AYUSH – Indian Medicine System

Exploring the Prospects of Integrated Medicine: A Dialogue on Ayush and Modern Healthcare


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Integrated system of medicine, complementary and alternative medicine system and other related facts

Mains level: AYUSH ministry's move of Integrated system of medicine, potential benefits and concerns


Central idea

  • In a recent development, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Ministry of Ayush have agreed to enhance cooperation in health research related to integrated medicine. This collaboration aims to establish Ayush departments within prestigious medical institutions like AIIMS. However, this move has sparked a debate regarding the efficacy and viability of an integrated system of medicine.

What is integrated system of medicine?

  • An integrated system of medicine refers to an approach that combines elements from different healthcare systems or modalities, such as conventional medicine and traditional or complementary/alternative medicine, with the goal of providing comprehensive and patient-centered care.

Common features of integrated system of medicine

  • Holistic Approach: An integrated system of medicine takes a holistic approach to healthcare, recognizing the interconnectedness of various aspects of health, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It considers the whole person rather than focusing solely on symptoms or specific diseases.
  • Multiple Healthcare Modalities: It incorporates multiple healthcare modalities and disciplines, such as conventional medicine, traditional medicine systems (e.g., Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine), complementary and alternative medicine (e.g., acupuncture, herbal medicine), mind-body practices (e.g., yoga, meditation), and other evidence-based therapies.
  • Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Care: An integrated system of medicine encourages collaboration and cooperation among healthcare providers from different disciplines. This interdisciplinary approach allows for a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s needs and the development of personalized treatment plans.
  • Evidence-Based Practice: The integration of different healthcare modalities is based on scientific evidence, research, and clinical guidelines. It emphasizes the use of evidence-based practices, ensuring that treatments and interventions are safe, effective, and supported by reliable data.
  • Individualized Treatment: An integrated system of medicine recognizes that each person is unique and may require personalized treatment approaches. It considers individual circumstances, preferences, and goals when developing treatment plans, allowing for customized care.
  • Emphasis on Prevention and Wellness: It places importance on preventive measures, health promotion, and wellness-oriented approaches. It aims to identify and address underlying factors that contribute to illness, focusing on strategies to prevent disease and promote optimal health.
  • Patient-Centered Care: An integrated system of medicine prioritizes the patient’s needs, preferences, and values. It involves active patient participation in healthcare decision-making, education, and self-care practices. The patient is viewed as a partner in their own healthcare journey.
  • Continuity of Care and Care Coordination: An integrated system of medicine strives for seamless coordination and continuity of care across different healthcare modalities. It emphasizes effective communication, information sharing, and collaborative management to ensure comprehensive and well-coordinated healthcare.

Ayush inpatient and outpatient departments at Central government hospitals

  • Dedicated AYUSH departments: The Ayush Ministry has decided to open dedicated AYUSH inpatient and outpatient departments at Central government hospitals to provide services related to Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (collectively known as Ayush systems of medicine).
  • Aims to provide wider range of treatment options: This initiative aims to integrate traditional and complementary medicine practices into mainstream healthcare, offering patients a wider range of treatment options and promoting holistic healthcare approaches.
  • Aims to promote and preserve traditional healthcare: The decision to establish these departments reflects the government’s recognition of the growing popularity and acceptance of Ayush systems of medicine in India. It aligns with the ministry’s goal of promoting and preserving traditional healthcare practices, while ensuring their integration within the broader healthcare framework.
  • Facilitate and a boost to research: Opening Ayush departments in Central government hospitals also facilitates research, as it allows for the investigation of the effectiveness and safety of Ayush treatments in conjunction with conventional medical practices. This collaboration between Ayush and modern medicine can lead to the development of standardized protocols, better understanding of the potential benefits, and improved patient outcomes.

Facts for prelims

World Ayurveda Congress (WAC), 2022

  • The 9th edition of World Ayurveda Congress (WAC) & Arogya Expo was organized at PANJIM, GOA.
  • Organised by Ministry of AYSUSH on the principle of whole government approach.
  • The event witnessed the active participation of more than 40 countries and all states of India.
  • WAC is a platform established by World Ayurveda Foundation to propagate Ayurveda globally in its true sense.

World Ayurveda Foundation (WAF)

  • WAF is an initiative by Vijnana Bharati aimed at global propagation of Ayurveda, founded in 2011.
  • The objectives of WAF reflect global scope, propagation and encouragement of all activities scientific and Ayurveda related are the core principles.

What is mean by complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)?

  • Complementary and alternative medicine CAM refers to medical practices and treatments that are not considered part of conventional mainstream medicine.
  • It encompasses a broad range of practices, systems, and therapies, which may include herbal medicine, traditional healing practices, acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic care, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine, among others.
  • These practices often have their roots in ancient cultural and traditional healing systems.

Prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

  • Global Acceptance: Alternative medicine practices are popular and widely accepted in many countries worldwide. Traditional healing systems, herbal remedies, and other alternative therapies have been part of various cultures for centuries.
  • Regional Variations: The prevalence of alternative medicine varies across regions and countries. Some regions have a long-standing cultural and historical association with specific traditional healing practices, while others have seen increased adoption due to globalization and growing interest in holistic health approaches.
  • High Usage Rates: Surveys indicate that a significant portion of the population in various countries has used alternative medicine at some point in their lives. The prevalence rates can range from around 30% to over 70%, depending on the country and the specific therapies or practices included in the survey.
  • Specific Modalities: Different alternative medicine modalities may have varying levels of popularity. Practices such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, chiropractic care, and traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine are among the commonly used modalities.
  • Complementary Use: Many individuals use alternative medicine alongside conventional medical treatments. This approach, known as complementary medicine, involves integrating alternative therapies with standard medical care to address a broader range of health concerns.
  • Health Conditions: Alternative medicine is sought for various health conditions, including chronic pain, mental health issues, musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and general well-being. People often turn to alternative medicine when conventional treatments have been unsatisfactory or to explore more holistic and natural approaches.
  • Wellness and Prevention: Alternative medicine is also used for wellness promotion and preventive care. Practices such as yoga, meditation, and dietary supplements are frequently utilized to support overall health and prevent illness.
  • Global Trends: The prevalence of alternative medicine continues to grow globally. Factors such as increased awareness, patient empowerment, access to information, and a desire for more personalized and holistic healthcare contribute to this trend.

Why do patients gravitate towards complementary/alternative medicine?

  • Holistic Approach: Complementary/alternative medicine often takes a holistic approach to healthcare, considering the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person’s well-being. It focuses on treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms or specific diseases.
  • Dissatisfaction with Conventional Medicine: Some patients may have had unsatisfactory experiences with conventional medicine, such as ineffective treatments, adverse effects, or limited time with healthcare providers. As a result, they may seek alternative options that offer a different approach and more personalized care.
  • Desire for Natural and Non-Invasive Treatments: Complementary/alternative medicine often emphasizes natural remedies, herbal therapies, nutritional interventions, and non-invasive techniques. Patients who prefer a more natural or gentle approach may be drawn to these methods, especially when conventional treatments involve pharmaceutical drugs or invasive procedures.
  • Empowerment and Active Participation: Complementary/alternative medicine often encourages patients to take an active role in their health and treatment decisions. Patients may feel empowered by being involved in the decision-making process, exploring lifestyle modifications, and engaging in self-care practices.
  • Prevention and Wellness Focus: Many complementary/alternative medicine practices emphasize preventive measures and lifestyle modifications to promote overall health and wellness. Patients who are interested in maintaining good health and preventing future illnesses may be attracted to these approaches.
  • Cultural or Traditional Beliefs: Certain complementary/alternative medicine systems have deep cultural or traditional roots. Patients from specific cultural backgrounds may have a strong belief in the efficacy of these practices and may choose them based on cultural heritage or family traditions.
  • Perception of Individualized Care: Complementary/alternative medicine often places importance on individualized care, taking into account the unique needs and circumstances of each patient. This personalized approach may resonate with patients who value a more tailored and comprehensive treatment plan.
  • Perception of Fewer Side Effects: Some patients perceive complementary/alternative medicine to have fewer side effects compared to conventional medicine. They may be concerned about the potential adverse effects of pharmaceutical drugs and prefer to explore alternative options that are perceived as safer.

Does the sale of these medicines need to be regulated?

  • Safety and Efficacy: Regulation helps ensure that alternative medicines meet certain safety standards and have demonstrated efficacy. This is important to protect consumers from potential harm or ineffective treatments.
  • Quality Control: Regulation helps maintain consistent quality in the production and distribution of alternative medicines. It can include measures to ensure proper sourcing of ingredients, good manufacturing practices, quality testing, and adherence to labeling requirements.
  • Consumer Protection: Regulation provides a framework for consumer protection by establishing rules and guidelines for marketing, advertising, and claims made by manufacturers and practitioners of alternative medicines. This helps prevent misleading or false information and ensures that consumers can make informed choices.
  • Standardization: Regulation facilitates the standardization of formulations and practices within alternative medicine systems. Standardization helps establish consistency, reliability, and reproducibility of treatments, allowing for better comparisons and research in the field.
  • Adverse Event Reporting: Regulatory oversight enables the monitoring and reporting of adverse events associated with the use of alternative medicines. This helps identify potential risks and allows for timely interventions to protect public health.
  • Integration with Conventional Medicine: Regulation promotes the integration of alternative medicine with conventional healthcare systems. It establishes frameworks for collaboration, communication, and referral between practitioners of different modalities, ensuring coordinated and safe care for patients.
  • Professional Accountability: Regulatory measures can include licensing, certification, and registration requirements for practitioners of alternative medicine. This helps ensure that practitioners meet certain educational and competency standards, promoting professionalism and accountability in the field.
  • Public Confidence: Regulation helps build public trust and confidence in alternative medicine. Clear regulations and oversight mechanisms provide reassurance to consumers, healthcare professionals, and policymakers that alternative medicines are subject to scrutiny and oversight, contributing to the credibility and acceptance of these practices.


Value addition box from Civilsdaily: Differences between Naturopathy and Allopathy

Aspect Naturopathy Allopathy (Conventional Medicine)
Philosophy Emphasizes body’s self-healing capacity, holistic approach, natural remedies, and wellness promotion Focuses on scientific principles, evidence-based practices, disease diagnosis, and symptom management
Treatment Approach Natural remedies, lifestyle modifications, holistic therapies, herbal medicine, and mind-body practices Pharmaceutical drugs, surgeries, medical procedures, advanced technologies
Diagnosis Observation, physical examinations, patient history, and traditional diagnostic methods Laboratory tests, imaging techniques, diagnostic tools
Emphasis Prevention, overall health and wellness, identifying root causes of illness Disease management, symptom relief, targeted treatments
Individualization Personalized treatment plans based on individual needs and characteristics Standardized treatment protocols based on clinical guidelines
Pharmaceutical Usage Minimal reliance on pharmaceutical drugs, emphasizes natural therapies Utilizes pharmaceutical drugs as primary treatment methods
Specialized Fields Naturopaths may have specific areas of focus but often provide general holistic care Various specialized fields (cardiology, neurology, etc.) addressing specific diseases or conditions


  • The debate on the integration of Ayush practices within mainstream healthcare reflects contrasting perspectives. While there are immense potential benefits of an integrated system it also raises concerns about the scientific validity and safety of alternative medicine. Striking a balance between evidence-based medicine, patient preferences, and regulatory oversight is essential.

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