8th March 2011
Let’s merge Ayurveda and Unani medicine with general medicine
One of the obvious give-aways of the mental stagnation of at least some Hindus and Muslims is the continuing practice of outdated ayurvedic and unani medicine.
Looking back historically, western medicine was in a total mess till around 1600 AD: basically it was not better than witchcraft. Prior to that the only scientific systems known to mankind (after the Greek period) were the Indian ayurvedic system and, later, Islamic unani medicine. Both used a primitive form of the inductive method. (The Chinese also had a 'comparably robust' system).
But things changed. From roughly the time of Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon and William Harvey (I'm picking very selectively, and over a broad period), the Western mind shifted gears and became a questioning mind. Today in the West, nothing known in the past is held to be sacrosanct. Everything is up for serious interrogation and harsh scrutiny till the truth is finally "squeezed out", small bits at a time.
Ancient medicine had two fundamental shortcomings. It lacked rigorous instruments to test hypotheses, and statistics and research methods did not exist. Ninety per cent of the "knowledge" was GUESSWORK. Through guesswork, however, these ancient systems did find out some useful things and managed to slowly increase human longevity. Some of the things they discovered have stood the test of time (but these are very few): for instance, I find that putting castor oil (an Ayurvedic cure) in the eye at night provides at least some relief for my eyestrain problem.
But when instruments of modern science now exist, and statistical methods are available to distinguish genuine from spurious causes, why then do we still have practitioners of these outdated systems? Isn't it time to make it obligatory for "followers" of these systems to scientifically prove the claims they make? We must ONLY ADMIT THE TRUTH: all falsehoods should be rejected.
Between 1400-1750, approximately, the rules of the human game changed. The new rules FORCE US TO THINK. They force us to find out the truth.Till these rules came in, 95% of what we thought we "knew" was FALSE. Today about half of what we know is still false. The key, therefore, is to question the theories underpinning these systems. Consider the Unani medicine theory (taken from this website):
The humoral theory presupposes the presence of four humors-Dam (blood), Balgham (phlegm), Safra (yellow bile) and Sauda (black bile)- in the body. The temperaments of persons are expressed by the words sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic according to the preponderance in them of the respective humors blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. The humors themselves are assigned temperaments: blood is hot and moist, phlegm cold and moist, yellow bile hot and dry, and black bile cold and dry.
Every person is supposed to have a unique humoral constitution which represents his healthy state. And to maintain the correct humoral balance there is a power of self-preservation or adjustment called Quwwat-e-Mudabbira (medicatrix naturae) in the body. If this powder weakens, imbalance in the humoral composition is bound to occur. And this causes disease. In Unani Medicine, great reliance is placed in this power.
The medicines used in this system, in fact, help the body to regain this power to an optimum level and thereby restore humoral balance, thus retaining health. Also, correct diet and digestion are considered to maintain humoral balance.
Or consider the theory of ayurveda (taken from here):
All matter (including the body) is composed of 5 elements which are the building blocks of existence. Living matter has three forces comprised of these 5 elements which govern all psychophysiological processes. These three forces are called doshas.
The term dosha means 'that which causes things to decay', reflecting the fact that when out of balance (with our constitutional nature or our environment), the doshas are the causative forces in the disease process. The names of the doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are the 3 primary energetic principles which regulate every physiological and psychological process in the bodymind. A harmonious state of the 3 doshas creates balance in the body, mind, and emotions, ~homeostasis~ and is the foundation of good health. Any longstanding imbalance in the doshas manifests as disease.
Vata means 'that which moves things'; it is sometimes translated as wind. Vata is comprised of primarily air with ether being a secondary element. It is the moving force behind the other 2 doshas, which are considered incapable of movement without it. It is responsible for all of the body's activities and sensations. It is responsible for the movement of air in and out of the lungs, blood through the circulatory system, and thoughts through the mind. It promotes mental balance and comprehension.
Pitta means 'that which digests things'. It is primarily fire with water as a secondary element. It is responsible for all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body, as well as for heat production. It also governs our ability to digest ideas and impressions and to perceive the nature of reality. It stimulates the intellect and kindles the capacity for enthusiasm.
Kapha provides support and substance to the body. It comes from a word which means that which holds things together. It's primary element is water with earth as a secondary element. It gives strength and stability, both physical and psychological, and governs human emotions such as love, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty and patience. Kapha can bestow resistance against disease and can support the healing process. Where Vata and Pitta effects are active on the body, Kapha acts to restrict these 2 forces and prevent their excessive manifestation.
Together the 3 doshas govern all the activities of life: catabolism, (vata), metabolism (pitta), and anabolism (kapha). When vata is excessive, there will be therefore excess catabolism, resulting in a breakdown or deterioration of the body's natural defenses. Excess pitta dosha results in disturbances of metabolism and heat production including infection. Increases in kapha dosha results in increased tissue growth and weight gain.
Another fundamental idea in Ayurveda is that of ama. Ama is the result of all undigested foods (and experiences; even thoughts!). It begins (usually in the mind, then) to accumulate in the GI tract, then overflows into other channels in the body such as blood vessels, capillaries, and lymphatics where it can cause obstruction. In addition to grossly physical effects on the body, ama also has subtler consequences on the vital energies, mental clarity, and emotions. If allowed to remain, it eventually becomes toxic and accumulates in tissues of the body where an individual has a predilection for disease. As a consequence a disease condition manifests and we give it a name: Arthritis, high blood pressure, gallstone, bronchitis, cancer, depression etc.
Disease manifests as the result of excess accumulation of any of the 3 doshas or ama. Pancha karma is the therapeutic means by which excess doshas and ama are eliminated from the physiology.
We should design rigorous experiments to test these (and similar) theories. Personally speaking, I am 100% CERTAIN that these theories will be rejected. But if I turn out to be wrong and if these theories are indeed found to hold true, then they should be incorporated into mainstream medicine. Either way, let us liberate the human mind and find the truth!