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AYUSH signifies a combination of alternative system of Medicine, which was earlier known as Indian System of Medicine. AYUSH includes Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy. The objective of AYUSH is to promote medical pluralism and to introduce strategies for mainstreaming the indigenous systems of medicine. In India, at the Union Government level, AYUSH activities are coordinated by Department of AYUSH under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. Most of these medical practices originated in India and outside, but got adopted in India in the course of time.

Ayurveda is more prevalent in the states of Kerala, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarkhand, Goa and Orissa.

The practice of Unani System could be seen in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan.

Homoeopathy is widely practiced in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Gujarat and the North Eastern States and the Siddha system is practiced in the areas of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala.

In September 2009 Sowa Rigpa system of medicine was also recognized as a traditional system of medicine. Sowa Rigpa, commonly known as ‘Amchi’ is one of the oldest surviving system of medicine in the world, popular in the Himalayan region of India. In India this system is practiced in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling (West Bengal), Lahoul and Spiti (Himachal Pradesh) and Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir.

Most of the foreign countries including USA, Australia, European countries etc. have not recognized Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani, as systems of medicine, therefore practice of these systems and marketing of their products as medicines faces problems. The medicines of these systems are generally manufactured in India as per the standards and Good Manufacturing Practices in accordance with the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules thereunder but are often exported by the industry to such countries as food supplements or dietary supplements because of non-fulfillment of the regulatory requirements of the importing countries. However, the efficacy and safety of drugs and therapies for various remedies is scientifically established through clinical validation carried out by the 5 Research Councils under the Ministry of AYUSH namely Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS), Central Council for Research in Yoga & Naturopathy (CCRYN), Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM), Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS) and Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH).Also, Rule 158-B has been inserted in the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 for seeking the proof of effectiveness and safety of certain categories of Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani medicines as a licensing requirement.Similarly, prior to licensing of new homoeopathic medicines there is a regulatory requirement of documentary and other evidence of therapeutic efficacy including the minimum proving carried out with them. (The term ‘Clinical Trial’ as such is not prescribed in the provisions of Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules thereunder pertaining to Ayurvedic, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathic medicines.)

On 14 May 2016, Government of India and the World Health Organization (WHO) signed a Project Collaboration Agreement (PCA) for cooperation on promoting the quality, safety and effectiveness of service provision in traditional and complementary medicine. It aims to support WHO in the development and implementation of the ‘WHO Traditional and Complementary Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023’ and will contribute to the global promotion of traditional Indian Systems of Medicine. The PCA for the period 2016-2020 is proposed to deliver for the first time WHO benchmark document for training in Yoga, and WHO benchmarks for practice in Ayurveda, Unani and Panchakarma. These will contribute significantly to the strengthening of national capacities in ensuring the quality, safety and effectiveness of traditional medicine including in establishing regulatory frameworks for traditional medicine products and practice and promote their integration in national healthcare systems.

The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been accorded the status of a Ministry with effect from 09.11.2014 by the Cabinet Secretariat.

National AYUSH Mission (NAM) launched on 15 September 2014 as part of 12th Plan envisages better access to AYUSH services through increase in number of AYUSH Hospitals and Dispensaries, ensuring availability of AYUSH drugs and trained manpower. As on July 2015, there are a total of 543 Colleges of AYUSH functional in the country. Out of this, 281 are of Ayurveda, 191 of Homeopathy, 44 are Unani, 18 are of Naturopathy and 9 of Sidha.

The Ministry of AYUSH has established Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) in collaboration with Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for prevention of grant of patents on non-original inventions by International Patent Offices on Indian Systems of Medicine such as Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha. TKDL has been successful in preventing the grant of wrong patents in 220 cases as in November 2015. TKDL puts in public domain around 2.93 lakh medicinal formulations of Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha, in five international languages namely English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish (as in November 2015). To facilitate the protection of country’s traditional knowledge, access to TKDL has been provided to International Patent offices under International Agreement. In addition, pre-grant opposition on patent applications along with prior art evidences from TKDL are submitted on a regular basis.

As on 1 April 2015 the total number of AYUSH hospitals providing AYUSH medical treatment in the country is 3598 out of which 2818 hospitals are of Ayurveda, 257 of Unani, 274 of Siddha, 7 of Yoga, 35 of Naturopathy and 207 of homoeopathy. Similarly, as on 01-04-2015, the total number of AYUSH dispensaries were 25723. Out of this 15291 are of Ayurveda, 1461 of Unani, 803 of Siddha, 185 of Yoga, 94 of Naturopathy, 7856 of Homoeopathy and 33 of Sowa Riga (Source: Press release of AYUSH Ministry dated 8 March 2016).

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