INDIAN SYSTEMS OF MEDICINE
"India suffers today in the estimation of the world, more through the world's ignorance of her achievements than in the absence or insignificance of these achievements", observes H.W. Rawlinson. This statement is well borne out in the case of ancient Indian medicine. The achievements of Indians in the field of medicine are but imperfectly known to the world even today. The ancient Indian medical classics, written exclusively in Sanskrit, were not easily accessible to any but Sanskrit scholars. Even in India, only a few were acquainted with these classics. The knowledge of medicine was held as a close preserve in a few families of hereditary physicians (Vaidyas). These Vaidyas were not used to modern ways of thinking, and the idea that they should share their knowledge with others or write books on the subject in other languages to make it known to the world at large, did not appeal to them.
In the early days of Sanskrit studies, the European scholars concentrated their attention mainly on philology and general literature. It was only much later that their studies were directed to the earlier and more important literature of the Vedas; but even then these studies did not extend to the medical classics. The commencement of the 20th century witnessed the publication of 'The Encyclopedia of Indo-Aryan Research'. This monumental work, covering the whole domain of Indo-Aryan antiquity, contained many valuable studies on ancient medicine. The colossal task of translating into English the Charaka Samhita was successfully accomplished by Kaviratna Avinash Chander. The Susruta Samhita was translated into English by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna. These translations have made the great Indian medical classics easily accessible to the English-speaking world. The discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization has considerably widened the horizon of Indian medicine, and has pushed its antiquity back to about 2500 B.C., thus making this civilization contemporaneous with the three non-Aryan civilizations of the ancient world.
Origin of Ancient Indian Medicine
Ayurveda is the name which the ancient Indians gave to their science of medicine. Ayuh means life and veda to know or attain. Ayurveda is the science by the knowledge of which life can be prolonged or its nature understood. The Vedas are the earliest sacred books of India. They are four in number, viz., Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharva-veda.
There was no Veda called Ayurveda. Its existence is a myth. Susruta calls it an upanga of the Atharvaveda. It was raised to the status of a Veda and appended to the Atharva-veda to give the science of medicine the necessary sanctity and authority. There are two versions of its origin. The medical school traces its origin to Bharadvaja, who received it from the god Indra. The surgical school traces its origin to Dhanvantari who received it also from this god.
The universe, according to ancient Indian thought, is composed of five basic elements, the Pancha Mahabhootas, namely: Prithvi (earth), Apya (water), Teja (fire), Vayu (air) and Akash (ether). Ayurveda believes in the theory of Tridosha: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata is a combination of two elements of the universe, namely air and ether, Pitta an amalgam of fire and earth and Kapha the combination of ether and water. According to this theory, the Tridoshas remain in a balanced state in the human body in a healthy state and their disequilibrium causes disease.
Health according to Ayurveda, is the natural state of all the three aspects of human being i.e. body, mind and the soul in complete harmony. When the natural state comes in contact with unhappiness, disease results. According to Ayurveda, true medicine is one which cures the disease without causing any side effect. Ayurveda enjoys an advantage over the modern system of medicine.
Ayurvedic practitioners take into consideration the body constitution of a patient before prescribing any medicine. They study the state of the body fluids, blood, flesh, fat, bone marrow, semen and vital essence. A regulated diet is prescribed along with the medicine. The regimen of diet is as important as the medicine since former helps restore the balance as much as the latter.
Siddha medicine, was originated around 5000 BC in southern parts of India. The word Siddha means "an object to be attained", "perfection" or heavenly bliss". According to this system, human body is composed of 96 Tatwas, 72,000 blood vessels and 1300 nerves. Besides these, there are 10 Nadi (main arteries), 10 Vayu (vital pranas) and 10 Vegangal (natural functions). All of them play important roles in different functions of the body.
The Siddha medicine also recognises the role of three humors, called Mukkuttram (Vatam, Pittam and Kapham). These humors remain in a balanced state in a normal healthy person and disturbance in their equilibrium leads to ill health. Siddha physicians base their diagnosis on Mukkuttram and Ennvagai Thervu.
Yoga is a method by which one can develop one's inherent powers in a balanced manner. It offers the means to reach complete self-realisation. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word yoga is "yoke". Accordingly, Yoga can be defined as a means for uniting the individual spirit with the universal spirit of God.
Concept and practice of Yoga originated in India several thousand years ago. Its founders were great Saints and Sages. The great Yogis gave rational interpretation to their experiences of Yoga and brought about a practical and scientifically sound method within everyone's reach. Yoga today is no longer restricted to hermits, saints, sages, it has taken its place in our everyday life and has aroused a worldwide awakening and acceptance in the last few decades. The science of Yoga and its techniques have now been reoriented to suit modern sociological needs and lifestyle. Experts of various branches of medicine including modern medical science are realising the role of these techniques in the prevention of disease, mitigation and cure of disease and promotion of health.
Yoga is one among the six systems of Vedic philosophy. Maharishi Patanjali, rightly called the "Father of Yoga" compiled and refined various aspects of Yoga systematically in his "Yoga Sutras". He advocated the eight-fold path of Yoga, ;popularly known as "Ashtanga Yoga" for all-round development of human personality. They are - Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These components advocate restraint observance of austerity, physical postures, breathing exercises, restraining the sense organs, contemplation, meditation and samadhi. These steps are believed to have a potential for the improvement of physical health by encouraging better circulation of oxygenated blood in the body, retraining the sense organs and thereby inducing tranquility and serenity of mind. The practice of Yoga prevents psychosomatic disorders/diseases and improves an individual's resistance and ability to endure stressful situations.
The Unani system of medicine owes, as its name suggests, its origin to Greece. It was the Greek philosopher-physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC) who freed medicine from the realm of superstition and gave it the status of science. The theoretical framework of Unani medicine is based on the teachings of Hippocrates. After Hippocrates, a number of other Greek scholars enriched the system considerably. Of them Galen (131-210 AD) stands out as the one who stabilised its foundation, on which Arab and Persian physicians like Rhazes (850-925 AD) and Avicenna (980-1037 AD) constructed an imposing edifice.
In India, Unani system of medicine was introduced by the Arabs, and soon it took firm roots in the soil. The Delhi Sultans, the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs and the Mughal Emperors provided state patronage to the scholars and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians. The system found immediate favour with the masses and soon spread all over the country.
According to the principles and philosophy of Unani Medicine, disease is a natural process, its symptoms are the reactions of the body to the disease, and the chief function of the physician is to aid the natural forces of the body. Unani medicine is basically based on Humoral Theory.
Homoeopathy is a system of therapeutics based on the Law of Similars as expressed by maxim "Similia Similibus Curentur" - let likes be cured by likes. Dr. Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann is the father of Homoeopathy. In India, this has been recognised as one of the National Systems of Medicine. Homoeopathy came to India as early as 1810 when a French traveller Dr. Honigberger who learnt Homoeopathy from Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, visited India. It is a very popular and widely accepted system in India.
The Indian systems of medicine viz., Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy predominantly use plant-based raw materials in most of their preparations and formulations in addition to some materials of minerals, metals and animal origin. The efficacy of these systems thus mainly depends upon the use of pure and genuine raw materials in the manufacture of drugs of these systems. In all, about 1100 medicinal plants are estimated to find their use in Indian Systems of Medicine & Hemoeopathy and 500 out of these are more commonly used in preparation of ISM and Homeopathy drugs.
Forests have been the source of herbs and medicinal plants. In the last few decades, due to the pressure of increasing population, the area under forests has been decreasing and the demand for herbs and plants has been increasing. Therefore, the forest resources are under double squeeze and are not able to meet the full requirement of medicinal plants and herbs.
In order to meet the above situation, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had recently organised regional seminars on medicinal plants. These seminars brought together a wide range of experts. These regional seminars were followed by a few workshops organised in various States. On the basis of recommendations of regional seminars and workshops, 45 medicinal plants were finalised. These medicinal plants were considered important for development on priority as they were already on the verge of extinction. The Ministry has been increasing the cultivation of these plants through its Central Sector Scheme. Many of these species like 'Vatsnabh', 'Guggulu', Saqmonia', 'Yastimadhu', etc. are at present imported at a very high cost resulting in an increase in the cost of the prepared drug, sometimes making these drugs out of reach for many.
National Institutes are set up by Department of Indian Systems of Medicine & Homoeopathy for producing graduates and post-graduates for high quality, conducting research and to provide quality medical care. These are: National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur, National Institute of Unani Medicine, Bangalore, National Institute of Homoeopathy, Calcutta, National Institute of Naturopathy, Pune, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi, National Institute of Siddha, Chennai and Rashtriya Ayurveda Vidyapeeth, New Delhi.
Medical Education Facilities in India
Under-graduate colleges Post-graduate colleges
Ayurveda 186 49
Unani 38 3
Siddha 2 1
Homoeopathy 118 10
Total 344 63
Admission capacity 14255 700
Health and Development
Economic development is distinctly inter-related to health of the people because it greatly contributes to the productivity and the strength to the economy. One of the overriding objectives of socio-economic development is the improvement in the quality of life, enhancement of well being and provision of opportunity and choices to the people. Over the past 53 years, India's health scenario has undergone considerable changes. Life expectancy has increased from 32 to 62 years, birth rate reduced from 41 to 26 and death rate has fallen from 27 to 9 per thousand. Yet a fact remains that India's health sector is currently besieged with numerous challenges. The rapidly growing population is the greatest challenge before us. The risk of post-transitional diseases is on the rise. These factors are bound to affect the process of economic development of the country.
It is a matter of concern that the level of investment on health and related activities which was 3.3 per cent of total plan investment has remained almost stagnant except in the ninth plan which is 4.01 per cent. India incurs about 5.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product on health care. There is an imperative need to improve the functioning of health systems by focussing more on preventive and primitive health care, health education and health information.
Fortunately, India has a very deep-rooted tradition of good health practices since centuries. Its ancient system had developed a high level of health consciousness and knowledge of treatment of diseases, which has been unfortunately overlooked with the advancement of medical sciences in our country. It is really a healthy sign that an awakening has started in the country to appreciate the Indian systems of medicine after the growing interest in the developed countries like USA, UK, Germany, Russia and other European countries. India has a great potential of bio-diversity with a rich treasure of medicinal plants, the scientific cultivation of which can generate employment to the millions, and add to the Government exchequer including the foreign exchange to the tune of trillions.