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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 117-119

Scope of ayurveda biology in the future of integrative healthcare for global wellness

Centre for Ayurveda Biology and Holistic Nutrition, The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology,Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission06-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance08-Jan-2020
Date of Web Publication10-Feb-2020

Correspondence Address:
Chethala N Vishnuprasad
Centre for Ayurveda Biology and Holistic Nutrition, The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology,Bengaluru, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/asl.ASL_1_20

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How to cite this article:
Vishnuprasad CN. Scope of ayurveda biology in the future of integrative healthcare for global wellness. Ancient Sci Life 2018;37:117-9

How to cite this URL:
Vishnuprasad CN. Scope of ayurveda biology in the future of integrative healthcare for global wellness. Ancient Sci Life [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 Dec 8];37:117-9. Available from: https://www.ancientscienceoflife.org/text.asp?2018/37/3/117/277981

Wellness is not the mere absence of diseases. It is the ultimate state of wholeness and homeostasis of biological functions in an organism. By definition, it is different from health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. On the other hand, wellness is considered as an 'active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence'.[1] Health aims at well-being and wellness aims at enhancing well-being.

There are two prevailing schools of thought in the philosophy of science. Holism and reductionism. Holism defines health as a sum of physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of life, whereas reductionism aims at understanding the complexities of health by deconstructing them into its molecular components.[2],[3] The present-day biology, particularly medical science, is largely rooted in the reductionist approach. This is the predominant paradigm of science for the past two centuries and has attempted to solve the complex problems of health and diseases by dividing them into smaller, simpler and tractable units. Influence of reductionism in modern medicine changed the perception of health and wellness from an individual centric to a medicine centric approach. The tenet of this medicine-centric view is, 'the more selective the drug-target interactions, more effective and safe will be its biological effects'. Although this approach had tremendous success in certain areas of disease management (primarily in the management of infectious diseases), targeted medicines have limitations in managing complex, multifactorial biological conditions.[4] While individual molecular components of biological functions are important, the manifestation of disease or health would be more than the sum of these individual (both molecular and cellular) interactions involved in it. Recent research works on network pharmacology have shown that the robustness of biological systems is the result of a network interaction of various signaling pathways. This is, in fact, matching with the Aristotelian view that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is also important to refer the observation by Hopkins that the reasons for new drug candidates being not successfully translated into effective therapies are more philosophical, rather than technical or scientific. The core assumptions that frame the drug discovery strategy are reductionist and not holistic.[5] Perhaps this is the context where the concepts of integrative medicine and medical pluralism become relevant and significant. In the health and wellness space, both reductionism and holism are equally important and should be integrated logically to get the best of both. The focus of integrative health management would be the restoration of health and maintenance of wellness throughout an individual's lifespan. It can have both generalized and personalized disease management strategies that serve beyond symptomatic treatment of diseases, and address the causes of illness at a holistic level to restore wellness. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that integrative health management is not the same as alternative medicine. It's a trans-disciplinary level-playing approach wherein epistemologically different health management approaches go hand-in-hand and bring out the best of both integrative and alternative medicine to maintain wellness. Integrating traditional medicines (TM) with modern biomedicine is an approach that is rapidly gaining global appeal in the healthcare sector, as well as in life science research. Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine, can play a pivotal role in this trans-disciplinary knowledge synthesis.

So, how Ayurveda can contribute in this direction? What is the scope of Ayurveda- Biology in the future of integrative healthcare paradigm for global wellness? Ayurveda, the 'science of life' (Āyuḥ = Life; Veda = Science), is one of the oldest among traditional medicine systems in the world. It is a health management system that had evolved from various local health traditions and progressively systematized and established as a codified medical science over a period of time. Being a science that had established itself much before the development of modern biology, Ayurveda follows unique theories and resultant methodologies for defining and treating human health and diseases. Certainly, the philosophy of Ayurveda is holistic and individual centric and the conceptual framework are rooted in the doctrines of Indian knowledge systems such as Vedas, Sāṅkhya, Nyāya-vaiśeṣika and Vedānta systems of philosophy. Though the concepts of wellness and illness in Ayurveda are epistemologically different from the contemporary biological sciences, it is widely accepted as a holistic system of medicine, and successfully practiced all over Indian subcontinent (also in many other parts of the globe). Perception theory (pratyakṣa pramāṇa-perceived by the sense organs) and inference theory (anumāna pramāṇa-inferred from the perception) the two of the four means of authenticating valid knowledge according to Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika philosophy, are used in Ayurveda along with yukti (logic) for hypothesizing the cause (nidāna) of the disease from its manifestations as well as deciphering the possible manifestations from various causes. For example, recognizing respiratory disorders as manifestations of environmental pollution (nidāna) in a geographical location and vice versa alerting the high incidence of respiratory disorders when the environment gets polluted. The inference theory of Ayuriveda provides a holistic view of the cause and effect of changes in the body. The inferences deduced based on observations, evidence and reasoning are logically used in diagnostics and therapy. Whereas the modern analytical and diagnostic tools of biology deepened the biochemical and biophysical understanding of these causes and effects at a molecular level. The fascinating scope of Ayurveda- Biology is to bridge these two epistemologically different knowledge systems to create a new trans-disciplinary framework for understanding the wellness and disease biology. Creating such a knowledge interface can in turn translate to novel integrative strategies for wellness and disease management.

It is further important to note that the concepts of health and wellness in Ayurveda are not only limited to human health, but encompasses all living forms in the universe. This perspective is emerging from the Vedāntic and Upanishadic outlook that assumes all life forms in the universe to be embodiments of the same five basic elements (panca mahābhūta siddhānta) and acknowledge the interdependence of flora and fauna in the universe (sarvam khalvidam brahma). Ayurveda considers human beings as an inseparable part of the whole nature and for them to be in equilibrium with the composition of the nature. It also believes that human health and well-being are very much dependent on the health and well-being of plants and animals. Hence, the global wellness perspective in Ayurveda expands the human health to agricultural science (Vṛkṣāyurveda) and veterinary sciences (Hastyāyurveda, Ashvāyurveda etc.). Perhaps, this is one of the earliest thoughts of what the frontiers of biology started to discuss now as “One Health” or “Planetary Health approach”.[6]

Logical and reasonable synthesis of Ayurveda (rooted in scientific and logic concepts of the Indian philosophy) and biology (based on a western scientific tradition) to create a trans-disciplinary knowledge framework of Ayurveda- Biology is challenging as well. Deciphering information from ancient texts need to be done with utmost care. The concepts of Ayurveda are recorded either in Sanskrit and in other regional languages of India. Similarly, unique linguistic methodologies such as sūtra (prose in concise and precise words that can be interpreted multidimensionally), kārikā (verse form of sūtra) and vṛtti (commentaries in prose form) are used by the authors for knowledge documentation. Each of the words used in sūtra and Kārikā will have a philosophy and connotation associated to the scheme of knowledge it is representing. The meaning has to be interpreted and explained textually and contextually, not separately. A single word mentioned in Ayurveda may sometimes require a detailed explanation with several sentences and paragraphs in order to derive logical and contextual interpretation of it. A classical example is 'Agni' in Ayurveda. Simple translation of Agni may indicate it as fire or other similar energy forces. However, describing Agni in the context of biological conditions like Pāṇḍu (anemia) or Prameha (diabetes and glucose metabolism disorders) can find analogies with various biochemical and biophysical events happening in the body. It is challenging for the scholars to draw parallels between the Ayurveda terms and molecular events and correlate them to understand the biology of health and disease. Furthermore, the scientific information in Indian literature, including Ayurveda texts, are often found interwoven with religious and ritualistic beliefs, legend (having reasonable explanation with historical, anthropological, geographical, and socio-cultural framework) as well as imaginations and dreams (those that cannot be substantiated or proven with any historical, anthropological, geographical, and socio-cultural framework). It is also a practice of presenting the knowledge with divinity to make the information more authoritative and believable as well as to protect it from getting 'adulterated' with corrupting information. Due diligence is necessary while deciphering the relevant science from the seemingly incoherent background. With an appropriate and logical epistemological bridging, Ayurveda- Biology could be a paradigm strategy for the future demands of integrative and pluralistic healthcare needs of the globe.

  References Top

Stoewen DL. Health and wellness. Can Vet J 2015;56:983-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
Strandberg EL, Ovhed I, Borgquist L, Wilhelmsson S. The perceived meaning of a (w) holistic view among general practitioners and district nurses in Swedish primary care: A qualitative study. BMC Fam Pract 2007;8:8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Jasemi M, Valizadeh L, Zamanzadeh V, Keogh B. A concept analysis of holistic care by hybrid model. Indian J Palliat Care 2017;23:71-80.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Ahn AC, Tewari M, Poon CS, Phillips RS. The limits of reductionism in medicine: Could systems biology offer an alternative? PLoS Med 2006;3:e208.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hopkins AL. Network pharmacology: The next paradigm in drug discovery. Nat Chem Biol 2008;4:682-90.  Back to cited text no. 5
The Lancet Planetary Health. The bigger: Picture of planetary health. Lancet Planet Health 2019;3:e1.  Back to cited text no. 6

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