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Ayurveda – The Allure of Ayurvedic Medicine in the Western World
Ayurveda is an ancient medical practice indigenous to India, whose spread to the Western world has gained ground in the last three decades. While there is an obvious attraction to Ayurvedic medicine in the Western world, you can always find skeptics who wouldn’t even consider educating themselves on the subject before rushing to judgement.
Is Ayurveda a medical practice?
No. Ayurveda is not a medical practice, which is in contrast to the popular notion in the West. Ayurveda is similar to ‘herbalism’. Herbalism is the ancient practice of finding natural cures for human ailments, dating back 60,000 years, when Neanderthals depended on nature’s herbs to cure human ailments as well as to address the health issues of their animals. .
As civilizations began to develop in China, Greece and India, the inhabitants began to follow various forms of herbalism, which is now known in India as ‘Ayurveda’.
Isn’t Ayurveda based on science?
It is a common misconception in the Western world that because Ayurveda is thought of as an alternative medicine, it is unscientific. Ayurveda is often thought of as an exotic practice enjoyed in health spas. The Sanskrit word Ayurveda is made up of two words: Ayur, meaning life, and Veda, meaning knowledge. In other words, Ayurveda is a logical and systematic arrangement of herbal knowledge; it is the science of life that includes mind, body and spirit.
Ayurvedic Medicine in the Western World
As mentioned earlier, Ayurvedic medicine has become popular in the Western world in the last two or three decades. Many universities now offer courses in the practice of alternative medicine and many people are beginning to treat it as a mainstream career option.
The allure of Ayurveda is mainly due to its therapeutic nature. There are two main goals of Ayurvedic medicine:
“It treats the symptoms of a disease and helps individuals strengthen their immune systems. Ayurveda treats a person’s body, mind and spirit as a whole entity, and works on the basis that the mind and body influence each other and together can overcome the disease”.
In other words, Ayurvedic medicine believes in holistic healing. Unlike conventional or Western medicine which begins treatment only when the human body contracts a disease, Ayurveda begins healing before any disease occurs. This is preventative medicine in its purest form.
Ayurvedic herbs can be found in almost every household in India. Therefore, from the beginning, children are surrounded by the preventive nature of plants, which reduces the intensity with which diseases are affected. Let’s take a small example – in any western country the chances are that someone suffering from the common cold will rush to the nearest doctor or medical center for treatment. In Asian countries, you will rarely find people visiting the clinic just to treat the same condition. Ayurvedic remedies for the same condition are: a pinch of turmeric mixed with a glass of milk, a teaspoon of honey and a few drops of lime juice.
It is true that people in Asian countries also suffer from major health problems, but their focus is always on holistic cures and not on the short-term solutions offered by Western medicine. The preventive nature of Ayurveda, or rather its curative nature, is the main reason why Western researchers are increasingly attracted to Ayurveda.
Ancient and Modern Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a transnational phenomenon in the 21st century whose wide range of perspectives includes economic, socio-political, anthropological, philosophical, pharmacological and biomedical responses.
In the recent past, a dichotomy was created between classical (ancient) and modern Ayurveda. Ayurvedic experts, practitioners and researchers classify the ‘ancient’ Ayurvedic wisdom as original. ‘Modern’ Ayurveda for them is the same knowledge that has been exported from the East to the West, where it has been modified. it was reinterpreted and then reimported to Eastern countries.
However, there are still many who think this is just an ideological shift. Some would argue that the Western world, which is so conditioned to give importance to things based on their “provable” value backed by scientific research, is also trying to modernize Ayurveda on the same grounds.
For any practitioner of Ayurveda, this is an unwarranted and irrelevant addition to Ayurvedic medicine, because a healing system which is based on the natural healing processes provided by Mother Nature herself cannot be limited to scientific proportions.
However, the allure of Ayurveda remains a dominant factor in its acceptance in the Western world due to its natural and preventive healing measures.
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