'Ayurvedic Medicine Research Gaining Pace in West'

The healing powers of ancient Indian medicine practice ‘Ayurveda’ are known for centuries, yet it remains ignored not just globally but even in India in modern times. This is largely due to lack of convincing scientific studies in the western world. Recently, perhaps for the first time a mega study was undertaken as a collaborative research project by scientists and physicians from eminent research Institutions including Harvard University, UCSD, Duke University and Mt Sinai University, to study the healing effects of Indian Ayurvedic practices and herbs in human. The project, named as ‘Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative’ (SBTI) is being led by Dr Deepak Chopra who runs the Chopra Clinic for Wellbeing in California. The associated scientists have also published a research article on the subject about the biological effects of ‘Panchkarma’ in journal ‘Scientific Reports’ (Peterson et al, 2016).
The government of India had undertaken several initiatives in recent past to promote the Ayurveda and other traditional Indian medicines in India. Moreover, WHO had also recognized the beneficial effects of Ayurveda in past. Despite this, the Ayurveda has not gained much popularity which may be its tagging as ‘Pseudoscience’ by most modern medicine practitioners. For proving the scientific basis of this ancient medicine branch, more such studies are required to be published in global clinical journals of broad readership, along with awareness campaigns by NGOs. Such steps can one day help Ayurveda gain the popularity it deserves worldwide.

-Tarun Tyagi, Phd
Yale University School of Medicinestrong text

It is true that research in Ayurveda has not picked up in India as much as it should have. A dent, however, was made by the ‘Ayurvedic Biology’ initiative triggered a little more than 10 years ago by Prof. M. S. Valiathan with support of Dr. R. Chidambaram (Principal Scientific Advisor to Govt. of India). Our own studies, catalyzed by this initiative, have indeed shown what systematic rational experimental studies can reveal. The resons why Ayurveda has not become popular are to be sought in the refractoriness of most practitioners of this health-care system to any questioning and scientific analysis on one hand, and the search for ‘active principles’ using the reductionist approach by molecular biologists, on the other. An additional factor that has contributed to its remaining a ‘black-box’ is the unwarranted veil of ‘spirituality’ placed on the science of Ayurveda. What we need is rational and unbiased analyses, with active involvement of Ayurvedic practitioners, scientists (biologists and material scientists) and linguists, to separate facts from myths. Then only this traditional health-care system would become useful and popular.

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We will be happy to have more researchers trying to dig deep into the principles of Ayurvedic biology to comment here and engage in a healthy discussion.