The vaidya is a doctor. He diagnoses, and then creates a treatment plan that includes internal medicine, and external oil and herb therapies. Depending on the strength of the patient, the treatment is either palliative - shamana - or deeply purifying - shodhana (this typically is panchakarma treatment). The vaidya does not do the therapies himself, but follows the progress of the patients and adjusts the course of treatment if needed. Treatment typically takes a long time, several weeks to over a month, and often needs follow-ups of similar length. The cure rates are very high. I was told of great success rates with different kinds of cancer, paralysis, Parkinson's, auto-immune disease, digestive disorders, menstrual disorders, joint disease, diabetes... Cured without taking any synthetic medication. Ayurveda's pharmacology is plant-based, with the addition of some alchemy, purified metals for their strong metabolic action. Ayurveda treats the whole person, and a vaidya knows how to access the heart and the spirit of the patient. The curative side of Ayurveda is not that developed yet here in the US. Ayurveda is complementary medicine, and is used mostly as a preventative, offering a lifestyle that can keep you well and healthy.
In India, an Ayurvedic doctor has been through medical school, having studied the ancient textbooks and methods, along with modern anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. Often they have a personal guru as well - a vaidya who has learned Ayurveda in the traditional way, not in medical school, but gurukula style, meaning directly from a teacher/guru, being in a lifelong apprenticeship. Only brahmins were allowed to become vaidyas back then, and they were trained from a very young age on. The vast text books were learnt by heart, so that the knowledge became ingrained, and always accessible. Their lifestyles, as brahmins, made them very sensitive and intuitive. From an early age they assisted with patients and witnessed their teachers, so they developed a deep holistic understanding of people and their disease patterns. This type of learning is slowly disappearing in India, but some of the modern-day vaidyas try hard to preserve this tradition.
One initiative of a group of visionary doctors, resulted in Vaidyagram, an Ayurvedic hospital in Tamil Nadu, South India, that has recreated the healing environment prescribed by Charaka, in the Ayurvedic medical textbook Charaka Samhita. At Vaidyagram the patients's food is organically grown, as are the plants for the medicine. The insects, birds and other creatures in the environment are allowed their share of the crops. The food is personalized and always freshly cooked. Treatments are done by loving therapists. The doctors are reassuringly accessible, and offer morning prayers, meditation, restorative yoga, cooking and many other classes and activities. Because of how Vaidyagram is set up, no waste is created. The patient blocks are made of sundried clay bricks. Ventilation through skylights, screened doors and windows allows for coolness without airconditioning. It's way out in the country, where the air is clean, and it is very quiet. This is a blueprint for a holistic hospital.
Ayurveda is very alive in India. More alive than it has been in many years. This has a lot to do with the growing interest from the West. We are catching on to the profound healing science and tradition Ayurveda is, and that way wake up India to its rich and wonderful heritage.