Even since the dawn of human history, man has been afflicted with disease. He has been finding ways and means to cure his afflictions from things in his natural surroundings– from trees, herbs, water etc. With the progress of civilization, theories of health and disease were propounded by learned individuals. In ancient India, it was `Acharya Sushrut’ and `Charak’ who are credited with producing famous treatises on `Ayurveda’– the traditional Indian, oriental science of medicine. In Europe, it was Hippocrates who is known as the father of modern medicine. In medieval Europe the science of Allopathy got a big boost with the landmark discoveries by Louis Pasteur, Robert Kotch, William Harvey and others. Today, modern medical science has produced apparently advanced techniques of diagnosis and surgery. Many hitherto incurable diseases have been eradicated or are being treated successfully. But modern medical science of Allopathy has also brought in its wake newer and more complex types of diseases like cancer and AIDS which defy any treatment.
Some strong proponents of Allopathy say that these diseases existed all through in the past; only they have come to light now because of the modern diagnostic techniques available with us. An unbiased, rational thinking man would not easily subscribe to this opinion. A clear thinking person without any prejudice or preconceived notions would not tend to believe that one medical school of Allopathy is perfect and all other schools of medicine like Homoeopathy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture etc. are unscientific. He would not dismiss any medical school of thought without valid and sound reasons. This is because of the fact that the professedly scientific allopathic system of medicine has failed to cure many a common and trivial ailment affecting man. The common cold, for example, is still held incurable by Allopathy. In fact the little germ ‘virus’ continues to remain an enigma to Allopathic practitioners. They have not been able to find any chemotherapy agent to kill that ‘virus’ which is also stated to cause such dreaded diseases as poliomyelitis, hepatitis and encephalitis and also less serious problems like influenza, rhinitis and what is known as the ‘viral fever’.
The non-Allopathic schools of medicine like Homoeopathy and Ayurveda have a distinctly different approach to understanding disease and finding its cure. In spite of basic differences in philosophy there may be some areas of commonality in the matter of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of various diseases. But the fact remains that fundamental approach to understanding the origin and consequently the treatment of diseases differs markedly in the various known systems of medicine prevalent today. In this jungle of thoughts and theories, even a literate and intelligent person tends to get confused about the true nature of disease and the true path to cure. Since Allopathy is the most widely practiced and popular system of medicine, the ordinary person in the grip of chronic disease first runs to the Allopathic Physician. If he gets well by following a standardized course of treatment prescribed by the Physician, well and good. Otherwise he tries other systems of medicine. In the above context it is worthwhile to have a dispassionate look at the modalities of cause and cure of disease. What basically is disease? What factors contribute to its origin? If disease is the result of derangement of some elements or body mechanism, is it possible to reverse that derangement and if so, how? Proceeding on most fundamental and rational lines, it would be first necessary to have close look at the basic constitution of a human being. Remember a human being is not just a physical body. He is a physical body, an astral body, a mind and a soul -all combined together and intertwined. The body is the gross, physical part of the human organism. The astral body is the seat of all celestial influences on the mind and the physical body. By celestial influence is meant the influence from the stars, planets, sun and the moon. All these heavenly bodies emit mysterious radiations which markedly affect the human organism. The effect on the human physical body and the mind is not direct. It is through the astral body which at once responds to various celestial influences. Disease, truly speaking, is the result of imbalance in the working of the corporal body or of the mind which is the seat of all emotions. Ayurveda the traditional Indian science of medicine defines health as the state of harmonious and balanced proportion of ‘kapha’ (phlegm), ‘pitta’ (bile) and ‘vata’ (wind), the three basic humours of the human body along with a state of normal equilibrium of ‘dhatus’ (body tissues) and ‘malas’ (body wastes).
Any imbalance in these three constituents gives rise to an abnormal state of the organism which may be termed ‘disease’. Next we take the Allopathic definition of health and disease. In this connection, it would be appropriate to read the definition of health as prescribed by the World Health Organization. As per this definition again, health is the harmonious state of the body and mind and a healthy person is one who is at ease with his body and mind and also at ease with the society around him. Indeed, it is a very broad based definition. The germ theory of disease propounded by Allopathy regards the germ as the cause of such diseases like Tuberculosis, Cholera, Meningitis, Typhoid etc. Homoeopathy, regards germs as the effect rather than the cause of diseases. Ayurveda explains these types of disease in terms of the working of ‘tridoshas’, ‘dhatus’ and ‘malas’ in the human body. Of course, there are also other causes of diseases stipulated in the theories of Allopathy. These may be summarized as Allergy, Injury, Mental shock, Unnatural living habits, Consumption of poisonous substances, exposure to extremes of hot and cold conditions and so on. All these are the causes specific to the Allopathic school. The traditional Ayurvedic School of medicine lists a much larger number of factors responsible for upsetting the equilibrium of tridoshas, dhatus and malas and causing disease. Some of these could be mentioned here. Let us take the case of a particular disease say Tuberculosis. Ayurvedic system of medicine stipulates the cause of this disease as malnutrition, overwork, deficient or reduced sleep and excessive indulgence in sex. All these factors are responsible for vitiation of ‘Vata or wind and ‘pitta’ or bile.
Derangement of the normal level and functioning of these humours results in serious malfunctioning of body organs with the result that tissues (dhatus) begin to be eroded. It may not be necessary to emphasizes here again that Allopathy regards ‘bacteria’ (bacillus tuberculosis) as the primary cause of the disease. Malnutrition and insanitary living conditions only act as predisposing factors for the disease caused by infection with the above bacteria. The above statements indicate that there are overlapping points in the basic principles and theories of various systems of medicine and there also exist sharp differences. Which system of medicine is most fundamental based, nearer to the truth of human physical functioning and most compatible with the nature of human organism is for the intelligent person to judge and understand. The idea is not to weigh one system of medicine with the other; the underlying purpose is to pick out pearls of wisdom from the various systems and realize maximum benefit for healthcare. The following paras deal with this matter at length.
Allopathy, Homoeopathy, Traditional Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Naturopathy, Unani system, Aromatherapy, Reiki – these are the known system of medicine in vogue today. There are other systems of treatment like Magnetotherapy, Hydrotherapy, Chromatotherapy but these systems are specific to the Naturopathic school of medicine. Another familiar term in this connection is ‘Eclectic School of Medicine’. This term came into being in the nineteenth century Europe when the Allopathic system was much less advanced and people depended more on Homoeopathy and other native systems of medicine. Since all these systems had imperfections, a medical system which would liberally draw from any specific system of medicine for the treatment of various diseases came into prominence. But as science and technology grew at a tremendous pace its effect was seen in Allopathy which developed remarkably. Medical theories, standardized and successful courses of treatment and advancements in surgery were the highlights of this phase.
Allopathy indeed has made great strides with its far- fetched success in combating many epidemics, infectious diseases and deficiency diseases. But it has not been successful in finding the cure for many chronic diseases like Gout, Rheumatism, Diabetes and Asthma. Homoeopathy has been found to be successful in obtaining lasting cure of many types of disease but it suffers from a serious inherent shortcoming – lack of standardization. Also its scope and range of successful application is very limited. That probably explains why it has lost popularity even in the country of its founder, Germany. In other countries also it remains a comparatively neglected system. With lack of standardization, hit and trial approach remains the hallmark of Homoeopathic treatment. Further, despite claims by practitioners of Homoeopathic system that their treatment has no side effects, it is yet to be established whether Homoeopathic medicines do have any side effects. In fact many Homoeopathic practitioners believe that the innocuous looking Homoeopathic pills have serious side effects, especially at the mental level. In terms of the known laws of physics, chemistry and biology and the allied sciences it is not possible to explain the working of Homoeopathic medicines or to establish the ill – effects of Homoeopathic medicines on the human body.
Among the various systems of medicine prevalent all over the world today, no one is really perfect in practice. It is therefore, prudent to take advantage of all of them in actual practice. But the real question is how to decide the ‘system mix’ and the fundamental philosophy underlying it. Let us try to answer this question. It would be necessary to take a look at the fundamental precepts of these systems of medicine. ‘Ayurveda’ is a medical philosophy enshrined in the oriental Hindu religious scriptures called ‘Vedas’ which in fact incorporate knowledge of all aspects of human life. They are believed to be the source of primordial, divine knowledge handed down by the Gods to the first humans inhabiting the earth and this knowledge was then passed on to the posterity through ages and millennia. A divine ‘design’ is again believed to be behind this flow of knowledge. There are four Vedic Texts – ‘Rigveda’, ‘Samveda’, ‘Yajurveda’, and ‘Atharvaveda’. It is the last one – ‘Atharvaveda’ which contains the entire knowledge of medicine and surgery. It is in a highly subtle form that this knowledge finds place in this text. Ayurveda, in the textual form existing today is largely famous treatises – ‘Sushrut Samhita’ and ‘Charak Samhita’, the latter named after ‘Charak’, a medical scholar of India in second century BC.
An intelligent reader with an unbiased mind would be convinced that the medical philosophy contained in ‘Ayurveda’ is indeed primordial, original. For, in the precepts written down in its text, he will find the roots of Allopathy, of Homoeopathy and of all the less known system of medicine in vogue today! The Homoeopathic medical practice is based on the principle of ‘like cures like’. External agents – chemicals, herbal extracts, animal extracts etc. which are capable of causing specific disease symptoms in the healthy body through repeated intake are also capable of destroying these same symptoms in the diseased body, when administered in a minute form. This principle was first enunciated as ‘ Similima Similibus Currenter’ by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician in the 18th century.
Learned scholars of oriental sciences have found reference to this principle in the medical aphorisms contained in Ayurveda. Similar thing can be said about the principles of Allopathic cure, and of principles governing other system of medicine. Many physicians of the Homoeopathic and Allopathic schools of medicine concede that Ayurveda is indeed the last word in medicine. This conviction is based on another logical reasoning. Whereas the Allopathic system is about 1500 years old, and the Homoeopathic roughly 250 years old, Ayurveda dates back to the period of earliest recorded history and also to unrecorded history gleaned through oriental Hindu scriptures and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The epic Ramayana is believed to have been written about 13 lakh years ago in a previous mega-age or `yuga’, known as `Treta-Yuga’. Mahabharata the other great epic was written in the next cyclical `Yuga’ known as `Dwapar Yuga’. In both these epics we find reference to the type of Ayurvedic System of medicine using herbal treatments, surgery etc. `Dhanwantari’, the physician of the Gods is described in the Mahabharata as the divine physician having complete knowledge and expertise in the application of Ayurveda. In fact many ages ago, Dhanwantari had appeared in the churning of the giant ocean called `Kshirsagar’ by Gods and Demons. `Puranas’, the Hindu mythological scriptures further say that lord Dhanwantari appeared with a pot of immortalizing nectar in his hands. The nectar was thereafter distributed among the Gods (Divas) who were rendered immortal. Historical accounts, both recorded and unrecorded, indicate that Ayurveda flourished in ancient India. During the battle of Mahabharata which occurred some 5000 years ago, such potent and rejuvenating potions are believed to have been used which had the power to cure the effects of serious injuries sustained by warriors in the battle within hours. Again some 3000 years later Indian physicians became famous the world over for their feats in the field of medicine and surgery. Legend goes that the Roman king once fell seriously ill. He was diagnosed as a hopeless case of brain tumour and in terminal illness. When physicians of the Roman kingdom gave up all hope, medical experts were summoned from India. It is said that Indian doctors performed brain surgery on him, extricated his tumour and restored him to health. All this was done without anesthesia, antibiotics, blood transfusion and surgical implements of modern practice.
With the advent of ‘Kaliyuga’ – the current cyclical mega-age, there has been all round decadence of oriental values, morals, beliefs, practices and knowledge. Perhaps this explains why Ayurveda, in the form it was practised in ancient times, has lost much of its glory. It is, today a neglected science. There is another important reason behind Ayurveda losing its glitter and glory in the land of its origin and that is the global industrial revolution which began in medieval Europe understandably as a result of colonial plunder by European powers. The industrial revolution further impoverished the colonial nations, India being the foremost among them. The lag in material development over the last 300 years along with cultural decadence in the Indian subcontinent made the population helplessly dependent upon scientific amenities and inventions which originated in Europe. Allopathy is a medical system which in the present form is the direct fallout of industrial revolution and the consequent scientific and technological progress. However Allopathy is too grossly material in its theory and practice. It does not take into cognizance the spiritual element in man. It treats human body as a mass of tissues and cells which are made of chemicals of various types. It is at a loss to explain what makes the heart beat; it fails to provide a satisfactory explanation of various mental phenomena like memory, perception, dreams etc. on the basis of known principles of physics, chemistry or biochemistry.
Other systems of medicine like Homoeopathy and Naturopathy fully recognize the material-cum-spiritual nature of man. Their treatment does not take the help of gross chemicals but allows the body to heal itself through its inherent recuperative powers in all cases of disease.
In actual life, it becomes difficult for anybody to avoid completely violating the laws of nature and rules of good health. Dietary indiscretions, irregular habits of sleep, sedentary lifestyles, worry, tension etc. are some of the important causes of ill health but perhaps no one can get above these human frailties. In case of disease, whether acute or chronic, one, therefore, has to adopt on optimal, middle-of-the way approach and see which line of treatment and which medical system is best for him having regard to his individuality, habits and circumstances.
As regards etiology of disease the traditional Ayurvedic philosophy indeed provides the answer to the root cause or origin of almost every disease. The treatment can draw suitably upon Homoeopathy, Naturopathy, Herbal therapy, Chromatotherapy etc. depending upon individual suitability and specific circumstances. The objective is that our treatment should be compatible or sympathetic with natural body functioning, safe and free from adverse side effects and should provide a lasting cure instead of superficial relief or mere suppression of symptoms. Further, realizing that lifestyle has a very important role in cause and cure of disease, an alteration in the life style is almost always called for in many cases of chronic disease. In all cases of acute infection, it is always prudent to employ Chemotherapy. In case of bacterial infection the first advisable step is to kill the symptoms of disease by using suitable antibiotics. Other secondary symptoms or remnant symptoms can be controlled though the use of more nature friendly medicines likes the Homoeopathic or Ayurvedic – herbal remedies. Viral infections are not curable through the use of Allopathic drugs. Therefore in all cases of viral infections where high fever condition is not present, non-Allopathic treatment should be undertaken. However in condition of acute pyrexia or fever, it is highly advisable to control that condition by the uses of Antipyretic drugs like Aspirin or its safer substitutes. The list of diseases is long and the proper causes of treatment need to be laid down specifically for every disease.
This article has attempted to provide a balanced exposition of the management of broad disease heads so as to enable the ordinary person to take care of his health and longevity and lead a trouble – free and disease-free life of hundred years – the life span fixed by the Almighty for human mortals but cut short by man due to his own ignorance and foolhardiness.