More and more people are taking to alternate systems of medicine. They say alternate systems of medicine seem to work better, have less side effects and keep them in better health.
Reena and Ravi, parents of a 12-year-old boy, who had wheezing problems since the age of two, took their son for homeopathic forms of treatment. Today, their son is able to lead a better life and is not dependent on inhalers. He swims and eats ice creams and does catch a cold, but his parents are able to manage it easily.
Cardiac surgeon and national research professor at Manipal University Dr M S Valiathan, who has done extensive scientific study of the Ayurvedic system of medicine says that Ayurveda is slowly gaining popularity.
“Given the increase in Ayurvedic doctors every year which is over 20,000, Ayurvedic hospitals and dispensaries all over India, along with the production of Ayurvedic drugs of over `6,000 crore per year, one can assume that more people are opting for ayurveda ,” he says.
He adds that modern medicine excels in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, cancers, surgical conditions and so on while Ayurveda has much to offer in the treatment of chronic conditions related to allergy and auto-immune disorders, degenerative diseases of the nervous and locomotor systems. However, he maintains that there is no evidence to indicate whether Ayurveda or modern medicine is better suited for treating particular diseases.
Another view doctors have is that while acute cases like accident, heart attack, and brain tumour can be treated through allopathy, secondary treatment or post-operative treatment can be done better through Ayurveda or Homeopathy.
Executive Member of Central Homeopathy Council Dr B T Rudresh says that patients with diseases like hernia, appendicitis and tonsils can be treated better with Homeopathy while those with skin disease, piles, fistula, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and arthritis can get better results through Ayurveda.
Dr Rudresh says that each day the concept of Ayurveda is gaining momentum, especially in urban pockets as the level of stress has increased.
But, contrary to the belief, Ayurvedic treatment is no longer cheaper than the conventional way.
“Except when offered by traditional Vaidyas who do not use commercially produced drugs, and who do not copy the expensive habits of modern medicine, it does cost quite a lot to get Ayurvedic treatment,” Dr Valiathan says.
The basic principle behind treatment in Homeopathy is that Homeopathy doctors consider human body as one single unit whereas in Allopathy the treatment on individual is ever changing and never similar, Prof S Ahalya Sharma of Government Ayurvedic Medical College says.
“In Ayurveda, a human body is seen as a bi-product of nature and substances available in nature are used to treat a person. The root cause of any disease being treated is taken into consideration than the manifestation,” Dr Ahalya says.
It is not possible to say which system is cheaper, but both forms are cost-effective. Dr Rudresh says, “Homeopathy drugs are viable to Indian social economical and cultural backgrounds and do not cause any untoward incident. Plus, these are all tested on healthy human beings. Whereas in allopathy, drugs are tested on animals and can go wrong.”
Dr Ahalya says, “At primary health care level, Ayurveda medicines are very cost-effective and in chronic diseases’, it may cost little more, but certainly it is not out of patients reach.”
Clinical trials to find which system is better
Dr Valiathan also says clinical trials are necessary to ascertain clear answers to decide which system is better for patients.
“Even trials of Ayurvedic treatment based on the liberalised criteria of the World Health Organisation (WHO), would give valuable evidence of efficacy and safety of Ayurvedic treatment. This could then be compared with the known results of treatment by modern medicine. Until evidence is forthcoming, we cannot say which system is better at curing diseases,” he says.
How it all began
Dr Mukesh Batra, founder and chairman, Dr Batra’s Group of Companies says, “Homeopathy was founded by a German doctor Samuel Hahnemann and came to India through a French homeopath and from the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Ayurveda is a 1,000-year-old science rooted in Indian tradition. Both are based on the principle of using natural medicines. However, in Ayurveda, raw herbs are used whereas in Homeopathy they are potentised and diluted for greater efficacy.
“Allopathy is a dominant system of medicine and largely based on Pharmacopoeia, which deals with chemical based drugs and gives superficial treatment and has side effects.”
He adds, “Homoeopathy is based on the principle of “Similia similbus curenture” or ‘likes cure likes’, which is similar to vaccination. For example: A person who chops an onion can develop watery eyes, a running nose, sneezing, coughing, and throat irritation from exposure to the onion’s active substances. The homoeopathic remedy, Allium cepa, made of potentised red onion, can help the body overcome a cold or allergy attack in which the person has similar symptoms (watery eyes, running nose, sneezing, coughing, or throat irritation.)
The actual symptoms of the illness were not caused by exposure to an onion, but the remedy made from the onion can help the body overcome them, because the symptoms are similar,” he explains.
‘Shushrutha’s ‘Ksharasutra’ outdated’ According to Cardiac
Surgeon and National Research Professor at Manipal University Dr M S Valiathan, operations, instruments, range of procedures during the time of Shushruta, the historical physician from 6th century BC, have clearly been superseded by far better surgical techniques and post-surgical management in the present time (2,000 years later).
“Even the solitary
procedure of ‘Ksharasutra’ which Shushruta mentioned briefly, and is still carried out in Ayurveda to treat anal fistula is not applicable to all forms of fistula,” he says and adds that Shushruta’s surgical techniques are now outdated. “It is not in the interest of patients today to perform surgeries with the methods that Shushruta used,” he said.