World’s leading institutes plan mega study on Ayurveda’s healing powers

ayurvedaFor the first time so far, leading research and medical institutions in the US, are collaborating to work on a project aimed at studying Ayurveda’s healing powers.

Havard University, University of California San Diego, Scripps Clinic, Mt Sinal University, University of California San Francisco and Duke University have got together for the project. Titled as ‘Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative (SBTI)’, the study is conducted at the ‘Chopra Centre for Wellbeing’ in California.  Operated by wellness expert Deepak Chopra, the centre had earlier conducted a study on a small scale to find out the effects of yoga and meditation on gene expression.

Speaking on this, Chopra said that the findings showed that a week’s practice of yoga and meditation led to increase in expression of genes that support rejuvenation of the body, while a reduction in genes associated with stress response was noticed.

In the SBTI study, researchers plan to analyse the impact of Ayurvedic treatments on the genes of participants, like for instance, certain hormones associated with metabolism and mood swings, bacteria present in the gut and on skin, inflammation markets, stress makers, weight, and so on.

Due to its complex inputs including emotions, thoughts, stress, diet etc., the body’s healing system is little understood. As far as Ayurveda is concerned, the therapies and practices are not done in isolation. Rather than focusing on local symptoms, the diagnosis is systemic in Ayurveda. Western medicine has now realized that factors like ‘stress’ and ‘inflammation’ connects several diverse disorders, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Ayurveda is widely practiced in India. There are atleast 2,458 Ayurveda hospitals currently in India, under the government’s Directorate of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Sidha and Homeopathy).  However, in the west, there have been few scientific studies on the safety and efficacy of the system. But, this perception is now changing, said Dr. Rudolf Tanzi, Professor at Harvard University and co-researcher at the SBTI study.

Learning from our past, it makes sense to turn to ancient remedies and wisdom, like for instance, Ayurvedic medicine. The results range from effects of meditation on beneficial gene activity, to Ashwagandha on treating Alzheimer’s pathology, all of which continue to be promising, said Tanzi.

Tanzi who is researching gene mutations associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, said that the study can also shed light on genes related to brain functioning and chemicals which are turned “on” or tuned “off” when an ayurvedic diet and lifestyle is followed.

Such information will help in not only understanding how Ayurveda works at cellular level, but will also help in incorporating it into a modern healthy lifestyle, said Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, Professor, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and co-researcher on the study.