Importance of Research in Ayurveda

Research has several facets. From searching innovative ideas and concepts, to establishing their veracity, to eventually finding their application for the betterment of human beings and the world they live in. But implicitly what the word also means is to search again, that, which was lost for us due to various reasons, which was already discovered and proved by our forefathers. And to me, that is what is implied when we talk about research in Ayurveda. To apply currently accepted methods and techniques to what was tested and proved by our Vaidyas centuries ago and ascertain those findings for the modern world. There is an ocean of clinical information in Ayurveda, based on a holistic approach to healthy living and treatment for the sick, waiting to be metamorphosed into today’s diagnostic tools and remedies.

We know that ancient Vaidyas had modified, or even changed, the properties of metals, especially heavy metals, which we presently find toxic for use, so that they would become suitable for human consumption without resultant toxicity. Complimenting combinations were discovered which would avoid side effects and reduce adverse effects. Unbeknownst to these ancestors of ours, they used technology that has turned gross particles into nano forms. They used therapies emerging out of kitchens and prescribed herbs from their backyards. They even searched innumerable shrubs and trees in our jungles to discover medicinal properties of their leaves, stems, saps and roots. This was indeed amazing research when no modern tools were at hand.

Thus, the imminent task before the researcher of Ayurveda is to use parameters and procedures accepted by modern research and his goal should be to optimize the benefits derived from the powerful synergy of allopathy and Ayurveda for the betterment of the human race..

It is therefore almost axiomatic that without such path-breaking research the full import of Ayurveda will not be realized by the medical fraternity. In fact, I know some allopathy practitioners who think of Ayurveda as an obsolete science and some even discard it as unfit for modern medical world. In the era of modern medicine, research in Ayurveda must ensure that its tenets are easily understood by all branches of medicine and all ‘pathies’. That will help this long overlooked branch gain its rightful place in the world of medical science and will develop a comprehensive approach in prescribing a truly customized line of treatment for each ailing individual, according to his constitution, life-style and environment.

We need to acknowledge that while the patient’s symptoms and signs may be the same, each science studies his conditions differently using its own tools. Therefore, to start with, practitioners of these sciences can sit together and identify diseases with matching terminology. This can be followed with research experiments and patients can be monitored using modern parameters such as laboratory tests, X-rays, ultra-sounds, MRIs, CT and PET scans. Then there will emerge state-of-the-art documentation and verification by modern technology for reproducibility with accuracy and precision, to prove that their results corroborate the capabilities of Ayurveda. Thus, once we begin to look at Ayurveda through the glasses of allopathy, and vice versa, we will begin to converge on optimal joint treatments for many medical problems.

There are a number of situations, conditions where even modern science and modern medicine has limitations. Most people, both patients as well as their kins, accept them with a sense of inevitability. Some of them take the alternate medicine route and reach out for Ayurveda. And often times these patients find relief - symptomatic, psychological and financial. Chronic urinary tract infection (UTI), renal failure, multidrug resistant (MDR) organisms causing infections, especially in ICUs, are some such examples, besides the post-surgery, post-chemo and post-radiation terminal cancer patients, where the doctors say it is not possible to do anything further. Where cure is no longer possible, we can at least help reduce the misery and agony of such patients. Relief is possible with Ayurvedic treatment in several renal failure patients, where serum creatinine may remain elevated, but the patient is not as symptomatic anymore. With his nausea and vomiting reduced, he can eat better. The frequency of dialysis can be reduced in many patients. Chronic UTI patients with multi-drug resistant organisms need not go through repeated courses of expensive heavy antibiotics and hospitalization for their intramuscular or intravenous administration. Terminal cancer patients may not be cured, their lives may not be prolonged, but with their symptoms alleviated, the quality of their lives can be improved. And one can site many more conditions where this is true.

If the allopathic specialists and general practitioners are made aware of these facts, they will surely work along with the Vaidyas to treat such patients. These patients will be greatly benefitted by such a combination therapy protocol, which will encourage more doctors to follow this route. Albeit there are a few allopaths who believe in this strength of Ayurveda and are trying to do their bit, but we need to inculcate a large number of practitioners from both branches, so that they accept this unified approach and work as a team, open to new ideas. Patients will get the benefit of such a unique, integrated approach, especially in India, where both lines of treatment are easily accessible. This kind of research is indeed the need of the hour, when multidrug resistance of various organisms is growing fast, with hardly any new antibiotics in the pipeline and the few higher antibiotics which are available, are beyond the reach of the general population; when cancer chemotherapies are wiping out lifetime savings of the patients’ families and often prolong their lives filled with pain and suffering.

Indeed, this is an excellent opportunity for all medical practitioners to come forward to overcome this challenge and there are several fronts on which this can be done. There is a need for Vaidyas to clear the myths and misconceptions that exist about their science and its practice, to eliminate the misuse and shortcuts taken in Ayurvedic drug preparations which are harmful to patients and which is partly why this science is misconstrued. Documentation as expected by the new world has to be followed to carry ongoing research. Presentations at conferences and distribution of publications for wide range of physicians so that the world is convinced of the age old remedies and will accept this treasure of medical knowledge so that Ayurvedic treatment becomes acceptable worldwide. Then the regulatory bodies will be persuaded to evaluate Ayurvedic preparations and their protocols in proper perspective, instead of comparing them against toxic chemicals, never before used in humans.

It is my ardent hope that with these and other steps, this powerful and comprehensive ancient science will co-exist with Allopathy, as it must, so that our patients suffer less and live a better quality life.Research will go ahead to invent protocols and products that will help humanity live a healthier life, and be devoid of misery in sickness and disease. For this, we need to create an environment of trust, so that all the pathies can work in harmony and synergy, encouraging new ideas and research, without boundaries; our only goal being optimal medical treatment to our patients.

I believe the rich heritage of Ayurveda has been gifted by our predecessors for the entire medical fraternity and I am confident that once our fraternity accepts this responsibility, sooner rather than later, we will move forward with convergence of ideas to do innovative research for new treatments, using both these pillars of medicine. Our goal must be to bring together, amalgamate and synergize the ancient and the new science, so that the results of such a joint venture will benefit mankind medically, economically and ethically.

And as keepers of our forefather’s wisdom, it is our bounden duty to commit to this endeavor. It is a huge task; but it is a task that our children and grand-children will, in turn, be thankful to us about, if we undertook it. That alone will make the effort worthwhile.



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