Ayurveda Definition and Background
So, what exactly is Ayurveda? According to the site dedicated to ayurvedic healing, the term relates to an ancient medical practice of the Vedic culture, which had existed in India for many thousands of years. The roots of Ayurveda could be found in the traditional medicine of adjacent countries such as Tibet and China (What is Ayurveda?, 2016). During the time of the British occupation, the practice was banned and suppressed. Right now, it experiences a resurgence both in India and around the world. The western public has become more responsive to the more exotic and less scientific forms of treatment. The practices involved with Ayurveda revolve around spiritualism, specialized diets, exercise, esoteric interpretations of most illnesses, and herbal-based medicines. While some people have reported a positive change in health, having undergone an Ayurvedic treatment, I remain skeptical of the notions it promotes into medicine, because of the very piecemeal evidence provided in most cases of “miraculous healing,” and because the feedback from the patients is often blurred by personal bias.
Personal Views on Ayurveda Before and After Watching T. R. Reid’s Documentary
Today I watched a documentary on Ayurveda. It is called “Second Opinion with T.R. Reid. Inside Ayurvedic Medicine.” I must admit that I did not possess a lot of knowledge about this topic prior to watching this video. To me, the word was associated with obscure shamanistic practices from somewhere in Asia. I have never studied these practices in detail as I thought of them as derelict notions of the past. To my surprise, it is still alive and well. Enough to try competing with traditional western medicine.
The video did not change my views much. Most of my assumptions about the Ayurvedic practices turned out to be true. The medical practices they use have a lot in common with many ancient ritualistic practices that existed around the world at some point. As I expected, these practices have very little to do with modern science. Their approach has a traditional medical background behind it, but its effectiveness in some areas is questionable at best. However, now that I have done the research, I reaffirm my views. My personal disbelief in the practicality of Ayurveda stems not from prejudice towards it but rather from the evidence that I found pertaining to the subject.
Benefits of Ayurveda
The video has given me a deeper knowledge of the inner workings of Ayurveda in general and of the medical center that Reid visited in his documentary. From what I have seen, there are several important aspects to Ayurveda, which in conjunction, form a cohesive practice. These aspects are the usage of herb-based and other natural medicines, healthy diets, physical activities and exercise, healthy surroundings with plenty of fresh air, and rituals dedicated to instilling faith in the supernatural nature of the healing (Second opinion with T. R. Reid 2008).
The herbs are used in medicine all around the world, and India is no exception. Ayurveda implements herbs to treat all and any diseases and illnesses, even the one that Reid has (Second opinion with T. R. Reid 2008). This is a legitimate medical practice. However, it is not a panacea. After watching the video, I doubt that any relief Reid felt over his shoulder came from ingesting the brew he was given.
Another thing I have learned from the video is that Ayurveda has a heavier emphasis on the ritual than most traditional medical practices (Second opinion with T. R. Reid 2008). They are aware of the placebo effect and exploit it to its fullest potential. The effects of the placebo are well-studied by modern medicine, and while the practice seems obscure, it has a defined purpose behind it (Wilson, 2014).
Physical activities and a specialized diet were also important to Reid’s partial recovery. Although not elaborated on in the video, they are an integral part of the Ayurvedic practices (Second opinion with T. R. Reid 2008). While it is significant in modern-day care as well, it had to be noted that the Indians do not forgo such an important and relatively inexpensive medical practice.
Contradictions in the Video
The premise of the video was promising. Reid was going to India with a serious health problem that needed chirurgical intervention to cure. It was not something as simple as a headache or a common cold. The reporter was very skeptical of the practices used. I was skeptical as well since I did not believe any amount of preaching would improve the presence of the synovial fluid in between the shoulder bones.
What I disliked in the video was the story of the miraculous recuperation, as Reid and his doctors represented it. There were two critical pieces of evidence, which I would have liked seeing in this documentary – the results of the comparative research of Ayurveda vs. modern arthritis treatments, and the results of Reid’s medical examination after he returned from India. Neither was presented. Instead, all we had received in the end was a vague conclusion by the journalist that Ayurveda indeed helped him where modern medicine could not (Second opinion with T. R. Reid 2008). That is highly subjective, in my opinion, and does not necessarily represent the objective reality.
What caused Reid’s shoulder to feel better is, in my opinion, physical activity and a healthy diet. As he had admitted himself during his interview, the effect of the treatment vanished soon after he returned home and stopped doing any kind of exercise. While the diet and the exercise were a part of his ayurvedic treatment, these practices are not unique to India only. I doubt that the results would have been different had he attended a course of physiotherapy back at home.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Two questions need to be answered at the end of this review. Is Ayurveda effective? Yes, somewhat. It is based on traditional medicinal practices that have proven themselves effective throughout the history of humankind. Is it comparable to modern medicine? No, it is not. Modern medicine incorporates the knowledge of old medicinal practices. It is not a stranger to using medical herbs; it also incorporates massages, diets, and various physical activities. In short, it possesses everything that Ayurveda has to offer, minus the astrology, the candles, and prayers.
Still, I believe that modern medicine has things to learn from Ayurveda. Their herbal medicines should be studied to determine which ones are useful and which ones are not. In addition, modern medical practices should use the placebo effect more extensively in their treatments. Perhaps not through chanting but through other means that would improve the patient’s faith in their own recovery. Once that is done, Ayurveda would become obsolete. Modern medicine evolves. Ayurveda does not. With the knowledge passed down by the ancestors, you can only go so far.
Reid, T.R. (Executive Producer). (2008). Second opinion with T. R. Reid: Inside Ayurvedic Medicine. New York, NY: Films Media Group.
What is Ayurveda? (2016). Web.
Wilson, A. (2014). The Placebo Effect – does it have a Place in Modern Medicine? Web.