Ancient and Modern Medicine

My friend Dr Joishy is a very well respected physician (an oncologist by training, with a special interest in palliative medicine). He also comes from a family of Ayurvedic practitioners and a long time ago he wrote a small article about ancient medical systems and modern medicine. He shared it with me, I liked it, one thing led to another, and here is his note about that article (unfortunately not available in etext form, only as a scan, see link in the following note).. I hope to do a podcast with Dr Joishy one day by the way..



 By Suresh K. Joishy, M.D., F.A.C.h.P.M.

                 My good neighbor Dr. Omar Ali and myself were having a mutually interesting conversation on ancient medical systems and modern medicine.  I had published a paper on this topic titled “Towards Ideal Medicine: What Can Traditional Medicine Teach Us?”   This paper can be accessed by copying and pasting the following link onto an internet browser:

After reading it, Dr. Ali suggested I submit it to “Brown Pundits” but we did not have an electronic copy. The scan is attached above.

My paper was written in 1981, when I was practicing Hematology and Oncology  in the U.S., after a research assignment in Malaysia.    Since I am a medical graduate from India, my grandfather was a physician in Ayurveda, and as I lived in several states of India, I was able to closely observe the ancient medical systems still in practice and thriving.

I am a practitioner of modern medicine.  I believe in science and evidence-based medicine.  Then why write about ancient medical systems?  My paper addressed this very question as to why Ayurveda, Unani and Traditional Chinese Medicine were thriving despite the success of modern medicine in curing infections with antibiotics and no limits to what a surgery can accomplish to repair, replace, or transplant organs.  I have described the science of modern medicine and compared it to Ayurveda,Unani  and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Rather than dwell on the past again, here I will give my views on what has transpired since 1981,  after which I was teaching and conducting research abroad in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, England, Japan, and New Zealand.  I also observed ancient medical systems were still thriving over there.

The ancient medical systems I described in my paper have been recommended by the Ministry of Health, India, as “AYUSH,” the mnemonic for Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Sidha-Vaidya, and Homeopathy.  Neighboring country Pakistan has a government level policy since 2010 on alternative and traditional medicine – “Tibb-e-Unani, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, and Herbal and Biochemical Medicine.”  I have personally visited China to observe TCM.  I was surprised to see their research advances in TCM, and some TCM drugs administered intravenously!  The Chinese Institute of Research on Acupuncture has made great strides in neuro-immunology and neurophysiology of acupuncture, using Western research technologies.

India and other Asian countries have established modern teaching institutes and hospitals practicing Ayurveda, founded traditional medical systems societies, and peer-reviewed ancient medical journals.  The same traditional medical practices are popular in the U.S., though with different names such as complementary medicine, alternative medicine, integrative medicine, holistic medicine, energy medicine, to name a few.  The V.A. Medical systems have adopted Yoga and call it ‘Warrior Yoga’ and certain acupuncture techniques are called ‘Battlefield Acupuncture’ or “BFA.”  One can read about them on the internet.

What has happened to modern medicine in the United States and Western countries in the last four decades?  I bought the first Apple Macintosh computer in the early 1980’s for my Oncology practice.  It was very heavy to lift and a space-occupying lesion! Today, I can have any medical apps in the palm of my hand thanks to smart-phones, and by last count, there were thousands of medical apps.

Modern medicine of today and tomorrow will be driven by high technologies- mega data driven recognition of clinical variables in a patient for diagnosing complex illness.  Another field in the forefront is Integrated Personal “Omics”, Personalized Precision Medicine – Genomics, Pharmacogenomics, Proteomics, and Metabolomics.  But alas, something very important is not thought about.  I call it “Economics.”  Medicine is practiced as business, whether in private practice or in the “Ivory Towers” of University Hospitals.  Altruism is out of the window and the doors are always open to the conflicts of interest.  It is altogether another chapter to write, lest I may be perceived as too cynical.

Yes, artificial intelligence and robotic medical devices will advance medicine, but until the science succeeds in programming algorithms of empathy, morals, ethics, sensitivity, and compassion into robots, ancient medical systems will thrive.


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Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

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3 years ago

but sadly ayurveda in india is captured by toothpaste and cosmetic cream wallas.
there is also a huge demand from ayurvedic doctors, to allow them to practice some level of allopathy ( after some training).

3 years ago

I would be interested to know what are the views in Pakistan regarding Ayurveda , considering their origin.

3 years ago
Reply to  Saurav

Pakistanis buy a lot of Chyawanprash whenever they visit India, from what I’ve seen.

3 years ago

Maybe Patanjali Yogpeeth will be the first to Introduce Big Research based Ayurvedic Medicine like Coronil( immunity booster not for Corona). People already buy Aloevera,Giloy,Jamun Juice available and other stuff from Patanjali stores.
For Facial Cream traditionally people use Multani Mitti , Besan with Yoghurt etc.
Is Homeopathy a scam ?
My dad takes homeopathy for skin bumps problems and its works everytime.

3 years ago

‘Yes, artificial intelligence and robotic medical devices will advance medicine, but until the science succeeds in programming algorithms of empathy, morals, ethics, sensitivity, and compassion into robots, ancient medical systems will thrive’

Western medicine has been corrupted somewhat by big pharma. A lot of natural/alternative/functional medicine may well be superior to a lot of the mainstream drug treatments. But the latter makes more money, and that’s where research is focused. Not on naturally available herbal medicines which you cannot sell for hundreds of dollars.

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