Traditional Medicine, Ayurveda – Science of Life
integrative medicine

Traditional Medicine, Ayurveda – Science of Life

Traditional Medicine (Ayurveda – Science of Life) in the eyes of the UN Health and Insurance.

Over the years your bodies become walking autobiographies, telling friends and strangers alike of the successes as well as stresses of your lives. From ancient Sanskrit verse.

Ayurveda as per Wikipedia:

Ayurveda (Devanāgarī: आयुर्वेद, the 'science of life') is a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian Subcontinent and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda consists of the words āyus, meaning 'life', and veda, meaning 'related to knowledge' or 'science'. Evolving throughout its history, Ayurveda remains an influential system of medicine in South Asia. The earliest literature of Ayurveda appeared during the Vedic period in India (circa 2000 BC or earlier). Ayurvedic practitioners also identified a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for curing various ailments and diseases.

Ayurveda is considered to be a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within the western world, where several of its methods, such as the use of herbs, massage, and Yoga as exercise or alternative medicine, are applied on their own as a form of CAM treatment.

What is Ayurvedic science in ancient tradition?

In ancient literature Ayurveda, considered as science of life and healing, health is a state of equilibrium of the body elements – mucus, bile and wind, a kind of eternal triangle (tridoshas in Sanskrit ) to sustain the balance of good physical well-being. When any of the three elements (doshas) becomes excessively agitated or if there is an excess of one and a shortage of another, the healthy balance is lost and ailments or disease develop. Hence, Ayurvedic treatment approaches the whole problem of dis-ease in a holistic fashion, with a combination of correcting the imbalance through Yoga practices, plus discipline in food intake and herbal medicines (internal and external) to accelerate the process of healing and bringing the body-mind-sense complex to a normal natural state.

Ayurveda in Western Eyes

As Dr. Robert Svoboda (Born Texas USA 1953 – well-known author researcher of Ayurvedic sciences) attempts to summarize the three major paths of the Vedic knowledge, he exclaims:
"Because every embodied individual is composed of a body, a mind and a spirit, the ancient Rishis (sages) of India who developed the Science of Life organized their wisdom into three bodies of knowledge: Ayurveda, which deals mainly with the physical body; Yoga, which deals mainly with spirit; and Tantra, which is mainly concerned with the mind. The philosophy of all three is identical; their manifestations differ because of their differing emphases. Ayurveda is most concerned with the physical basis of life, concentrating on its harmony of mind and spirit. Yoga controls body and mind to enable them to harmonize with spirit, and Tantra seeks to use the mind to balance the demands of body and spirit."

Definition by WHO

According to the WHO, traditional medicine is "the total combination of knowledge and practices, whether explicable or not, used in diagnosing, preventing or eliminating physical, mental or social diseases and which may rely exclusively on past experience and observation handed down from generation to generation, verbally or in writing" The terms "complementary medicine" or "alternative medicine" are used inter-changeably with traditional medicine in some countries. They refer to a broad set of health care practices that are not part of that country's own tradition and are not integrated into the dominant health care system.

Scope of Traditional Medicine

Various traditional medicine practices have been developed in different cultures in different regions. These can be classified as:

1. Traditional

  • Chinese Traditional Medicine
  • Ayuverdic Medicine/Siddha Medicine
  • Unani Medicine
  • Indigenous Medicine
  • 2. Non- Traditional

  • Homeotherapy
  • Chiropractic
  • 3. Therapies

  • Medication Therapies
  • Medicinal Plants and Herbs
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Animal Materials
  • Minerals
  • 4. Non-medication therapies

  • Acupuncture
  • Manual Therapy
  • Traditional Exercises (Yoga, Taichi, etc.)
  • Physical, Mental, Spiritual and Mind Body Therapies, e.g. different meditation techniques
  • Role of Traditional Medicine (TM)

    According to WHO, traditional medicine has established and proved to have promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative roles. TM can be an integrated component of the mainstream of health care or an alternative or complementary to the health care system. WHO has been urged to:

    • Support Member States in establishing and updating regulations on herbal medicines by providing technical assistance and organizing training workshops on herbal medicine;
    • Support Member States to set up and strengthen centers for monitoring safety of medicinal products and systems by training human resources for the regulation of herbal medicines, and providing technical assistance and logistic support; and
    • Provide technical guidelines, methodology and training for evaluating the safety, efficacy and quality of herbal medicines.

    Realizing the important role the traditional medicines (especially Ayurveda in the Indian sub-continent) can play a role in the improvement of public health and primary health care in a cost-efficient manner, there are already over a thousand of government recognized hospitals in India rendering Ayurvedic treatments and the expenses in those hospitals are covered under the civil service medical health insurance.

    Ayurveda and many other TM are seen as important contributors to achieving world-wide primary health goals of the MDG by 2015. It is interesting to read the WHO Beijing Declaration of 2008 on the importance of traditional medicines and the need for governments to promote and regulate the best practices in that area.

    Beijing Declaration
    WHO Congress on Traditional Medicine, Beijing, China, 8 November 2008

    Participants at the World Health Organization Congress on Traditional Medicine, meeting in Beijing this eighth day of November in the year two thousand and eight;

    Recalling the International Conference on Primary Health Care at Alma Ata thirty years ago and noting that people have the right and duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their health care, which may include access to traditional medicine;

    Recalling World Health Assembly resolutions promoting traditional medicine, including WHA resolution 56.31 of May 2003;

    Noting that the term "traditional medicine" covers a wide variety of therapies and practices which may vary greatly from country to country and from region n to region, and that traditional medicine may also be referred to as alternative or complementary medicine;

    Recognizing traditional medicine as one of the resources of primary health care services to increase availability and affordability and to contribute to improve health outcomes including those mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals;

    Recognizing that Member States have different domestic legislation, approaches, regulatory responsibilities and delivery models;

    Noting that progress in the field of traditional medicine has been obtained in a number of Member States through implementation of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005;

    Expressing the need for action and cooperation by the international community, governments, and health professionals and workers, to ensure proper use of traditional medicine as an important component contributing to the health of all people, in accordance with national capacity, priorities and relevant legislation;

    In accordance with national capacities, priorities, relevant legislation and circumstances, hereby make the following Declaration:

    I. The knowledge of traditional medicine, treatments and practices should be respected, preserved, promoted and communicated widely and appropriately based on the circumstances in each country.

    II. Governments have a responsibility for the health of their people and should formulate national policies, regulations and standards, as part of comprehensive national health systems to ensure appropriate, safe and effective use of traditional medicine.

    III. Recognizing the progress of many governments to date in integrating traditional medicine into their national health systems, we call on those who have not yet done so to take action.

    IV. Traditional medicine should be further developed based on research and innovation in line with the "Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property" adopted at the 61st World Health Assembly in 2008. Governments, international organizations and other stakeholders should collaborate in implementing the global strategy and plan of action.

    V. Governments should establish systems for the qualification, accreditation or licensing of traditional medicine practitioners.  Traditional medicine practitioners should upgrade their knowledge and skills based on national requirements.

    VI. The communication between conventional and traditional medicine providers should be strengthened and appropriate training programmes be established for health professionals, medical students and relevant researchers.

    State of the World Health through the prism of the UN Health and Insurance:

    the UN Health and Insurance Unit has the responsibility to provide an efficient and cost effective health insurance to the staff and retirees (who opted for the UN after service health cover). Within the USA, (for anyone who followed President Obama's efforts on health care legislation) there is very little to talk about as to how the health industry works over there. Therefore, the UN's choice of doing business in the USA is well-known. However, for the staff outside the USA, the UN operates its own health insurance coverage, with administrative and BPO services provided by Van Breda International, Brussels, who also have an office in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to service clients in the greater Asia region.

    Details of the UN Health Insurance coverage through Van Breda (for staff serving outside of USA) are available at the UN Information Circular # ST/IC/2009/4 of 8 January 2009 (or its updated version if any issued in 2010).

    The programme of reimbursement of medical expenses is based on treatment, supplies and services that are widely and generally accepted as medically necessary and appropriate for the condition being treated. Truly, the UN/Van Breda deserve appreciation for keeping the programme as current as possible by agreeing to such treatments like acupuncture and homeopathic.

    However, there is lack of information and appreciation of the widely accepted Ayurvedic treatment regime, recognized by the governments in the south Asia, and gaining acceptance in the west as well. Ayurvedic treatments are particularly seen effective and useful, non-invasive, cost-effective, long term sustainable without side effects in regard to stress-related problems (disharmony between expectations and experience), for many cases of skin ailments, bone fractures, muscles and nerve-related problems, back pain, sciatica, etc.

    It is important to realize that "health" is not just the absence of disease, but a state of being so that humans can productively participate in all human affairs and development. In the case of staff health, our policies and practices should not be based on referrals to the private MNC insurers with the AIG characteristics.

    Instead it is necessary for the UN Health and Insurance to fully and actively engage itself with the WHO in all its regional centers and UN country offices to become aware of the strides in the medical and health issues and should understand that the so called generally accepted medical and health practices differ from country to country, with achievements comparable to the usual western idea of a health care system.

    "There is nothing on earth equal in purity to wisdom, born of mature mind in tune with universe." Ancient Sanskrit sutra (aphorism).

    V. Muthuswami, UN Retiree, Chennai, India.
    Joint Appellant of the Common Cause Appeal # UNAT 2009-001.

    The UN • Copyright © 2010 • All Rights Reserved

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    The Siddha medicine is older than Ayurveda and nay, mother of Ayurveda. When this system is not given respect it deserves even by Ayurvedic people how do you expect the world shold respect Ayurveda? Siddha system is more scientific than Ayurveda but the politics of India…..


    It's a shame that some alternative therapies are not supported by health insurance.

    sciatica treatment

    Nowadays more and more people care about traditional medicine .It has established and proved to have promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative roles.However it can be good medicine only if it can cure disease.


    Ayurveda is a highly systematized body of knowledge based on sound foundational principles, and it has a very logical as well as rational thinking process.