Ayurveda came into existence over 5000 years ago and has braved every foreign invasion and government neglect it has gone through over the years. The decline began when Buddhism began in Indian. Surgical and Panchakarma practices were not allowed in the name of ahimsa. With the advent of Mughal rule in India, many ancient texts turned to ash. Finally, modern medicine pushed Ayurveda to the corner when the British paid their very long visit to India.
Modern medicine was readily accepted by the world as it produced medicines that acted quick and provided that “Jhat se aaram” (Quick relief) from the symptoms. There were a few British that took an interest in Ayurveda and many published papers like the ‘medical and surgical sciences of the Hindus’. But this interest in Ayurveda was very superficial as the British only paid attention to the commercial value of the botanical herbs grown in the country. The first college of Ayurveda was shut down for 6 years by the British. Following this, many Maharajas like those of Travancore, Cochin, Jamnagar, Mysore started many colleges and became patrons. They played an important role in keeping this ancient science alive.
Post-independence, there was scope for the development of Ayurveda across the globe. China worked hard to spread its herbal medicine to other parts, while India did not. Ayurveda took a back step even then with homeopathy and Naturopathy getting more recognition than Ayurveda. Until a decade ago, Ayurveda faced many hurdles in its homeland.
Dr Praful Patel of the International Ayurveda Foundation was once asked, when he began his campaign to spread awareness and recognition of Ayurveda in the European Union countries, as to why he was working towards the globalisation of Ayurveda when its is treated with discrimination and injustice in India. He of course agreed to the status of Ayurveda in India to be worse than abroad. But he did not want to crib and wait till other countries voluntarily came up and gave the much needed recognition. He also added that there must have been a time in Ancient India when our seers envisaged an ailing world depending on the healing principles of Ayurveda. This recognition of Ayurveda would bring honour to Indian culture and to seers who have delved deep into this science and worked hard to create various medicinal concoctions.
A decade later, tables have turned and people are paying attention to prevention and cure over relief from symptoms. They want to go back to the use of nature and natural products and methods of ancient times. According to a WHO report, almost 80% of the world uses medicines made from herbal and natural products.
India is known as the ‘Botanical garden of the World’ with over 25 thousand medicinal plants. However only 10% are used in the preparation of medical formulations. There are opportunities for India to help Ayurveda be recognised but the constraint is that most countries do not see Ayurveda as a legal form of medicine and hence do not allow qualified ayurvedic doctors to practice and prescribe medicines.
In the past decade, Ayurveda became very popular in the West especially in the United States. Certain Indian organisations saw the tremendous business potential in Ayurveda and began introducing this science in the form of detoxification and de-stress packages. This attracted many from Europe and the States. India also saw an influx of tourists to the country who came in to experience these packages. Every year the state of Kerala sees 600 thousand tourists from Europe and the States seeking Ayurvedic treatments. This also definitely promoted the tourism of the country. There was the introduction of Western Ayurveda due to this which led to the opening of many healing power centers.
The Ministry of AYUSH along with WHO has taken efforts to lay down firm foundations for the globalisation efforts of the three AYUSH systems- Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha.
Each country has its own ayurvedic association. In Australia, Ayurveda is considered a bonafide system of medicine. Australia offers courses that cover a range of natural therapy subjects. Online or distance-learning Diploma courses or advanced diploma courses are offered which can be taken up by students at their own time. Following which, one can register with the Australasian Association of Ayurveda and become a consultant with the Diploma in Ayurveda or can register as a practitioner with an advanced diploma in Ayurveda. The Australasian Association of Ayurveda was set up in 1988 when Ayurveda first spread to Australia.
Although Ayurveda has spread to Europe, the European Union has a strict set of rules that permit one who holds a MBBS degree to be a consultant but will not allow them to buy or sell the medications in the EU, as these are not registered in the EU. Germany is known as the nerve center of Ayurveda with Switzerland and Austria quickly following behind it. There is a marked increase in the number of people in Switzerland, almost 80% who wanted to integrate Ayurveda into their healthcare system and has been done steadily over the last two years. This is why Indian traditional medicine system has spread widely in Switzerland.
There are many institutes set up to study Ayurveda in the EU. One such institute is the European Academy of Ayurveda in Bierstein, Germany. Bierstein has one of the largest Panchakarma hospitals. The academy offers certified courses that attract students from all across Europe like Latvia, Sweden, the UK, Luxembourg and also from other parts of the world such as New Zealand. The courses include Yoga, ayurvedic massages, ayurvedic psychology and nutritional consultancies.
When AYUSH visited the European academy a few years back, Martin Mitteweda, a Sanskrit scholar said that the ties between India and Germany for the advancement of Ayurveda was strengthened. He also said, “Ayurveda is not a belief system, it is a scientific system which can be logically explained.”
The medicines that both Ayurveda and Modern Medicine rely on contain the same ingredients. The only difference is that Ayurveda understood this centuries ago and modern medicine stumbled upon this a century ago. Asmita Vele, the chairperson of Ayurveda, Indian Embassy in Hungary is working hard to introduce ayurvedic drugs into Hungary. This would require extensive clinical research into the drugs. Chinese traditional medicines underwent clinical research a long time ago which is why the EU permits them to be sold in its countries.
Dr Anu Kizhakkeveettil, an ayurvedic practitioner and a professor from the College of Science and Integrative Health (CSIH) at the South Carolina University. When she attended the World Traditional Medicine Forum last year in China, she said, “What we need to understand from other traditional medicines is ways to gain acceptance worldwide. We need to conduct extensive pharmacoepidemiological studies to document the safety and efficacy of the medicines.” Claire, an Australian studying Ayurveda in the UK spoke of how she was introduced to Ayurveda a decade ago and the concepts of doshas and their behaviours during balances and imbalances in the body made a lot of sense to her. With the little knowledge she had about Ayurveda which she had gained from attending short workshops and also from personally benefiting from Ayurveda, she decided to take up a diploma course in the UK with the sole purpose spreading the word about Ayurveda and to help people experience and reap the benefits that she did.
Canada first saw Yoga spread into the country and it was long before Ayurveda followed it. Where you find Yoga, you find Ayurveda and vice versa. Together, the two bring about complete mind-body wellness. Seven decades later, Canada has many classical Yoga centers and camps that also provide one with Ayurvedic practitioners who migrated to Canada sometime in the 80s. The California College of Ayurveda has students from all over Canada- Toronto, British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta. There are a few colleges which have opened up in Canada which include the Canadian College of Ayurveda in Toronto. There is also an association of ayurvedic practitioners and allopathic physicians known as Canadian Ayurvedic Medical Alliance.
Speaking to CSP, Ellie Cleary from the UK, spoke of her experience with Ayurveda. She had been reading up about Ayurveda and its natural more natural approach to healing compared to what western medicine offered. She was experiencing poor digestion and she had learned about the focus Ayurveda gives to the digestive situation of the core of good health. When she travelled to India, she had decided to visit Kerala and undergo the Panchakarma detox. Following the treatment she did find herself becoming more aware of what she eats. She spoke of how Ayurveda becomes a part of your lifestyle but this shift is difficult and requires some time to get used to the new regime.
Speaking of the awareness and spread of Ayurveda in the UK she said, "Ayurveda in the UK, and in other countries such as Canada (where we previously lived) is there but you have to search hard for it. It’s also challenging to find a good practitioner with honest principles and trustworthy treatments. Unfortunately Ayurveda is very poorly regulated in such countries, and so some doctors charge very high prices while being opaque about what their medicines are. Some Ayurvedic doctors allow panchakarma to be done in your own home, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you feel comfortable cooking highly specific meals for yourself - it’s better to have someone around or a retreat centre to cook the correct ayurvedic food for you while detoxing.” At the retreat in Kerala, she said 50% were foreigners and 50% were NRIs, looking for natural cancer treatments for general health and wellbeing.
She concluded by saying, "Ayurveda promotes a holistic understanding of our bodies and the idea that we are what we consume. In an age where we all want a little magic pill to fix everything without making any real change to our lifestyles, Ayurveda is something that we all need more of. Simple things like learning to balance the elements in our bodies and which foods should be consumed together, more or less can help us all at this time. Understanding that everything needs to be in balance and the different roles of the seasons is invaluable too.”
In 2017, there were 265 thousand tourists from the Gulf who visited India to experience the medical and wellness practices. Scores of tourists come to Kerala looking for alternative remedies, most of which are neuro and muscular related. The Ministry of AYUSH is working with the Consul of India in Dubai to streamline Ayurveda in the Gulf by conducting awareness programmes on the benefits of Ayurvedic treatments. Kerala is also set to open an International Ayurveda Research Institute near Kannur which will promote extensive research and also patenting of ayurvedic herbs and formulations.
Ayurveda was welcomed eagerly by the Latin Americans. Latin Americans are known for their deep connection with nature, and their rich tradition of herbal medicine and folk healing. This led to them embracing Ayurveda without hesitation. Latin America’s premier ayurvedic institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Fundación Salud de Ayurved Prema , for the past twenty odd years, has spread the knowledge of Ayurveda across the continent. The Fundacion offers courses in two of its most prestigious institutes- School of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires, and the National University of Cordoba’s School of Medicine. These two institutes are in collaboration with Gujarat Ayurveda University in India. They have more than 450 students from countries like Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina and many others. Very interestingly, the Fundacion is working on translating Charaka Samhita. Four of the Latin American countries, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala, have agreed to import 30-40 herbal medicines, containing metallic and mineral elements in them. Brazil’s ABRA- Associação Brasileira de Ayurveda, is working on the delivery of Ayurvedic information and training of Ayurveda in Portugese.
When Dr Kizhakkeveettil travelled to Japan, she spoke of how Ayurveda was gaining popularity rapidly in Japan. The educational aspect of Ayurveda is gaining impetus in the country. Japan has many Ayurvedic wellness clinics. There also happens to be some amount of research that has been conducted. In Japan, the main barrier is the language. Most of the herbs in Ayurveda are not present in their pharmacopeia. Also some herbs are banned. However among the herbs that are not banned, India exports maximum to Japan. Japanese health providers are looking at ayurvedic strategies to prevent disease, as aging populations are a major concern to the country. India had signed MoU with Malaysia and Bangladesh to promote Ayurveda. India recently sanctioned 20 scholarships for Malaysian students to study Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani degree courses in various reputed institutes in India. Mauritius is running an ayurvedic clinic and the Mauritian Government sends its students to India to study Ayurveda.
We are on the right path to promoting Ayurveda globally. It is slow but with the efforts of the government and once the standards are set that ensure the safety and quality of the medications, Ayurveda will gain worldwide acceptance in no time. We need to work hard towards it with a definite strategy and plan of action. The days are not too far off when we see Ayurveda integrated with modern medicine leading to a healthy globe.
GLOBALISATION OF AYURVEDA- A GLOBAL VISION FOR THE NEXT DECADE- IAF GENERAL SECRETARY PRAFUL PATEL
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Ayurveda comes to Latin America: Local Efforts to promote Ayurveda reaching a vast audience
Status and Development of Ayurveda in Canada- CCA
Ayurveda in Australia- Ojus Health