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Integrative medicine in Ayush systems

Dr. Amritpal Singh
Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Integrative Medicine (IM) is defined as a broad spectrum of approaches that amalgamates the Western medicine with Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Traditional Medicine (Ethno medicine). The fundamental principle and practice of IM is to focus on the whole person and utilize appropriate therapeutic modalities to achieve optimal health.  

As far as Ayush health systems are concerned, IM has different objective. Integrative Medicine in Ayush stream means amalgamation of systems like Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy. In a recent International Conference on Integrative Medicine held in Kochi, emphasis was laid on integration of Ayurveda System of Medicine with Allopathic System of Medicine and a national policy was suggested in this direction. Setting up of Ayush grid at national level is aimed at generating scientific data for Ayurveda treatment for increasing scientific accountability. National Health Policy 2017 has also stressed on the need of promoting IM in near future.

IM in Ayush
All these Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy systems of medicine have been practiced in India for several decades. Despite, having genuine utility, Ayush systems of medicine have failed to win confidence of the masses. Probably, lack of proper and practical policy is to be blamed for non-popularity of Ayush systems of medicine as compared to Allopathic system of medicine.

Different schools of thought about IM
Teaching faculty in Ayurvedic colleges is largely comprised of Ayurvedacharya (BAMS) and MD. (Ayurveda) qualifications. As per regulation of Central Council of Indian Medicine, faculty having obtained BAMS before 1989 is eligible for teaching in Ayurvedic colleges. After 1989, MD (Ayurveda) qualification was made mandatory for the purpose of teaching. MD (Ayurveda) qualification is also known as Ayurveda Vachaspati.

Parallel school of thoughts can be witnessed in Ayurvedic colleges across India. Professional with undergraduate degrees like BAMS and GAMS are strongly in favour of Ayurvedic curriculum based on ancient ayurveda (Asthangayurveda). Fresh pass outs or professional with postgraduate degrees like MD (Ayurveda) or MS (Ayurveda) are oriented to use modern methods in Ayurveda and favour the amalgamation of Ayurveda with modern medical science.

CCIM, integrative & alternative medicine
Till to date, the term “Integrated System of Medicine” is also not recognized by the Govt of India. The Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) does not recognize Integrative Medicine. As per letter issued by the Central Council of Indian Medicine on 5.12.2008, there is no provision for Integrative Medicine in the IMCC Act 1970. According to the Central Council of Indian Medicine, the practitioners of “Integrated System of Medicine” are quacks. Similarly, the term “Alternative Medicine” is not recognized by Central Council of Indian Medicine.  

Several Ayurvedic graduates after passing out BAMS degree opt for post graduation in Alternative System of Medicine abbreviated as MD (AM). MD (AM) means doctor of Alternative Medicine. This nomenclature of the degree harms the integration of MD. (Ayurvedic Medicine). Further, undergraduate degree in Alternative Medicine is also abbreviated as BAMS (Bachelor of Alternative Medicine). This again resembles with BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) causing doubts about institutionally recognized medical qualifications.

Bridge course in modern medicine for Ayush
For achieving the aims of National Health Policy 2017, The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched ‘The Bridge Programs on Certificate in Community Health for Nurses and Ayurveda Practitioners’ in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Open University. The aim of the Bridge Course in Modern Medicine for Ayush is to generate human resource for Mid-Level Health Care Providers. These shall be better known as Community Health Officers.

In this regard, the CCIM has developed a 9-month bridge course for the purpose of training Ayurveda practitioners to treat common health ailments in the rural population. The approval from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is awaited in this regard.

Is IM fold for Ayush mandatory?
Ayurveda has flourished and developed as an independent system of medicine in the post-independence era in India. As per recent development to bring Ayush in integrative fold may have shielding impact on independent status of Ayush system of medicine. Ayush clinical practice and drug manufacturing are well-established disciplines till to date. The aim of including the Ayush system of medicine in Integrative Medicine is a welcome step as far as international requirements but we need to maintain integrity of Ayush systems of medicine. It is premature to state what shall be fate of the move, but is shall have definite impact on independence and integrity of Ayush.

While framing acts and rules for the regulation of Integrative Medicine in India, it shall be vital to safeguard the future and interests of practitioners of Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy. Recently, The Sowa Rigpa has been included in the purview of the Central Council of Indian Medicine.

With steps like bridge course in modern medicine for Ayush and bringing Ayush in integrative fold, several radical changes are expected especially with respect to development of academic curriculum of Ayush sciences. Integration of Ayush with modern medical science has so far received mixed reaction from Ayush and Allopathic fraternity. Integration among Ayush sciences also needs urgent attention. Integrating like Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy can provide cost-effective and potent remedies for chronic and lifestyle diseases.

Validity of Shuddha Ayurveda
Shuddha Ayurveda means medical practice based on ancient Ayurvedic principles. The traditional vaidyas (Ayurvedic physicians) strongly favor use of Shuddha Ayurveda (pure Ayurvedic treatment). Some people are of the view that Ayurveda is a time-tested medical system and does not require endorsement from modern medical science. Ayurveda should remain as such and there is no need to integrate it with modern medical science.

Shuddha Ayurveda has contributed tremendously to the therapeutic utility of Ayurveda. Shuddha Ayurveda has been practiced by several generations in a family but the formulations have been codified and not documented. Due importance should be given to Shuddha Ayurveda as several miracle cures can be discovered by connecting the ancient vaidyas and hakims to the modern medical science. Also, it should be ensured that Intellectual Property Right Issues of the vaidyas and hakims community are not overlooked.

More efforts required on part of Ayush Min
The Ministry of Ayush has taken several remedial steps recently so as to promote credibility of Ayush internationally. Publication of new volumes of Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, Essential Drug List for Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy and National Policy on Ayush are some of the noteworthy steps. However, no or few steps have been taken for boosting confidence of students and teachers directly associated with Ayush institutions. The development of the human resource needs an immediate attention keeping in mind the norms which have become simple for opening new Ayush institutions.

Niti Aayog (The National Institution for Transforming India) has recommended the dissolution of the Central Council of Indian Medicine and the Central Council of Homeopathy. The Proposed Bill for Indian Systems of Medicine is known as The National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCISM) Bill, 2017. It aims to improve quality of education standards in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy.

(Author is herbal consultant based in Mohali)


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