Friday, August 10, 2012

Alternative medicine...does it really work??

Ayurveda is a Indian system of traditional medicine, it is also considered as Hindu system of traditional or alternative medicine. It is still very popular in India and few other countries from the same region like China, Srilanka and they have their own system of alternative medicine. Before origin and popularity of allopathic medicine most of the diseases and alignments were treated by using traditional medicinal knowledge. Ayurvedic texts are very old and they contain very detailed information about various diseases, their symptoms and ways of treating or preventing them. I think it pays more emphasis on prevention rather than cure, it recommends to lead very disciplined life style with balance of work, exercise, proper food and peace of mind. But in today's world it is often impossible to follow such routine, there are some people who can still manage to do that but most of us find it very hard.

Because of technological inventions new methods of diagnosis and treatment are developed in modern medicine. Since birth of pharmaceutical industry and some major breakthroughs in drug discovery there was continuous supply of new drugs for life threatening diseases. I think this revolution lead people to believe that anything can be cured by available drugs and they can get away with their erratic lifestyle and food habits with the help of pills. In this scenario there is little scope for traditional medicine as it doesn't offer instant solutions or reliable cure for may of diseases (like cancer, high blood pressure, AIDS, etc.). World population suffering from these alignments is increasing day by day and cost of drug discovery is also increasing because of many reasons. This lead to situation where practitioners of alternative medicine (as well as its manufacturers) started making tall claims that they can cure cancer or AIDS with help and herbs or some other methods to attract patients towards them. There is no scientific study or reliable data which can validate these claims. Many people from developing countries (like India) who can't afford expensive treatments or medicines choose to go with this alternative medicines. Many of them even claim to get benefited or cured by these treatments. I think placebo effect plays major role here, may be I am wrong because there is no data to prove this but this is what I think. Most of the formulations of traditional medicines are not tested in lab for concentration of their active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and very often clinical trials are not performed. It's not that allopathy or modern medicine is full proof cure without any problems, these medicines have side effects (some times very serious and life threatening), some times pharma companies do some mistakes or there were some instances of professional malpractices (like they exist in medical doctors profession), but over all pharma industry is doing decent job in serving patients. Modern pharma industry have set protocols for drug development and its clinical trials. Agencies like FDA (in US) try to monitor drug development and introduce new regulations from tie to time to make the process of drug discovery and consumption more safe and reliable, but similar things can not be said about traditional medicines as they don't have any controlling or regulating authority like FDA and because of this there is lot of inconsistency in their quality and performance.

In today's world we can not depend on some system which was in use several hundreds of years ago, it's really sad that in India we could not make proper use of this knowledge to develop drugs of our own. Many big pharma companies developed drugs from natural products (Ayurved is all about using natural products) but in India we failed to use this traditional knowledge and also failed to use modern discoveries in various fields to improve this knowledge. There is still hope that this situation can be changed but people should not be emotionally attached with this knowledge and should be open to accept some criticism and able to analyze it without any bias, if we can do this then I am sure we are bound to gain many good things out of this. Every culture has tremendous amount of traditional knowledge, we need to explore these resources and use these treasures for our own benefit.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

References:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayurveda
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allopathic_medicine

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

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