During my medical school years, I read some of the Ayurvedic texts, translated from Sanskrit into English, that described a wide range of therapies: herbs and plant extracts, metals, and bloodletting for various maladies. The vedas, among which Ayurveda is only a small component, were both the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Bible of ancient Indian civilization. They were rooted in religion but con tained a great deal of practical information and advice for everyday living. A number of Ayurvedic and related remedies have been "discovered" and subsequently used in Western medicine, including digitalis (digoxin) for congestive heart failure, rauwolfia alkaloids to extract reserpine (used to treat hypertension in the 1950s and 1960s), and several plant extracts with anticholinergic properties (to treat diarrhea, for example).
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