Kerala, located in the south-western edge of the Indian Peninsula, is known throughout the world as the land of coconut trees, a place with many rivers and backwaters and of course, as the land of Ayurveda. With the backing of rich cultural background and traditions, Kerala has been able to preserve authentic Ayurveda as well as make some impressive contributions of its own.
During the thriving period, Ayurveda was dominated by eight families who considered it as their family profession. They were called the Ashtavaidyas (Eight physicians) and were well-versed in Vaghbata’s Ashtanga Hridaya. Each of them specialized in one of the eight branches of Ayurveda and helped in keeping the traditional art of healing alive and dynamic. Even now there are families in Kerala which have the history of offering Ayurvedic treatments for generations.
Kerala’s masters of Ayurveda who practiced Shodhana Chikilsa developed treatment methods such as Dhara, Pizhichil and Njavarakizhi. The introduction of 'Dharapati' is a contribution of Kerala. Moreover, Kerala was secular in its healthcare system like the present day and was successful in transcending the caste barriers in the medical field scenario.
Probably due to the influence of Buddhism, many temples of Kerala became centres of healing. The visitors from other parts of the world were fascinated by Kerala’s achievements in medicine and astrology. Marcopolo, a great explorer from Italy, was known to have great reverence for the physicians and astrologists of Kerala. Hortus Malabaricus, the Dutch work of literature, gives a detailed analysis of the medicinal properties of plants in Kerala and is a testament of the development of Kerala in the field of medicine.
One of the many available Ayurvedic therapies in Kerala is massaging. Massaging is offered here as a method of rejuvenation as well as a treatment. It gives relief from pains and aches, increases blood circulation, enhances immunity, rejuvenates the body and relaxes the mind.
Marma chikilsa, a procedure similar to the Chinese acupuncture, is an advanced form of massage and is widely utilized by Kalaripayattu (Kerala’s martial art) experts for improving flexibility.
The physicians in Kerala were also proficient in Vishachikilsa or Toxicology, what with the large number of snake bites in the state. Medicines like gorochanadi Kompanchade used in the cure of fever, epilepsy, treatment for smallpox and other infectious fevers, Gajachikitsa (Treatment for elephants) are also some of the unique contributions of Kerala to Ayurveda.
Kerala has also assisted the growth of Ayurveda by means of the many comprehensive books and treatises such as Rasavaiseshikam, Rasopanishat, Tantrayukthivichara, Vaidyamanorama implying the level of knowledge possessed by Kerala physicians.