AYUSH – Indian Medicine System

WHO & Traditional Medicine


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Traditional Medicines

Mains level: Read the attached story

PM Modi, along with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, will perform the groundbreaking ceremony for the first-of-its-kind WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

What is Traditional Medicine?

  • The WHO describes traditional medicine as the total sum of the “knowledge, skills and practices indigenous and different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness”.
  • Its reach encompasses ancient practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine and herbal mixtures as well as modern medicines.
  • According to WHO estimates, 80% of the world’s population uses traditional medicine.

Traditional medicine in India

  • It is often defined as including practices and therapies — such as Yoga, Ayurveda, Siddha — that have been part of Indian tradition historically, as well as others — such as homeopathy — that became part of Indian tradition over the years.
  • Ayurveda and yoga are practised widely across the country.
  • The Siddha system is followed predominantly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • The Sowa-Rigpa System is practised mainly in Leh-Ladakh and Himalayan regions such as Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling, Lahaul & Spiti.

What will the GCTM be about?

  • The GCTM will aim to focus on evidence-based research, innovation, and data analysis to optimise the contribution of traditional medicine to global health.
  • Its main focus will to develop norms, standards and guidelines in technical areas relating to traditional medicine.
  • It will seek to set policies and standards on traditional medicine products and help countries create a comprehensive, safe, and high-quality health system.
  • The GCTM will support efforts to implement the WHO’s Traditional Medicine Strategy (2014-23).
  • It will serve as the hub, and focus on building a “solid evidence base” for policies and “help countries integrate it as appropriate into their health systems”.

Why has the WHO felt the need to advance knowledge of traditional medicine?

  • Almost all WHO members have reported widespread use of traditional medicine.
  • These member states have asked for its support in creating a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products.
  • The WHO has found that the national health systems and strategies do not yet fully integrate traditional medicine workers, accredited courses and health facilities.
  • It has stressed the need to conserve biodiversity and sustainability as about 40% of approved pharmaceutical products today derive from natural substances.
  • It has referred to modernization of the ways traditional medicine is being studied. Artificial intelligence is now used to map evidence and trends in traditional medicine.


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