Sunday, 26 May 2013

Ayurveda, the centuries-old practice of medicine gears up to face the world

On Sunday May 26, 2013, a diverse group of some of the top practitioners of Ayurvedic Medicine from across the country and other parts of the world will be forming an association for 'Scientific Evaluation of Ayurveda' to take the centuries-old practice of medicine to the larger scientific community for their approval.

The ancient stream of medicine that has been practiced for several centuries in the Indian subcontinent, despite its popularity among a small section of society, has so far failed to become a part of mainstream healthcare in the country that follows western system of medicine, popularly known as allopathy.

“The main objective of this association would be form a common language in which we will be able to take Ayurveda to the scientific community for their evaluation. We have our own system of diagnosis and treatment that is different from western medicine. To gain global acceptance, we need a common language that the rest of the world will understand and that will be the first objective of the association,” says Dr. P. Ram Manohar, Director of the Ayurveda Pharmacy (AVP) Research Foundation based out of here.

Several research initiatives have been taken in the past on providing Ayurvedic solutions to ailments that do not that respond as well to western medicine. Dr. Daniel Eric Furst, an eminent rheumatologist from the University of California, Los Angeles led the first ever USA-funded clinical trial to test efficacy of Ayurveda in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis.

“A pilot study that I have conducted with 15 patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis by treating them with Ayurvedic medicine has proven to be as effective, if not more, as western medicine. But, we need to conduct a much larger study to conclude affirmatively on the effectiveness of Ayurveda,” he says.

According to Dr. Daniel, Ayurveda is still perceived outside India as just exotic massage and a concoction of herbs.  “A lot more research needs to be done and they need to well documented to be able to convince the scientific community across the world on the benefits of this stream of medicine,” he says.

The root of the problem, many senior ayurvedic practitioners say, lies in the fact that there has not been any real funding or political will to take this study of medicine forward unlike in neighbouring countries like China where there is a lot of research on Chinese traditional medicine. “For large clinical trials, we need more funds and unless someone is willing to realize funds to conduct a proper study, we cannot establish much,” says a senior practitioner of Ayurveda.

Prof. Martin Mittwede, an indologist and an expert in Sanskrit who has been involved in the medical historical research of Ayurveda, claims that this stream of medicine is more holistic than western medicine.
“While it might not be able to replace western medicine, what we will see in the future is an integration of the two streams to make better quality healthcare. There are some areas where Ayurveda works better,” he says.

Dr. Ram Manohar cannot agree more. He says that a large part of their research has been to provide integrated health care for patients. “The unique advantage India has is that we have various medicinal practices that co-exist with each other. Efforts should be made to blend the best of each and provide best quality healthcare,” he says.

It's all about restoring a natural balance in the simplest possible manner, say practitioners

Although all streams of medicine from across the world have the common objective of providing a cure for ailments, this ancient Indian practice is one based on restoring a natural balance for the human body which, Ayurveda practitioners claim, is the primary cause for ailments.

“Broadly Ayurveda classifies the human body into three humors – vada (lower part of the body ), pitta (middle portion) and kapa (upper part of the body).  These three components vary from person to person and the treatment also varies based on the composition of the individual body,” says Padmashree Dr.  P. R. Krishna Kumar, MD, Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP).

He says that a person feels ill whenever there is an imbalance in the harmony between the various parts of the body. “Ayurvedic therapy restores that balance through diet, medication and lifestyle changes. Our medicine is prepared to the needs of every individual and not the regular over-the-counter medication,” says. Dr. Krishna Kumar. “It is a preventive stream of health care i.e. if you live a lifestyle suggested by your ayurvedic physician for your unique physical and mental type, you will not fall ill,” he adds.

One of the constraints that practitioners of this stream of medicine find is that they hardly get the best brains in the country. “Until a few years ago, most of the students we got were those who could not get seats anywhere else. Unless we get the best brains into Ayurvedic research, it is not possible to improve this science. Fortunately, over the last two to three years, we are gradually seeing a change were bright students want to pursue this stream of medicine,” Dr. Krishna Kumar says.

Top Ayurvedic practitioners point out that what they really need is political patronage which has been glaringly missing for this native stream of medicine. “If the government encourages our Indian practice of medicine, we can take Ayurveda to the global healthcare industry in a much bigger way,” says another senior practitioner.

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