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Alternative System of medicines in India

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Published: 1st Aug, 2019

Alternative System of medicines in India

  • The first full-fledged department for Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeophathy (ISM&H) was created under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. In March 1995.
  • This department was, in November 2003, renamed as Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Nauropathy, Unant, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH).
  • A fully independent Ministry of AYUSH was formed in November 2014. In 2002, the Government of India also formulated the National Policy on Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy.
  • The current National Health Policy of India has proposed functional linkages of AYUSH at all levels of health systems, including service delivery as well as work force.

India and Alternative System of Medicine

There are currently three broad classification of alternative medicine system being practiced in India. They are :

  • Traditional Medicine (TM): The sum-total of the knowledge, skill and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.
  • Complementary Medicine (CM) or Alternative Medicine (AM): A broad set of healthcare practices that are not part of that country’s own tradition or conventional medicine and area not fully integrated into the dominant healthcare system.
  • Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM): T&CM merges the terms TM and CM, encompassing products, practices and practioners.

Different types of Alternative system of medicines in India

  • Ayurveda: The Ayurvedic System of Medicine evolved nearly 5000 years ago (3000 BC). The word Ayurveda means ‘Science of Life’ and employs treatment modalities, such as purification, palliation, prescription of various diets, exercises and the avoidance of disease causing factors.
  • Unani Medicine: Unani Medicine originated in the Arab world. Unani medicine treats a patient with diet, pharmacotherapy, exercise, massages and surgery. It was introduced in India around the 10th century AD.
  • Homeophaty: The word ‘Homeopathy’ is derived from the Greek words, ‘Homois’ meaning ‘similar’ and ‘pathos’ means ‘suffering’. It originated in Germany and was introduced in India around1810-1839.
  • Homeopathy is based on the law of healing- “similia SimilibusCurantur’ which means ‘likes are cured by likes’. It uses highly individualized remedies selected to address specific symptoms or symptom profiles.
  • Siddha: This system has originated in India and is amongst the oldest systesof medicine in the country. It takes into account the patient, his/her surroundings, age, sex, race, habitat, diet, appetite, physical condition etc. to arrive at the diagnosis.  Siddha System uses minerals, metals and alloys and drugs and inorganic compounds to treat the patients. Unlike most T&CM, this system is largely therapeutic in nature. Siddha literature is in Tamilnadu.
  • Sowa-Ripa: The word combination means the ‘science of healing’ and its considered one of the oldest living and well-documented medical traditions of the world. It originated from Tibet and is widely practiced in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and Russia.
  • Yoga & Naturopathy: The concepts and practices of Yoga are reported to have originated in India. Naturopathy or the naturophatic medicine is a drugless, non-invasive system of medicine imparting treatments with natural elements based on the theories of vitality, toxemia and the self-healing capacity of the body as well as the principles of healthy living. The common naturopathy modalities include counseling, diet and fasting therapy, mud theory, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, acupressure, acupuncture, magnet therapy and yoga therapy.

 Siddha system

  • The term ‘Siddha’ is derived from the root word ‘Siddhi’ which means ‘an object to be attained’ or ‘perfection’. The Siddha system of medicine owes its origin to medicinal ideas and practices of a class of Tamil sages called the Siddhars – ‘perfected’ or ‘holy immortals’.They had firm faith in the ‘deathless’ physical body being in tune with the spiritual immortal ‘soul’,  

Basic Human Principles – 96 Thathuvas  Five Elements  

  • The primordial elements are called panchamaha bootham, namely mann (earth), neer (water), thee (fire), kattru (air) and aagayam (space)

I.  Three Humours

  • To regulate the living body easily the five primodial elements were concised into three humours namely vazhi (vadham or air), azhal (pittam or heat) and Iyyam (kapha or cold), When humours are in natural equilibrium and harmony, a person enjoys the best of health.
  • The first one third of one’s life is considered as vazhi period where a person grows physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.
  • The second one third of ones life is considered as azhal period where life is considered to be in the maintenance phase in physiological condition.
  • Finally, the last one third of one’s life is physiologically attributed to Iyyam period or the destructive/senile phase of one life. 

II.  Five Sheaths (Kosham)

  • The nature of being human encompasses physical and psychological aspects that functions as one holistic system.
  • The kosham system refers to different aspects as layers of subjective experience. They are paruva udambu – annamaya kaosham (food- apparent-physical sheath), vali udmambu pranaamaya kosham (air-apparent-sheath), mana udambu- manomaya kosham (mind-apparent sheath), arivudambu – vijnanamaya kosham (wisdom-apparent-Intellectual sheath) and inba udambu – anandamaya kosham (bliss-aparent sheath).

III. Ten Pranic Air (Vayus)

  • These ancillary vayus are not just responsible for physiological function but also contribute to the psychological and spiritual component.
  • Siddha Therapy :The foremost substance given for an imbalance of three humours or illness is of herbal origin.   

Homeopathy System of Medicine

  • Homeopathy is an age-old system of healing, with its discovery dating back to 1796. It was discovered by a German doctor, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, in his discontentment with the then medical practices and lack of cures. Homeopathy is a nature-based system that treats holistically as well as individually, by way of stimulating one’s own immunity capable to fight an illness.

Homeopathy In India

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) data suggested that Homeopathy is currently the second largest system of medicine in the world.
  • Homeopathy in India  Homeopathy came to India in 1810 when Dr. Johm Martin Honigberger, a French traveler who learnt homeopathy from Dr. Hahnemann, visited India and treated patients.
  • He treated Maharaja Ranjit Sigh, the-then-ruler-of Punjab, with a homeopathic remedy Dulcamara while he suffered from paralysis of the vocal cords.
  • Babu Rajendra Lal Dutt (1818-1889) may be called the Father of Indian Homeopathy.

Benefits of Homoepathy

  • The principles that Homeopathy works on include such nature-based, pragmatic facts, like treating a person holistically, through a single, simple medicine, prepared in a dynamic manner, and prescribed in a dosage that is just enough to stir up the self-healing mechanism of your own body.
  • One of the potential aspects of Homeopathy is that it addresses these conditions in a patient successfully, that too with single, or at the most with two medicines.
  • Homeopathy treats the multi-morbid person as a whole, which works on bringing back the biological functions in order, thereby addressing them all, and thus helping the patient holistically and simultaneously improving his/her general well-being.
  • Homeopathy has been covered under AYUSH Mission. Homeopathy medicine system due to its low cost is a better alternative medication system. Homeopathy has proven strength in the treatment of allergic disorders, skin diseases, children’s problems, several so-called surgical problems like piles, tonsillitis, sinusitis, menstrual disorders, life style diseases and common mental and emotional disorders.

Unani System Of Medicine: The Science Of Health And Healing

  • Unani medicine, also called Unani tibb, Arabian medicine, or Islamic medicine, a traditional system of healing and health maintenance observed in South Asia. The origins of Unani medicine are found in the doctrines of the ancient Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen. It is a comprehensive medical system, which meticulously deals with the various states of health and disease.

Principles of Unani Medicine

  • Temperament (Mizaj) of a patient is given great importance in diagnosis and treatment of disease with natural remedies derived mostly from plants.
  • Temperament is also taken into consideration for identifying the most suitable diet and lifestyle for promoting the health of particular individual.
  • Unani system of Medicine considers the entire universe including human beings, disease, drugs, environmental factors etc. to be intrinsically defined by four primary qualities – Hot, Cold, Dry and Wet.
  • These qualities are reflected in all the basic concepts of Unani System of Medicine such as elements, temperament and four humours, which are used for describing and correlating human health and disease with promotive and curative factors e.g. diet and drugs.
  • While diagnosing and treating a disease, Unani System of Medicine looks holistically into the overall physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a person.
  • Unani System of Medicine has the importance of psychiatric treatment in the management of various diseases. Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM) under the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India has, over the past three and a half decades, emerged as the leading research organization in Unani Medicine. India has emerged as the world leader in Unani System of Medicine.

Naturopathy: The Science Of Health And Wellness

  • Naturopathy is a traditional system of healing based upon natural principles that govern life, living and health. The references of such principles can be found in the scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads and Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Naturopathy is called a drugless system of healthcare based on well-founded philosophy and practices. Its main emphasis is on holistic approach to health, covering not only physical but also the mental, moral and spiritual aspects.

Salient Feature Of Naturopathy

  • Naturopathy practice educates the patient in health matters. Naturopathic practices are easy to follow and can be integrated systematically in the daily routine of people.
  • Naturopathy believes that all living beings in nature stay healthy as long as they are tuned with the natural laws.
  • Naturopathy is recognized and promoted as an independent system of healthcare under the ambit of AYUSH.
  • Naturopathy believes that entire universe is composed of five basic elements Panchamahabhutas Eather (akasha), Air (vayu), Fire (Agni), water (jala) and Earth (prithvi) and so is the human body.
  • Imbalance of these elements creates disease. The diseases can, therefore be treated by the appropriate use of these elements and such treatments are called Prakritik Chikitsa or Naturopathy.

Therapeutic Modalities Used in Naturopathy:

The main therapeutic modalities of Naturopathy employed for preventive promotive and curative purpose are following

  • Upvas Chikitsa (Fasting Therapy)
  • Aahar Chikitsa (Diet Therapy)
  • Mitti Chikitsa (Mud Therapy)
  • Jala Chikitsa (Hydro Therapy)
  • Malish Chikitsa (Massage Therapy)
  • Surya Kiran Chikitsa (Helio Therapy)
  • Vayus Chikitsa (Air Therapy)
  • Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy)

Promotion of alternative system of medicine in India has not only made the world aware about rich Indian cultural heritage but also opened new ways to ancient medicine system of Ayurveda, Siddha, Sowa-Ripa, Homeopathy and Unani system to reach the global audience. It will further aid India to consolidate as medical tourism hub and emerge as the world’s leader in this field. Cheap medication and treatment will further attract more medical tourists from under developed and developing countries. As a whole India, in future can aid the world to achieve Sustainable Development Goal of “Good Health and Well Being” (SDG 3).


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