is a prehistoric science with its origin in the Indian sub-continent, and it is a belief that God taught Ayurveda to the sages. Ayurveda was the primary form of healthcare in our country before modern medicine took over. Ayurvedic therapies are said to have evolved over more than two thousand years. The knowledge growth in Ayurveda was significant during the Vedic period, but hardly any new knowledge was added after that. Ayurveda education today is restricted to Sushruta Samhita, Charaka Samhita, and Bhela Samhita, all texts written before the 7th century CE. The science of Ayurveda was significantly evolved for those times and boasted of effective therapies and techniques for multiple surgeries.
Unfortunately, the knowledge of Ayurveda has remained static after that. Civilization has evolved, and disease patterns have changed. Modern lifestyles, environmental change, exposure to modern technology/chemicals, behavior/mental changes, longer lifespan, and new microbial infections have changed the spectrum of disease and deformity. Further conditions are evolving, and the complexity of diseases is getting more severe. Even modern medicine struggles to keep pace with this constant change despite having a very organized, dynamic, and continuous research system.
Ayurveda practitioners have failed to develop research wings in any of their institutes or teaching colleges. Ayurvedic Colleges don't teach the scientific approach to problem-solving. There are no laboratories to conduct research. All research is limited to the study of scriptures or dated literature available. There are only 3 PubMed indexed Ayurvedic journals, and they too hardly publish original research articles. There is hardly any research to develop new drugs, treatment methodology, or establish treatment guidelines. There are hardly any Ayurvedic hospitals in the country. How can the legendary healthcare system ever flourish under such conditions!
Governments have made some half-hearted efforts to promote Ayurveda. The government formed a separate AYUSH ministry in 2014 aimed at encouraging research and development in alternative forms of medicine. The ministry never worked for the cause of the science of Ayurveda but is instead trying to integrate Ayurvedic medical practice with modern medicine. It is including modern medicine subjects and methodology in curricula for both the Bachelor's and Master's programs. An obscene term 'Mixopathy' has emerged for this mixed bag training. One wonders how safely these half-baked practitioners will practice these two streams at the same time!
The emergence of the ministry has opened up some job avenues for Ayurveda practitioners. However, jobs available are limited to low-paying charitable clinic jobs. Ayurvedic physicians often illegally work in private hospitals, where unscrupulous owners employ them as cheap workers. The failure to earn from Ayurvedic practice forces the practitioners to practice modern medicine clandestinely.
To make matters worse for Ayurveda, the leadership of their stream is now in the stranglehold of some self-styled Ayurvedic practitioners. A new breed of business people with ulterior motives has cropped up to capture the field of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is today getting a lot of media blitz, but unfortunately, this promotes the self-medication of products, of doubtful value, by the public. People don't seek Ayurvedic consults and buy commercially available trademarked, supposedly Ayurvedic products. Shampoo, biscuits, cornflakes, and innumerable cosmetics are sold as Ayurvedic products. The word 'Ayurveda' has become a trademark for sale promotion, and its connection with health no longer exists.
There is an emergent need to rejuvenate Ayurveda before it becomes an extinct science. We need to free it from the clutches of these self-styled Ayurveda proponents, who are only interested in profit by using its name. There is a need for true Ayurvedacharyas to take over the control of the field and help it prosper. There is a need to free the science from popularity-seeking politicians trying to convert it to 'Mixopathy.' We need to ensure that Ayurveda progresses with research and development. We need to ensure that it gets a rightful place in healthcare rather than piggybacking other streams as a dependent science.Author: Dr Mukul Kapoor, Director, Department of Anesthesia, Max Smart Super Specialiity Hospital, Saket, New Delhi.