Can Alternative Systems Supplement Modern Medicine ? – 1

Introduction: This blog series will compile research and articles published in reputed medical journals by experts in medical field. Idea of this series is to educate and introduce people about alternative medicine and how it can supplement the current modern medicine. There are some good things that can be learnt from alterantive medicine due to its long history of  usage worldwide. All medical practices such as Nature Cure, Ayurvedic, Homeopathy, Chinese and Modern medicine have limitations. A synergetic and complimentary usage of different practices could provide results that are not achievable with single practice. An integrative approach is needed to combat the illnesses at cost effective manner.

Although remarkable technological advances have taken place in the fields of prevention, control, and cure of disease, the health status of people globally is far from satisfactory. An estimated 17 million people worldwide die of cardiovascular diseases each year.[1] More than 22 million people worldwide had cancer in the year 2000.[2] In that same year, 171 million people globally had diabetes.[3] Western allopathic medicine has not achieved the objective of health for all, even for those who can afford its high costs. In some instances, this system of medicine has even contributed to the ill health of those patients who utilize it, through toxic side-effects and other iatrogenic disorders.[4–7] The forte of allopathic medicine is its ability to deal with acute medical crises such as trauma, myocardial infarction, infections, and so on. However, from the Ayurvedic point of view, its understanding of chronic diseases and their underlying pathology is superficial and incomplete, which renders it unable to effectively treat these disorders.[8,9] Moreover, allopathic medicine has not yet reached the vast majority of people in rural and remote areas, especially in developing countries.

In India, the traditional system of medicine known as Ayurveda is generally the only system of medicine available in villages and remote areas. This comprehensive, natural health care system has been utilized for more than 5000 years for prevention, health promotion, and treatment of disease. [11] After undergoing a period of suppression during colonial rule, Ayurveda has experienced a resurgence in the last several decades and interest in it is now growing worldwide.[12,13] In India, a technological revolution is occurring in which the scientific techniques of modern medicine are being utilized to investigate and validate Ayurveda in a new light. This blending of the old and new is exemplified in what Mashelkar refers to as “a golden triangle between traditional medicine, modern medicine, and modern science.”[14]

Homeopathy was invented in Germany and it is widely used worldwide. It is used in every nook and corner of India by rich and poor. It is affordable and takes care of daily needs as well as some chronic illnesses. However, it is unfortunate that it is not practiced widely in North America.

A new look at the policy level is needed to examine the integrative medicine. Cost of health care is rising worldwide and causing variety of problems ranging from budget deficit to human lives. Modern medicine companies are so powerful due to their financial muscle and current investment that  it is not expected that they will do anything in near future.

References :

1. World Health Organization. CVD Prevention and Control: Missed opportunities. Online document at: Accessed August diseases/prevention_control 28, 2007.

2. Stewart BW, Kleihues P, eds. World Cancer Report. Lyon, France: IARC Press, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2003.

3. World Health Organization. Diabetes Programme. Online document at Accessed August 28, 2007.

4. Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients. JAMA 1998;279: 1200–1205.

5. Morrissey J. Patient safety proves elusive. Five years after publication of the IOM’s “To Err is Human,” there’s plenty of activity on patient safety, but progress is another matter. Modern Healthcare 2004;34:6–7, 24–25, 28–32.

6. Starfield B. Is US health really the best in the world? JAMA 2000;284:483–485.

7. Steel K, Gertman PM, Crescenzi C, Anderson J. Iatrogenic illness on a general medical service at a university hospital. N Engl J Med 1981;304:638–642.

8. Chowka P. Major US and UK studies heighten concerns about conventional medical care. Online document at: Accessed March 17, 2001.

9. Hoffman C, Rice D, Sung H-Y. Persons with chronic conditions: Their prevalence and costs. JAMA 1996;276

10. Bodeker G, Ong C-K, Grundy C, et al., eds. WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Text and Map Volumes. Kobe, Japan: World Health Organization, The WHO Centre for Health Development, 2005.

11. Lavekar GS, Sharma SK. Republic of India. WHO South- East Asia Region: Regional overview and selected country chapters. In: Bodeker G, Ong C-K, Grundy C, et al., eds. WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Text and Map Volumes. Kobe, Japan: World Health Organization, The WHO Centre for Health Development, 2005:89–96.

12. Valiathan MS. Towards Ayurvedic Biology. A Decadal Vision Document. Bangalore, India: Indian Academy of Sciences, 2006.

13. Mishra LC, ed. Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies. New York: CRC Press, 2004.

14. Mashelkar RA. India’s R&D: Reaching for the top. Science 2005;307:1415–1417.

15. Patwardhan B. Traditional Medicine: Modern Approach for Affordable Global Health. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2005.

Links are from medical journals and do not represent the suggestions or advise of Indus Organics. Please consult your natural health practitioner for usage. It is not advisable to discontinue your current medication and start natural herbs without consulting your doctor.

Author wish to thank Prof. Hari Sharma, MD, DABP, FCAP, FRCPC, DABHM

The Ohio State University Center for Integrative Medicine; College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. for providing the article THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE Volume 13, Number 9, 2007, pp. 1011–1019 © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2007.7017-A that forms the basis of this blog.

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