Alternative Medical Therapies of India: an Introduction
by Lalit Tiwari

Alternative therapies refer to a broad group of natural and spiritual healing methods that are different than the conventional western medicine (or pharmaceutical medicine). Many of these healing methods have been used for centuries in many different cultures. A few examples are Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Herbal therapy, Meditation, Naturopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), etc.

Though Ayurveda is perhaps 5,000 years old, the West has finally woken up now to the possibilities of its efficacy. Not only more people, but even celebrities such as Madonna, Naomi Campbell and Demi Moore, are turning to India's ancient science to be cured of their ailments. Gopi Warrier, who is the first founder of Britain's Ayurvedic Charitable Hospital and whose family has run Ayurvedic hospitals in south India for many generations, says, "western medicine has failed to deal with chronic problems as well as new, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and Ayurveda, by contrast, has an excellent record of curing the sort of chronic problems that do not respond well to western medicine. Whether it is enzema, cystitis or migraines, Ayurveda can get to the root of the problem." As the Western medical practices did not satisfy the people, they have shifted their attention to alternative medicine systems. According to Dr David Eisenberg who is working at the Centre for Alternative Medicine at Harvard, the Americans show a willingness to spend billions on alternative medicine to experiment and explore all possible avenues.

In the world of medicine, Ayurveda represent a very effective alternative system of medicine with its remarkable therapies like oil massage therapy, magnetic therapy, hot treatment therapy, mud therapy, herbal therapy, magical therapy, music therapy, etc. All over the world people have developed alternative medical hospitals where Ayurveda is widely practiced, and very successfully. Gopi Warrier first introduced the Ayurvedic clinic in London in 1988, and around the same time the first Maharishi Ayur-Veda Health Centre was established in Britain. In 1996, Dr. Shanta Godagama, from Sri Lanka, set up the Ayurvedic Medical Centre at the Hale Clinic in London; these are few prestigious centers for alternative medicines. According to a study, the global herbal market is worth $120 billion a year and Ayurveda's share is $60 billion a year.

In India, at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science) now it is compulsory to follow these traditional alternative therapies along with their western treatments. According to Dr. Upendra Singh, professor and head of department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at AIIMS, "Heat therapy is being widely used as a method of treatment as it relieves pain and also gives a sense of well being". Dr. Neelkanth Goswami of Delhi's Northern Railway Central Hospital defines music therapy as a way of maintaining and improving the mental health of an individual. In 1930s Electro Convulsive Therapy was developed in the field of psychiatric disorders, but currently this therapy is totally rejected by many modern doctors, but Dr. Rajesh Sagar of the psychiatry department of AIIMS says, "Traditionally, electric shocks are viewed as barbaric but they are the best effective method of treatment for acute depression".

Indian Alternative Therapies

There are many Indian traditional therapies, which are practiced by many Indian tribes and rural people that are more effective in many incurable diseases, like migraine, insomnia, mental disorders, sinusitis, asthma, indigestion, arthritis, spondylitis, sciatica, paralysis, eczema, substance abuse, viral infection, generally ill health, etc. A few therapies I have described below.


We thus observe that the people are shifting their allegiance to the Indian alternative therapies, because these therapies are natural and have no side-effects. The western medicine has failed to deal with the chronic diseases as well as new, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Ancient therapies, by contrast, have an excellent record of curing the chronic diseases that do not respond well to western medicine.


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Lalit Tiwari
Lok Vigyan Kendra
Almora 263601