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The healthy alternative

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The AYUSH expo in Mumbai highlighted various forms of traditional and complementary medicine and the growing acceptance of such systems

Last weekend, between May 11 and 13, World Trade Centre was buzzing as practitioners and producers of traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) set up shop for the Ayush Natural World Expo. The event, organised by Trinity Ventures, offered everything from talks on various diseases to health check-up camps and a host of wellness products.

The world over, traditional medicine has always formed an important and more accessible form of healthcare. As Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO) points out in WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, “T&CM is an important and often underestimated part of healthcare. T&CM is found in almost every country in the world and the demand for its services is increasing. TM, of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, contributes to the goal of ensuring that all people have access to care.”

Dr Chan also speaks of how traditional treatments are valued because the care is offered close to homes; is accessible and affordable and is often culturally acceptable and trusted. There is little doubt that interest has grown and will almost certainly continue to grow around the world.”

While it is true that some people are wary of such medicines because of inadequate regulations and the plethora of ‘quacks’, in India, traditional medicine has always been held in great esteem.

The Ministry of AYUSH was formed on November 9, 2014, having evolved from its earlier avatar; it was created in March 1995 as the Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy, which was subsequently renamed Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Sidda and Homeopathy (AYUSH) in November 2003. A recent addition to these disciplines is that of Sowa Rigpa—prevalent in Himalayan regions. The Ministry is responsible for policy formulation, development and implementation of programmes for the growth, development and propagation of AYUSH systems.

At the Expo last weekend, Unani seemed to be taking centerstage. Unani originated in Greece and passed through many countries before establishing itself in India during the medieval period.  It emphasises the use of naturally occurring herbal medicines and also uses medicines of animals, marine and mineral origin.
According to the AYUSH Ministry, Unani is based on the humoral theory i.e. the presence of blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile in every person. The temperament of a person can accordingly be Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric and Melancholic. A proper balance of humors is required for the maintenance of health.

There were several educational talks at the event, including some important but rarely discussed problems. Dr Rajashree Kolarkar, Associate Professor (Shalya Tantra Department), Smt. K G Mittal Ayurvedic College, highlighted ano-rectal problems such as hemorrhoids and fissures and spoke of preventive measures for this painful condition—drinking enough water, avoiding oily and spicy food, and not suppressing natural urges such as the need to go the bathroom, among other things.

Dr Kolarkar stressed that people who were suffering from such problems should not be embarrassed to seek treatment; women are especially reluctant, she pointed out.

One of the most engaging talks was Dr Shilpa Desai’s presentation on the reversal of ageing. Dr Desai, described as ‘India’s first health psychologist,’ is managing director of the state-of-the-art C4 Integrated Wellness Centre at World Trade Centre; she has also mentored soccer players in the United States.

Dr Desai spoke of how we had all compromised with ourselves, accepting that we were not always at our best. “Ageing begins from the moment you are born, she pointed out. “You need to immediately work on yourself.” She also spoke of how children often could not cope with the challenges life threw at them, because they were constantly tired. “Children need water, simple food and nurturing,” she stressed, and added that “healthy food need not be boring”. She also got the audience to ‘switch off’ for a single minute—sit straight, shut their eyes and slow down, breathing naturally. “If you do this thrice a day—when you wake up; after lunch and at night, it can be a game-changer,” she said. “Just give yourself three minutes in a day and see the difference!”

The expo showcased a host of products, from green tea to anti-diabetic cookies, ayurvedic medicines, Himalayan pink salt lamps, massagers and much more. At least one participant wasn’t happy with the footfalls—and it is true that the event did not seem to have been promoted enough. There is no doubt, however, that the potential is enormous; interest in natural remedies, wellness and disease prevention in India is growing.

As Jatang Vohra of Organic India told this writer: “Ten years ago, when we entered the market with green tea, people were not interested. Now, they call us, and there is so much competition!” The green tea market has become so competitive, he points out, that there is a different local blend every 25 kilometres in tea-growing areas!

For the consumer, such competition can only be good, and with the Ministry actively involved in streamlining traditional systems of medicine and regulating them, it is only a matter of time before people are more willing to overcome their wariness and accept that such methods can be of help.

“Sit straight, breathe and just let yourself be for a minute. If you do this three times a day, it can be a game-changer. Just give yourself three minutes and see the difference!”
 - Dr Shilpa Desai

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