Ayurveda: alternative system of medicine (?)

We live in an era of awareness. May it be the government policy or international politics we are well awate of almost everything around us. When it comes to health we are not only well aware but very conscious also. We have google which provides us with variety of things from generic name of medicines to their side effects. While this is the awareness scenario overall we are a little aware regarding the health science from our own soil which is called as Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is said to be the most popular branch of alternative system of medicines. It is gaining global popularity with great success ratio just as that of Yoga. In fact both these Indian sciences are getting very popular hand in hands. However it is important to see what the term Alternative system of medicines mean.


“Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad domain of resources that encompasses health systems, modalities, and practices and their accompanying theories and beliefs, other than those intrinsic to the dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period. CAM includes such resources perceived by their users as associated with positive health outcomes. Boundaries within CAM and between the CAM domain and the domain of the dominant system are not always sharp or fixed.”

(Ref. IOM report 2005 page. 19)


In short; alternative system of medicines mostly include folklore practices which are very less or absolutely not proven with scientific methods like clinical trials. With this norm modern western medicine becomes the ‘only’ scientific branch of medicine and rest others are tagged to be unscientific. Naming an ages old system like Ayurveda unscientific and placing it under alternative system is sheer injustice to this ancient Indian science. It also proves superiority complex of western medicine and their ignorant attitude too.


Ayurveda is based upon concrete clinical theories like Tridosha, Sapta Dhatus, PanchaMahabhutas etc. It has it’s unique diagnostic methods including the famous pulse diagnosis. It has explained the treatment of ailments in depths as per different clinical conditions which even today could be seen and treated accordingly. It had voluminous documentation in the form of Samhitas which were largely burned to ashes during various invasions. We still could successfully preserve certain texts which is the base of Ayurveda education today. Number of institutes throughout India are providing full time Government recognized degree course of Ayurveda. Apart from these; there are post graduate institutes in Ayurveda where constant research work is going on. Most of the Ayurvedic medicines have been proved on modern scientific parameters and hence this empirical knowledge has become evidence based too.


Considering these facts; one can easily understand that Ayurveda or for that matter Siddha & Yoga too are totally different than other alternative systems. Calling these branches unscientific is an age old fallacy. Ayurveda is technically the mother of all medical sciences existing today including modern western medicine. ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is the favorite principle of today’s medical world and Preventive medicine is paid utmost importance globally. Acharya Charaka (100 BC) quotes sole purpose of Ayurveda is ‘स्वस्थस्य स्वास्थ्यरक्षणम् आतुरस्यविकारप्रशमनं च।’ meaning to maintain the health of healthy being and to cure the diseased one. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its 1948 constitution as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Ayurveda not only fulfils this criteria but adds one more important dimension to it. That is spiritual well-being.


Ayurveda is not merely a medical science but as it’s name itself suggests; it is a science of Ayu ie lifestyle. In short; Ayurveda is a complete healthy lifestyle. Hence we should stop calling it an alternative system of medicine but the mainstream system of medicine.


Dr. Pareexit Shevde

MD (Ayu)


(Author is an Ayurvedic practitioner, researcher and public speaker)