Alternative medicine in Nepal: What’s the worth in the 21st century?

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This is the 21st century and many people consider the advent of science and technology has solved a lot of problems in the field of modern medicine and healthcare. However, there are many people who are sceptic about the solution of Western modern medicine and healthcare. In fact, the number of people rejecting modern medicine and promoting alternative medicine is rising in many parts of the world including Nepal.

They blame modern medicine treats the disease, not the patients. When you are focusing only on the disease, there is a danger of losing focus on a total patient, creating risks of side effects on the body. Perhaps, this may be the reason nowadays more and more people are taking an interest in alternative medicine.

So why is alternative medicine so popular even today?

Alternative medicine in the modern age

Alternative medicine refers to a wide range of medical practices and therapies that are not considered a part of conventional medicine or Western modern medicine. People also can call it natural and holistic medicine.

Such medical practice has been in existence for over 5,000 years. These practices and therapies include traditional medicine, complementary medicine, and natural therapies, among others.

One of the key principles of alternative medicine is that it focuses on treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of a particular condition, which is called the holistic approach.

Alternative medicine practitioners believe that the body has the ability to heal itself and that the role of the practitioner is to support this natural healing process. They mainly address underlying emotional, spiritual, and lifestyle factors that contribute to individual health.

The mainstream of medical practice today is allopathic medicine (modern Western medicine) but perhaps because of many side effects that ensued in conventional medicine, alternative medicine has gained increasing popularity in recent years.

More people seek alternative approaches to healthcare while some still remain sceptical of its benefits for not being scientifically proven and for not getting accurate results. This is what the present situation is all about. Neither modern medicine nor alternative medicine is not free from scepticism.


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Ayurveda, one of the most popular forms of alternative medicine, is a form of medicine in Eastern culture with a history that ages back to many ancient periods. It is a form of medicine where the patient is treated with the help of herbs or a combination of herbs found locally in the eastern Himalayas and other parts of the Eastern world. The existence of Ayurveda can be found in ancient India and Nepal. Many of the spices used in Indian and Nepali cuisine actually have medicinal value and are parts of Ayurveda.

For example, turmeric acts as an antibiotic, neem acts as an antiseptic and ginger produces heat and can be used to cure cough and cold, and tulasi (holy basil) acts as an antioxidant. In comparison to modern allopathic medicine, Ayurvedic medicine has fewer or no side effects since it is based on organic herbs rather than chemicals produced in laboratories.

However, it takes a long period to see the effect of the Ayurveda medicine. There are many advantages of Ayurvedic medicine such as it can be taken for longer periods and can have lasting impacts with less or no side effects.

It can also be used to treat various chronic illnesses, even depression. Brahmi and Ashwagandha have the property to enhance their mental health capacity and can be used to cure depression.

Chinese medicinal therapy

Chinese medicinal therapy accupuncture alternative medicine
Representational image. Photo: Pexels/ Ryutaro Tsukata

Chinese medicinal therapy consisting of acupuncture and acupressure is another form of alternative medicine. Acupuncture is the use of needles to puncture various appropriate points of the human body to relieve various pains such as backaches or other nervous system-related pain. In acupressure, instead of the needles, only pressure is applied.

These are also very ancient Chinese methods and techniques of treating body-related ailments and still exist as successful methods of treatment. Many people have said being benefitted. 

Yoga and meditation

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Yoga, pranayama and meditation can also be taken as alternative forms of medicine. Yoga is the movement of various parts of the body to form various postures which would treat various body-related illnesses in the long run.

Pranayama, on the other hand, is a breathing technique or exercise which helps treat various mental and nasal-related illnesses. Also, breathing exercises are very useful to keep healthy the abdominal parts of the body. Under pranayama, there are basically seven techniques such as vastrika, kapalvati, bhaiya, anulom bilom, bharmari, uthgij, ujwol.

Similarly, meditation is the practice of mental concentration which enhances mental capacity in the long run.

All of the above if practised for a longer period and regularly with dedication can provide fruitful results and help to maintain a healthy life.

Competition or co-existence?

In today’s time, alternative medicine cannot replace allopathy as conventional medicine. Modern medicines are effective, accurate and proven by scientific research, rigorous scientific studies and evidence on which somebody can believe on. No doubt, modern medicine has been able to save millions of lives and contributed to society to maintain healthcare.

Alternative medicine is not as effective and accurate as modern medicine, yet many people continue to turn to alternative medicine as a complement to conventional healthcare.

For some people, alternative medicine offers a more natural and holistic approach to healing, one that focuses on treating the root causes of a condition rather than just the symptoms. They also believe that alternative medicine offers a sense of control and empowerment over their own health and well-being.

However, it is important to keep an open mind before making any choices as we cannot take risks to our health. We can consider looking at a wider range of medicine, but we cannot let conventional medicine go unseen, as from centuries to date allopathic medicine remains to be dominant health system in the world.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue alternative medicine is a personal one, and each individual must weigh the potential benefits and risks for themselves. As with any form of healthcare, it is important to do your research, seek out qualified practitioners, and make informed decisions about your own health and well-being. A balanced approach may be the best one.

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Dr Kharel is working as a medical official in Manamohon Hospital, Birtamod, Jhapa.

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