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American varsities to teach Ayurveda

india Updated: Apr 16, 2007 21:24 IST
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American patients may soon find their doctors advising them on the health benefits of amla and karela, and on how to keep vata, pitta and kapha doshas balanced. Starting this year, some half a dozen American medical schools are set to introduce courses in Ayurvedic medicine.

The courses will be offered under the continuing medical education (CME) programme for doctors and as part of the ‘alternative medicines’ modules for medical students. They will be introduced in schools in the Washington DC area. The teachers will be experts from India, and their expenses will be paid for by the Indian government.

These will be credit courses, and the aim will be to encourage doctors to use Ayurveda as an add-on or as an independent system of medicine. Only one mainstream American medical school, the Connecticut Medical School, offers courses in Ayurveda as of now, although some 20 schools teaching alternative systems of medicine do so.

The move is aimed at tapping the growing interest in herbal medicines and naturopathy across the world. According to Shiv Basant, Joint Secretary, Department of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), his department, in conjunction with Indian embassies abroad, has been working consistently to promote Indian systems of medicine abroad.

India exports about Rs 300 cr worth of Ayurvedic medicines and Rs 1,000 cr worth of medicinal plants. “The figure has been increasing at the rate of about 10 per cent year on year,” Shiv Basant says.

Dr Navin Shah, former president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), who played a pivotal role along with the Department of Ayush and the Indian embassy in the US in bringing Ayurveda courses to American universities, points out that the herbal medicines market in America alone is worth $40bn. Other than the obvious benefits that can accrue to the Indian pharma sector, introducing Ayurvedic courses in American universities also contributes to enhancing India’s soft power.

“There has been a conscious effort to promote Indian systems of medicine abroad,” says Shiv Basant, “and we will continue to organise expositions, road-shows and courses.”

The Ayush department has helped organise short courses in Indian systems of medicine, particularly Ayurveda in the West Indies, Germany and Hungary. The Indian embassy in Budapest is organising an Ayurveda festival in October, where participants from all Eastern European countries are expected to attend.