One out of the eight branches of Ayurveda, Shalakya Tantra deals with the etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, prevention and treatment of diseases that are located above the neck region such as the head, ear, nose, eye and throat. It is responsible for all types of problems in and around the head. The name of the branch is so called because of its excessive use of ‘Shalaka’, which means probe. In South India, the branch is also known by the name – Urdhwangchikitsa. The word can be broken into two parts – Urdhwang which means the body parts above the shoulder and Chikitsa which signifies treatment. In Shalakya Tantra, there are different types of probe that are included. Some of them are probe of the eye (netra shalaka), probe of the ear (karna shalaka), probe of the nose (nasa shalaka), of the throat (mukh shalaka) and of the lips (oshta shalaka).
The process of Shalakya Tantra includes different techniques that are applicable for the treatment of all the problems. The main aspects of Shalyakya tantra is described in the ancient ayurvedic texts such as Sushrut Sanhita, Charak Sanhita and Ashtang Hruday. The books mainly deal with treatment of different types of conjunctivitis and glaucoma, along with surgical procedure of the removal of cataract and cosmetic surgery such as rhinoplasty and auroplasty (repair of traumatized nose and ear). Apart from the above mentioned complicated problems and of treatment, the three samhitas – Charaka, Susruta and Astanga Hridaya, recommend simple home remedies for minor problems, such as dryness of eye, wax in ear, migraine and mouth ulcers etc. which are being successfully administered even today.
Approximately 72 diseases of the eye are discussed by Sushrut Sanhita, including surgical procedures for cataracts, conjunctivitis, pterygium, pre-glaucomatic condition and glaucoma and diseases of the iris/pupil. The branch is not just revolved around the problem and the treatment, but also deals with general aspects. Talking about the eyes, it describes the structure of the eyes in a way that all the intricate things are also dealt with, as in modern science. Surgeries such as hinoplasty and auraplasty have also been mentioned in the texts for cosmetic reasons. The three books, Charak Samhita, Sushurut Samhita and Ashtang Samghrah, also mention the methods regarding the general care of the eye and ENT structures. In addition to this, Shalakya Tantra has listed 25 diseases of the ear, 18 diseases of the nose, 11 diseases of the lips, 1 disease of the lymph glands, 23 diseases of the teeth, 6 diseases of the tongue, 8 diseases of the palate, 18 diseases of the throat-pharynx-larynx and 8 diseases of the oral cavity.