Just few decades back, searching some research based information on Ayurveda was a nightmare for anyone. Today when I open internet and search for articles on Ayurveda research I found various new Journals dedicated for Ayurveda research are available online .A good news is that few of these journals are also indexed in Pubmed. Certainly I think this is a welcome step, but if we look at the articles in these journals the picture is very disappointing, and many a times it really makes me think –“Are we on the right track?”
We can see several preclinical and clinical studies conducted using scientific methods, the only difference between these studies and any other research in conventional medical science is the study drug .These so called Ayurvedic research uses Ayurvedic herb or in very few cases a Herbomineral formulations as a study drug instead of a conventional drug or they use conventional drug as a control group. Today various scientists from different Biological sciences working on herbs or some isolated phytochemical from that herb. If that herb is mentioned in Ayurveda classics, then can we call such research as an Ayurvedic research? What are the criteria for calling a research as an Ayurvedic research? Will such studies contribute anything for development of Ayurveda as a Science? Certainly time has came to decide what is our ultimate aim and what we want to achieve by conducting research in Ayurveda. If we are able to answer this question then only we will be able to select a right track.
Today majority of the researchers are conducting applied research using some Ayurvedic formulations. But what about basic research? Today’s modern applied scientific research is based on the basic or fundamental research being conducted since several decades. Ayurveda has its own robust, time tested and eternal basic principles. Today we can find that these principles are very much scientific and are very useful in treating patients as well. But unfortunately we are not able to translate and understand these principles in language of conventional science. Since very few studies exist which has tried to explore and understand the basic fundamentals of Ayurveda we find it difficult to incorporate them in our research protocols. Just imagine what would have been the status of conventional medical research, if scientist would have thought “why make a nude mice when we have a plenty of rats and mice? Why to spend entire life in understanding the chemicals reactions in a single cell? Rather why not concentrate on treating sick people and do some applied research”. This thought itself makes us realize that any science is based on its fundamentals and no applied research can be conducted in true sense if we don’t have proper understanding of its basic principles. Hence I feel that more and more fundamental research need to be conducted in Ayurveda. Basic principles of Ayurveda like Prakruti, Dosha ,Dushya,Guna ,Karma etc need to be explored , understood and explained in terms of conventional biological sciences. Another unique concept mentioned in Ayurveda is about various sanskaras which every compound has to undergo before using it in any medicinal formulation. Such sanskaras converts a toxic element in to a therapeutically effective and Non toxic one .We should conduct research studies to explore and understand this basic concept in terms of Modern science. While conducting research on such basic principles, Ayurveda researchers should be open minded and try to utilize the developments of science while designing the research protocol.An interdisciplinary research approach involving developments in various fields of science is necessary to explore the strengths and potentials of basic principles in Ayurveda. Just to give an example, few interdisciplinary researches on the concept of Prakruti have lead to understanding of Prakruti in terms of Genomics. Though these studies have not proved anything beyond what is already explained in Ayurveda but it helped us to understand this basic concept of Ayurveda in terms of conventional science. This leads to wider acceptability and moreover it opens new avenues in conducting further research. Universities and Academic institutions are the best places to conduct such basic research. The Dept of AYUSH and CCRAS should also come out with special schemes for financing institutions conducting Fundamental research. Well established Ayurveda pharmaceutical companies can also consider providing research grants or other possible help to scholars desirous of conducting fundamental research.
While designing the research protocol for Ayurveda based studies we should leave the reductionist method of treating any symptom or disease in Isolation and look for pragmatic or a whole system approach. Probably Ayurveda is the first science to explain this concept about the personalized medicine which treats each person as a different individual. This concept also needs to be taken in to consideration along with other similar basic principles of Ayurveda in planning the study. Many a times we fail to incorporate such basic fundamental principles in our study design and that’s why we get a huge variability in the results. This ultimately leads to statistically insignificant findings which wrongly interpret the potentials of Ayurveda.
Researchers working in Ayurveda should also consider that Ayurveda is different than the conventional science as it was developed in much different period than that of today’s science. The social, political, economical and scientific conditions prevailing at that period has a clear reflection in the way the principles of Ayurveda are explained. Hence it won’t be justified to see Ayurveda completely in the light of modern research methodology. The unique concept of “samanya vishesha siddhanta” on which the entire therapeutics of Ayuveda is planned is an example of such unique principle which needs to consider in its totality while designing any research protocol. Another such example is about the concept of Adverse drug reactions (ADR).ADR are very prevalent in Allopathic medicine as it uses synthetically derived potent molecules, which many a times lack complete selectivity and are tested only in few thousand patients in clinical trials. Ayurveda on the other hand uses Natural products which are developed and time tested since centuries thus selecting only the safe and efficacious formulations . Hence the chances of ADR are almost negligible in Ayurveda. Thus we can say that the principle of “No effect without side effect” is completely appropriate to modern pharmaceuticals but not to Ayurveda Therapeutics. Hence Researchers should consider such inherent differences which exist between these two sciences and design appropriate research protocols. Modern Research scientist should also consider this fact and looks towards Ayurveda as a rational science, which is explained in a different manner than today’s conventional science.
Tagging Ayurveda as unscientific without doing proper research, considering the basic principles and totality of Ayurvea is not justified and acceptable at all. If Research studies are planned considering the above mentioned principles I have no doubt that Ayurveda would prove to be more scientific and rational than any other existing medical science .Only such research activities which are planned meticulously will help to device effective therapeutics for benefit of entire mankind.