rid of sufferings of illness, prevent human beings from being diseased and to improvise the health to the desired level.

As India and China are both neighbors, it may be presumed that an exchange of therapeutic ideas were likely to have occurred along with cultural exchange between them since prehistoric era. Therefore, some sort of similarities have been observed in some of the theories, philosophy, and practice of their systems of medicine, along with individual differences.


The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarilyrepresent the official views of the funding agency.

Financial support and sponsorship

Shanghai Planning of Philosophy and Science: 2018ZJX007

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Where does Ayurveda come from? Available from: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/where-ayurveda-come-from. [Last accessed on 2019 Mar 20].  Back to cited text no. 4
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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

  [Table 1]

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