By Dr Simone Hunziker, Founding President, Indo-Swiss Ayurveda Foundation (ISA), Medical & Academic director, SAMA-Swiss Ayurvedic Medical Academy
Ayurveda is based on probably the finest knowledge system that humanity ever knew, the Veda. It is rooted in the fundamental principles of most elaborate philosophical concepts of universal value that transcend time and space: the Darshana. Here rational and material approaches go naturally alongside with subtle realities and concepts. Ayurveda understands the human being as an inseparable entity of body, mind and spirit and as the microcosm made of the same constituent elements and ruled by the same functional principles and laws than the macrocosm of which it is an integral part. Not only does it protect the natural and social environment but can contribute to restore imbalances at a macro-level.
Ayurveda’s potential in the field of preventive medicine has for long been identified and acknowledged but what about its curative potential?
Internationally and in India Ayurveda has so far mainly been developed in the fields of wellness, tourism, esotericism and beauty. The New-Age movement followed world over by the Wellness era have naturally absorbed Ayurveda in their ideological and commercial spread without ever developing Ayurveda’s full potential as a medical system for the sake of global health.
Ayurveda naturally addresses most of the global health needs: it is based on primary care, prevention, root cause treatment and eco-friendliness. It understands the pathological processes underlying metabolic, chronic degenerative and immune related diseases and disposes of tools for early diagnoses and treatment.
Be it merely the successful treatments of discus hernia avoiding spine surgery, of dis-obstruction of coronaries after a myocardial infarction preventing from relapses or of various rheumatological diseases getting cured or stabilised, Ayurveda’s medical potential to address global health issues is substantial.
Yet today it is still rare to find Ayurveda practitioners trained in Ayurveda medicine in the west and generally outside India. Ayurvedic medicines are sold as food supplements and cosmetics instead of therapeutic products. This is a serious loss for mankind’s global health capital and while it is a generally accepted fact that modern western medicine does not hold the keys for sustainable global health, the considerable potential of Ayurveda in both specific preventive and curative medicine need to be developed and become accessible outside India in a meaningful model of integrated medicine, where Ayurveda is practiced in its full span as a complete medical system.
Switzerland has since 2005 offered a platform for the regulation of Ayurveda in government recognised professions and the Swiss Ayurveda community has ever since been instrumental in creating a role model for the institutionalisation of Ayurveda in the West.
Ayurveda being recognised in Switzerland, known as a global trend setter, for having the highest standards in medicine, education and safety, and for being home to European pharma industries, the door has been opened for Ayurveda to be recognised in any other country.
In 2016 the Government of India has recognised the Swiss regulatory model for the spread of Ayurveda as a medical system.
1996: the Swiss Supreme Court decided that traditional medical systems do not have to proof efficacy mainly according to criteria of modern medicine but with regard to their own system.
2009: Switzerland, through a popular vote, had become the first and so far only country in the West recognise Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in its public health system.
2010: WHO has published the benchmarks for professional training in Ayurveda.
2005-15: the Swiss government has created two new professions for CAM which are compliant with WHO benchmarks and which will be reimbursed by complementary insurances
2015: Ayurveda has become the first and so far only discipline of traditional and complementary medicine to be recognised in both professions, namely Ayurveda Medicine and Ayurveda Therapy.
2015: The Swiss law on therapeutic products has been revised and voted by the parliament to give simplified access to therapeutic products.
What remains to be done is to bring a selected range of Ayurvedic therapeutic products on the market and the Government of India is ready to collaborate in the process. While clinical research projects between Swiss and Indian prime institutions are in the pipeline the recognition of Ayurveda as a specialisation of physicians in “Complementary Medicine” reimbursed by basic insurances would be the ultimate goal.
The globalisation of Ayurveda for sustainable global health has been the vision of the members of the Indo-Swiss Ayurveda Foundation (ISA) ever since the beginning of the process. It materialises today in the form of a regulatory model that eases the institutionalisation of Ayurveda as a medical system in other countries.
The unique values of this regulatory system reside in the fact that it respects the founding principles of Ayurveda and the rules of clinical practice from antiquity till recent times.
Ayurveda medicines do not have to be sold as food supplements or cosmetics anymore but are recognised as therapeutic products.
For the sake of patient safety, therapists trained in Ayurveda therapy, who in the Western context work independently, have well defined competences with regard to their training knowledge and skills. Their role is clearly distinct from wellness practitioners on one hand and from medical practitioners on the other.
After a 3 year part time training program with a federal diploma, they contribute through simple massage techniques from Svasthavrtta (prevention in Ayurveda) as well as through elaborate indiviualised coaching in nutrition, lifestyle and psychological support to restoring and maintaining the health of the population. They play an important role in the health awareness development of the modern society. If associated with an Ayurveda doctor or a practitioner in Ayurveda medicine, they can under the supervision of the latter practice all Ayurveda medical treatment techniques.
Safe foundations have been laid for Ayurveda to be recognised in public health systems around the world which will allow Ayurveda to make its unique contribution to sustainable global health.