Strictly speaking the traditional Indian medicinal system is synonymous with ayurveda. Today when people in India refer to traditional cures they allude to diverse forms of healthcare that broadly include ayurveda, homeopathy, unani, naturopathy, chiropathy and Chinese and Tibetan medicine, among others. These traditional cures can be grouped under the umbrella term alternative medicine.
The biggest difference between western medicine and alternative medicine is the manner in which they view the body. While doctors and surgeons in the west treat the body as a conglomeration of organs and systems, doctors from the alternative medicine filed look at the body, mind and spirit as a whole. Unlike most medical practices in the west, alternative medicine often seeks a deeper cause of illness instead of simply addressing the symptoms. The basic foundation of alternative medicine is simple – it is about harmony of the body, mind and spirit in order to promote health. This idea of balance is as old as the healings arts themselves. Alternative medicine practitioners usually do not prescribe drugs or perform surgery. They believe in nature and the body’s ability to heal itself. Consequently the focus is on illness prevention and doctors in this field are as much engaged in the prevention of illness as they are in its treatment. In addition, patients are counseled in terms of required lifestyle changes that can reduce or eliminate the risk of illness.
She is of the opinion that the theory of harmony and balance, which is the ethos of alternative medicine, is both its biggest strength as well as a formidable disadvantage. This theory at one very important level means that diseases cannot be examined and treated at a mere molecular level. This relegates the scope of scientific research (at least in a straitjacketed sense) in this domain. On the other hand western medicinal systems like allopathy that have originated at a much later period have always been characterized by extensive and invasive research. It is human psychology to accept systems and processes that have a scientific explanation. This probably is one of the reasons why while allopathy has propelled mass acceptance globally till recently traditional medical systems were considered obscure esoteric and shrouded in mysticism.
However of late there has been in this opinion across the world.
While it is difficult to pinpoint exact reasons it can be safety said that the growing awareness among people across the world to rely less on chemicals and toxins and more on nature is major reason that has attributed to a resurgence of interest in these age old systems. Today the healing methods of the east are gaining acceptance world over not just as an alternative line of treatment. They are also being integrated into main stream healthcare as complementary systems.
Although traditional medicine cannot replace modern medicine as far as diagnosis investigation and emergency are concerned, certain alternative systems, which focus on overall health, have shown remarkable and swift results even in chronic illnesses such as diabetes and leucoderma as well as hard to cure diseases like arthritis, asthma and even AIDS.
Incidentally the World health organization (WHO) has assessed the total market for alternative at a whopping Rs 51,210 crore. The marketer for herbal remedies alone is pegged at five trillion dollars with an annual growth of 11 percent. This translates to a vibrant future for India as far as alternative medicine is concerned. Home to over 15,000 medicinal plants and one of the 12 leading bio-diverse countries of the world, India is undoubtedly sitting on a veritable green mine. Awakening to this potential the government announced a separate national policy for the Indian Systems of medicine and Homeopathy (ISM &H) a few years ago. This was done with a view to boost and promotes indigenous medicine. Plans are also afoot to modernize the Hospitals specializing in Indian System of Medicine (ISM).
However, the lack of formulation and standardization is a major problem that plagues this fledging industry. For instance there are as many as 4,000 recorded ayurvedic formulations combining different herbs and metals. These need to be identified and analyzed and put through a series of tests before they can be released in the market. However, in recent years extensive research and development has been initiated to address this problem.
Some of the major centers in India that are playing pivotal role in improving teaching patient care and research in terms of alternative medicine include national Institute of Unani medicine Bangalore, National Institute of Homoeopathy Calcutta, national Institute of naturopathy Pune, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, new Delhi, National Institute of Siddha, Chennai and Rashtriya Ayurveda Vidyapeeth, New Delhi.
Like other forms of medicine the minimum qualification for most courses in traditional medicine is +2 with PCB (physics chemistry and biology) However, for unani, siddha, and Tibetan medicine arts and humanities students can also apply. Additionally for pursuing a course in ayurveda one needs to be well versed in Sanskrit / Hindi while for unani some knowledge of Arabic / Urdu is a must. Similarly for studying the siddha system one requires at least a working knowledge of Tamil.