Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Where is traditional medicine headed?


Where is traditional medicine headed?
-       Jagannath Chatterjee

Today one is generally at a loss to see where traditional medicine headed. I would like to list a set of woes that shake the very basis of the Govt's AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) initiative;

1. The AYUSH courses are treated as being inferior to what modern medicine has to offer. As a result there is a major compromise in what is being taught in these institutions. All the AYUSH branches have a strong theory of disease behind them. The adulteration is taking place exactly in this sector. As a result the students are treating disease based on the theories of modern medicine instead of being based upon miasms or body constitutions as envisaged in AYUSH sciences. 

In an article Dr Binayak Sen says how tuberculosis and acute diseases have combined to take deadly shapes. In a mail I saw Dr Prabir Chatterjee talk of syphillis being behind some difficult to handle acute diseases. In another an epidemiologist reflects similarly about the malarial condition that sets in after an attack  or repeated attacks of malaria. I have also heard concerns in some medical forums that even proper nutrition may not have the required impact in curbing IMR.  

AYUSH initiatives like homeopathy are based upon disease categorisations called miasms or disease layers. Homeopathy for example has psora, syphillis, sycosis (suppressed gonorrhea), tuberculosis, vaccinosis, iatrogenesis etc as conditions which shape diseases in individuals and a proper cure is not established unless the underlying miasm is identified and addressed. Generally it is seen in homeopathy that the person's troubles do not leave him/her and he/she is not restored to health unless the underlying miasm is targeted and eradicated.

Similarly the Vata, Kapha and Pitta constitutions of ayurveda. Unless the underlying constitution is addressed a proper cure is not established and the person remains susceptible to disease.

If the courses offered under AYUSH do not pay proper attention to the underlying theory and inculcate it strongly in the students we have lions without claws or tooth, practically useless practitioners who have no faith in their own system, who cannot effect cures and arrive at the wrong conclusion that their system is at fault.

2. Lack of proper institutionalised research is another stumbling block. Homeopathy for example is based upon symptoms. But due to various reasons the normal symptoms of diseases have been disrupted, and disrupted thoroughly. Rarely does a patient present him/herself with classic symptoms unless one is practicing in a remote rural setting. Based on their own intuition and personal endeavours individual homeopaths have come out with effective solutions. However due to the lack of an institutionalised base, such efforts are not being researched into, standardised and incorporated into curriculum's.

There are also traditional and family practitioners who have evolved very effective systems, particularly in Unani and ayurveda. We have seen no effort to study and document such methods and again incorporate them into courses. In homeopathy we have some excellent documentation by early homeopaths like Nilamani Ghatak and Biswas in India but these books are fading into oblivion due to lack of patronage. 

3. Due of the lack of adequate hospitals AYUSH doctors are forced to complete their internship in modern hospitals adding to the confusion within them.

Because of the above reasons we are seeing a steep fall in numbers of classic AYUSH practitioners and consequently a fall in cases of cures, particularly of chronic diseases which is the real forte of AYUSH. Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy have the potential to cure many a chronic disease that is considered incurable by modern medicos.

4. There being no mechanism of appointing AYUSH doctors because of lack of will or other pressures we have ayurveds and homeopaths practicing modern medicine at various clinics. Worse, many of them are now employed in the vaccination drive of governments! AYUSH abhors vaccination because of various valid reasons that lie central to their view of disease and its effective cure. Cure is central to most AYUSH disciplines.

It is very important that certain basic tenets are adhered to. All steps should be taken to revive the purity of AYUSH initiatives. They are not being taken mostly because of vested interests and corporate fears. But we should ensure that there is an effective back up when we reach a stage when modern initiatives reach a limit. There is also the need to alleviate the suffering of mankind particularly the coming generations.

AYUSH has the potential to play an important role in protection from disease, reducing IMR and MMR rates, and improving community health if senior practitioners and well wishers are consulted and allowed to have a say in vital matters. 

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