~ Suhasi and Risha
Exploring the medical systems of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy are becoming a new trend in order to find solutions to challenges like lifestyle disorders, long-term diseases, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), multidrug-resistant disorders, the emergence of new diseases, etc. The reason behind this can be the fact that sometimes solutions to the most complex problems lie in their fundamental roots. India is known to be the pioneer of many of the ancient practices. I’m sure we’ve heard of these practices taking the world by a storm again in recent times.
AYUSH is an abbreviation, stands for Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy. The branches under AYUSH were initially stand-alone but finally formed a ministry of its own on 9th November 2014 and came to be known as the Ministry of AYUSH. In the past, it was known as the Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy which was established in March 1995 and later renamed as Department of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy in November 2003. The main aim of the formation is focused on popularizing and improving the traditional forms of alternative medicines as the importance and benefits were noted in various health policies and is a counterpart to the allopathic system of medicine, which leads to more of an “architectural correction” of the health system in the country.
People in modern times are more likely to be inclined towards scientifically appraised research models as they have more vital grounds and tangible factors, making them appear more plausible to people. With techniques or fields of medicine that focus on something without a scientific basis such as AYUSH, the concept might be harder to grasp or take into consideration. Over the years, the field of AYUSH has faced various controversies mainly on the grounds of it being labelled as pseudoscience, poor research quality highlighting the methodical problems with the trials conducted, on the credibility of the drugs, and so on. Even with such adversities, the ministry has not failed to put in immense efforts in the development of this system.
In modern medicine, most doctors who acknowledge AYUSH’s existence are still fairly sceptical of it as they believe that AYUSH therapies and treatments can pose safety concerns and the fact that it plays no role in the treatment of Diabetes mellitus. Generally, it’s the lack of scientific evidence that is the biggest challenge against any form of AYUSH treatment.
While being inquisitive about the things happening around us an essential thing to do, we must also give an opportunity to certain things. Just like that, an alternative medical system and the knowledge about it should be spread around and made aware of its efficiency and accessibility. Being practiced for centuries, now AYUSH Systems have been the stepping stones for modern medicine. The idea of reviving the branches under AYUSH came to be on the 9th five-year plan meeting by the NHRM in 2005. At inception, AYUSH doctors were co-located to various health facilities, around 8520 Primary Health Centers (PHC), 2483 Community Health Centers (CHC), Sub District Hospital & 468 District Hospitals (DH). With a growing workforce, the Ministry of AYUSH is also trying to fill in the gaps in the fields of research, testing, treatment, etc.
Some importance of AYUSH is as follows:
- Besides, combatting the early onset of various chronic diseases, Ayurveda is known to have a significant impact on the rejuvenation of tissue, improving their quality and being a solution to multiple age-related problems. Rasayana is known to play an essential role in the formulations of drugs in ayurvedic therapeutics reducing tissue regeneration. A similar concept is used in the Siddha system of medicine known as Kayakalpa. The Government of India recognizes many such therapeutic models. Ksharasutra (medicine coated thread) therapy for anorectal surgeries and Rasayana Chikitsa (rejuvenation therapy), to name a few. Many AYUSH preventative measures have also been given out to keep safe amidst Covid-19, such as Kabasura kudineer.
- While there has been a hefty debate on the effectiveness of AYUSH methods in the treatment of Diabetes mellitus, it is crucial to note that while the mentioned treatments have no such effects on the condition itself, it can be opted to improve and mitigate the condition from worsening at its subclinical stages through timely interventions as AYUSH treatments take on a more holistic approach by promoting the individual’s inner body balance be it physical, mental or spiritual. Subclinical interventions not only apply to DM but various other onsets of diseases such as hypertension.
- Through estimation, it has been noted that around 10% of the population depends solely on homeopathy treatment making it the second most preferred choice in the country. It also addresses the health gaps breaching in the current system by providing affordable services to various parts of the country and catering to the rural areas mostly where there’s a lack of investment for the fact that big hospitals usually prefer to fund in metropolitan cities or other urban areas making them unaffordable for almost 70% of Indians.
- AYUSH treatments are also adopted for neurological diseases and chronic conditions like intractable pains, bone, and joint diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, etc. Modern medicine relies on a combination of hormone treatment whereas more natural treatment options give the body a chance to enhance its healing powers.
- Medicine proven to be effective for cardiovascular diseases comes with side effects. In the case of AYUSH, side effects are minimal to negligible, making it preferable for phenomena such as pregnancy, lactation, and childhood therapy options. Homoeopathy treatment is said to be much more common among pediatric patients. Through a combination of Vajikarana Ayurveda and preparations in Unani and Siddha, the dangerous impacts of modern medicines can be replaced.
- Yoga is one of the most popular practices followed by people worldwide as it has various mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. Pranayama is said to give similar results with antipsychotic drugs and epileptic disorders.
- Being a healthy alternative for various modern medicines, AYUSH also brings a spin to the foundation of medical pluralism as courses in AYUSH systems may be integrated together with electives that encourage bridging the gap between various plural systems existing in the medical field. It puts the AYUSH system on par with allopathy.
- Capacity building is another important factor to be noted because it helps in reaching the goal of Universal Health Coverage (The National Health Policy, 2017), which seeks to succeed in everyone during a comprehensive integrated thanks to moving towards wellness. It aims at achieving universal health coverage and delivering quality health care services to all or any at a reasonable cost.
In addition, the ministry has also recently taken the accessibility of AYUSH services to a different level through the operational integration of AYUSH Grid with the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) to improve and facilitate AYUSH systems all over the country and accelerating the mainstreaming development of the systems at the same time. A yearly report done by the Mondaq states the seven projects under AYUSH and the steps taken to complete them. The projects are namely;
Improving access to AYUSH healthcare
Promotion of Research Activities in the AYUSH Systems
AYUSH Drugs Policy and related matters
Creation of awareness about AYUSH Systems
Globalization of AYUSH systems
Induction of IT into the AYUSH Sector.
All being said, it’s still up to us, the consumers, to decide what fits best for us. The reins are in our hands to go for whichever option we may choose. While modern medicine must definitely be preferred over alternatives for acute conditions, one can opt for alternate systems in case of recovery or various other conditions. Also, there is never much harm in opting for a healthy and holistic lifestyle.
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