Traditional cures back in vogue
INCREASING awareness about the dangerous side-effects of allopathic treatment and the development of drug resistance is turning many people back to older Indian medical systems such as ayurveda, siddha or unani, which claim to have little or no side-effects.
Organisations such as the Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan Samithy are propagating the cause of traditional medicine through a countrywide network of individuals and organisations. It documents local health traditions; undertakes surveys; sets up training, research and documentation centres; designs and disseminates educational material on local health traditions, encourages policy studies and acts as an advisory body. It also awards fellowships and grants to folk practitioners and publishes a bimonthly health care magazine called Jeevaniya.
The Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) informs people about the basic concepts in various traditional health systems. VHAI concentrates on training programmes in naturotherapy and helping create indigenous medicine centres. It also convenes regular workshops in rural areas for practitioners of indigenous medicine, and helps them form cooperatives and obtain government funds, besides functioning as a supervisory body to monitor the herbal preparations flooding the markets.
The Society for Health Alternatives (SAHAJ), on the other hand, recommends eco-friendly medical systems and a holistic view of health. A range of therapies such as acupressure and reflexology are taught at SAHAJ, which also conducts training programmes and workshops on alternative systems of medicine.
The Gramonnati Sansthan in Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh's Hamirpur district teaches rural folk medicine practitioners about the importance of literacy and proper nutrition, and the identification and development of medicinal plants.
The Catholic Hospital Association will soon launch a massive traditional medicine programme through its nationwide membership. A national consultation was held in Hyderabad in January to discuss and finalise the modalities of the new programme.
In the north-east, the Yoga and Nature Cure Research Hospital in Kakching, 44 km south of Imphal, combines nature cure and yoga with modern diagnostic methods and treatment.
A number of government institutions, including the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) in Delhi, conducts research in medicinal plants. CCRAS also publishes regular research bulletins.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set up collaborating centres for traditional medicine in various countries. The centre at the University of Illinois in Chicago publishes the International Traditional Medicine Newsletter as part of their effort to build up awareness about the disappearance of plant and animal sources of new medicines and about the destruction of indigenous cultures and their repertoire of medical practices.