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Pharma & Ayurveda

Traditional Ayurveda refers to Ayurveda in an ancient, “original” context, which changed after coming into contact with western biomedical conceptions during British colonization. Modern Ayurveda is what exists in India now; it is adapted to western biomedical standardization, institutionalization, and subject to the agenda of pharmaceutical companies. Modern Ayurveda is more accessible and transferable to a global context, leading to the recent development of global Ayurveda. Taken out of its original Indian context, global Ayurveda has some foundation in traditional Ayurveda, but has also grown into something completely different.

Traditional Ayurveda is significantly different than modern and global Ayurveda because the latter two are the products of interplay between Indian and Western medical paradigms.

Concepts are essential to a medical system; they determine the way the body is viewed and therefore treated. Western biomedical systems are empirical, results-driven, and require proof of efficacy; this framework is problematic for Ayurveda and leads to questions of legitimacy. How is the body valued? Is medicine used reactively or preventatively? What drives people towards traditional or alternative medicine?

Pharmaceutical companies have a significant impact on the ayurvedic landscape of modern India. Pharmaceutical companies’ involvement is a consequence of the standardization and professionalization of Ayurveda after being forced into the framework of western medical standards. This new context has shifted Ayurveda’s role as medical system. The standardization of ayurvedic medicine production is radically influencing the internal structure and knowledge system. This results in the ‘pharmaceuticalization’ of Ayurveda, where it is reduced to becoming merely a supplier of pharmaceutical products. Ayurvedic medicine is not meant for mass production; the large-scale production of ayurvedic medicine has actually led to nearly 300 plants used in traditional medicine being considered rare, endangered, or threatened.

When made and prescribed with care, ayurvedic medicines have proven their own efficacy through thousands of years of sustained use. Pharmaceutical companies, in this way, illustrate the force of Ayurveda into a western bio-medical context; in which the Ayurveda quality is somewhat diminished. Pharmaceuticalization is one significant difference between traditional and modern Ayurveda, but its importance to modern Indian and the globe lies in advertisement, target consumers, and availability.

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