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A Question to Put to the Ayurveda Crowd

Health minister Harsh Vardhan spoke again in support of Ayurveda and “alternative” medicine yesterday, as reported in The Hindu (Harsh Vardhan bats for Ayurveda):

Dr. Vardhan recommended that the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) commit itself “to promoting Ayush” (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy). NIMHANS and SVYAS should work in coordination and share scientific expertise, he said. “The supremacy of Indian fields of medicine has been established… Today, we do not have to convince people about yoga and Ayurveda.” However, the country needs evidence-based medicine, he said, adding that research on practices such as meditation and yoga could help empirically prove the efficacy of these Indian health systems.

The bit about evidence-based medicine is most welcome. My suspicion though is that they are not serious about it. His remarks here and previously (see Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy to be included in AIIMS system: Harsh Vardhan) suggest that he has already decided that Ayurveda works, and the evidence-based support is going to be selectively painted on – perhaps dishonestly – to give it a respectable veneer.

In a previous post titled How Ayurveda Works (Not Really) I argued against Ayurveda based on issues of plausibility. Perhaps we should also keep this different question handy to put to them:

Can you describe some Ayurveda remedies which were examined using the techniques of evidence-based medicine, found ineffective, and therefore discarded?

This would give some idea of whether they are seriously following evidence-based medicine or not. Mind you, this question is very valid even for modern medicine, as Ioannidis and co. have found – biases like publication bias are very real in modern medicine (Why Most Published Research Findings Are False). So if you put this same question to a doctor or researcher of modern medicine, you won’t get as many examples as you’d like. But you will find some, as a little searching on Google reveals. You will also find disputes, re-evaluations and controversies, like in the case of statins. So, in the future when our health ministry has its way on AYUSH, we should see at least this amount of failure and controversy in the news. If my suspicion is correct, we will not – instead we’ll see one positive result after another. Time will tell.

 

Comments

  1. Rama Rao K says

    License to manufacture medicines are governed under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940, with certain amendments. New medicines are to be approved after clinical trials but for Ayurvedic, Unani and Siddha medicines no clinical trials are required – only established traditions or procedures (as per texts of the respective medical systems) are to be followed. Take any ayurvedic formulation – one can clearly see on the label – ‘Ayurvedic Medicine’ imprinted. On the other hand, no mainstream medicine carries such labels like ‘English Medicine’ or even ‘medicine’ for that matter – only the name of the medicine is imprinted. Commonsense shows that any medicine that works does not require a prefix or an adjective.
    Ayurvedic medicines not only not undergo any clinical trials, but even post-usage studies are also not conducted with the result that the efficacy or otherwise of these medicines can never be established. Those who take these medicines are probably not aware of these facts – and if they are, either they are fools or foolhardy.

  2. says

    The human survival system is itself a self healing automatic functioning adapted to the nature. Ayurveda is based on the concept of three imaginary natural forces vata,(Air) pita(fire) and kapha(water) derived from panchabhoota that are earth,water,fire,air and space. According to ayurveda the three forces equilibrium creates health in the human body. Ayurveda means knowledge of life. Medicines are less important than the life style in ayurveda. It promotes the idea of how to live, what to eat according to keep the tridosha equlibrium of the human body. I cannot simply reject a traditional sytem of medicine being not empirical. Body is the healing factor not the medicine itself. A gonococci infection will be healed by one injection at a time while the body cure it within two months automatically that is the difference. Our neighbour china boosted the image to the world by exhibiting the acupuncture system. Everything cannot be observed thrugh clinical trials. Ayurveda is a product of a culture came through thousansds of years. Try to penetrate that knowledge rather than stamping it superstitious.

  3. says

    @sreenivasan,

    There are no three forces in the human body that need to be maintained in ‘balance’. The fact that Ayurveda’s foundations rest on such nonsensical ideas makes it suspect. Also, acupuncture does not work. If anything, anyone who promotes it are hurting their image.

  4. says

    The influence of three forces not only makes human being but the nature and the day. Morning 4 AM to 8 AM has the influence of kapha dosha, 8 AM to 4PM pitha dosha and 4PM to 4 AM vatha dosha. Eg:- Apple fruit stimulate vata dosha. According to Ayurveda apple should be consumed best in the morning. Evening it will act as poison ( do not think as a poison to kill enough) but it will produce gas and loss of appetite. A swig of food should be chewed minimum 21 times before swallow. Now it is discovered that saliva contains amylase that breakdown the starch for metabolism. Fever is considered as a product of infection of bacteria or virus. In Ayurveda fever is jwaram whether it is bacterial or viral. Vettumaaran gulika in ginger juice will eradicate the fever. There is no modern antibiotic in it. Also Vettumaran gulika proved as a best medicine in chicken pox early infection and three days consecutive doses will subside the disease. It is well advised to take the whole family of chicken pox patient this vettumaran gulika at the time of fever before the ulcer comes out. so the chicken pox subsides with the fever. There are so many medicines of Ayurveda gives instant relief which cannot be proved in the laboratory. In my knowledge which is beneficial without harm is scientific.

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