India is a country with a rich traditional medical heritage. Multiple native traditional systems of medicine are practiced here, which have their origin in India or have come to India from elsewhere and got assimilated into the vast Indian culture. Medical pluralism is the co-existence of various systems of medicine in a civilization. In the Indian scenario this refers to the co-existence of these traditional Indian systems of medicine and modern or allopathic medicine.
The country is now slowly realizing the inadequacy of modern medicine and exploring other options. Though allopathy or modern medicine has been very successful in combating infections and other communicable diseases, it falls short of the mark in curing the growing non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity etc…
The AYUSH system often draws flak for not being evidence-based. This scenario is now slowly shifting as more people of the AYUSH system realize the importance of quality research. There are 4794 research papers on yoga, 2442 papers on Naturopathy, 8514 papers on Ayurveda, 439 papers on Unani, 301 on Siddha and 5424 papers on Homeopathy on PubMed alone.
The need of the hour is to find an effective and economic way to overcome all ailments of humanity. Especially in a third world country like India, where medical needs are grossly under met, it is essential to defocus from modern medicine alone. This can only be achieved by joining hands with each other and discovering what our combined potential can do. This plants the seed for the growth of integrative medicine.
The practices of Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani and Siddha systems of medicine are the main traditional Indian systems of medicine practiced that are recognised by the Government of India. Is the integration of these independent practices into a single system of medicine a realistic possibility?
No single system of medicine alone is capable of eradicating all the healthcare woes of the world. Every system has its own merits and de-merits. The goal therefore, is to integrate these systems of medicine to promote a healing oriented approach to health. This must be done at three levels: Integrate their fundamental principles, diagnostics and therapeutics.
Naturopathy and Ayurveda, being the most ancient of the AYUSH system believe that the human organism is composed of five elements called panchamahabhootas. Under AYUSH, Yoga and Naturopathy share the same platform as they complement each other to provide a holistic system of healing which takes care of both mind and the body. Ayurveda and Siddha at the same time are based on the tridosha concept, which are vatta, pitta and kapha. The relationship between the tridoshas and panchamahabhootas is already well established. Unani medicine and Homeopathy believe in the existence of four humours in the body: Blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, which can be correlated with the tridoshas and thereby the panchamahabhootas theory.
Once the traditional Indian systems of medicine are integrated together, they will complement the treatments and principles of modern medicine. All these various systems of medicine are effectively pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which can make sense only when put together in the right way.
Hence the shortcomings of one system is easily compensated by treatments derived from another system. Therefore the integration of the systems is not only feasible but ideal. It will fulfil all the criteria of achieving overall health for the global population. It can provide tailor made treatment options suited to each individual. It treats the patient as a whole, taking into account every dimension of health.
Therefore the integrative system of medicine is not just another alternative way but it is the only way to move forward. This forms the basis for the medicine of the future.