There are three principal early texts on Ayurveda, all dating to the early centuries of the Common Era. These are the Charaka Samhita, the Sushruta Samhita and the medical portions of the Bower Manuscript (a.k.a.. the Bheda Samhita). The relative chronology of these texts is not entirely clear. The Charaka Samhita is often cited as primary; although it survives in a recension of about the 4th or 5th century, it may be based on an original written between 100 BCE and 100 CE, which would have predated the other two texts. The Sushruta Samhita was written in the 3rd or 4th century. The Bower Manuscript is of particular interest because in this case the manuscript itself is ancient, dated to the early 6th century. The earliest surviving mention of the name Sushruta is from the Bower Manuscript. The medical portions of the Bower Manuscript constitutes a collection of recipes which are connected to numerous ancient authorities, and may be based on an older medical tradition practiced during the Maurya period, antedating both the Charaka and the Sushruta Samhitas.
The Bower Manuscript is also of special interest to historians due to the presence of Indian medicine and its concepts in Central Asian Buddhism. A. F. R. Hoernle in his 1897 edition identified the scribe of the medical portions of the manuscript as a native of India, using a northern variant of the Gupta script, who had migrated and become a Buddhist monk in a monastery in Kucha. The Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien (ca. 337–422 AD) wrote about the health care system of the Gupta empire (320–550) and described the institutional approach of Indian medicine, also visible in the works of Charaka, who mentions a clinic and how it should be equipped.
Other early texts, sometimes mentioned alongside the Sushruta, Chakaka and Bheda texts, are the Kasyapa and the Harita samhitas, presumably dating to the later Gupta period (ca. 6th century). Ayurvedic authors of the 7th or 8th century include Vagbhata and Madhava.
Underwood & Rhodes (2008) hold that this early phase of traditional Indian medicine identified "fever (takman), cough, consumption, diarrhea, dropsy, abscesses, seizures, tumours, and skin diseases (including leprosy)". Treatment of complex ailments, including angina pectoris, diabetes, hypertension, and stones, also ensued during this period. Plastic surgery, couching (a form of cataract surgery), puncturing to release fluids in the abdomen, extraction of foreign elements, treatment of anal fistulas, treating fractures, amputations, cesarean sections, and stitching of wounds were known.The use of herbs and surgical instruments became widespread.
The field of Ayurveda flourished throughout the Indian Middle Ages; Dalhana (fl. 1200), Sarngadhara (fl. 1300) and Bhavamisra (fl. 1500) compiled works on Indian medicine.
The medical works of both Sushruta and Charaka were also translated into the Arabic language during the 8th century. The 9th-century Persian physician Rhazes was familiar with the text. The Arabic works derived from the Gupta era Indian texts eventually also reached a European audience by the end of the medieval period. In Renaissance Italy, the Branca family of Sicily and Gaspare Tagliacozzi (Bologna) are known to have been influenced by the Arabic reception of the surgical techniques of Sushruta.
British physicians traveled to India to see rhinoplasty being performed by native methods.Reports on Indian rhinoplasty were published in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1794. Joseph Constantine Carpue spent 20 years in India studying local plastic surgery methods. Carpue was able to perform the first major surgery in the western world in 1815. Instruments described in the Sushruta Samhita were further modified in the Western World. Joseph Constantine Carpue based on this article was able to perform the "Indian" method of nose reconstruction and publish it in 1815.;