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Updated: December 4, 2012 10:11 IST

And what about traditional healers?

Sharath S. Srivasta
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All the medicines he gives are derived from herbs, collected from the forests and not chemically spiked.
All the medicines he gives are derived from herbs, collected from the forests and not chemically spiked.

The steady stream of patients has been increasing over the years for this ayurvedic practitioner, whose knowledge has been handed down the generations

The sick and anxious queue up every day at the clinic of a popular ayurvedic pandit in a north Kodagu village, hoping to find a solution to their ailments, and many undertake an arduous journey to reach this remote place nestled in coffee plantations.

His medicines — mostly herbs, powdered and packed in plastic covers — are handed out along with a pamphlet providing details about dosage and diet. The steady stream of patients has been increasing over the years for this ayurvedic practitioner, whose knowledge has been handed down the generations, but not through any formal method.

All the medicines he gives are derived from herbs, collected from the forests and not chemically spiked, he claims, telling patients to test them for heavy metals or steroid if they so wish.

“Most come after allopathic drugs fail to provide relief. Many come with faith in traditional knowledge,” he says.

There are thousands like him, claiming to use remedies handed down generations in a State that has rich biodiversity. Sources in the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) estimate that there could be around 40,000 to 50,000 traditional healers, mostly in rural areas, in the State.

However, without a recognised degree, the medicines they prescribe have not gone through the rigours of modern testing methods.

The role of the traditional healer is thus a matter of debate. Lack of government-monitored system to test their medicines and validate their practice has also not helped.

No recognition

Officially, their role in the health system has not been recognised either by the Karnataka Medical Council or by the AYUSH Department. According to a senior official in the Drug Controller’s Office, prescribing allopathic medication without medical qualification is illegal under the Drug Rules and it is also illegal to prescribe ayurvedic drugs without recognition by the Directorate of AYUSH. AYUSH Department sources said that though no time-frame has been set, there is a loud thinking in the government to address issues pertaining to traditional medicine and healers as this knowledge is considered an important element in society that should not be lost.

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