Ayurveda: Medicine Of The Future

Words: Dr Ravina Nagesh DALVI

This is the edited version of the essay that won the Second Prize in ThinkWellness360 Essay Writing Competition 2022 for Ayurveda Medical College Students. 

Ayurveda is one of the most ancient, also traditional, systems of medicine. Its origins could be traced to the Vedas. It is considered as the upaveda of Atharva Veda.

Ayurveda was first shared through the oral recitation tradition — from one generation to the other. It was first coded in the form of various samhitas by Acharya Agnivesha, Charaka, and Suśruta, among others.

A vast repertoire of Ayurveda literature and information was lost, destroyed, or misplaced, through time — although Charaka Samhita, Suśruta Samhita, Ashtanga Hrudaya, Ashtanga Sangraha, and Bhel Samhita are available, in their pristine form, today.

Ayurveda aims at maintaining the health of the healthy individual and treating disease in the diseased. One may call Ayurveda the science of life — since it provides for the overall well-being of the individual. Ayurveda also is keyed to the maintenance of health and prevention of illness.

Ayurveda has witnessed mixed fortunes — of decline, growth, stagnation and stability throughout its journey through time. Thanks to its holistic purport, its popularity is expanding worldwide, perhaps, much more than ever before.

Ayurveda is not just medicine, it also gives due importance to our daily regime [dinacharya], rutucharya, diet, sleep [nidra], code of good conduct [sadvritta], rasayana etc. They cumulatively help us to maintaining complete health [swasthya].

Well, the point is: it’s not easy to make Ayurveda, the medicine of future, although it is a possibility construct, or work in progress. To state the obvious — intense research, high-quality, and evidence-based studies, modifications and additions, in consonance with contemporary needs, are on the whole crucial.

Hurdles Galore

There are hurdles along the path to transforming Ayurveda — to making it fit into the credo ‘medicine of the future.’

  • Difficulty in generalising Ayurveda concepts and medicines, since Ayurveda aims at the individual level with each person as being different from the other
  • Limitations while using certain drugs that are extinct, or endangered
  • Lack of awareness about Ayurveda terminologies in the community
  • Not knowing hidden side-effects of certain herbal, or mineral, formulations
  • Lack of evidence, or data, to prove complex Ayurveda theories
  • Difficulty in providing instant relief to patients
  • Difficulty in managing emergencies
  • Limited number of high-quality research and evidence-based studies
  • Difficulty in fitting Ayurveda principles, or terminologies, into contemporary research models.

There are other difficulties too; they have to be resolved to making Ayurveda the medicine of future.

The Future Is Now

Ayurveda is based on various siddhantas, or principles. They are stated after critical analyses by scholars and experts and also established only after ‘proving them’ — chaturvidha pramana pariksha. The principles are not just tools; they provide the fundamentals to treating newly-emerging diseases too. The application of Ayurveda, the back-to-the-future medicine, is, therefore, not only imperative, but also more than essential than any time before.

Ayurveda targets our body as one whole, and not just compartments.

  • Many Ayurveda formulations are plant-based; they are used in their completest form. Well formulated preparations cause less side-effects
  • Ayurveda focuses on prevention of disease. This can help the individual to pre-empt, also prevent, the disease before its onset
  • Ayurveda aims at preventing, predicting and curative aspects of disease
  • Many unique concepts, like prakriti, koshta, agni, bala, are mentioned in Ayurveda. This gives us a new vision to looking at the individual — with each individual being as unique as their fingerprint, or signature
  • Nidan panchak and kriyakala are explained in Ayurveda texts — they can help in assessing  disease at its early stage and arresting its possible assault
  • Diet, sleep and brahmacharya are considered the three pillars of life, according to Ayurveda. They help us in preserving optimal health of the individual
  • There are other factors, like sadvritta, dharaniya vega, and adharaniya vega, explained in Ayurveda texts. They all impact the health of a person
  • Sharir and mana are given equal importance in Ayurveda. Many psychosomatic disorders that are increasing, day-by-day, could, therefore, be cured using Ayurveda tenets
  • Lifestyle diseases are the order of the day. According to WHO, non-communicable diseases accounted for 74 per cent of deaths globally [2019]
  • People are giving far too much importance to their work, while neglecting their health. This is creating imbalance — of sharir and manas dosha, leading eventually to disease
  • Many manas vikaras, like anxiety, stress, depression etc., are expanding rapidly, just as much as other illnesses, diseases and syndromes
  • The quest for new medicines and vaccines may not be just enough. Treating the ‘root cause’ of disease is essential and Ayurveda could be our best holistic expanse, not just option.

Ayurveda is a science that focuses on the health of the individual, right from the time of conception till death. In other words, it could be applied at any stage of life. 

The Road Ahead

Ayurveda has witnessed many ups and down throughout its long journey. Modernisation and adaptation, according to future needs, without hampering its basics, is essential to making Ayurveda the medicine of the future.

  • Yuganurup parivartan. Ayurveda needs modifications to cater to current and futuristic medicine
  • Pratisanskaran. Even the classics suggest upgradation and modification of texts according to contemporary needs — for the rejuvenation of the science
  • Augmenting our clinical approach, while reading samhitas [Ayurvedic texts] and distilling the application of sutras and siddhanta in them are a sine qua non
  • Studying newly emerging diseases [anukta vyadhi] and designing nidan panchak and chikitsa for them according to Ayurveda are essential too
  • Finding the rasadi bhava and effect on doshas of various new hetu, or aetiological [causative] factors in a modern context
  • Refurnishing the pharmacopeia by deletion of unavailable dravya and addition of new, available dravya
  • Creating awareness in the community regarding dinacharya, rutucharya and their effects on health
  • Educating people regarding various Ayurveda terminologies, like prakriti, agni, bala, ojas etc
  • Making people aware about Ayurveda concepts, viz., ahara, nidra and Also educating them on dharaniya vega, adharaniya vega, rasayana therapy, sadvrutta etc., for maintenance of health
  • Trying to decode the leshokta, or finding the real, unvarnished meaning ‘between the lines’
  • Discovering new knowledge with the help of chaturvidha pramana pariksha and also using modern tools and techniques
  • Transforming Ayurveda ashta vidha pariksha with the help of contemporary tools and techniques
  • Collection of data and evidence-based research is much more essential for validation and acceptance of Ayurveda
  • Identifying the weaknesses of Ayurveda and trying to strengthen them
  • Standardisation of available drugs and ‘up-to-the-minute’ exploration of their effects and side-effects are essential to make Ayurveda formulations acceptable worldwide
  • Developing new formulations and also inventing new formulations and dosages are essential for easy administration of Ayurveda drugs
  • Finding alternatives for unavailable Ayurveda drugs
  • Modification in dinacharya and rutucharya vis-à-vis contemporary lifestyles and seasonal patterns
  • Integration with other sciences and therapies to explore new horizons for Ayurveda in today’s context.

To recall Acharya Suśruta’s quintessential aphorism:

एकं शास्त्रमधीयानो न विद्याच्छास्त्रनिश्चयम् ।  तस्माद्बहुश्रुतः शास्त्रं विजानीयाच्चिकित्सकः ।I

More than anything else, we need to expand Ayurveda’s integration and backward integration with ancient sciences, like Vedic sciences, yoga, etc. Also, horizontal integration with other traditional systems, like homeopathy, Unani, siddha etc., and forward integration with modern [conventional] medicine and other basic sciences, like physics, chemistry and biology, would be more than imperative for the overall growth of Ayurveda. This would give us a clear view of Ayurveda too; it may also help us in validating Ayurveda science, while propelling us to —

  • Setting up various parameters, according to current needs, including the formulation of various scales of Ayurveda principles acceptable to modern science
  • Sharing experiences, updating current research work, and knowing the current needs of the community are no less essential to strengthening and expanding Ayurveda.

Conclusion

We would do well to understand that a vision without strategy will remain an illusion. The proper application of Ayurveda principles is extremely essential, just as much as validation, replication and acceptance — to making Ayurveda the medicine of future. Incorporating Ayurveda at the community levels is also important. Up-to-date research, collaboration, expansion, and integration should be slotted at various levels to promote health through Ayurveda. Pragmatic policies should also be implemented at the government level for Ayurveda to reach a maximum number of people.

All the same, we ought not to miss the wood for the trees in our animated frenzy. We must preserve, protect and maintain good health of each and every individual in the community through the application of Ayurveda’s time-tested tenets. This can help us in achieving the aim [prayojan] of Ayurveda — the complete well-being of the person [swasthya]. They are all principles mentioned precisely in Ayurveda texts; they are timeless, also perpetual.

The bottom line is simple, also profound. We, as vaidyas, must apply our buddhi, yukti, and pradnya for achieving community health, with the use of Ayurveda, more so in the present scenario. This is the only way to making Ayurveda — the medicine of the future.

Dr RAVINA NAGESH DALVI is a Second Year PG Scholar [Department of Swasthavritta] @ Tilak Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya, Pune, Maharashtra, India [Subject Photo: Courtesy, Kerala Tourism].

1 thoughts on “Ayurveda: Medicine Of The Future

  1. Srikar R K says:

    This is a very good article. It is thoughtfully written. I am a student of Ayurveda, but did not know about the essay contest. I wish to take part when you hold the contest in the future. You now have my e-mail address. Please let me know.

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