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Indeed, we live in a world full of paradoxes. We live in a world where one can see, in stark contrast, two mutually exclusive states of being co–existing at opposite ends of the spectrum. The unparalleled progress of science and technology towards the close of the last millennium has made life much more comfortable for the common man. Medical science in particular, seems to have come of age. Most illnesses have been conquered. Staggering amounts of money have been pumped into medical research.

New discoveries and new insights are being recorded every now and then. Things deemed impossible have now become run of the mill. New methods are being devised to treat old diseases. New techniques in surgery are being fashioned. Post–operative care has improved by leaps and bounds. New drugs are being manufactured for problems as diverse as erectile dysfunction to myasthenia gravis.

However, most benefits of modern medicine have been appropriated by the developed world. On the other end of the spectrum, in many third world countries, disease and malnutrition are a way of life. While Western doctors might brag about having increased life expectancy, infant mortality rates are alarmingly high in African, Latin American and South–East Asian countries.

While traditional medicine was looked upon with suspicion by the West, there simply wasn’t the requisite wherewithal to set up an infrastructure that could have made ‘Western’ medicine accessible to all in the developed world.

Knee–jerk reactions of Western governments in offering doles in times of crises to poor countries often seem like ways to appease their own conscience.

Meanwhile, modern life all over the world has taken its own toll on man. Environmental degradation has assumed alarming proportions. One has heard repeated warnings of global warming and depletion of the ozone layer in recent times. The WHO has pinpointed rapid rise in pollution levels the world over as being the single largest cause of cardiovascular disease, much more than smoking. Moreover, adulterated food and use of highly toxic pesticides that destroy the nutritive value of food grains and vegetables have taken a toll too.

Moreover, modern man leads a much more sedentary lifestyle than his ancestors did. He has reached the “Remote control” stage of technological progress. It is not surprising at all that he should find it imperative to regulate his diet and work out at the gym. Add to that the stresses and strains of the modern consumerist world, and man is not exactly happier than what he used to be.

Medical science itself seems to have reached a plateau now, and has got bogged down by the ethical implications of anything between donating sperm to cloning human beings. Besides, despite all the advancement, age–old maladies such as diabetes and asthma are far from curable. They are at best controllable. Most antibiotics seem inadequate in tackling viral infections. Bacteria that cause other diseases have developed resistance to certain types of antibiotics. Besides, the common man himself has become somewhat wary of allopathic medicines and has begun to turn to alternative, traditional forms of medicine.

This has in recent times brought about a welcome change in attitudes that were hitherto prevalent in the medical world. Much prejudice against alternative systems of medicine seems to have been shed and a ‘Holistic’ system of medicine or healing has become the buzzword in recent times. Thus, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Magneto therapy, Acupressure, Acupuncture, Ayurveda, the Unani system of medicine etc. have been gaining in popularity. They are no more the fanciful fad of the famous or the poor substitute of the underprivileged. They are now being increasingly acknowledged as viable, alternative systems of healing the sick.

The whole approach of these systems of medicine differs from Allopathy inasmuch as that the ingredients of remedies are not chemicals, artificially produced in laboratories. They are natural substances like extracts from plants, animals or minerals. They have no side effects, are gentle on the human system and aim at reviving the organism into expelling toxins and getting rid of diseases by rejuvenating the body’s own defense mechanism. Even systems like Acupressure and Acupuncture focus on the ‘Vita flex’ points on the palms and feet. By applying selective pressure or puncturing nodal prints with extremely thin needles the body’s own defense mechanism is activated into fighting disease and organs associated with the corresponding points are strengthened. Even Aromatherapy has been gaining in popularity in recent times. It is the system in which the aroma of herbs and flowers is inhaled for curative purposes. The oil obtained from flowers is even massaged on the Vita Flex points on the feet and other strategic locations of the body.

Other than the regular homeopaths, naturopaths and ayurveds, there are health shops now, that stock an exclusive range of health foods, like the one at Koregaon Park in Pune aptly titled, ‘Natures bounty’, for instance. The shop sells health foods, organic cereals, low fat anytime snacks, natural vitamins and supplements, herbal cosmetics etc. Shops like that have on offer herbal dietary supplements to meet all kinds of health challenges, such as failing memory, a weak heart, obesity, water retention, weak liver, low energy, weak digestion, cardiovascular challenges, respiratory disorders, diabetes, low immunity, hormone balance, enlarged prostate etc.

That is not all, there are on offer these days, preparations for weight gain and loss and detoxifying agents to flush out all body toxins. They sell herbal ‘Antibiotics’ as well as ‘Aphrodisiacs’. Beauty products for skin and hair care and increasing the size of breasts are also on offer. Moreover, mood creators–oils for concentration, increase of libido etc. are also available. Lastly, products that are natural pesticides have gained in popularity in homes with kids.

Someone had once remarked that there would come a time when there is likely to be a reverse migration to the countryside. Perhaps mindsets are beginning to change already and ‘return to nature’ is the mantra of the new millennium. Indeed, it is in nature that mankind is likely to find solutions to its myriad problems, health–related or otherwise.