Very old knowledge can make India’s health system better

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Very old knowledge can make India’s health system better

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara


Tumeric is an excellent natural remedy for many illnesses. Jon Connell under a Creative Commons Licence

Ayurveda is a very old Indian system of medicine. People have used it successfully for thousands of years. It’s a way of life more than just a help with illness. It is about a lifestyle which leads to good health. That is a big difference.

I got very interested in ayurveda about 10 years ago. An ayurvedic doctor (a vaidyan) suggested that it help my diabetic husband. I was ready to try anything if there was a chance it would work. So we went to the Ayurvedic centre. I was hopeful, he was doubtful. But anyone who is doubtful about ayurveda must agree that bringing an insulin dosage from 60 units to 30 units in two weeks is a success. I didn't expect it to work for me too. It helped some gynaecological problems that I thought would not go away.

Most Indian women – and perhaps women from poorer nations – have health problems after the age of 50. But they don’t expect much. There's not much help for older women. People think it’s part of life. And so life goes on. They just live with pain for the rest of their lives.

Last week my husband Stan was in very bad pain. It was good to find that it was 'only' shingles and not something worse. After a week of pain, our Ayurveda doctor friends suggested special oils and a paste of neem and turmeric. Stan says it felt like putting his leg in ice water. The help was immediate.

I write about this because I am always surprised at the good, cheap, simple treatments we have in India. And I think that people around the world should have them. But not many Indians use them. Shingles is painful and neem is not a remedy. But there is no western medicine cure and treatment includes strong drugs. The pain returns at night but it’s OK during the day when we use the natural herbs from our garden.

Ayurvedic treatment can be expensive. Middle class Indians don’t want to go to hospital for two weeks because it costs around 40,000 rupees ($650). But we're not really thinking clearly about the cost. One night in a Bangalore hospital, with an MRI scan and other tests costs over 10,000 rupees ($165). But when we are rushed to an Intensive Care Unit, we don’t worry about the price. We just pay.

India can make its health system so much better if we use our very old knowledge. A young doctor told me about Saturdays in a city like Bangalore. The hospital is filled with computer workers getting treatment for neck and back problems. Middle class Indians do not have enough Vitamin D because they work in offices and don’t see the sun!! We need to go back to yoga and traditional health systems, and think about the food that we eat. Diabetes, stress, and heart disease are very big problems. India has the most diabetics in the world.

We must cure ourselves. Our country needs to forget a drugs industry that takes too much money from patients. Of course the ayurvedic medicine industry is not perfect. It also has bad doctors who put steroids in ayurvedic medicines for quick results. It’s still important to find good doctors and ayurvedic centres.

There are no quick solutions in ayurveda. We need to try hard and make lifestyle changes that are difficult for people with busy lives. If you are serious about Ayurveda, fast food and rich food must go. But it’s a good idea to choose a system which will work towards good health and medicines without lots of side effects.

Our grandparents followed the system and enjoyed better health than us. I think they enjoyed life more than the young today. The young party every weekend after working six days a week!! We need to change, to get back our lives. Can we do it? Ayurveda seems like a good start.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see