Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine still practiced in Ceylon, maybe old fashioned and in urgent need of reform but it still has a thing or two to teach modern medicine, it seems. If you sit too much, eat too much and take too little exercise, say the Ayurvedists, raw onions every day are just the thing for a healthy bloodstream.
Some of the proudest people in Ceylon today are the indigenous medical practitioners, or Ayurvedists as they are called. They are proud that the onion treatment, known to Ayurveda for several hundreds of years, is at last gaining recognition in Western medical circles.
The onion, confirms a team of British doctors, is a real life-saver. After recent experiments, the doctors in the Department of Medicine at Newcastle University in England, according to a report in the British Information Service Bulletin, have found that fried or boiled onions augment the blood’s capacity to dissolve away internal blood clots and could, therefore, play a vital role in the fight against the killer disease, coronary thrombosis.
Ayurvedists had long been prescribing with great success onions and garlic to patients suffering from heart ailments. But, according to them, the maximum benefit is obtained when onions are eaten raw — although it is difficult to do so because of the pungency. It is pungency, they claim, that is responsible for the cure. When boiled or fried the pungency is reduced.
People in their 40s engaged in sedentary employment and used to eating rich and fatty foods were more susceptible to heart ailments than those engaged in manual work. As a preventive measure he advised them to include onions and a few garlic cloves in at least one main meal a day.
Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine, is believed to have come to Ceylon about 2,500 years ago from India. It flourished there for several centuries under the patronage of the Sinhalese kings until the advent of the Western rule in 1505. It did not go into serious decline, however, until the British occupied Ceylon in 1796.
All the same, Ayurveda is still well patronized by thousands of rural peasants, who go to the Ayurvedic practitioner because he is more accessible and cheaper than Western-trained doctors. Even the educated classes have recourse to him when Western medicine has failed.
Ayurveda has not made any significant progress during the past three or four centuries, despite many secret cures known to it, largely because of the theory of divine origin attached to it. Its teachings must be accepted on faith and without question.
Another factor that has retarded its development is that an Ayurvedic physician is not prepared to share the results of his researches and experiments with his colleagues because he fears they may oust him. Before he dies, he tries to destroy all records of any experiments and researches.
There are also two schools of thought on how Ayurveda should be revived and developed. One school of thought is that if Ayurveda is to function efficiently it should be developed on modern lines and that this can be done only by combining it with Western medical science which, they point out, is far more advanced.
Members of this group also feel that the Ayurveda in its present state has hardly any chance of survival in the age of modern medical science; and that it is time it welcomed the application of methods of scientific inquiry and analysis.
The other school of thought believes that Ayurveda should remain uncontaminated by Western medical science. They feel that it is competent enough to hold its own and capable of dealing with every kind of ailment without the aid of Western medicine.
Mixing Ayurveda with Western medicine, it is thought, would result in the evolution of a hybrid form of medical science and in the ultimate destruction of Ayurveda.
Some Ayurvedic practitioners of this school, however, have been known to administer the latest Western drugs and medicine secretly without possessing adequate knowledge of how to use them. Their victims are illiterate and the less sophisticated, who are easily duped.