Wednesday, 1 August 2007

India 360: IS Yoga A Wonder Drug?


Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss says the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act should be amended to prevent godmen from claiming that traditional medicine can cure illnesses. Should yoga and Ayurveda be at par with modern medicine?

The conflict continues and the war words seems to have just begun with the Health Ministry issuing notices to over 80 organisations including the high-profile ashram of baba Ramdev to stop claiming that they can provide cures to serious diseases like AIDS and cancer.

Yoga is good says the Health Ministry but it cannot be placed on an equal level with Allopathic medicine.

Ramadoss says it is the law that governs medicine and the act must be amended to prevent false claims being made by practitioners of traditional medicine and various godmen.
“Earlier only the medicines were there in the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act. Now we are putting treatment also as part of the act so nobody can claim or misclaim that they can cure a diseases like AIDS. Such false claims can be stopped once the act is amended,” Ramadoss explains.

On India 360 CNN-IBN asked: is traditional yoga a cure for chronic ailments?

On the panel of experts were baba Ramdev’s devotee and former MP from BJP, B P Singhal, National President of the Indian Medical Association, Dr Sanjiv Malik, Promoter of Asian Roots Day Spa, Kamayani Kanwar and fitness instructor Mickey Mehta.

So, is baba Ramdev misleading the public? He claims in his website that his treatment and yoga can cure AIDS, cancer and diabetes.

Dr Sanjiv Malik at the very outset says that he is “not against Ayurveda. In fact I do yoga with baba Ramdev. There is no system of medicine that can be just brushed aside. Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine and has been there for centuries now. So you can’t just write it off. I think what the Health Minister is trying to say is that you need evidence-based medicine in this modern era of medicine”.

Malik explains that the Health Minister is not just talking about drugs.

“He is also talking about treatments, so yoga cannot be put under clinical trials but as far as drugs are concerned, the law of the land is very clear that drugs from any system of medicine need to be put under a process of trials. They have to be approved and then be marketed”.

Can faith govern treatments?

Singhal vehemently denied saying, “There is no superstition about Ayurveda. Ayurveda has its own rules, laws and formulae.”

But the question regarding clinical testing of Ayurveda did not go down well with Singhal.
“Why should Ayurveda be submitted to clinical testing? Then why should Allopathy not be subjected to Ayurvedic tests? Why are we so sold out to Western medicine, which we cannot afford today?” Singhal asks.

“Ayurveda has been there for thousands of years and it has been beneficial. Also there is a clear distinction in the Act, those medicines which have been made out of a formulae, nothing is needed. They can be sold across the counter. But when there is a combination of medicines then they are subjected to certain tests,” Singhal adds.

But Singhal’s clincher came when he said, “Western medicines cure one thing and create two other side reactions”.

Yoga: a supplement or a complete treatment process

The question that arises now is when yoga is practiced, is it used as a supplement to existing treatments or is it considered the only treatment to secure a healthy body.

Kanwar says, “Baba Ramdev is dealing with people who are uneducated. In the West also there are companies that promote themselves as better than the best. So baba Ramdev is selling his products well to people who start believing in them”.

But do people want to learn yoga for well-being or are they seeking specific cures?

As a fitness instructor Mehta endorses yoga saying, “Yoga is the only route to wellness and well-being because it not only approaches the physicality of the being it also promotes psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being”.

When asked if yoga can be a substitute to medicine, Mehta explains that yoga can “compliment medicine”.

Then is the Health Ministry right in saying that those who claim to have miracle cures should be banned? Baba Ramdev is a phenomenon both in India and abroad. His devotees are fiercely loyal to him and for them his medicines are a matter of faith.

But if a patient has cancer then should he be treated with modern medicines or should he be sent to baba Ramdev?

According to Kanwar it “depends on how much money he (patient) has in his pockets. Not everyone can afford chemotherapy”.

But Malik begs to differ and says, “No, I don’t agree. Here we are talking Science not Economics. There are drugs, which are known to treat cancer and there are yoga therapies which are known to benefit the longevity of a cancer patient”.

“There are Ayurvedic medicines which claim and have been used to compliment the existing cancer drugs. So, I don’t think we should have an extremist view. All systems of medicines compliment each other. The only thing that we are talking about is that certain systems which are claiming to treat should have a scientific rationale,” Malik explains.

The panel of experts indicated that an integrated approach is the best way to treat patients nowadays with doctors providing with the medicines and then patients also practicing yoga.
However, Singhal still believes that blood cancer is being cured by yoga.

To which Malik answers, “I have not heard of that. There is no global evidence. I wish it were true. And if it is true then why should we hesitate in documenting it”.

Mehta concludes by saying, “I endorse the fact that yoga heals. Ayurveda is a system in totality and it does compliment the modern medicine. But yoga cannot be taken to laboratories for experiments and tests. So it cannot be documented. But there is evidence that yoga has helped heal many people”.

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