Contributions of ancient Indian physicians--implications for modern times
Department of Anesthesiology
Medical Subject Headings
History, 20th Century; History, Ancient; Humans; India; Medicine, Ayurvedic; Physicians
Alternative and Complementary Medicine | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
Ayurveda traces its origins to contributions of mythological and real physicians that lived millennia earlier. In many respects, Western medicine also had similar origins and beliefs, however, the introduction of anatomical dissection and progressive application of scientific evidence based practices have resulted in divergent paths taken by these systems. We examined the lives, careers, and contributions made by nine ancient Indian physicians. Ancient texts, translations of these texts, books, and biographical works were consulted to obtain relevant information, both for Indian traditional medicine as well as for Western medicine. Ayurveda has retained principles enunciated by these physicians, with minor conceptual advances over the centuries. Western medicine separated from ancient Indian medicine several hundred years ago, and remains the foundation of modern medicine. Modern medicine is evidence based, and randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are the gold standard by which efficacy of treatment is evaluated. Ayurvedic medicine has not undergone such critical evaluation to any large extent. The few RCTs that have evaluated alternative medical treatment recently have shown that such therapy is no better than placebo; however, placebo treatment is 30% effective. We suggest that foreign domination, initially by Mughals, and later by the British, may have contributed, in part, to this inertia and protracted status quo.