Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mahatma Gandhi, India’s "Father of Naturopathy"

Michael Cronin, ND
AANP President 
The entrance to S-VYASA's Prashanti Kutiram Campus
I am writing this from the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthanain University (S-VYASA) near Bangalore, India in the state of Karnataka. I was invited (with 4 weeks notice) to give a presentation on the evolution of the naturopathic profession and naturopathic education in North America at the first International Conference on Yoga, Naturopathy and Arogya (ICYN) in Bangalore, known as the Silicon Valley of India. Naturopathy as a healthcare profession is considered to include Yoga, and there are 12 universities across the country offering a degree in Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, as well as numerous inpatient facilities. Mohandas (often referred to as Mahatma, meaning “great soul”) Gandhi revived naturopathy in India and is often referred to as the "Father of Naturopathy." Gandhi's birthday, October 2nd, is to be celebrated here by the profession as Yoga and Naturopathy Day.
The ICYN was sponsored by the state government of Karnataka’s Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH). They see Naturopathy as an intrinsic part of the healthcare system and just this week announced that 10% of the state's overall healthcare budget would be dedicated to patients receiving AYUSH care. There is an epidemic of non-communicable disease in India, including diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are the country’s leading cause of death. There are also other provisions in the works to improve the public access to Naturopathy care, including adding outpatient naturopathic services in all municipal hospitals. 
The scope of practice in Naturopathy includes hydrotherapy, fasting, diet therapy, massage, Acupuncture and Yoga. It does not include medicine administered orally, Homeopathy or Botanical Medicine. Steps are being taken to bridge this divide in order to use evidence-based practices, following the established principles of Naturopathy. Historically, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, and Unani (Persian herbal medicine, widely practiced in Southern Asia) have existed as separate branches of traditional knowledge systems in India and traditional Chinese medicine is not practiced.
The Jindal NatureCure Center
Most naturopathic care is currently delivered through inpatient services. Patients frequently stay for two to four weeks if not longer. The patients fast and juice and afterwards eat natural organic foods, massage, hydrotherapy and learn therapeutic yoga as well as relaxation and meditation techniques for their specific health condition. I just visited the Jindal NatureCure Institute, a beautiful 275-bed, 100-acre inpatient naturopathic and yogic hospital/sanatorium, established as a charitable trust. 
Naturopathic evidence-based research is alive and well in India. At S-VYASA, where we are staying, they have Ph.D. candidates in Yoga who are focusing on many aspects of naturopathy. One Ph.D. candidate I spoke with is researching hydrotherapy for hypertension, another on diabetes and a third on migraines. There is much published work on the physiologic effects of meditation as well as work towards understanding which specific yoga asanas (postures), breathing, relaxation and meditative techniques are best for specific conditions.   
An international working group on naturopathy and yoga convened the day after the conference with participants from over 20 countries. There were four subgroups established, including education, research, clinical practice and regulatory advocacy. Participants from the United States included representatives from Harvard Medical School, the Department of Defense, the Samueli Institute and the AANP. The working group is being funded by the State government of Karnataka’s Department of AYUSH. The government perceives the promotion of Naturopathy and Yoga as not only good for public health, but also an economic engine, separate from their conventional medical tourism. The state has 3 colleges and many hospitals/sanatoriums including, one 275-bed facility and another 200-bed facility. There is clearly dynamic development of Karnataka’s medical tourism capacity and naturopathy is seen as an important component. 
The Indian educational system offers a Science pre-university “stream” in what would be considered an American 11th and 12th grade. They have a four-year academic program and a fifth year of internship. They have also established a two-year advanced degree program offering an MD in Naturopathy. 
Learning about India’s unique relationship with Naturopathy was very exciting, but the enthusiasm of the students, doctors, educators and officials was by far the best part. They are all so pleased to connect with the North American profession, as we are to connect with them!
Michael Cronin, ND


  1. Great to see this report...Hope this will bring more and more cooperation between North American and Indian Naturopathy physicians.A vision of evidence based,Global Naturopathic Medicine possible.
    Dr.Manu Pradeesh BNYS (RGUHS)

  2. Dear Sir
    Thanks a ton for posting about Naturopathy & Yoga in your Blog
    Please note that MD program is a 3 year Post Graduation course affiliated to Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Karnataka. It is presently offered by SDM College of Naturopathy & Yogic Sciences, Ujire, Karnataka, India ( It has 2 sub branches 1. MD Yoga Clinical & 2. MD Naturopathy Clinical


    Dr. Abhay M. Shankaregowda, BNYS, [MD - Yoga Clinical]
    Assistant Professor, SDM College of Naturopathy & Yogic Sciences, Ujire, DK District, Karnataka, India - 574240

  3. Thank you Dr. Cronin for writing elaborately on the Development of Naturopathic Medicine in India. I was there in the Conference and was also part of the Education Symposium where you delivered your lecture.

    I would like to repeat and raise the aspirations of Indian Naturopathy Community (which I had raised with you in the Conference). One, the Graduates and Naturopathic Medical Colleges in India are very enthusiastic about a possible future relationship between American and Indian Naturopathic Community and we would want it to be developed further by creating some exchange mechanisms. Two, Indian Naturopathy Graduates opting for further studies in North American Naturopathic Colleges should be given adequate credits for their Indian Professional Education in Naturopathy.

    I wish this relationship only grows with time as we have a lot to learn from each other as a Profession and Practice!

    Dr. Rajesh Kumar Singh, BNYS