The word 'Ayurveda' comes from the Sanskrit word 'ayur' meaning 'life' and 'veda' meaning 'to know'. Ayurveda means 'the science of life', and is a medical system practiced in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It deals elaborately with measures for healthy living through the entire span of one's life.
Ayurveda is considered the 'upaveda' or accessory Veda to the Atharva Veda, which is the first Hindu text on medicine and is the fourth book of the Vedas. The four Vedas are the world's oldest literary documents in an Indo-European language.
Interestingly, Ayurveda's mythological origins are attributed to the Indo-European Nasatya or Aswins, twin physicians of the gods of the ancient Indo-European pantheon. Four thousand year old references to the Nasatya are found in the now extinct, Hurrian and Hittite languages in Turkey and in the Sanskrit language in India.
A classic Ayurvedic text that parallels the time frame of the Atharva Veda, is the Charaka Samhita. Written in the Indus Valley area around 1000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) in Sanskrit, it is a treatise on general medicine. This strongly suggests the probability that ayurveda, though of pan Indo-European origins earlier, had begun to evolve into a distinct entity within the subcontinent by the first millennium B.C.E.
Ayurveda's lasting influence in the non Indo-European sphere began after the rise and spread of Buddhism in the 6th century B.C.E. Buddhist monks introduced Ayurveda to China, Tibet, Korea, Mongolia and Sri Lanka, leaving a lasting legacy in their medical systems.
More recently, the German translation of an Ayurvedic text that dates back to less than 1000 B.C.E., the Susruta Samhita, contributed to modern medicine the discipline of plastic surgery. Susruta mentions eight branches in Ayurveda - General medicine, Surgery, ENT and Eye diseases, Toxicology, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Gynecology, Sexology and Virility.