Cultures around the world differ in their approaches to the delivery of healthcare. The past several decades saw a substantial increase in the acceptance of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the West (Park, Beckman-Harned, Cho, Kim, & Kim, 2012). Growth in the number of Ayurvedic practitioners points to the fact that Americans are more willing to come into close contact with this unique facet of Eastern culture (Park et al., 2012). The aim of this paper is to critically review a documentary on Ayurvedic medicine—Second Opinion with T. R. Reid: Inside Ayurvedic Medicine. The paper will also discuss current perceptions of the system of medicine in the West.
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The program follows a journalist, Thomas Roy Reid, through southern India. After facing a critical choice to treat his damaged shoulder with the help of shoulder replacement surgery, the journalist decided to opt for alternative medicine—Ayurveda (Permanent Film Group, n.d.). The documentary records his stay at an Indian clinic where he observes purification, rejuvenation, and balances Ayurvedic treatments. The ancient form of Hindu healing practices takes a holistic approach to health and wellness; therefore, traditional Ayurvedic healers put an emphasis on body, mind, and spirit in equal measure. The journalist discovers that Ayurvedic medicine’s approaches to the treatment of diseases radically differ from those practiced by Western healthcare specialists. For example, the leech application is used to manage skin ailments. After several weeks of massages aimed to restore his body functions, the cynical journalist admits that some of the treatment techniques are effective (Permanent Film Group, n.d.). However, after ten months Reid discovers that all progress is lost (Permanent Film Group, n.d.).
The documentary shows that traditional systems of medicine should be scientifically evaluated in order to better understand their potential of becoming a viable supplement to Western medicine. The video helped me to learn that openness to new ideas can assist scientifically-minded inquirers in exploring the clinical efficacy of alternative therapeutics. Prior to watching the documentary, my knowledge of Ayurveda was extremely vague and cursory. Furthermore, I was convinced that the application of the medical system was not aligned with the principles of evidence-based practice. However, the documentary propelled me to review the extant academic literature on the topic.
Systematic data on the Indian medical system is not available in the public domain. However, there is a large body of empirical research that points to the effectiveness of some Ayurvedic practices (Patwardhan, 2014). For example, a study conducted by Shankar, Rao, Umar, and Gopalakrishnaiah (2014) shows that leech applications can substantially improve the life quality of patients suffering from eczema. Nonetheless, many scholars take an issue with the quality of research on safety, pharmacology, and efficacy of Ayurvedic medicine (Patwardhan, 2014). Major points of contention with studies on alternative medicine include, but are not limited to, poorly designed research methodologies, lack of communication between stakeholders, and low quality of clinical trials (Patwardhan, 2014). Taking into consideration the scant nature of reliable studies on the application of Ayurvedic medicine one should be skeptical of its effectiveness. Therefore, modern scientific communities have to develop robust trial protocols in order to either validate or disprove the medical system.
The paper has critically reviewed the documentary on the application of Ayurveda. It has been argued that even though the value of observational studies on Ayurvedic medicine is open to doubt, the ancient system of medicine merits rigorous investigation.
Park, J., Beckman-Harned, S., Cho, G., Kim, D., & Kim, H. (2012). The current acceptance, accessibility and recognition of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine in the United States in the Public, governmental, and industrial sectors. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 18(6), 405-408.
Patwardhan, B. (2014). Bridging Ayurveda with evidence-based scientific approaches in medicine. EPMA Journal, 5(1), 19-24.
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Permanent Film Group. (n.d.). Second Opinion with T. R. Reid: Inside Ayurvedic Medicine [Video file]. Web.
Shankar, K., Rao, D., Umar, S., & Gopalakrishnaiah, V. (2014). A clinical trial for evaluation of leech application in the management of Vicarcika (Eczema). Ancient Science of Life, 33(4), 236-241.