By Dr Jaimini Raniga
Integrated health entails the fusion of time-tested ancient healing techniques with scientific advances of individual tools. Health is, or should be, the most natural state of being. The origins of the world are linked with those of wholeness and healing, and it is that complete sense of harmony, of being whole, that brings true health. This is also the ultimate aim of natural healing systems, those that adopt a holistic view, rather than the reductionist perspective that is evident in much of conventional modern medicine.
In the last ten to fifteen years there has been a great revival of interest in natural therapies, both as recognition of their tremendous value and also as a move away from some of the side effects and the impersonal approach of allopathic medicine.
In 1987 whilst living in Melbourne, Australia my two year old daughter developed asthma. Having only the conventional medical training from London University at this stage I resorted to steroids and other pharmaceutical agents recommended for the effective treatment of asthma. As a mother it was a difficult task to give my child medicines that were producing unwanted side effects. At the same time I started to question the management of my own patients. There was a tremendous pull from within to learn new ways to heal that were natural and less harmful. I first needed to become more receptive and open minded to the knowledge that has existed for centuries, and to learn to trust this age-old wisdom to create the transformation needed to bring about health. My journey began when I studied and qualified in Acupuncture, Homeopathy, The Bowen Technique, Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, Ayurveda, and Unani- Tibb Medicine.
What I learned is that health is built on relationships; you relationship to the environment and the people around you, but more importantly your relationship with yourself. Greater human possibilities transcended from this approach. Many traditions of natural medicine extend back over many centuries with an accumulation of practical knowledge. Modern medicine originated from these forms of medicine. There is much to be gained by combining all forms of medicine into an integrated whole, so gaining the best of all worlds. Conventional medicine has an outstanding advantage in the management of acute illnesses, medical emergencies, bacterial infections and surgical intervention. Traditional and complementary medicine often outshines it when dealing with chronic ailments and conditions caused by a combination of factors.
The conventional system of medicine looks at the disease process affecting a particular organ, and separates it from the person suffering from the disease. In other words it lacks the understanding that the disease can have a mental, emotional or spiritual origin before it presents in the body, as this is very subjective and cannot be scientifically proven – nor is it measurable. Integrated health addresses the whole. The lack of individuality in conventional medicine is what limits the diagnosis and management of disease. Treating the cause of disease and not just the symptoms was the single most important message from this journey. Life styles and habits play a significant role in the cause of illnesses. As Hippocrates said, “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease rather than what sort of disease a person has.”
Ayurveda means the Science of Life. It dates back 5 000 years, with an accumulation of practical knowledge. The emphasis is on health and the prevention of sickness, acknowledging that this is infinitely preferable to getting sick. It was developed by the ancient sages who made astute observations of the universe, which resulted in the development of ‘constitutional medicine’. The sages perceived that whatever existed in the universe existed in man, and that the universe is a constant play of energies. They realised that when these energies become unbalanced in the human body they lead to discomfort or disease. The role of the ancient doctor was to restore the mind/body environment. Ayurveda tells us which substances, qualities and actions are life enhancing and which are not. Emphasis is on moderation and diversity.
Ayurveda begins by helping people understand themselves and their unique nature, and how different factors such as food, the environment, climate, seasons and other people affect their own individual nature. It is a system that is very applicable today, and helps people avoid many of the acute and chronic ailments that are rabidly increasing in today’s modern society. Its unique expertise is in the classification of foods and herbs according to their individual actions; whether they are cooling, drying, moistening or heating to the body. In this way the ancient sages were extremely efficient in restoring balance to the entire human being. Therefore diet plays a significant role in the management of illness as well as the preservation of health. Ayurveda also has very powerful detoxification and purification processes and treatments to help restore imbalances. They emphasized the importance of body therapies such as Ayurvedic rejuvenating warm oil massages, and “Shirodhare” (the steady dripping of oil onto the forehead, used for headaches, insomnia, and some neurological conditions).
Unani- Tibb stands for Greek Medicine, or the Western Holistic system of medicine. It dates back to Hippocrates who has gained the name of ‘The Father of Medicine’. Modern allopathic medicine arose from the ancient Greek system of medicine, which derived many of its methods of treatments from the Ayurvedic system. It was a system that discovered the four humour theory. It categorises people into four constitutional types – sanguine (blood), phlegmatic (phlegm), choleric or bilious (yellow bile), and melancholic (black bile). These humours in their physical state are the body fluids that are essentially derived from the food and drink we consume.
Diagnosis is made by a detailed questioning of the patient to evaluate the individual’s constitution. Imbalances are detected using tongue diagnosis, pulse reading, and examining of stools and urine. Once a diagnosis is established the imbalances are corrected using a diet regimen, exercise including breath work, physical therapies (cupping, massages and steam) and natural herbal medicines. Unani – Tibb continues to be developed in India and to be enriched by the wisdom of Ayurveda. These systems help one to regulate life style factors depending on your individual constitution or temperament. There are 6 main lifestyle factors derived from Unani- Tibb that affect each and every individual, and the regulation of these is a necessity. These factors are food and drink, the air we breathe and the environmental air, the mental state, controlled physical exercise and rest, the quality of sleep and wakefulness, and the effective elimination of wastes and toxins from the body. There are also other individual factors like place of residence, personal habits such as cigarette smoking, exposure to pathogens or environmental toxins, age and gender that are taken into account.
The best known ancient systems are the Traditional Chinese system of Medicine, Ayurveda and Unani- Tibb Medicine. My expertise lies in Ayurveda and Unani- Tibb Medicine. However it is important to note that all three systems share the same truth in terms of management of health. The extraordinary feature of these three major approaches is similarity, despite their having developed independently. They all incorporate the humoral theory – with basically the same humours, the fact of a central source of energy, all it prana, physis or chi, and the development of the same forms of diagnosis, for example by reading the tongue and pulse. They also have similar purification and detoxifying processes. To treat people in a more integrated manner gives us a multi disciplinary approach tailored to the individual’s needs – one that embraces the mind, body and soul. It also bridges the gap between the traditional and modern systems.
Sivanna Integrated Health Centre in Newlands, Cape Town, serves to bring about transformative changes in health issues and in acute and chronic conditions with the use of both ancient systems of health and modern medicine. The Bowen Technique, Ayurvedic oil massages, deep tissue therapeutic massages, yoga, breathe work, meditation and relaxation techniques are utilized where indicated. Sivanna means ‘The Oasis of Enlightenment’