Ayurveda vs. Science

Ayurveda and modern medical science have been at loggerheads for most part of the latter’s existence. In fact, allopathy only gained credence in India by criticizing Ayurveda’s philosophical tenets that are incomprehensible to modern science. But the new upsurge of interest in Ayurveda, complemented by its growing commercial importance at a global level, has led to a demand for scientific evidence for evaluating quality and efficacy of its medications. Contrary to global perception, the idea of linking science with Ayurveda is considered a welcome move by Ayurvedic experts and physicians across India. They see science not as a scrutiny of its fundamental beliefs but a subset of what Ayurveda stands for. After all, Ayurveda does stand for ‘Science of Life’.

However, one needs to understand that ayurvedic biology and therapeutic processes are fundamentally different than contemporary sciences – both stem from two polarized point of views that can’t be reconciled without undermining one of them. Allopathy derives its success from the reductionist approach which says that all life is reducible to biochemical and ultimately molecular processes and where attention to the part or organ assumes greater importance than the consideration of the whole body. Ayurveda, on the other hand, is based on a holistic principle that treats man as a complex and inseparable combination of the material body, the senses, the mind and the soul. According to Ayurvedic tradition, disease is an imbalance in nature, nothing more. Each science is correct inside the realm of its conceptual framework; hence any merger between these two medical institutions should be based upon the fundamentals assumed by Ayurveda i.e. linking Ayurveda to modern science while keeping its original framework intact. Having said that, to attain any intense valuable interface between Ayurveda and contemporary science, there’s a foremost need of an appropriate methodology that does not compromise its end for its means. In other words, the goal (i.e. to find scientific evidence in Ayurveda’s efficacy) should not be compromised to suit the convenience of researching methods used.

Moreover, the notion that Ayurveda needs research to vindicate its scientific claim is itself false. Classical Ayurveda has always been evidence conscious and can even claim to be superior to modern science in this respect. The Western approach, for instance, is based upon three steps:
(1) hypothesis,
(2) experimentation and observation, and
(3) conclusion,

whereas Ayurveda’s concept of evidence is based on fourfold testing namely:

(1) Pratyakshya or direct sense perception,
(2) Anuman or logical inference,
(3) Aptopadesh or evidence from scripted and authoritative sources and
(4) Yojna Praman or intellectually planned experimental evidence.

Typical features of Ayurvedic Bhasma, where herbs, minerals and metals are incinerated to ash under supervised conditions, have been confirmed by transmission electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. The nano particle size of Ayurvedic Bhasmas, has been confirmed in another study, where it is proposed that the nano-particles are responsible for its fast and targeted action. These nano-particles are proposed to be delivered to the target through rapid cellular internalization. Pyrgiotakis (2007) has demonstrated the effect of Zinc Bhasma on the intracellular DNA and proteins of the treated human lung adenocarcinoma cell line. Ayurveda also presents some unique clinical applications of its fundamental concepts. Rasayana is one such concept (Rasayana drugs are proposed to promote tissue longevity through efficient use of energy within cell).

In spite of the credibility of primary evidence, there’s still a need to develop new supportive scientific evidence, not to justify Ayurveda’s quality credentials but to initiate a scientific decoding and understanding of its core concepts that may pave the way for revolutionizing the entire field of health care in future. Esteemed global organizations such as WHO, UNIDO and UNESCO, all hold the same opinion about the prospect of research in traditional medicine. It is felt that appraisal of such concepts of Ayurveda in the light of modern technology would be immensely helpful in contributing towards an improved medical system for the modern world, one that can deal with ailments which allopathy alone has no answers for.

Reference: Ram Harsh Singh. Ayurveda: The Time to Experiment