For many Indians, Ayurveda represents a traditional system of holistic approaches to good health, practiced since generations. With the advent of the more conventional ‘scientific medicine’ or ‘Biomedicine’ or ‘Allopathy’, Ayurveda has retreated into what is now popularly known as ‘alternative medicine’.
The 25 July 2016 issue of Current Science includes a compilation of nine articles under a SPECIAL SECTION on INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE (IM) that focuses on the integration of the methods of Ayurveda with classical biomedicine. These articles, authored by various medical experts, both from India and outside, discuss the benefits of such an integrative approach, the current healthcare scenario in India– emphasising the role of government policies, and the challenges that exist in implementing strategies that can combine the best of both worlds.
Dr S R Narahari and Dr M Guruprasad Aggithaya, from the Institute of Applied Dermatology, Kerala, and Dr. Terence J Ryan, from the Dept. of Dermatology, University of Oxford, UK, state the importance of collaborations between practitioners of Ayurveda and Allopathy in developing protocols for managing diseases using Integrative Medicine, in the preface to this special section. Ms Sanju Arianayagam from the Dept. of Dermatology, University of Oxford, UK, in her article ‘Disorders of pigmentation of the skin–hypotheses underlying interventions by multiple systems of medicine: is there a role for integrated medicine?’ explains, using the skin as an illustration, how various factors play a part in physiological processes and diseases and how “Biomedicine that seeks single causes is reductionist in its approach to therapy and often ignores the synergism that characterises cellular biochemistry.”
Touching upon topics such as Ayurvedic intervention in the eradication of leprosy, treating of skin diseases, promoting sleep quality in patients with generalized anxiety disorder and co-morbid generalized social phobia and the reverse pharmacology approach for drug discovery employing insights from Ayurveda, particularly in the context of the treatment of arthritis, the authors agree that an integrative approach involving Ayurveda is no doubt beneficial, especially when combined with biomedical therapy. A successfully developed IM protocol by a ‘Multi System Medical Team’ at the Institute of Applied Dermatology (IAD), for managing lower-limb lymphoedema, with proven clinical results, sets the standards for developing protocols for conducting evidence-based clinical studies to develop new IM therapies for chronic skin diseases.
India’s current position on the regulation of Ayurvedic practice, research and education, however, requires an extensive revaluation and amendments, so as to fit into the current standards of health administration and patient care. With dedicated collaborative efforts from researchers, doctors, educators and policy makers in the field of Ayurveda one can envision a future where integrative medicine, incorporating Ayurvedic methods, plays important roles in the restitution of health in the cases of many, suffering from various chronic ailments.
The special section on integrative medicine published in Vol. 111(2) on 25 July 2016 can be freely accessed via the link provided here. The section has received a mention in Deccan Herald and The Wire and these articles are available via the following links: