December 26, 2023
Is there a place for Ayurveda in healing what ails us? Most certainly. But this debate goes back as far as the practice of modern medicine, and the introduction of Ayurveda to the west, in the early 20th century.
In 1914, the MD Henry Lindlahr (known today as the founder of the naturopathic profession), acknowledged that the allopathic approach to healing was wrong (despite his medical training). He wrote there are:
“Two principal methods of treating disease. One is the combative, the other the preventive. … The slogan of modern medical science is, ‘Kill the germ and cure the disease’ … The combative method fights disease with disease, poison with poison, and germs with germs …”
On the other hand, “The preventive method does not wait until disease is fully developed and gained ascendancy in the body, but concentrates its best endeavors on preventing, by hygienic living and natural methods of treatment, the development of disease.”
Ayurveda, after many thousands of years, continues to work with the preventative method.
In 1991 the debate continued, with prominent physicians and researchers editorializing about the merits and demerits of Ayurveda:
Dr. Goldman wrongfully dismisses ayurveda as a “fanciful speculation” and a mere “product of intuition” and therefore the polar opposite to Western medicine. It would be fairer to consider it an alternative system working in parallel.
In fact, this body of knowledge, dating back 5000 or 6000 years, has been culled painstakingly from the collective experience of healing throughout the first half of civilization. It took another 4500 years or so for Hippocrates to incorporate a mere digest of it as the basis of scientific (!) medicine. Hippocrates himself warned against rejecting “whatever might be useful for the art of healing” from folk medicine.
The first European physicians to arrive in Canada found “the [indigenous tribes] already practicing a highly effective form of medicine that in many ways was superior to their own … (consisting) largely of sweating, purging, starving, and bleeding.” No doubt the native healers must have tapped the same source of knowledge that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has been sharing so generously with the West for the past generation.
Although most of our scientific progress is a product of analytic thinking, the product of the dominant cerebral hemisphere, this method of inquiry tends eventually to block progress through overkill. Having paved the way for the spectacular achievements in surgery, microbiology, and pharmacology this narrow-mindedness has also brought us the blight of iatrogeny: the thousands of unnecessary hysterectomies, coronary artery bypasses and carotid endarterectomies, the victims of prefrontal lobotomy and of thalidomide, the bacteria that are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and acquired immunologic incompetence are but a few examples.
By contrast, there is no evidence of the harmfulness of ayurvedic procedures. Ayurveda seems to have kept faith with the first principle of healing: primum non nocere.
Our modern medicine has left behind the synthetic phase of Hippocratic thinking, a creative product of the nondominant hemisphere. Yet this element is necessary in order to implement judiciously the detailed findings of scientific discovery without losing our philosophic perspective. Ayurveda might well serve as a beacon, guiding us out of the current, multifaceted crisis in medicine. Its holistic approach – documented by hundreds of rigorous research studies – not only helps to stave of the decay of entropy (hastened by the ubiquitous stress of contemporary life) but also restores homeostasis and fosters the best of the natural healing powers.
Last, but not least, ayurvedic procedures cost considerably less than the high-tech hospital services of Western medicine.
In my view, Ayurveda is both a sacred science and continues to be proven effective through research available in the hard sciences.
As a practitioner I believe you are already whole and healed, and my job is to support you in removing the obstacles to your healing. Ayurveda is a journey into consciousness, using rhythm and supportive daily and seasonal practices, to reconnect you with nature’s rhythms and universal principles of flow, energy, spaciousness and structure. Ayurveda is not a silver bullet. Anything worth pursuing requires effort and work – and may not be entirely pleasurable. I don’t want to oversell Ayurveda, but I am absolutely certain that Ayurveda will improve your health, your health span and your lifespan. Ayurveda is, after all, “the science of life.”
Andrzej Kubacki, MD, FRCPC, Department of Psychiatry, Saint John Regional Hospital, Saint John NB (1991). Accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1335549/?page=2 on 26 December 2023.
Cody GW. The Origins of Integrative Medicine-The First True Integrators: The Roots. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018;17(1):18-21. Accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380988/ on 26 Dec 2023.
Bodeker GC. Ayurvedic medicine. CMAJ. 1991;145(1):9-12. Accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1335549/?page=2 on 26 Dec 2023.