Indian traditional medicines are well preserved and practised to this day under the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Their efficacy has been recognized by western biotech companies who are in the pursuit of getting patent of what is ours since time immemorial, our heritage! Lately, to fight biopiracy and unethical patents, the Government of India, in 2001, set up the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library as repository of formulations of systems of Indian medicine.

  1. AYURVEDA
  2. The roots of core theoretical ideas of Ayurveda lie in antiquity, propounded as early as in mid-first millennium BCE. The secret of healthy living is “BALANCE”. Nature’s urges (like hunger, sleep, sex) are advised to be followed in moderation. Maintaining balance by regulating Dinacharya, the natural cycles (waking, sleeping, working, meditation, etc.) is imperative to good health. At the same time, suppressing natural urges is considered unhealthy for instance, suppressing sneezing is claimed to cause shoulder pain.

    Ayurveda has historically divided bodily substances into five classical elements, viz. earth, water, fire, air and ether. Also, it names seven basic tissues (dhatu), which are plasma, blood, muscles, fat, bone, marrow, and semen. Inherent in all substances are twenty gunas or qualities which are organized into ten pairs of antonyms like heavy/light, cold/hot, unctuous/dry, dull/sharp.

    Ayurveda also names three elemental substances, the doshas (calledVata, Pitta and Kapha), and states that a balance of the doshas results in health, while imbalance results in disease.

    A holistic approach of considering physical, mental and personality as one single unit forms the basis of the diagnosis and therapy.

    The traditional medicine is also followed in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Baba Hari Dass popularized Ayurveda in the US too, which led to the establishment of the Mount Madonna Institute College of Ayurveda in the heart of California.

  3. YOGA
  4. Literally, the word ‘yoga’ means ‘to unite’ or ‘to join’. Thus, yoga is physical, mental and spiritual exercise which aims at the union of aatma with paramatma (union of the human soul with the supreme being).

    The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali propounds the concept of “Ashtanga Yoga” (Eight- Limbed Yoga), according to which, Yoga means

    1. Yama (The five abstentions): Ahimsa (Nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (non-avarice).
    2. Niyama (The five observances): Śauca (purity of mind, speech and body), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (persistent meditation), Svādhyāya (study of self, self-reflection, study of Vedas) and Ishvara-Pranidhana (contemplation of Supreme Being).
    3. Asana: Literally means ‘seat’,and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
    4. Pranayama (Suspending Breath)
    5. Pratyahara (Abstraction): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
    6. Dharana (Concentration)
    7. Dhyana (Meditation)
    8. Samadhi (Liberation): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.

    While in the west, Yoga is popular as a system of physical exercise, in India it has a meditative and spiritual significance. Various scientific studies have proved the effectiveness of Yoga in treating psychological problems and relieving the pain in life-threatening diseases like cancer, AIDS.

  5. Naturopathy
  6. As a form of alternative medicine the practice involves employing a wide array of natural modalities, including homeopathy, herbalism, and acupuncture, as well as diet (nutrition) and lifestyle counseling. It favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and drugs.Rather, it is based on a belief in the body’s ability to heal itself through a special vital energy or force guiding bodily processes internally. Naturopaths aim to prevent illness through stress reduction and changes in diet and lifestyle.

  7. Unani
  8. Based on Ibn Sina’s The Canon of Medicine (11th century), the medical tradition of medieval Islam was introduced to India by the 13th century with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate and it took its own course of development during the Mughal Empire, influenced by Indian medical teachings of Sushruta and Charaka.

    The diagnosis of a disease involves Quwwat-e-Mudabbira-e-Badan (the power of body responsible to maintain health), its collapse leads to instability in akhlat or bodily humors which eventually leads to a pathological condition.

    After diagnosing the disease, Usoole Ilaj (principle of management) of disease is determined on the basis of etiology in the following pattern:

    1. Izalae Sabab (elimination of cause)
    2. Tadeele Akhlat (normalization of humors)
    3. Tadeele Aza (normalization of tissues/organs)

    And finally, the treatment is decided as per the Unani medicine which may be one or more of the following:

    1. Ilaj-Bil-Tadbeer wa Ilaj-Bil-Ghiza (Regimenal Therapy)
    2. Ilaj-Bil-Advia (Pharmacotherapy)
    3. Ilaj-Bil-Yad (Surgery)

  9. SIDDHA
  10. The traditional medicine system from the south, Tamil Nadu, is similar to Ayurveda, as it also maintains the cause of disease to be the imbalance of the three bodily humors— Vaadham, Pittham and Kabam, and treatment lies in restoring the balance.

  11. HOMEOPATHY
  12. Though the system originated outside India by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, it is widely accepted and followed by Indians. It is based on the doctrine of like cures like (similia similibus curentur), a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people.

  13. SOWA-RIGPA
  14. Centuries-old Tibetan traditional medical system is a complex blend of approaches such as pulse analysis and urinalysis, and utilizing behavior and dietary modification, medicines composed of natural materials (e.g., herbs and minerals) and physical therapies (e.g. Tibetan acupuncture).

    It is based upon Indian Buddhist and Ayurveda and also believes in maintaining balance in the body’s three principles of functions, often translated as bodily humors, for good health.

    It continues to be practised in Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan,Siberia, China and Mongolia, as well as more recently in parts of Europe and North America.