The different systems of medicine are broadly classified as traditional systems which include Ayurveda, Unani, Naturopathy, Siddha, Amchi, Yoga, etc., and modern system which includes Allopathy.
Homeopathy is also a widely practiced system of medicine in India but for all practical purposes it cannot be included into the bipolar categories as traditional or modern system of medicine.
The fundamental precepts of these systems differ and their approach to the problems of diseases remain different.
As far as veterinary medicine is concerned only the allopathic system is recognized and practiced in India and throughout the world.
However, many veterinary practitioners have used Ayurvedic drugs in veterinary practice with some degree of success. Similarly, indigenous drugs are also recommended for various ailments of animals.
Ayurveda is one of the oldest scientific medical systems in the world. The origin of Ayurveda started almost from the beginning of the civilization.
Ayurveda is composed of the words— Ayur and Veda— which put together literally mean ‘science of life’.
Ayurveda takes into account fundamental principles like the creation theory of Panchamahabhuta, the physiopathological theory of Tridosa (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and even the evaluation process of the universe and creation since it believes that there is no essential difference between the outside world and human body.
According to Ayurveda, every object of this world is made up of five primordial elements, viz, earth, water, fire, air and space, collectively known as Panchamahabhutas.
The proportion in which these elements exist in one subject is not similar to that in any other. The Panchamahabhutas of the body are controlled by three subtle forces or humours, viz. Vata, Pitta and Kapha, collectively known as Tridosa. Each one of these represents certain specific but subtle force of its own.
In Ayurveda, the state of health is achieved through proper co-ordination in suitable proportion of these five concrete elements, influenced by a correspondingly well-balanced correlation of the three humours.
The correlation of these humours are two folds, viz, balanced or healthy and adverse or vitiated. In case of adverse correlation, it may be either excessive correlation or absence of correlation on the part of any of these three humours, either singly or combined.
Such an adverse correlation manifests itself in the form of varying mal-coordination of the five concrete elements, which, in turn, brings about certain visible changes in tissues. This is known as state of disease.
Thus, the secret of correct diagnosis of a disease lies in finding out the exact degree of deviation from the natural proportion of Tridosa that brings about disproportion in five primordial elementary constituents of the tissues and manifests itself in the form of disease.
The Ayurvedic Materia Medica has classified remedial agents into drugs that exert specific influence on each of the three humours individually and in their various combinations.
Hence, treating a disease resolves itself into choosing a remedy which, if utilized, will set right the disproportionate elements of the tissues and their disorganized functions and thus restore the state of health.
Homeopathy is a system of therapeutics for treating men and animals on the basis of simile principle.
The word homeopathy is derived from the Greek words homois meaning like or similar and pathos meaning suffering. Homeopathy was developed and given a scientific basis by Dr Samuel Hahnemann in late 18th century. The Homeopathic system is based on a number of principles, the most important of which is the law of homeopathy.
It is a system of pharmacodynamics based on the natural law of cure i.e. Simila Simililus Curantur—let likes be cured by likes.
This law is also alternatively referred to as the law of similitude or popularly, the law of simila. In practice, this law maintains that a given cluster of symptoms in a sick person can be treated by a drug capable of producing the same symptoms in a healthy person.
Other principles of homeopathy include the use of single remedy often termed as ‘simplex’, individualization, emphasizing the individual characteristics of each person as well as the drug to be prescribed, and the infinitesimal dose of remedy.
According to Dr Hahnemann, the body responds and follows the law of simila, the central dictum of which is that like cures like.
Diseases can be cured through the ingestion of substances that contain materials identical to those producing the diseases, and that the more minute the dose, the more potent the effect, and therefore, the more certain will be the cure.
Symptoms of illness are seen by homeopaths as signs that the body is using its natural power of self-healing to fight back. Homeopathic treatment seeks to stimulate this self-healing process rather than to suppress symptoms.
Allopathic system of medicine is what most of us understand to be standard or regular medicine as practiced and distributed by practitioners. It is recognized as legitimate, true and credible.
In a broad sense, allopathy is the system of medicine, which combats diseases using remedies producing effects different from those produced by the disease, including measures that have proved to be of some value in its treatment.
Thus from such a view, the human/animal body in its normal state is free of disease, and any disease found must be regarded as a foreign intrusion into an otheiwise healthy organism.
The distinguishing features of this system of medicine are:
(i) It believes in the germ theory of disease,
(ii) It accepts and relies on pathology as the basic aid, and
(iii) Its therapeutics is entirely based on pharmacology and experimental data.
Allopathic medicine is rooted in the rather general idea that in as much as disease is foreign, its cure can usually be brought by the application of some form of opposites to it.
This system of Greek origin was developed during Arab civilization. Its origin dates back to 5th century BC. Muslims brought the unani system of medicine to India. The specialists of this system are called Hakims.
Concepts of disease and diagnosis of this system are similar to the ones adopted by the early allopaths. The method of taking medical histories is well developed in this system.
This system believes that disease is a natural process, and the function of the physician is to aid the natural forces of the body.
Unani system is based on a humoural theory. The four humours of this system are blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.
Each humour is assigned a temperament, viz, blood is hot and moist, phlegm is cold and moist, yellow bile is hot and dry, and black bile is cold and dry.
Similarly, drugs are also assigned temperaments. Every person has unique humoural constitution. It represents his healthy state, and any change in this brings about a change in the state of health. A person also has a power of self-preservation or adjustment, which strives to restore disturbances within his constitution.
Unani treatment not only helps the person to overcome the present disturbances, but also facilitates the person to acquire additional power of resistance to further disturbances.
Since humours are produced from digested food, unani practitioners attach great importance to diet and digestion both in health and disease.
For diagnosis unani system relies heavily on examination of pulse. Unani was the first system to pay attention for proper and sympathetic treatment of insanity.
Naturopathy is a health-promoting way of life, often described as drugless treatment of diseases.
The reputed curative power of natural forces is probably as old as mankind. Naturopathy essentially consists of the elimination of the undesirable toxic, mental or spiritual factors, which cause ill health.
It views human beings as a whole. Disease can be permanently caused only when a human’s attitude towards life changes. Self-discipline, self-mastery, observance of the laws of nature in regard to health are necessary to overcome diseases.
Physical and social environment conducive to the development of a sound body and a sound mind are equally important. Naturopathy uses earth, water, air, sunlight, etc. for treatment.
At the base of naturopathy rests the principle that nature itself can be relied upon to bring about cure and perhaps the most important one is that disease produces bacteria, not the other way.