Gentle Purge: The Flower Power of Āyurveda

Charles Leslie and Allan Young

in Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 1992 | ISBN: 9780520073173
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520910935 | DOI:
Gentle Purge: The Flower Power of Āyurveda

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In contemporary practice in South Asia, as well as in Ayurvedic therapies exported to the West, practitioners avoid using emetics or drastic purgatives. All violence has disappeared from medications aiming to cleanse the patient's humoral system. Neither red (the red of bloodletting), nor black (the black of chemical oxides) was regarded, but rather green—the green of herbs freshly gathered, a symbol of nonviolence, became the desired method: this was the new motto of Ayurveda's flower children. This chapter discusses recent alterations of classical doctrine, in order to reveal the significance of catharsis—both purification and purgation—in historic Ayurveda. It cites Sanskrit texts in the discussion. A hitherto unknown literary piece of evidence is also presented, which illuminates the division of the ancient medical profession into: physicians who act by means of the scalpel, forceps, and evacuants; those who act by means of baths, poultices, massages, and soothing drugs; and those who prescribe regimen and diet.

Keywords: humoral system; flower children; classical doctrine; purification; massage

Chapter.  6493 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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