The Newsletter 65 Autumn 2013

A narrative review of research in Ayurveda

P. Ram Manohar

Ayurveda witnessed a shift towards rational principles in the practice of medicine, at a very early stage in its evolutionary history. The early classical Ayurveda textbooks (samhitas) talk about the validation of knowledge and distinguish between real and chance effects of therapy.1 These works also contain elaborate methods to study properties of drugs, to develop new medical formulations, and protocols to study and understand the occurrence of new diseases. Research, it appears, was therefore in some way ingrained in the tradition of Ayurveda from the very beginning. Yet, there is no evidence of organized research activities in the evolutionary history of Ayurveda, nothing of the kind that can be compared with modern medical research. For centuries, Ayurveda seems to have perpetuated itself as a tradition of practices and knowledge transmitted through apprenticeship or more formal methods of pedagogy, in some instances akin to a university education. Research in the modern sense of the word is a recent development in the field of Ayurveda, it seems.

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