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Traditional medicine gaining popularity in India

Traditional medicines, mint oil Copyright: <a href=''>yelenayemchuk / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Traditional medicines are gaining in popularity.

Support for traditional therapies is growing in India – potentially at the expense of public health. Many now express enthusiasm for homoeopathic remedies over allopathic treatments, believing Western medicine to be only a short term relief.

This sentiment is perhaps best summarised by Paryda Krishnamurthy, chairman of the Telengana Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation.  At an event to mark the golden jubilee of the Jayasurya Potti Sriramulu Homeo Medical College in Hyderabad, Krishnamurthy claimed that only the country’s traditional medicine would be beneficial to any problem.

“People earlier preferred Alopathy [sic] which provided them immediate relief,” Krishnamurthy is reported to have said. “They are now coming back to traditional medicine for its effectiveness.”

A threat to public health

This trend begs the question: could India’s growing support for alternative treatment manifest as a reluctance to many of the proven treatments of modern medicine?

Recently, India took part in the first international AYUSH conference, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The results of the conference were overwhelmingly positive for India’s bid to export AYUSH therapies to the world. The UAE announced that it intended to be an international hub for AYUSH practitioners, lending potential for India to expand AYUSH in a similar way to its medical tourism industry.

How traditional medicine is viewed varies considerably by country. Western nations tend to largely dismiss the practice, with occasional fringe groups showing enthusiasm for the treatments. Occasionally, highly public figures will come out in favour of homeopathic treatments. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Secretary of State for Health and the Prince of Wales are both supporters of traditional medicines, despite the official National Health Service position of defunding homeopathic treatment.

‘False propaganda’

India takes a wildly different stance to the majority of nations, to the extent it supports traditional medicines at a government level. Often times this support from the government has put their position at odds with scientific evidence. Questions regarding scientific evidence dismissing homeopathic therapies as ineffective were raised with Shripad Yesso Naik, the Union Minister of State for the Ministry of AYUSH. He went on to claim that the reports were “false propaganda”.

As previously noted on Health Issues India, homeopathic medicine may indeed have a role to play in modern medicine. AYUSH therapies could address issues such as the vast overprescription of antibiotics for cases such as the common cold, in which antibiotics would be ineffective. This may be a means to reduce the onset of antibiotic resistance, which, for diseases such as tuberculosis, is rapidly escalating in India.

However, supporting homeopathic treatments for severe health issues where the intervention of modern medicine is a necessity to save an individual’s life could recklessly endanger public health. In these instances AYUSH therapies may be effective as a supporting therapy to medical treatment, but not as a replacement.

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