Is there any evidence for Ayurvedic medicine?

You may have this question about the safety and efficacy of Ayurvedic medicines if you are interested in trying these out, or you may just want to know where Ayurveda stands on this matter. Ayurveda is a systematic, scholarly tradition with time-tested medical protocols. Its appearance on this side of the globe, however, is rather recent and so it’s natural to ask, “Can we trust this ‘new’ system? Does it have any evidence supporting it?” The short answer is “yes, it does”.

Today’s medical standards have driven many Ayurvedic doctors, students and researchers to conduct trials and studies to prove or disprove the validity of Ayurveda. While these give us some valuable information, modern methodologies aren’t always the best means to obtain reliable answers to the research questions posed about the Ayurvedic system, since many fundamental aspects and paradigms of the system are not duly considered when conducting your typical double-blind clinical study.

Some of these studies, for example, may administer a potentially beneficial drug and a placebo to a group of arthritis patients, to determine the usefulness of the drug. On analysis, if a greater number of patients taking the drug show positive results, it is concluded that it must be a drug “likely to be beneficial”.

Now according to Ayurveda, every patient with arthritis is a unique case with a unique pathology, depending on what causative factors and vital elements have been compromised. He or she would also have a different body constitution, and follow a different type of diet and lifestyle that may be either conducive or detrimental to arthritis.

This means that to gain insight into the positive effects of a drug, whether herbal or not, these factors must be evaluated, and an appropriate drug then given for the patient, not the condition. In one way, you could even say there is no drug for arthritis, but only a “right drug” for the “right patient”.

Some modern studies consider that animals such as rats are good “subjects” to experiment on, and that this research can produce significant results that can be used to establish theories for humans. From an Ayurvedic perspective, a number of objections can be raised to obtaining evidence in this manner, one being that it bypasses the fact that rats don’t have human consciousness, a factor that invariably plays a role in all our physiological and pathological processes of disease.

The data on the validity, safety and efficacy of Ayurvedic treatments, including research methods, has been recorded in “shastras”, medical encyclopaedias of great depth and value, such as Caraka Samhita. These encourage practitioners to practise and develop their Ayurvedic knowledge using various logical, empirical and analytical methods. Furthermore, they advise practitioners to continuously sharpen their intelligence and analytical skills, and to maintain rigorous standards of physical, mental and spiritual “purity” in order to enhance astuteness and ensure accurate results in both their practice and research.

Here are some links, if you are interested in browsing modern research on Ayurveda.

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