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SMART 2.0: Illuminating Ayurvedic Traditions With Interdisciplinary Evidence – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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SMART 2.0: Illuminating Ayurvedic Traditions with Interdisciplinary Evidence

Tanu Paliwal

Introduction:

The Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) and the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM) jointly launched the ‘SMART 2.0’ (Scope for Mainstreaming Ayurveda Research among Teaching Professionals) program on January 3,2024.CCRAS is an apex organization for the formulation, coordination, development and promotion of research on scientific lines in Ayurveda, functioning under the Ministry of Ayush. 

This initiative aims to foster robust clinical studies in priority areas of Ayurveda through collaboration with academic institutions and hospitals across India. The program follows its predecessor, ‘SMART 1.0’, which covered ten diseases with active participation from educators in 38 colleges. 

Background:

Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine originating in India, is renowned for its holistic principles that prioritize personalized health. Referred to as the ‘science of life,’ Ayurveda derives its name from the Sanskrit words ‘Ayu,’ meaning life, and ‘Veda,’ meaning science or knowledge. With approximately 65% of the Indian population reportedly relying on Ayurveda and medicinal plants for primary healthcare, the enduring strength of this tradition is attributed to its time-tested use and textual references.

While Ayurveda’s fundamental principles retain their relevance, the dynamic nature of disease manifestation, environmental shifts, and evolving lifestyles necessitate continuous research. This ongoing quest for new knowledge through research, development, and innovative applications is essential to ensure the adaptability of classical Ayurveda to contemporary modifications. Changes in the geo-climatic environment, plant and animal life, as well as human behavior and genetics, underscore the need for systematic documentation and critical analysis of clinical practices.

Despite Ayurveda’s deep historical roots, its integration faces challenges stemming from evidence gaps and limited research exploring innovative combinations of herbal and non-herbal elements. Bridging the gap between authentic Ayurvedic principles and modern clinical practices is imperative for developing sustainable clinical and business models. The introduction of the SMART 2.0 program represents a significant stride towards integrating Ayurveda into mainstream healthcare through evidence-based research.

Objectives 

The primary goal of this initiative is to provide concrete evidence showcasing the effectiveness and safety of Ayurvedic interventions through the application of interdisciplinary research methods, subsequently translating these findings into public healthcare practices.

The central objective is to foster comprehensive clinical studies in crucial areas of Ayurveda, collaborating closely with academic institutions and hospitals specializing in Ayurveda across the nation. 

The targeted research areas encompass the following:

  1. Bal Kasa: Evaluation of safety, tolerability, and adherence to Ayurvedic formulations.
  2. Malnutrition: Investigation into the safety, tolerability, and adherence to Ayurvedic formulations.
  3. Insufficient Lactation: Exploration of safety, tolerability, and adherence to Ayurvedic interventions in cases of insufficient lactation.
  4. Abnormal Uterine Bleeding: Assessment of safety, tolerability, and adherence to Ayurvedic interventions addressing abnormal uterine bleeding.
  5. Osteoporosis: Focus on safety, tolerability, adherence, and enhancement of disease outcomes in postmenopausal women affected by osteoporosis.
  6. DM II (Diabetes Mellitus): Investigation into the safety, tolerability, and adherence to Ayurvedic interventions, with an emphasis on improving disease outcomes and the overall quality of life for individuals with Type II Diabetes.

Scope of Interdisciplinary Research in Ayurveda

The potential for interdisciplinary research in Ayurveda is expansive, encompassing all eight branches of this ancient system of medicine. Numerous critical aspects of Ayurveda’s distinctive theories remain unexplored, signaling the need for a fresh approach tailored specifically for research in Ayurvedic science and therapeutics. This necessitates collaboration not only with Ayurvedic experts but also with professionals from basic, contemporary, and allied sciences. Interdisciplinary collaboration can unlock new dimensions in various branches of Ayurveda, exemplified by the following areas

  1. Basic Fundamental Science (Samhita Siddhant):

Exploring and interpreting the foundational concepts, including Dosha, Dhatus, Mala, Agni, Ama, Ojas, Srotas, Marma, and Prakriti.Delving into the study of Rasa-Guna-Veerya-Vipak-Prabhava to establish a comprehensive understanding.Creating an interface that facilitates the development of specific research methodologies for enhanced comprehension.

  1. Pharmacology (Rasashastra and Bhaishajykalpana)

Ayurveda’s specialty lies in the inclusion of knowledge about botanicals, zoological, and mineral sources, addressing physiological, pathological, and toxicological aspects. Adopting a reverse pharmacology approach — from clinic to laboratory — can unravel the mechanisms of action of Ayurvedic drugs at various biological levels. Interdisciplinary collaboration with pharmaceutical science enables a molecular-level understanding of herbomineral preparations, leading to optimized efficacy, safety, and acceptability of these formulations.

  1. Multi-Drug Therapy

While the concept of multi-drug therapy is prevalent in modern medicine, it is not a novel idea for Ayurveda practitioners. Ayurvedic formulations, often multi-ingredient, differ from modern single-drug approaches. Interdisciplinary integration with biochemistry becomes essential to identify the combined efficacy of these ingredients and understand the actions of individual components.

  1. Pharmacology (Dravyaguna)

The majority of Ayurvedic medicines are herbal, but many are currently unavailable, extinguished, or doubtful. Initial integrated work on the chemistry and pharmacology of active biochemical ingredients from medicinal herbs has yielded promising molecules. Collaboration with basic sciences like botany, ethnopharmacology, microbiology, bioinformatics, biotechnology, tissue culture, and horticulture can contribute to propagating endangered species and establishing the characteristics and properties of introduced medicinal herbs. In silico methods offer newer technologies for safety and efficacy studies.

  1. Immunomodulation (Rasayana)

Rasayana, one of Ayurveda’s eight specialties, focuses on rejuvenative recipes, dietary regimens, special health-promoting behavior, and drugs. Evaluation of drugs like Ashwagandha and Shatavri for immunomodulator action has positioned them as potentially safer than Ginseng. Interdisciplinary studies with contemporary medicine can further explore the immunostasis actions of Rasayanas, especially in the context of lifestyle diseases and cancer treatment. Plant-derived drugs are emerging as promising adjuvants, enhancing immunity and mitigating the adverse effects of chemotherapy without compromising its anticancer activity.

Conclusion:

The SMART 2.0 program, with its emphasis on interdisciplinary research, marks a significant stride in bringing Ayurveda to the forefront of evidence-based healthcare. By addressing historical challenges, encouraging wider participation, and integrating Ayurveda with modern scientific disciplines, the program is poised to elevate Ayurveda’s standing within India’s medical mainstream. The initiative holds the potential to contribute not only to clinical advancements but also to the global recognition of Ayurveda as a holistic and effective system of healthcare. As interdisciplinary research continues to evolve, it may pave the way for Ayurveda to be recognized and respected on a global scale, further contributing to the integration of traditional medicine into mainstream healthcare practices.

References:

Ashish Malik,Vijay Pereira,Pawan Budhwar, Arup Varma, Manlio Del Giudice (2022) Sustainable innovations in an indigenous Indian Ayurvedic MNE Journal of Business Research

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0148296322002363

Bhushan Patwardhan.Bridging Ayurveda with evidence-based scientific approaches in medicine:EPMA J.2014

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4230501/

Central Council for Research In Ayurvedic Sciences Ministry of AYUSH.Evidence Base of Ayurveda.2017

http://www.ccras.nic.in/sites/default/files/II%20Ayurveda%20Day/English/Evidence%20based%20of%20Ayurveda.pdf

Kulkarni, Medha Sanjay.Potential for Interdisciplinary Research in Ayurveda.Journal of Dental Research and Review. 2020.
https://journals.lww.com/jdrr/Fulltext/2020/07001/Potential_for_Interdisciplinary_Research_in.17.aspx

Bindu Shajan Perappadan.SMART 2.0 launched for Ayurveda teaching professionals.The Hindu. January 03,2024

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/smart-20-launched-for-ayurveda-teaching-professionals/article67701814.ece

PIB Press Release, January 03,2024

https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1992696

Disclaimer All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

    Acknowledgement : The author would like to thank Aasthaba Jadeja, Bhanvi, Nadira Murshidabad and Nitya Kuchimanchi for their kind comments and suggestions to improve the article.

    Tanu Paliwal is an IMPRI research intern

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