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Thursday, April 17, 2014  
Ayurveda for Life
The basic principle is to prevent illness and maintain a balance in the body and mind through change in lifestyle and herbal remedies, Dr Dhanya Umanath tells Anupama Arunkumar

Any discussion on alternative medicine can never be complete without the mention of Ayurveda. University of Maryland and Medical Center describes Ayurveda as a healing science that many scholars consider to be the oldest. With a holistic approach to health, this system of medicine from India, uses a constitutional model. With its centuries old treatment techniques varying from herbal mixtures, massages to hot fermentations, the Ayurvedic treatment is quite popular in Oman.

“The word comes from Sanskrit words ‘ayush’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘veda’ meaning ‘knowledge’. It’s the science of life. The tradition goes back to centuries and every ailment big and small used to be treated with Ayurveda at one time,” explained Dr Dhanya Umanath, Ayurvedic physician working at Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala in Ruwi.

So how does the treatment work?

Dhanya says: “The basic principle is to prevent illness and maintain a balance in the body and mind through change in lifestyle and herbal remedies. If you go to an Alopathic physician with a back pain, they will probably give you analgesics and anti-inflammatory gels. This only treats the symptoms and the problem will be seen to persist. In Ayurveda, we try to root out the cause rather than symptomatically treating it. So if there is a swelling there would be something causing it and through massages, hot fermentations and change in the lifestyle, the pain will be relieved.”

Ayurveda, increasingly sought out to treat osteo-arthritic conditions, gastritis and stomach related ailments, migraine and even serious ailments like diabetes, plays a huge role in rehabilitation of patients and increasing the general health.

“When there is wear and tear happening, Ayurvedic treatments to an extent enables the regeneration and strengthening of these muscles and joints. Even paralysis or semiplegia can be cured provided the root cause is identified.”

Since the introduction of modern technology in the field of medicine like CT scan, MRI and X-rays, the age old-style of treatment hasn’t shied away from using these facilities to help diagnosis.

“Now when there is an availability of such facilities which will help detect problems faster, it is only sensible to use it. You have to rely on the scans to understand if it is a blood clot or haemorrhage that is causing paralysis or we need to use X-rays to know if the disk is involved or if it’s just a case of muscle spasm when you say you have a back ache.”

While Ayurveda used to once be relied on to treat diseases of every kind, Dhanya reminds us of its limitations in today’s world. “There is a practical aspect to this. It might have been sought to treat all diseases at a time when no other kinds of medicine was available. Today there are better ways of approaching certain ailments, so I don’t totally agree when people say Ayurveda can treat anything and everything. We don’t use painkillers like in Alopathy, so that’s one downfall. We need to depend on antibiotics for extreme cases like infections that has to be immediately arrested or heart conditions.”

Often mistaken for relaxation massages, the treatments has now gained popularity with awareness of its benefits and effectiveness. “Seven years ago, people used to come here only to take appointments for relaxation massages. But now out of 50-60 patients we see every day, 50 per cent are Omanis and they come in with great faith in the effectiveness.”

The sight of her neighbour – a Nigerian doctor who got instantly relieved from his back ache after receiving Ayurvedic treatment from the centre, got Lissi excited. “Coming from Kerala I am a big fan of Ayurveda and even as I grew up, had a baby, my mother used to give me Ayurvedic medicines to keep me fit and healthy. Unlike the general myth, it immediately takes effect and its effects are long term.”

Ayurvedic doctors score over their Alopathic counterparts when it comes to giving time for their patients, allowing them to express how they feel which in turn results in a better diagnosis. With a general faith in the treatment approach and first hand experiences, Omanis even make trips to India, to get elaborate treatments done. It is also used for beauty treatments like skin cleansing and hair fall solutions.

“The desalinated water and the heat cause hairloss and there are oils and supplements for it. In these cases there need to be nourishment from the inside also,” said Dhanya.



Like cures like



Another genre of medicines is the Homoeopathy which was discovered in Germany. The medical system practiced to prevent and treat many diseases was developed by German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann around 200 years ago.

Homoeopathic physician Dr Yamini Bhagat of Lama Polyclinic explained: “Hahnemann who was not happy with the general practice, read somewhere about China or chloroquine that cures malaria. So what he did was dilute the medicine and took it personally and developed the symptoms of Malaria. It was already proven that the same substance that bring the symptoms can also cure the symptoms. He has worked on some 99 drugs.”

The system of drug generally working on your immune system uses natural substances to evoke the symptoms of the disease and cure it. Quite popular in Germany and India, Yamini discussed the general myths that hover around homeopathy. “The first thing I generally hear a lot is that it is very slow acting. I had a child come here with a high temperature of 102 degrees Celsius. He had a very bad swelling in his throat and had adenoids…. after taking the medicine, the temperature had come down to 92 degrees at 10am the next day. By 7pm the next day he was feeling absolutely fine with minor nasal problems which I am looking into. But this answers the question as to how long a Homoeopathy treatment takes to work. We believe every disease to be a chronic disease. So when a child comes with a cold and a cough, I will try to control the cold symptoms with acute medicine. The medicine that is registered is diluted a million times. So there can never be any kind of allergic reactions, nor is it slow acting”

“At other times when homoeopathic medicines cure ailments instantly, it is accused of carrying steroids. This is also never true. The well indicated drug sometimes acts so quickly that it might seem to act much more faster than an Allopathic drug like in the case of asthma. It is the energy of the substance that is released.”

While Homeopathy avoids life threatening conditions there are still physicians who work in the cardiac area. The system which generally prescribes only orally registered pills, very recently finds a rush of different patented products that treats diseases externally.

“The treatment is for the long term as it builds up your immune system. There are patents that are coming up with externally applicable medicines but they are certainly not traditional. Calendula application can be very effective but otherwise, even with skin diseases, it’s always orally taken medicine.”

Even though the homoeopathy department at Lama Polyclinic sees about 40-50 patients a day, Yamini feels that there is a general lack of awareness about this system in Oman. “I don’t think a lot of people in Oman know about Homeopathy or its workings. It’s almost alien to them. I do get references from Sultan Qaboos University Hospital once in a while but there certainly has to be more awareness.”

Oman Mirror
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