Everything in the universe is a medicine

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa S, B.A.M.S

Incident 1

‘I will give you one year’s time. At the end of the stipulated time, get me something which is not a medicine. Your time starts now!” – said Guruji to his disciples. This was a test for all his students, an ultimate one, to see and analyze how far they have learnt, how intelligent they are and how good a physician each one can be. 

At the end of the stipulated time, all the students assembled at the Ashram. Each student was having one or the other thing in their hand. They were ready to present what they had got to their teacher and prove that it would not serve the purpose of a medicine and hence cannot be used as medicine. 

Each student finished with their presentation. The teacher was sitting silently, not giving his opinion straightaway. He was all ears. Finally the teacher spotted that face he was searching for. This disciple of his was standing at the back of all other students, hiding his face all the while. He was the last one left out. He was standing with his head bent. He did not have anything in his hand. All other students started laughing at him. The teacher called him. ‘Please come to me, my child. What have you got?’. The student reached the teacher, fell on his feet and said ‘Guruji, I am empty handed. Sorry, I disappointed you’. The teacher stood up and lifted the young man holding his shoulders. He lifted his disciple’s chin. Tears rolled down on the cheeks of the disciple. The teacher asked him, looking straight into his eyes. ‘Why did you not get anything? You had all the time in the world. It was a simple test’. The disciple said – ‘Respected Teacher, I did not find anything; I mean anything…which cannot be used as a medicine. I realized that the creation is so beautifully designed by the almighty that everything he has created is with a purpose and everything can be used as a medicine when skillfully thought about it’. 

The smile of pride on the face of the teacher silenced the sarcastic crowd of pupils. The teacher tapped on the back of his disciple who had not brought anything. This guaranteed the rest of the crowd that their teacher was expecting ‘exactly this’ and that ‘one among them’ is absolutely right. Then came a loud cheer of appreciation from his fellow mates. The disciple smiled. 

The master acknowledged the brilliance of his disciple and declared ‘Yes, everything in this creation can be used as a medicine; you just need that intention and vision’. 

The disciple in this story is popularly known to the Ayurveda world by the name ‘JIVAKA’. 

Jivaka was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha and was also a physician for the latter and his disciples. Jivaka is also designated as the ‘first ever neurosurgeon’ known to Ayurveda and humankind. He was believed to be the first ever physician to have conducted craniotomy. 

Incident 2 – centuries later

One of the teachers I know was talking on a given topic on the dais, in a conference which I too attended. I was amidst the audience watching him do the talk. He too quoted in the flow of his presentation ‘everything in this world is a medicine and nothing escapes this rule’. 

One notorious student raised his hand. ‘Excuse me sir. How do you justify human feces as medicine?’ he said, with a naughty smile on his face with an arrogant surety that he has trapped the professor in his own words. 

The ‘Professor’ gave a smile and said – ‘I guess being an Ayurveda student you have heard about Vamana, the therapeutic emesis?’

The student nodded with an arrogant sarcastic smile. 

The professor continued. ‘There are some patients in whom the emesis cannot be induced or emesis doesn’t happen easily in spite of all preparation and having been administered with proper quantity of emetic medicine. Get the human feces close to such patients. The sight and smell would cause disgust in them and they would immediately vomit. Human feces my dear, can be used as vamanopaga – an emesis stimulant’. 

There was a deafening cheer in the auditorium. The applause of appreciation to the great wisdom of a senior teacher for such a hit-back reply was expected. The questioner too couldn’t resist. His clap came with the loudest sound. He was embarrassed beyond doubt. On the other hand his eyes showed that he had realized what he had done and was apologetic. But the calmness and serenity on the face of the teacher was noteworthy. He nodded at the student gracefully. 

The act of the student could have been considered as contempt amidst elite gathering but the great Guru had dealt with it in a witty way. We all had a lesson to carry home at the end of the session. 

In the first story, the disciple said something which got the applause of his teacher and colleagues. I had heard that story. Centuries later I became the witness of a similar story. The difference was that here it was the teacher who said the same thing and received thunderous applause from his students and colleagues. I learnt ‘JIVAKA COMES IN DIFFERENT FORMS’ to keep the basics and fundamentals of Ayurveda alive. 

The moral of the story in both instances is the same. ‘Everything you think of in this creation is a medicine. The creation has multiple healing devices and points. Our vision needs to be greater’. 

Master Vagbhata’s Version 

Well, now look at what our own Master Vagbhata tells us. 

न किञ्चिद्विध्यते द्रव्यं वशान्नानार्थयोगयोः॥अ.हृ.सू.९/१०॥
na kiñcidvidhyate dravyaṃ vaśānnānārthayogayoḥ||a.hṛ.sū.9/10||

Meaning – ‘Nothing in the universe exists (not even a small thing) which cannot be used as a medicine. A proper and precise knowledge of each and every substance in the creation enables one (the physician) to administer them as medicines in various forms and to derive multiple benefits (healing effects) from them’. 

To sum up, Master Vagbhata tells ‘Everything in this universe is a medicine’. 


With this knowledge and awareness, when we look around us, every component of the materialistic world seems to work like a medicine, assigned and designed to be a part of the healing system. 

The universe is created from the five elements of nature and every single thing has these elements in varying proportions. The human body too is created from the very same elements of nature pierced with a life element – the atma. The food substances and medicines, herbs and plants and the animal kingdom – all are made up of five elements of nature. They compensate for the panchabhautika (five elements) imbalances in the body and help in the healing process, prevention of diseases, growth, restoration, rejuvenation and balance of health. So, most of the medicines are panchabhautika in origin. 

Plants, trees, soil, water, fire, air, space, meat, stones, fruits, seeds, grains, vegetables, leaves, flowers, roots, shoots, animal products like milk and derivatives of milk (curds, butter, ghee etc), hairs, nails, metals, minerals, gems, horns, urine, oil, ghee, everything can be used as a medicine. 

Master Vagbhata says that a proper understanding of each and everything surrounding us is very much essential in putting these things into various forms of usage in the form of medicine / therapy and also to derive many kinds of beneficial results from using them in the treatment process. The benefits are in the form of relief and cure for the patients and establishing health in them and a self satisfaction of achieving the same. Prevention and cure of diseases in an ailing person and maintenance of health in healthy individuals is the motive of Ayurveda treatment and it is the primary responsibility of any Ayurveda physician to work towards achieving the same. In doing so he shall put anything in the creation which can be used as medicine into use and procure the desired results. For a physician who is a visionary and skilful ‘anything and everything in the universe is a medicine’. 

Read nore: Ayurvedic Medicine: Introduction, Importance, Types and Myths

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