Sixty-four years old Rajeshwari Mukundan Menon was exhausted from battling arthritis and severe acidity for decades. Finally, in 2019, Bengaluru-based Rajeshwari found some relief. She sought treatment from Siddha practitioner P. R. Asokan, and within 6 months, Rajeshwari’s condition improved. “I have tolerated excruciating pain in my stomach and knees for 25 years and today I can say I am 80% better. Allopathy never suited me. All that master (Asokan) gives me is oil to apply”, explains the sexagenarian.
Asokan has been practising Siddha and pranic healing for 21 years. But never before has he seen such a demand and acceptance for the traditional healing practice. Believed to be one of the oldest systems of medicine, Siddha works around lifestyle and dietary modifications to cure diseases.
Siddha, along with Ayurveda, Unani, Yoga and Homeopathy, are Indian systems of medicine that comprise the AYUSH spectrum. In order to give focused attention to the development of education and research in the Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy systems, the Department of India Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy (ISM&H) was established by the Indian government in March 1995 under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In November 2003, the department changed its name to the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).
The Ministry of Ayush was established in 2014 with the goal of preserving the profound knowledge of our antiquated medical systems. And, thus, making sure to develop and spread the Ayush medical systems as best as they can.
Practitioners like Asokan feel that in the last few years, particularly after COVID-19, the acceptance of Indian systems of medicine has increased. Asokan reveals that the number of patients coming to his centre in Bengaluru has increased post pandemic.
A Comprehensive Approach
While Ayurveda emphasises well-being through balance in diet, lifestyle, and herbal remedies, Siddha and Unani employ natural elements and holistic principles to treat diseases. Yoga, like any practitioner will tell you, goes beyond physicality. It fosters mental and spiritual well-being through postures, breath control, and meditation. Naturopathy advocates for the body’s inherent healing ability using natural therapies and lifestyle interventions. Homeopathy, based on the principle of ‘like cures like’, offers alternative solutions with minimal side effects.
These systems resonate till date as people seek alternatives to conventional medicine, having realised the significance of prevention and holistic well-being. With growing global awareness, these traditional Indian systems of medicine are being sought after by many people to maintain health and address various health challenges.
Dr. S. Manivannan, BNYS (Bachelor of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences), who practises at the International Institute of Yoga and Naturopathy Medical Sciences, Chengalpattu, in Tamil Nadu, confirms the statement when he reveals that the OPD at the institute receives 250 patients every day. “We want more patients as we see a surge in interest and potential in Naturopathy. In Naturopathy, we talk about lifestyle changes like time to wake up, correct time to have meals, diets, etc. We don’t treat the disease; we treat patients. We are not doctors but teachers”, says Dr. Manivannan.
He says, naturopathy, the Tamil Nadu government is promoting it. It has 20 Naturopathy colleges. “Actually, yoga and naturopathy played a major role during the pandemic. The state government posted a naturopathy doctor in each and every COVID hospital.”
Mainstreaming Ayush by the central government through schemes and measures also helps in making the traditional medicine systems visible. The goal of the National Health Mission (NHM) is to integrate AYUSH. The goal of NHM is to enhance the current healthcare delivery system by offering high-quality, reasonably priced, and easily accessible healthcare.
Dr. Purnima Siddhanta, Ayurveda expert with Roundglass Living states, “AYUSH ministry is constantly making plans to improve the status of Ayurveda and aiding organisations to do more research and come up with formulations. The cost and licensing of manufacturing Ayurvedic medicine have improved, and the process is simplified. Packaging and export norms are also much better than before. Opening of the All India Institute of Ayurveda in New Delhi was a wonderful step to promote and support this ancient healing system of medicine. We need more institutions like this as they help in making Ayurveda education more formal and organised and help in weeding out quacks. Similarly, including a week of AYUSH training for all MBBS students was a step towards giving due recognition and platform to Ayurveda and other ancient systems of medicine.”
Patients can now select from a variety of medical systems under one roof. Thanks to GoI’s co-location of AYUSH facilities at Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs), and District Hospitals (DHs). The Ministry of AYUSH provides support for AYUSH infrastructure, equipment/furniture, and medications. Laterally, the Department of Health and Family Welfare oversees the recruitment and training of AYUSH doctors and paramedics. GoI has floated several schemes and programmes like Ayurgyan, Ayurswastha, National Medicinal Plant Board (promoting development and cultivation of medicinal plants) and many more. This aims to create a conducive atmosphere for these systems to flourish.
The Global Wellness Economy will expand at a rate of 9.9% each year, according to the Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) paper “The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond COVID.” By 2025, the AYUSH-based healthcare and wellness sector is expected to generate $70 billion in revenue.
Ayush practices received a major boost last year. Because the Indian government created a new category of AYUSH visas for foreigners seeking medical care in India.
Bengaluru-based yoga teacher and nutritionist Shalini Sudhakar opines that yoga is popular like never before. “I have seen a 70-80% increase in the number of students in my classes in the last 3-4 years. I get students who have been advised by doctors to practise yoga so you can imagine the faith this system elicits from people. Doctors tell patients with fibromyalgia, back pain, and high blood pressure to join yoga classes. Nobody says if you want to cure BP, do pilates or go to the gym; doctors advise their patients to do yoga because its benefits are scientifically proven and hence it remains relevant as ever”, says Sudhakar.
Even as central and state governments continue to take measures towards research and development, practitioners say there is an urgent need for regulations to govern AYUSH regulated universities in order to churn out genuine practitioners.
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