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Ayurveda: The Science of Life

Originating from the two Sanskrit words, ayus (life) and veda (science), Ayurveda is an ancient healing system originating in the Indian subcontinent that relies on herbs for maintaining good health. Historical records suggest that the journey of Ayurveda began in India more than 5,000 years ago, and this traditional system of healing has influenced both Unani humor therapy conceptualized by Hippocrates and ancient Chinese remedies.

The science and practice of Ayurveda are narrated in ancient texts, of which the Charaka Samhita is the principal resource. The Charaka Samhita refers to a large collection of Hindu sacred texts called the Vedas. Written in the Indus Valley area around 1000 BC in Sanskrit, the Charaka Samhita is a treatise on general medicine. This strongly suggests the probability that Ayurveda, though of pan Indo-European origins, had begun to evolve into a distinct entity within the Indian subcontinent by the first millennium BC.

Vedic philosophy believes that human beings are all a part of nature. Just as animals and plants are interdependent on each other to create balance within their beings, there is a concurrent and inherent connection between the universe and human beings. Unlike the animal kingdom, human beings live in a more complex, natural world where they are perpetually exposed to environmental changes. Changes in weather, society, economy, lifestyle, diet, work, financial status, emotions and relationships can easily tip the balance and negatively influence an individual's state of mind, body and soul.

According to Ayurvedic texts, the human body comprises three body states which include Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata consists of the elements air and ether, which give us movement and activity. Pitta includes the elements fire and water, which are responsible for heat, appetite and digestion, and Kapha is characterized by the elements earth and water, which are responsible for water and other bodily fluids. When the three body states are in perfect harmony, the individual enjoys good health, whereas an imbalance in the states causes disease. Ayurveda seeks to address this state of imbalance through a process of holistic healing.

Herbs are at the heart of Ayurvedic medication. Whole flowers, roots, stems and leaves are manually processed in various ways to discover their optimal potential. Over 15,000 herbs are mentioned in the scriptures of which only around 850 are commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine today. One of the most commonly used herbs in Ayurveda is Neem. Described as sarva roga nivarini or that which keeps all diseases at bay, Neem supports the body's natural defense system. Apart from Neem, Ginger, Amla and Ashvagandha, among others, feature highly in the list of important plants in this traditional medicinal system.

Historical records suggest that Ayurvedic medicine has paved the way for various branches of medicine practiced today. Susruta Samhita, another revered Ayurvedic text, mentions nine branches in Ayurveda-general medicine, surgery, ear, nose and throat (ENT) and eye disease, toxicology, psychiatry, pediatrics, gynecology, sexology and virility. Some texts also reveal that ancient natural healers delved into plastic surgery.

Drawing from this incredible history, Himalaya's mission is to contemporize Ayurveda and develop safe and effective products to improve quality of life.

Contemporary Ayurveda / HimalayaScience

Dating back 5,000 years, Ayurveda or the 'science of life' is one of the oldest systems of natural healthcare in the world. Sometimes referred to as a bioscience, its chief aim is to cleanse the body of substances that cause disease, thus helping to re-establish harmony and balance. Primarily botanical, Ayurveda focuses on addressing key foundations that pertain to health and disease—the body's constitution (prakriti) and natural forces (doshas).

In the modern world, Ayurveda faces the tough challenge of making a traditional medicinal system relevant today. The answer lies in the Charaka Samhita, one of the most revered Ayurvedic texts. It reads:

"Undoubtedly there exists no limitations for (the application of) Ayurveda. Henceforth one should be vigilantly, incessantly perseverant to apply this science. This is the duty of (physician, manufacturer, user) all who want to utilize this science. In order to ensure professional development in this field one should be open to receiving (information) without indignation to others (sources)...For having observed this the wise should listen and adopt such things which are wholesome, agreeable, life-giving, promoting and contemporary."

Charaka Samhita 4.8.14. (Circa 1500 BC)

The text suggests that Ayurveda needs to evolve with time. It needs to understand changing environmental circumstances and address healthcare needs accordingly. The Charaka Samhita encourages learning and assimilating the best from other forms of healthcare systems. A synergistic union between modern and traditional medicine will provide the best healthcare available to patients. This 'hybrid', synergistic system of medicine is practiced by Himalaya. We call it contemporary Ayurveda.

Our founder, Mr. M. Manal, believed in the potential of herbs and of the various benefits of traditional medicine. However, he also believed that in order for traditional medicine to be widely accepted, it needed to be credible. Credibility of drugs can be achieved through scientific validation.

Himalaya's first drug, Serpina®, the world's first natural anti-hypertensive, was born four years after its initial discovery. Four years were spent on clinical trials, scientific validation and in discovering the process of making tablets. Mr. Manal believed that in order to make herbal medicine mainstream, it would need to follow allopathic protocols during development and be available in a widely accepted format like tablets or syrup. This is the only way in which Ayurveda could become relevant.

Taking inspiration from this legacy, today Himalaya scientists and herbalists spend years researching the therapeutic benefits of herbs. We use over 250 herbs in our products, and each day we study many more. As soon as new benefits of herbs are discovered, we update our herbal monograph, a guide that gives a basic description of the herb and lists its chemical constituents, actions, clinical uses and recommended dosage. It's a job requiring patience and passion. After that, a great deal of time is spent authenticating the herb, isolating its active marker, testing its therapeutic property and validating safety and efficacy. The whole process can take anywhere on average between seven to ten years. We believe that no investment is too much when it comes to developing safe and efficacious products. We use the most advanced technology available to determine the accuracy, safety and efficacy of drugs during the development process.

The results of our clinical trials are published in leading medical and peer-review journals. The backing of empirical evidence and analysis further lends validation to our products. Today, over 400,000 doctors prescribe our products both as an adjuvant and as the first line of treatment.

At Himalaya, contemporizing Ayurveda means making the system of traditional healthcare mainstream. Taking our cue from the Charaka Samhita, we have imbibed the knowledge of modern medicine in our products, and followed allopathic protocols to develop well-researched, safe and efficacious drugs.

Research and Development Center

Himalaya has invested in a state-of-the-art Research & Development (R&D) center in Bangalore, India, which encompasses over 80,000 square feet of space. The center is ISO-9001: 2008 certified.

We have a team of more than 200 physicians and scientists working in our R&D facility. Our scientists come from disciplines as diverse as analytical chemistry, formulation and development, phytochemistry, new drug discovery, novel drug delivery systems, pharmacognosy, preclinical toxicology and pharmacology, invitro mutagenecity, clinical pharmacology and agriculture. This vast and diverse background of the R&D team gives us unique insights into the world of herbs, helping us understand, discover and develop breakthrough products.

The use of advanced technology ensures accuracy, efficacy and safety of each and every product. For example, we use the liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS) method during herb testing. LCMS separates each molecule from a given extract and helps identify its chemical nature. This technology is used in the specific detection and potential identification of chemicals in the presence of other chemicals in a complex mixture. The advantage of using LCMS lies in the fact that it is an extremely accurate method of analyzing the total marker profile of a given extract. The technology helps our scientists to standardize all compounds in a given herbal extract before the product is developed.

In March 2001, we were granted a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certificate, issued by the Licensing Authority, Directorate of Indian Systems of Medicine, Bangalore, India. Himalaya is the first Ayurvedic facility to get GMP certification in India. We have also been granted the Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) certification. A GLP certification is granted to manufacturing companies that adhere to the toxicity guidelines in nonclinical safety studies. The certification is granted by the National Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) Compliance Monitoring Authority, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. Only 26 institutions in India have been granted this certificate, and Himalaya is the first herbal company to have joined ranks with these institutions.

Himalaya's R&D center is affiliated with one of India's leading universities, The Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Health Sciences in Bangalore, and is recognized as a Center for Research by the Government of India's Department of Science and Technology. We work closely with the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore to develop new therapeutic drugs, build a corpus of knowledge on herbs and protect endangered herbs and plants.

We have partnered with the Ras Al Khaima Medical Health & Science University, a leading university in the United Arab Emirates, to promote joint research collaboration in herbal medicine including clinical trials, joint conferences, faculty and student exchange programs, and joint research and publications.

The R&D Center is a vital institution of higher learning. Several PhD students from universities across India conduct their research at our center under the supervision of Himalaya scientists. This is a great opportunity for us to engage with bright minds of the future and be inspired by their ideas and enthusiasm.