Saturday, August 4, 2007

Allegory on Ayurveda

In the recent article published in Express Pharma titled ‘De-mythifying ayurveda’, the comment of a Senior Consultant of a prestigious Hospital in New Delhi, on Ayurveda discloses the incomprehension of what Ayurveda truly is, as perceived by the so-called modern scientist. The opinion which goes in his terms - "Ayurveda may not be termed a science in modern scientific context, as it did not develop in a test tube or a laboratory. Nor do its concepts change frequently, as it happens in modern scientific allopathic medicine."

What is that science these people are talking about? Let’s look at true perspective of science. The word science derived from Latin scientia, meaning knowledge. For many the term science refers to the organized body of knowledge concerning the physical world, both animate and inanimate, but a proper definition would also have to include the attitudes and methods through which this body of knowledge is formed; thus, a science is both a particular kind of activity and also the results of that activity.

The scientific method is described in terms of a well-recognized and well-defined series of steps. First, information, or data, is gathered by careful observation of the phenomenon being studied. On the basis of that information a preliminary generalization, or hypothesis, is formed, usually by inductive reasoning, and this in turn leads by deductive logic to a number of implications that may be tested by further observations and experiments. If the conclusions drawn from the original hypothesis successfully meet all these tests, the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory or law.

The word Ayurveda, which has life (Ayus) and knowledge (Veda=vid meaning to know) component in itself pronounces that it is not any other pretending way of healing, but with sound scientific approaches to health, healing and help for the life and living in its entirety.

In Caraka Samhita, the author emphasizes the importance of scientific approach to practice of medicine. It is quoted that the peers recognize and appreciate those who undertake (prescriptions/therapies) only after a prior knowledge. Further it is said that well informed physician also when acts without investigation will face the complications or will not be able to help a patient with bad prognosis, for it is said that only he who acts after investigation will be an expert.

If one looks at the description of scientific method in medical practice in Ayurveda, it is absolutely analogous with the description that is made in contemporary times. There are four steps to analyze. They are the first being a careful observation (Pratyaksha), followed with development of hypothesis (Anumana), then quoting the bibliographical references (Apthopadesha) and concluding with deductive reasoning (Yukti).

The term science with its equivalent word in Ayurveda, called Shastra is characterized by the author of 800 years old Rasaratnasamucchaya as – “there exists no science without an order and no order without a science and one who learns that science systematically becomes successful in all endeavors”. In order to achieve this perfection and acquire knowledge, this book describes the importance and establishment of a laboratory (Rasashala) for conducting experiments.

For Ayurveda scientist the whole world was the laboratory, because the observation and experiments were all in real settings. Thus all the theories and principles were developed in natural location. There was extrapolation of the observations on this miniature life (human, plant and animal), which were linked to universal phenomenon. Thus the observations and postulates although developed at that time and in the language prevalent then, but the approach to learning stands still true today without any dispute. However the only expectation of the modern scientists is to see the data for trust, which is not available for the obvious reason for want of storage devise of such vast amount.

When such being the case that the scientific process in Ayurveda have their congruent modern version, how can it be termed not scientific even in the modern scientific context?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Western Myth on Eastern Wisdom

My talk at Guardian Health Seminar in Malaysia this May and subsequent interview which appeared in New Sunday Times was the hot post on the Cardioblog, titled - A holistic approach to your heart that ends with a question "What do you think -- sound advice, or a load of new-age babble?"

West looks at the eastern knowledge always with skepticism and would like to raise the debate and to dominate with evidences to cast off these as imperfect, indistinct facts.

The view that US researchers have found as published in Vegetarian Times lends credit to the fact that emotions do affect heart.

When it comes to risks for heart disease, our emotional intelligence should be right up there with diet and exercise. Some of the latest research has found that avoiding emotional extremes and learning healthy ways to express feelings can make a dramatic difference to cardiac health.

Many researches in the recent past have shown that learning to cope with two of the most potentially damaging emotions--depression and anger--reduces not only the physical damage stress wreaks on the heart, but can also extend the life span.

The clinical studies on Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) that showed significant decrease in ischemic mitral regurgitation, improvement in E/A ratio and considerable reduction in anginal frequency published in the recent issue of International Journal of Cardiology and many such reports prove the ancient wisdom of this plant as cardioprotective agent.

Is this a babble? Kindly comment.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Deja vu with Ayurveda

Ayurveda is indeed in the focus today. As an ancient saying that the truth exists somewhere but the wise perceive it in many ways. Like the story of The Blind Men and an Elephant, the giant Ayurveda is apperceived in a myopic way. The recent article published in Express Pharma under the column Forum brings out the attention and an attitude of the cross section in the pharma business today is worth browsing.

The debate between contemporary medicine and Ayurveda is believed to be 'Beyond comparison'. Read this from the article -

Allopathy and ayurveda are as different as day and night, and hence the two sets of opposing views. However, if one has to compare ayurveda and allopathy on one platform, then such comparison might be a tad difficult. "Allopathy treats individuals as an independent physical entity like a machine. It is further sub-divided into various organs and systems looked after by different specialities or super/sub-specialities, in which the individual loses one's identity. Whereas, ayurveda treats the individual as a whole, considering him to be a part of the universal whole" .

A positive aspect in the whole ayurveda vs allopathy issue, is the fact that, people are now open to know more about this ancient science. Also while there might not be prejudices or bias against the same, there are certain misconceptions, which can only be dispelled with knowledge and information dissemination. "There are no prejudices surrounding ayurveda. There may be misconceptions regarding its practice. If anything, the interest in this system of medicine has been growing rapidly both in the domestic and international market, attesting to its popularity and widespread acceptance".

A great trip to Malaysia

This was a full page and a half article that appeared on New Sunday Times under the column Focus dated June 17th written by the two journalists Chai Mei Ling and Yasothai from an interview which took over a lunch table in an Indian restaurant on the top floor of the world famous Petronas tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was indeed a fascinating two hours rendezvous with them that took to a new paradigm of understanding Ayurveda in the modern times. The myth they had about the lifestyle management being a stringent practise not acceptable by the binging Malaysians was turned out to be the most gratifying one. Indeed this article was ranked 4.9 out of 5 when this was posted.

What is Ayurveda?
The word Ayurveda derived from the Sanskrit, the most ancient Indian language and in use for the last 3600 years denotes Science of Life, akin to Biology (in use since 1766 CE) or Biosciences of the modern times. It deals with healthy and happy living, measures to improve the span of life and what is good and bad for life. It has two purposes – protecting and promoting the health in the healthy and healing the disease in the diseased. It is not only applicable to human life but also to other forms life viz., plant and animal lives.

The definition of health as made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, while Ayurveda defines health as the state of equilibrium of factors and functions controlling physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Let’s look at Healthy living. It’s about practicing good habits and giving up the harmful ones. The benefit of healthy living is, it's your key to getting the most out of your life. With a healthy lifestyle you will –

1) FEEL GOOD that you will have more energy sleep better and be more relaxed and confident.

2) LOOK GOOD that you will have a good figure, strong muscles, bright eyes, healthy skin and hair.

3) BE HAPPY that you will have a positive attitude towards life and achieve more.