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The Alternative Quest

M3 India Newsdesk Jul 19, 2017

With Complementary and Alternative medicine clearly moving up the priority ladder with the government, M3 India dissects the alternatives with the medical fraternity.




Coughs, colds and allergies, headaches or even liefetsyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension- at some stage patients experience this and choose to self-medicate. They often resort to home remedies and alternative medicines such as Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Reflexology etc. In case of aggravation of condition patients then show up at doctor clinics. The perennial question for an eternal cure continues and doctors are expected to have satisfactory answers about efficacy of alternative remedies versus allopathy.

Allopathy or modern medicine is evidence-based Western medical system used the world over. Homeopathy seeks to cure at a physical, mental and emotional level, each treatment tailored to each patient’s need.The world’s oldest medical system, originated in India over 5000 years ago, Ayurveda is like an instruction manual on natural living for human beings.

Doctors have a spectrum of views and attitudes on this. While some doctors believe that Complementary and Alternative medicine allows them to practise the art and science of medicine and they readily offer access to Alternative medicine solutions for enhanced patient satisfaction some others have recurring skepticism about the safety of alternative medicine and therapies and lament the absence of statutory regulation and enough evidence for most therapies .

Talking about the battle between allopathy and alternative remedies such as homeopathy, Ayurveda, acupressure and even yoga, most allopathy doctors would say it is humbug even though they themselves do resort to it for minor ailments. With many doctors sneering at the use of alternative medicines, there are still a few who put across their views to M3 India on the debate on Allopathy vs Alternative medicines/remedies.

M3 India spoke to Dr. Anita Gidwani MD (Med), Consulting Physician, Heart, Chest & Diabetes Specialist, Bandra.

“Allopathy is surely about proof of the disease and is based on scientific parameters. It is time tested and proven. It tells you about the effects and has the safety of having been tested.”


Even though she would recommend both Ayurveda and Homeopathy in cases of chronic health issues like allergies, arthritis, gastric dyspepsia and arthritis since they are not totally curable with allopathy, these alternative medicines are most often looked down upon by the formal fraternity of doctors. Their take is that there is not a lot of research or trials done.

Dr. Satish D Pathak is a general surgeon having worked at the ESIS Hospital in Mulund, he also consults at the Yoga OPD at Dr RN Cooper Hospital, Mumbai among others. As he was always engaged in surgery, it was rather unconventional to find him talking about “Yoga Shastra, the science known to control the human mind from wherein stems most of the chronic illnesses.”Initially, he was a skeptic of  relying on yoga as a part of treatment. But after he did a course and actually saw the positive effects of yoga on a heart patient, it pushed Dr Pathak to delve into it more. He is attempting to marry the two alternatives seamlessly.

“I try to associate myself to bring together the Yoga Shastra and modern Medical Science.” Twenty-five years ago, one had to go for an angioplasty, not giving a thought as to why there was a blockage. Now we think of life style changes. As he reasons, prescribing yoga under guidance is risk-free as it does not have side effects. This then is the drastic difference between allopathy and alternative methods.

Coming back to Dr. Gidwani, her interest in the alternative medicines of homeopathy and Ayurveda developed about 20 years ago when she used to have sneezing allergies. As she did not want to take steroids she began her tryst with homeopathy. Having seen the value of Ayurveda in certain diseases, which basically believes in the principle of balancing the imbalances in the body, a lot of it comes from personal experience as well.“Five years ago, I had nodules in my vocal chords and my colleagues recommended surgery. I had a friend who practices homeopathy and she suggested that I try it. Since I did not want to undergo surgery I decided to give it a try. In five years, I have been cured without undergoing surgery and I can talk today.”

On the downside though she faces skepticism when discussing the benefits of alternative medicines at medical seminars or whilst giving lectures. The openness to alternative medicines is absent and frowned upon by most doctors.

Talking about the patients who had dementia, she has seen the results where Ayurveda has helped in improving or even correcting dementia and where the memory of the patient did improve. She feels trials should be done on these cases and many others too. Even though practitioners of allopathy will always say that all this is a humbug.

In yet another encouraging sign, Dr. Surya Tripathi, MD Pathology at Sion Hospital confirms how he began believing in homeopathy when he saw a patient of psoriasis and hair loss respond to homeopathy.Yet the problem lies in the fact that medicines and drugs in allopathy are scientifically prepared taking into account pharma analytics, bio mechanics etc. This is not so for alternative medicines. Talking about the side effects of drugs, he agrees that they are present, but feels they are insignificant compared to the disease treatment. Still some do have major side effects he avers.

Even as most allopathic doctors shun recommending alternative medicines, Dr. Gidwani begs to differ. “I believe it is important to understand the science of medicine. Diagnosis is very important and then one can recommend homeopathy or Ayurveda medicines. For me, I discuss remedies with colleagues who practice homeopathy and Ayurveda.”

Another believer Dr. Tasneem Bisht, a Consulting pathologist at Shahbazker's Diagnostic Centre, does so from her experience. Her mother used to suffer from chronic cough and cold due to allergies. She first started with allopathy but that had side effects. That led her to try homeopathy which has helped her a lot. There is a catch. Although she would recommend alternative remedies like homeopathy for chronic illnesses the first preference remains allopathy.

At the end of the day, it is the doctor patient privilege of prescribing and following a treatment.

The debate can go on forever. It is but a natural consequence of the fact that so much of health is psychosomatic - the mind will affect the body and vice versa. So many niggling pains are never focused upon when busy and so many invisible aches crop up when we decide to dwell upon it. Yes, allopathy is largely scientific and researched, vouching for its authenticity. But to dismiss off alternative medicines in lieu does not make sense. The huge benefits of yoga are there to be seen, with thousands of years of experience backing it. Ayurveda and homeopathy are widely practised enough to vouch for its success. It’s all about the faith one has in it.

After all, as William Osler says,

“Medicine is the science of uncertainty and an art of probability!”

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