Tracing the history and evolution of Indian medicine is a complex enterprise. Continuities of doctrine and practice rarely occur, preventing historians from positing an unbroken succession of development from earliest time. Until now most commentary has focused on later stages of Indian medical science that feature approximate analogies to the Hippocratic and Galenic systems. This volume looks back to the earliest period (1200-200 B.C.) in which a clearly discernible medical tradition can be ascertained, providing a comprehensive analysis of the healing lore contained in the ancient Vedic texts.
The book is divided into two sections. The first examines the various internal and external diseases that afflicted the Vedic people and the treatments used to cure them. Zysk includes translations of particular hymns devoted to the eradiction of specific illnesses and to the consecration of medicines. The second part encompasses textual annotations to the individual hymns together with extensive cross-reference to other Vedic texts, and a valuable bibliographic essay. Without minimizing its magical religious roots, Zysk shows how Vedic medicine relied on close observation of phenomena in order to develop its unique form of mythical and religious classifications as well as how the healing system reveals a basic understanding of the relationship between humans and their environment.