Amid the tussle between the Indian Medical Association and Patanjali’s Baba Ramdev, a study has revealed that the rate of recovery was high in patients who were administered a combination of modern and Ayurveda medicines when compared to those who received only modern medicine. The Ministry of AYUSH and the Central Council of Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) have distributed Ayush-64 medicines to various COVID care centres in Gujarat. This will be administered to patients at various stages in combination with allopathy. So far patients have shown better and faster recovery.
Does this mean that the two schools of medicine should shake hands and be friends? Scientist and Niti Aayog member Shri V K Saraswat stated that there was no use in debating over the two. Be it any form of medicine- Ayurveda or allopathy- the end goal is to successfully treat the patient. It is the route that differs.
All schools of medicine are applied sciences and are built on basic sciences. Basic sciences provide concepts, theories and methods to understand the biological system. It provides one with an understanding of the pathology and pathophysiology of the diseases along with technique for diagnosis and treatment.
Allopathy understands the human system in the form of cells, tissues, genes and proteins. There is a clear structural hierarchy: cells to tissues to an organ to an organism. Physics has contributed immensely in the field of allopathy in terms of nuclear radiation, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and quantum physics. Classical physics speaks of how the universe is made up of building blocks and this is similar to the cells in a biological system. Allopathy follows a reductionist viewpoint where the entire organism can be broken down to its most fundamental unit. This reductionism defines the cellular and molecular processes of health and disease. However, it can sometimes fail to take into consideration the complexity of the interactions between intratissue and the environmental responses.
This requires the understanding of the disease in terms of ecological homeostasis. So let us shift gears to Ayurveda. Ayurveda’s strongpoint is prevention. These treatments that originated in the ancient Vedic era of India are extremely comprehensive and effective. Ayurveda adopts the Vedic worldview that unravels the interconnectedness of the body-mind-consciousness. A shift in the dynamic between an individual and their environment sows the seed for disease. This dynamic is also known as epigenetics in scientific terms. One way to understand Ayurveda is through epigenetics- the external modifications in the DNA that are brought about by what one does in life.
The genotype (genetic characteristics) gives rise to the phenotype (physical characteristics). To put it in simple words: you have genes that are responsible for your bright blue eyes, this is your genotype. Your bright blue eyes are your phenotype. The genotype never changes, however the phenotype is ever changing, for example like how one’s height and hair colour changes. It is interesting to know that the two are correlated in Ayurveda with the terms Janma Prakriti (birth) and the Deha prakriti (body). Janma Prakriti corresponds to genotype and the Deha Prakriti corresponds to phenotype and this correlation has been proven by current research. (One step closer, for allopathy and Ayurveda, to becoming friends.)
It is stated that 90% of one’s life is controlled by epigenetics. Whatever is done to the phenotype or Deha Prakriti is relayed to the DNA and it changes its expression accordingly. In other words, it is Karma. Four major factors affect one’s life: lifestyle, diet, stress and environmental factors. Good karma, in terms of the above four factors, leads to positive changes in the phenotype. Bad karma leads to negative changes in the phenotype. When one is angry, sad or in severe stress and depression, the DNA is tightly coiled and the genes refuse to express leading to abnormal functioning.
One more thing we can understand from the relationship between epigenetics and Ayurveda is its personalised nature. This correlation is a gateway to better understanding and communication between Ayurveda and allopathy. Furthermore, it opens avenues to integrate the two sciences in the management of good health.
Currently there is reluctance in the modern medicine community to accept the ways of Ayurveda. The community believes there is lack of science in Ayurveda. However, there is plenty of science in Ayurveda. There is a plethora of peer-reviewed publications on Ayurveda. The Government of India is providing grants and promoting research in Ayurveda with the help of Ministry of AYUSH. The National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA is also conducting collaborative research with the Ministry of AYUSH. These are promising endeavours that can lead to Ayurveda and allopathy to work together. While in terms of surgeries, allopathy is far more advanced, in terms of chronic disorders, Ayurveda plays a brilliant role. World Cancer Day falls on February 4 and last year Tata Medical Centre (TMC), Mumbai, decided to venture into two new Ayurveda clinical trials to develop alternative treatments for ovarian cancer. If Ayurveda can be integrated into their ongoing allopathic treatment, overall survival or progression-free survival can improve.
The integration is not an overnight process but if done, it will prove mutually beneficial. Let us come together and work towards a healthy globe because “unity is strength”.
But for now, the status of the friend request remains pending….
About the Author
Ms Varsha Venkataraman
Varsha Venkataraman is a graduate in Applied Microbiology and Cancer Studies. Currently she is the Senior Researcher for the Centre for Soft Power with an avid interest in Ayurveda and wishes to focus on the integrative approach of Ayurveda and modern medicine in the treatment of cancer.