While Allopathic/Western medicine is mostly based on curing a disease, our traditional medicine systems like Siddha, Ayurveda are based on prevention and regeneration. These systems take a holistic view of healthcare and use natural ingredients. This is an important point we overlook in our rush to cure an ailment, many of which are lifestyle and food-habits related.
I went and spoke to Dr. T. Thirunarayanan, Siddha Physician & Secretary, Center for Traditional Medicine & Research (CTMR), an NGO based out of Chennai.
Major activities of CTMR, include,
- Free health camps & information dissemination (through a network of doctors and volunteers).
- Traditional medicine knowledge documentation (including digitization of ancient palm manuscripts related to medicine).
- Train Govt. Siddha/Ayurveda doctors & interns.
- Teach students and encourage them to plant medicinal plants/herbs in their schools.
- Workshops/exchange programs for local & International practitioners.
- Publishing books related to traditional medicine.
Traditional healers are common in our villages. Some of them are specialized in certain treatment areas (like treating burns, for example). They use different types of herbs/plants for treatment and their techniques have been (mostly) transferred orally from one generation to another.
People in CTMR interact with these healers, document the various plants/procedures involved in treatments, and then create a digital database that is handed over to Ayush (Dept. of Health, GoI), which is published in their traditional knowledge digital library. They also get the various palm manuscripts, scan them, interpret them (using specialists who know ancient Tamil) and digitize them.
But why take all this effort, I ask him. Isn’t this information supposed to be transmitted to the next generation of healers, anyway? He said some information is transmitted, but since youngsters in this generation seek alternate modes of employment that are more remunerative (as traditional medicine is largely service-oriented and in most cases practiced free of cost), there is a risk that valuable info – collected since the times of Indus valley civilization – might be lost. CTMR also facilitates traditional healers to meet and interact, so that they can learn from each other.
Some of their recent activities include training 850 Siddha doctors on specialty treatment procedures, exchange program with Tibetan medicine practitioners and organizing a training program in Malaysia. For the Siddha doctors training, they invited Gerry Bodekar, the chief editor of ‘WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complimentary & Alternative Medicine‘.
There are two Govt. Siddha Medical College & Hospitals in Chennai (Anna Nagar, Tambaram). But as in any other field, alternative medicine may also have scrupulous and unscrupulous practitioners and hence consumers need to double check their credentials, before approaching anyone for treatment.
Traditional medicine emphasizes on prevention, as much as treatment. For example, did you know that taking certain types of food controls Diabetics? Or Hypertension? Nature has provided us with a bounty, but if we seek nothing, we’ll get nothing!