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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2016, Vol. 14 ›› Issue (4): 245-254.doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(16)60265-0

• Global Views • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Nature cure treatment in the context of India's epidemiological transition

Joseph Stewart Altera, Chandrashekar Sharmab   

  1. a Division of Social Sciences, Yale-NUS College, Singapore, 138527, Singapore 
    b Parmarth Nature Cure Hospital and Yoga Ashram, Rishikesh, 249304, India
  • Received:2016-04-07 Accepted:2016-05-31 Online:2016-06-15 Published:2016-07-15
  • Contact: Joseph Stewart Alter, PhD; E-mail: joseph.alter@yale-nus.edu.sg

Scholars have argued that theoretical insights of critical medical anthropology should be applied to the analysis of complementary and alternative medicine in order to develop more critically engaged integrative medicine. In this essay we focus on nature cure in the context of India's contemporary epidemiological transition as an example of why engaged integrative medicine is important for public health, and how the institutionalization of nature cure treatment in India provides a critical framework for the development of programs focused on holistic treatment and prevention. After providing an overview of the epidemiological transition in contemporary India, we develop this argument through an examination of illustrative cases in a clinic that operates within the structure of India's Central Council for Research on Yoga and Naturopathy. Based on a review of recent history and contemporary practice we describe how a system of medicine that makes use exclusively of air, earth, sunlight, water and food has been institutionalized and professionalized in India. Whereas biomedical treatment for chronic non-communicable diseases is focused on the problem of curing individual diseases, nature cure establishes a regimen of personalized public healthcare for the integrated management of symptoms. We argue that nature cure is based on an ecological understanding of health, thus providing treatment that reflects a broad appreciation for the risk factors that characterize India's current crises of public health.

Key words: Naturopathy, Anthropology, Complementary therapies, Non-communicable diseases, India

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