Ayurveda is an Evidence Based and Time Tested Healing System
Ayurveda, the science of life, is an ancient system of medicine that guided mankind to be healthy and gave instructions on how to stay away from any physical, mental or spiritual illness throughout the life. Ayurveda witnessed a shift towards rational principles in the practice of medicine at a very early stage in its evolutionary history. The early classical Ayurveda textbooks (samhitas), talked about the validation of knowledge and distinguished between the real and the chance effects of therapy. These works also contain elaborate methods to study properties of drugs, to develop new medical formulations, and include protocols to study and understand the occurrence of new diseases. The science of research has been well known in the field of Ayurveda for eons, since the evolution of this medical science.
The past ten years have seen a change in health perceptions and practices in the entire industrialized world. Health consumers are more conscious of stress as a real entity, which has physiological and psychological implications in their own lives, and they are increasingly adopting lifestyles that permit them to maximize their state of health. Ayurveda includes effective procedures for reducing and eliminating the deleterious effects of stress on the physiology. As such, it has risen to prominence as a medical system that is claiming worldwide attention with its immense and effective approach to health.
Ayurveda, comes from the ancient Vedic tradition of India and is an evidence based and time tested healing system that has been proven by the mentioning and the utilization of the Pramanas. In Ayurveda, Pramana Vidnyana can be considered as the scientific tools of research. These Pramanas are not only useful in Roga (disease), Rogi (patient) and Pariksha (examination), but also show evidence of the critical scientific approach of Ayurveda. To gain clear and entire knowledge of the science of Ayurveda, it was necessary to search for scientific devices or methods of approach. This necessity has prompted the scholar, Charakacharya to adopt the Pramanas. In Ayurveda, Pramanas are called ‘Pariksha’, meaning scientific investigation. Pramana Vidnyana can be considered as scientific tools of research. Pramana, which can be considered as one of the ancient methods of research, is of utmost importance in developing research methodology in Ayurveda. According to Charakacharya, things are either existent or non-existent and they can be investigated by four Pramana; viz. 1. Aptopadesha (Authoritative Statement) – 2. Pratyaksha (Direct Perception) – 3 Anumana (Inference) – 4 Yukti (Rationale – logical reasoning). Aptopadesha, Pratyaksha, Anumana and Yukti Pramana are very much useful at all steps of research, such as planning, operation and reporting. Pramana Vidnyana proves that Ayurveda accepts the scientific method in search of truth (based on logical reasoning), and not the arbitrary or unscientific method. Thus, these Pramanas are considered as ancient methods of research that are essential.
Research, it appears, was therefore in some way, clearly present in the tradition of Ayurveda from the very beginning. Though it is said to be a time tested healing system, there is no evidence of organized research activities in the evolutionary history of Ayurveda, at least not the kind that can be compared with modern medical research. For centuries, Ayurveda seems to have perpetuated itself as a tradition of practices and knowledge transmitted through apprenticeship or more formal methods of pedagogy.
The encounter with western medicine sparked the necessity of research in Ayurveda. The beginnings of modern research in Ayurveda can be traced to the pre-colonial period and the first encounters of Europeans with indigenous healthcare systems in India. The progressive-minded emphasized that we need to develop methods of evaluation and validation, outside the purview of modern science; or scientific methods could be tweaked to make it more appropriate for Ayurveda; or new methods of enquiry and validation could be developed and expanded on the basis of the epistemological premises of Ayurveda itself—though the reductionist methods of modern science cannot be blindly accepted and used as a suitable yardstick to measure the worth of Ayurveda. According to the samhitas (textbooks), Ayurveda has its own systematic procedure for determining the efficacy and validity of the medicine on a particular disease. Such systematic procedure is called methodology. Ayurveda has its own research methodology. Pancha anumana vakya consists of Pratigya, Hetu, Udaharan, Upanaya and Nigamana, which respectively means the hypothesis, supportive theory or experiment, example having same phenomenon proved, acceptance of hypothesis and establishment of a principle. Similarly, many concepts like Nidanapanchaka, Shat kriyakala, Janapadodwansaniya etc., are nothing but the excellent examples of highly developed research methodology in Ayurveda. There are many examples of the ancient methods of research carried out in the field that lead to the origination of a complete study based on herbs.
What can be done in the field of research – taking the fundamental rule of Ayurveda into notice that states two objectives:
Therefore, keeping this in mind, in a broader view there can be two types of research that can be held in the field of Ayurveda:
Nowadays, to enhance the awareness research is the prime need of contemporary Ayurveda, but modern research on Ayurveda has not been very rewarding for Ayurveda in itself. Much of it uses Ayurveda to extend modern bioscience. In contrast, Ayurveda needs research designed to test and validate its fundamental concepts as well as its treatments. In this context, if Ayurveda is to be truly explored and validated in all its aspects, scientific inputs should conform to Ayurveda’s principles and philosophy. While its evidence base, established since antiquity, may need further verification, research should now focus on the science of Ayurveda, rather than merely looking for new drugs based on Ayurveda herbals; in-depth research is needed on Ayurveda. Such research will require teamwork between vaidyas, based on truth and trust.
As Australian Ayurvedic Practitioners, we can assist in both the types, but can predominantly help in the research related to the therapeutics of Ayurveda. There has been a mutual initiative in which all the practitioners, from their own end, would initiate the work in the field of research in Australia.
The reverse pharmacology approach should be emphasized that research in Ayurveda needs to begin at the clinic and proceed to the lab, unlike the process in biomedicine, where drugs are first developed in the lab and then applied to clinical practice. It is therefore required to highlight the need for pharmaco-epidemiological studies in Ayurveda, because a large number of people in the past and present, use Ayurvedic medications. In Ayurveda, more than often, it is a case of understanding how medicines already in use work, rather than developing new drugs that have never been used by humans and therefore need testing. This practice would help firstly to confirm the desired results and secondly to prove the facts globally.
In recent times, there is much talk about evaluating complex systems of therapy through Whole Systems Research (WSR) approaches, which offer the possibility of looking at the complex multimodal nature of Ayurvedic Interventions in their totality. Are we finally reaching a point
where modified and reworked western methods of research can be effectively adapted to conduct meaningful research on Ayurveda? While WSR approaches are certainly more flexible and open than RCTs, it is not clear at this moment whether these methods will serve anything more than the purpose of absorbing useful elements of systems like Ayurveda into the framework of integrative medicine. These methods have evolved out of a biomedical wish to understand, evaluate and incorporate complementary and alternative medicines within its gambit. Ayurveda research methodology requires the ‘whole system testing approach’, global participation with protocols evolved through intense interface with modern science, regulatory reforms to eliminate barriers, and to be investigated ‘as it is’, using approaches adapted from its own basic principles. Ayurveda needs to engage with modern medical thought and at the same time develop and evolve from the foundations of its own epistemological and ontological premise.
Therefore, AAA members have thought to go further with choosing a single ailment, making detailed notes stating the signs and symptoms, treatment given and time-to-time prognosis. The results would be combined, and based upon the interpretation, thus a conclusion can be drawn out. In addition to it, these results as a whole can be made into a research study and uploaded on the online journals so that the general public become aware of these studies and the efficacy of Ayurveda.
Taking these initiatives would certainly help Ayurveda to flourish in Australia and allow the general population to know the calibre of Ayurveda.
As an Australasian Ayurveda Association this is just an initiation. We would work in earnest to try to make a better place for this latent study of Indian herbs.