Mainstreaming Natural Medicine

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

The alternative, complementary, or holistic, approach to health uses the best of natural therapies, such as Ayurveda and homeopathy, in particular, and acupuncture, herbal remedies, meditation, yoga etc., among others.

Most of these therapies are now scientifically documented; this will make them not only relevant and effective, but also cost-effective, which they already are.

If we are to make healthcare affordable and available, all of us — doctors and patients — should attend to the elemental causes of health and illness. This will enable us to provide the stimuli for healthy ways of living rather than just ‘recompense’ for medications, or drugs, and surgery.

As Drs Deepak Chopra, MD, Dean Ornish, MD, Rustum Roy, PhD, and Andrew Weil, MD, summarised in The Wall Street Journal, not long ago, “Today, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity account for 75 per cent of healthcare costs and expenses. The fact is: they are all largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle.”

New scientific studies suggest that our bodies have an incredible ability to begin healing, much more quickly than we had once realised. If only we address skewed lifestyle issues that often cause chronic diseases, it is all the better. Yes, recent studies explain that alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, can make a powerful difference to our health and well-being. It can bring about harmonious transformation, quickly, safely, and effectively [also, inexpensively].

Medicine need not progress principally through technological advance, or introduction of new wonder drugs that are often, or invariably, replaced by the more wonderful, nay ‘bitter,’ drugs of tomorrow. Even simple choices related to our lifestyle — what we eat, how we manage stress, whether we smoke, or drink alcohol, or how much exercise we get, as Ayurveda, or homeopathy, emphasises, or espouses, aside from the quality of our relationships — can be just as powerful as conventional drugs and surgery. They often are — most often, they are even more powerful and effective than powerful [conventional] drugs.

Low-Cost, Effective Therapy 

Alternative therapies, such as Ayurveda and homeopathy, prove the emergent power of simple, technologically-enabled and low-cost measures — not fancied, high-priced therapy. They approach treatment with plant-based, or natural, medicines, balanced nutritional diets, yoga, meditation and psycho-social support. This form of treatment can stop, or even reverse, the progression of coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure [hypertension], cancer, obesity, and other major diseases.

Yet, the irony is: our healthcare system is glued to be more of a disease-care system, not preventative-care system.

To cut a long story short. Conventional medicine begins to treat disease after it has occurred, or is entrenched. Alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, the second largest system of medicine after conventional [allopathic] medicine, looks at the possibility much in advance.

A randomised controlled trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine found, to highlight a noteworthy example, that angioplasties and stents do not prolong life, or even prevent heart attacks in stable patients — i.e., 95 per cent of those who receive them. Coronary bypass surgery prolongs life in less than three per cent of patients who go through the procedure. Yet, believe it or not, insurance companies pay billions for surgical procedures like angioplasty and bypass surgery — procedures that are usually risky, invasive, expensive and largely futile. They pay little — or, no money at all — for alternative medical approaches, such as Dr Ornish’s ‘Reversing Heart Disease’ — that have been proven to reverse and also prevent most chronic diseases that account for almost 75 per cent of healthcare costs.

Take this, as Dr Chopra et al, point out, again. The INTERHEART Study, published in The Lancet, followed 30,000 men and women on six continents and found that changing one’s lifestyle could prevent at least 90 per cent of all heart disease. This is not all. Chronic pain is one of the major sources of worker’s compensation claims costs; yet studies show that it is often responsive to homeopathy, acupuncture and certain traditional treatments, with no side-effects, when compared to pharmaceutical preparations.

To quote Dr Chopra et al, again, “When you eat a healthier diet, quit smoking, exercise, meditate and have more love in your life, then your brain receives more blood and oxygen. You think more clearly, have more energy, and need less sleep. Your brain may grow so many new neurons that it could get measurably bigger in only a few months. Your face gets more blood flow, so your skin glows more and wrinkles less. Your heart gets more blood flow, so you have more stamina and you can even begin to reverse heart disease. For many people, these are choices worth making — not just to live longer, but also to live better.”

CAM Effect 

Interestingly, complementary and alternative medicine [CAM], such as Ayurveda, or homeopathy, already has extensive knowledge of individual differences built into their diagnostic and therapeutic systems. It is imperative, therefore, for all of us to expect such natural modes of analyses becoming ‘seamlessly’ integrated into healthcare, at all levels, along with parallel psychological assessments.

Isn’t it, therefore, just about time that we all moved past the debate of CAM, such as homeopathy, versus conventional medicine, and focus on what works for us, what doesn’t, for any of us, or for some of us, and under what — given, or not given — situation? What does this connote? That conventional medicine and CAM should both challenge and learn from each other.

As Dr Andrew Lange, BSc, ND, explains, “Homeopathy represents an integrated holistic system of natural therapeutics. Its capacity for addressing psychosomatic disease and acute pathology as a dynamic process is unique. It has remained a coherent system, with extensive clinical verification, for more than two centuries. Homeopathy is also an economical and effective method that has been established as an integral part of the medical system in several countries. With the resurgence of interest in natural medicine, this discipline will undoubtedly be more widely used.”

This is not all. Ayurveda and homeopathy play an important role in the context of modern natural medicine. It also represents a principle found throughout nature, not to speak of its pivotal role in bringing forth the essentialities of resonance, constitution, homeostasis, and holism, which are all integral to the science of living and healing.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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