Protection of indigenous health sector with special reference to maintaining knowledge in India: the need for a state resolution.

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Protection of indigenous health sector with special reference to maintaining knowledge in India

Written By: Khushi Gupta


Darkness may be the absence of light, but health does not mean the absence of sickness. Good health is a sense of security and comfort much needed to live a peaceful life. India has a native, active health care system running since time memorial, they have progressed far and wide, so much that today’s modern medicine’s 75% of indigenous medicine ideas. But these stats are highly disputed, there are people who refuse to acknowledge the contribution of traditional knowledge put to use in modern medicine. It often leads to refusal of acknowledgment of the indispensable ideas that have been brought by ancient medicine. Diseases have existed centuries ago as they do now, people fought them before too, just because early people did not take to claim their intellectual property rights over their contribution did not mean they have not made a fair contribution to the health sector.

State of the indigenous health sector in India

The global pandemic of coronavirus has highlighted the discrimination faced by the marginalized tribal communities of not only India but also Africa. Some of the tribal communities are marginalized which reduces and in worse cases cuts off their access to basic amenities such as clean water, soap, and other sanitary necessities. They faced severe issues of both health and social isolation, combining together to become a deadly combo. The question that springs up is, how they survived this pandemic with limited access to modern medicine, and the answer is that they put to use their traditional knowledge, as many of the communities took to the adoption of isolation of communities and lockdowns in a traditional form, relying on the advice of their elders and traditional ways. 

The government of India under the leadership of a believer in traditional medicine, Mr, Narendra Modi, launched a new ministry in 2014 with the name of AYUSH, an acronym for Ayurveda, yoga, Unani, Siddha, homeopathy, and naturopathy. This was a very progressive step for the Indian health sector, as it allowed for the integration of traditional knowledge, indigenous techniques, and centuries of information gathered by the indigenous people with the technical advances of modern medicine. Homeopathy has already become a good alternative to modern medicine, with people who still can’t bring themselves to trust allopathy resort fully to it, similarly, yoga has spread like wildfire, with most of the countries outside India recognizing and adopting its ways into their daily lives. Several articles have been published glorifying (rightly so) the use of traditional medicine and especially yoga.

Indigenous health sectors across the world

For the battle against covid-19, we saw many indigenous communities fight in their own traditional ways, with Some vulnerable communities such as the Navajo (USA) closing their borders, and imposing curfews among themselves. They were also reported to have tested more than 40000 people, on the other hand, the Amazonian indigenous groups made their own face masks, provided sanitation, and disseminated information about COVID-19 in local languages.

In Peru’s Amazon, the indigenous Shipibo community decided to turn to the wisdom of their ancestors. They gathered herbs, steeped them in boiling water, and instructed people of their community to breathe in the vapors. They also made syrups of onion and ginger to help clear congested airways. In India, many Adivasi communities learned to prepare face masks and even sanitizers for local use as well as sale in the markets.

The north Indian tribes also modified some of their rules and kept a strict guard to the entrance to their villages etc.

Miscommunication and dispensation of knowledge

A very grave divide that the indigenous people face is of the language, which leads to severe miscommunication among indigenous people, their languages are various and so different from each other, knowledge about the diseases and prevention that have been developed in modern medicine doesn’t travel well in some cases, and leads to misunderstandings that can prove to be very harmful. Even the traditional knowledge of indigenous people gets lost in translation.

When there were outbreaks of Ebola and the Zika virus, the world understood the importance of transferring the information correctly to the people, and how many lives are at stake because of this misinformation.

Tackling the language barrier and spreading information in a clear, comprehensible, and usable way has to be one of the biggest challenges that lie ahead for the indigenous health sector, because the indigenous communities can come up with the medicines through their traditional knowledge only when the information they have been provided is correct, and since, a large number of them depend on their own methods of medication, it becomes very crucial to save lives.

Requirement of a state resolution

When everything is going well for traditional medicine, why does it still fail to get the actual recognition it deserves? It is more affordable, accessible, pride of our culture and traditions then why can’t it be given the due credit? That’s where the need for a state resolution comes in. A national-level effort has been made with the launch of the AYUSH Ministry, but a similar ministry in every state, tackling the roots of miscommunication will make a whole lot of difference. The more local we go with our problem, the wider we solve it.

Miscommunication of information regarding the diseases has to be spread with increasing the quality and extent of translation to native languages. Even signs, pictures, and other visuals should be used to increase the understanding.

The credit of traditional medicine should be duly given, their uses should be tested and accordingly approved to gain public consent and increase awareness.


It’s a long way to go to recognize the importance and put to the appropriate use of traditional knowledge in the health sector. Internationally too the communities are making sound contributions to the health sector. It’s about time we start to think of ways to combine our traditional knowledge with modern tools to create a health sector that is stronger and better than ever before.

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