Ayurveda is also Allopathy

  
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What is Matka Medicine? The introduction explains it all. Matka Medicine has two broad sections. The first where I discuss the various “matkas” or factors that affect our health and the second where I write and talk about how we can empower ourselves and take steps to live long, healthy, using current, validated data and science in our quest to be atmasvasth.

In the end our health is our responsibility and no doctor or healthcare system, especially in India is really going to take the time out to help us live long, healthy, unless or until we fall sick - the idea is to try and not become ill in the first place.


Almost a decade ago, a friend took some Ayurvedic powder for weight loss that resulted in immediate renal damage, which then proceeded to renal failure, which then needed long-term dialysis, eventually necessitating a renal transplant and throughout this ordeal, creating hell for the family. The powder when tested was found to contain heavy metals and steroids. 

When a drug is used to produce an effect to counter the existing problem (e.g. using some powder to increase the body’s metabolism to induce weight loss as in my friend’s case)…that is termed “allopathy”. This definition was coined by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in 1810 in an attempt to separate “homeopathy”, which he invented, from the kind of medicine practiced at the time. Since homeopathy uses the concept of “like cures like”, he referred to “allopathy” as the practice of treating diseases by means of drugs that produce an opposite effect to the existing symptoms. 

Whenever drugs or medicines are used to manage disease by treating the symptoms rather than the root cause, whether with modern medicine drugs (using paracetamol to reduce fever) or  with traditional medicine concoctions or powders (e.g Ayurvedic medicines to reduce fever)…that is allopathy. It is only when we move away from alleviating symptoms to treating the root cause of the disease (e.g. using antibiotics against the bacteria that cause the fever), or institute measures to prevent the disease in the first place, whether with traditional or modern medicine, that we move away from allopathy in the true sense. 

In the Charaka Samhita, there is a saying, “those who know about herbs use cold to soothe diseases caused by heat. And the medicine for those diseases caused by cold, is heat.”(Roots of Ayurveda - Dominic Wujastyk). It further says, “It is the same for other diseases too: the medicine is the opposite of the cause. So diseases caused by depletion cannot be soothed by anything other than a supplement. And similarly, diseases caused by surfeit cannot be soothed by anything but depletion.”

Most of you must have read about or seen the video where Mr. Ramdev alleges that “allopathy” has killed millions of Indians during Covid-19. I didn’t quite understand what he was trying to say, because on the one hand he says that modern drugs don’t work in Covid-19 (he is mostly correct) and then says that these non-working drugs led to deaths (which makes no sense if the drugs don’t work).

The problem is that Mr. Ramdev does not understand the meaning of the word “allopathy” and uses it as a surrogate for modern medicine when most of treatment-based Ayurveda is really nothing but allopathy anyway (Figure), as against the non-drug forms of Ayurveda that are more focussed on prevention and moderation and balance in life, which do help our atmasvasth quest to live long, healthy.

The issue is the conflict between traditional and modern medicine, especially when it comes down to money. New-age Ayurveda, the kind that is peddled by Mr. Ramdev and others is not even really traditional medicine or true Ayurveda, but something else entirely, businesses created to profit from peddling bits and pieces of traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

Just because a drug is herbal or plant-based or so-called “natural”, does not mean it does not have side-effects or won’t be dangerous. In fact, drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies in factories as part of modern medicine are “safer” because at the least, their use has been validated through clinical trials and their safety established via various regulations, whereas when it comes to Ayurvedic drugs and formulations, anyone can pretty much put up anything for sale without any check, control or validation.

No single system is perfect. Traditional medicine lacks oversight, scrutiny and transparency. Modern medicine comes with the illogical and uncontrollable use of investigations, drugs and surgery. And while homeopathy may seem harmless in the context of its largely non-toxic and placebo effect, if a homeopathy drug is used in place of something that is likely to make a difference, then that constitutes potential harm as well.

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So what is your matka here? If you think that by taking Ayurveda drugs, you are safer than taking modern medicine drugs….then you are mistaken. In fact, it may be worse, because unlike with modern medicine, there is no oversight with Ayurvedic and other traditional medicines, no quality control, no checks and balances and hardly any clinical trials to prove efficacy. 

You must question everything that you put in your body, especially if it comes in the form of a drug or medicine and you should not ingest anything whose contents you don’t know of and for which you can’t find some reference on PUBMED, which is the Google equivalent that doctors use.

You need to get into the habit of having frank conversations with the doctors or practitioners who give you these medicines and if they refuse to answer your questions or act paternalistic or presumptuous or sanctimonious, change them, irrespective of which branch of medicine they belong to. 

And lastly don’t buy anything that has “new age” tags or is promoted or advertised by self-styled “babas” or “godmen” or the like.

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Footnotes

1. Roots of Ayurveda - Dominic Wujastyk