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24 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Alternative medicine in Bangladesh

Dr. Hasib Sheikh
Alternative medicine in Bangladesh

Alternative Medicine is widely used around the world and valued for a number of reasons. At the International Conference on Traditional Medicine for South-East Asian Countries in February 2013, the WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan stated that traditional medicines, of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, contribute to the goal of ensuring that all people have access to care. For millions of people, herbal medicines, traditional treatments, and traditional practitioners are the main source of health care, and sometimes the only source of care. This is the care that is close to homes, accessible and affordable. It is also culturally acceptable and trusted by large number of people. The affordability of traditional medicine (TM) is attractive and stands out as a way of coping with the relentless rise of chronic non-communicable diseases.

Bangladesh and a significant part of South Asia possess a vibrant and thriving medical pluralism. This ‘medical pluralism’ has been turned into an intrinsic feature of medical system in historical and contemporary contexts. A number of studies have examined the ‘traditional medicines’ and their relation to other systems of medicine each with a distinct perspective. Multiple medical systems such as Ayurvedic, Yoga, Unani, Homoeopathy, Naturopathy, Acupuncture, Kabiraji, Hakimi and other folk traditions are widely practised in meeting the needs of healthcare. The emergence and arrival of different medical systems, their acculturation into various communities, and the ways of their integration with the traditions are quite unique to the medical and cultural history of Bangladesh. As a country of rural societies, a large portion of its population still relies on traditional practitioners and local medicinal plants for their primary healthcare needs. In most cases, the attitude of the people towards different diseases is shaped by various factors such as economy, culture, religion, education and environment.

Research shows that whether educated or not, rich or poor, some people still use folk medicine for specific diseases. Visits to shrines or going to the ‘shamans’ (person who acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds, using magic to cure illness) for folk methods of healings can still be found. Despite the existence and significant use of traditional/herbal medicine among the major rural communities in Bangladesh, the TM is still not officially well recognised and is facing the questions of validation and standardisation.

For the treatment of non-communicable disease, alternative medicine is being used more and more than any time before in Bangladesh. The therapeutic class includes:

Digestive care

Pain management

Cardiac health

Reproductive health

Beauty solutions

Skin care

Obesity management

Psychological ailment

Most popular alternative medicine in Bangladesh

Ayurveda Medicine

Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It originated in India more than 3,000 years ago and remains one of the country’s traditional health care systems. Its concepts about health and disease promote the use of herbal compounds, special diets, and other unique health practices. Bangladesh and India’s government and other institutes throughout the world support clinical and laboratory research on Ayurvedic medicine within the context of the Eastern belief system. For the health benefit, one can go to a certified Ayurvedic physician.

Unani Medicine

The Unani system of medicine sometimes referred to as Greeco-Arab medicine or Unani Tibb; is based on Greek philosophy. As per this traditional system, the human body is composed of four basic elements: earth, air, water and fire having cold, hot, wet and dry temperaments respectively. The body fluids are composed of four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These humors have their own temperament:

There are three modes of treatment in Unani system:

Regimental therapy (Ilajbil tadbeer) – Use of exercise, climate change, massage, venesection, leaching, cupping, diet therapy etc.

Pharmacotherapy (Ilajbil dava) – use of drugs of plant, animal and mineral origin, either alone or in combination.

Surgery (Ilajbil Yad) – Surgical intervention in treatment as last resort.

Homeopathic medicine

Homeopathy or homœopathy is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of like cures like (similia similibus curentur), a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. A basic belief behind homeopathy is “like cures like.” In other words, something that brings on symptoms in a healthy person can -- in a very small dose -- treat an illness with similar symptoms. This is meant to trigger the body’s natural defences. Homeopathic doctors (who also are called “Homeopaths”) weaken these ingredients by adding water or alcohol.

Then they shake the mixture as part of a process called “potentization.” They believe this step transfers the healing essence. Homeopaths also believe that the lower the dose, the more powerful the medicine. In fact, many of these remedies no longer contain any molecules of the original substance. They come in a variety of forms, like sugar pellets, liquid drops, creams, gels, and tablets.

Acupuncture system of Alternative medicine  

Acupuncture is a form of treatment that involves inserting very thin needles through a person's skin at specific points on the body, to various depths. Research suggests that it can help relieve pain, and it is used for a wide range of other complaints. An acupuncurist will insert needles into a person's body with the aim of balancing their energy. This, it is claimed, can help boost wellbeing and may cure some illnesses. Conditions it is used for include different kinds of pain, such as headaches, blood pressure problems, and whooping cough, among others.

In Bangladesh there is no institutional education for the Acupuncture system of alternative medicine. Some counted few Unani and ayurvedic physician taking tanning from India and china and having practise in Bangladesh.


Physiotherapists help people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They maintain health for people of all ages, helping patients to manage pain and prevent disease. The profession helps to encourage development and facilitate recovery, enabling people to stay in work while helping them to remain independent for as long as possible. Physiotherapy is a science-based profession and takes a ‘whole person’ approach to health and wellbeing, which includes the patient’s general lifestyle. At the core is the patient’s involvement in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment.

You can benefit from physiotherapy at any time in your life. Physiotherapy helps with back pain or sudden injury, managing long-term medical condition such as asthma, and in preparing for childbirth or a sporting event.

In Bangladesh Bachelor in Physiotherapy (BPT) and diploma in physiotherapy physician can give the physiotherapy alternative treatment.

Yoga Therapy

Therapeutic yoga is an inherently holistic approach, simultaneously working on the body, mind, and spirit. Various yoga practices systematically strengthen different systems in the body, including the heart and cardiovascular system, the lungs, muscles, and the nervous system. Yoga practices can improve function of the digestive system, foster psychological well-being, and improve oxygen delivery to tissues. Yoga also can help the body more efficiently remove waste products, carcinogens, and cellular toxins. Most people in the West live stressful lives, and yoga—and by extension yoga therapy—is perhaps the best overall stress reduction system ever invented. Stress has been linked to a wide variety of medical problems, from migraine headaches and irritable bowel syndrome to potentially life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Since persistently high levels of stress hormones, particularly cortisol, can undermine function of the immune system, here too yoga can help.

While yoga by itself can alleviate a number of problems, it is particularly effective as a complement to other forms of health care, both alternative and conventional. Studies suggest, for example, that yoga therapy can lessen the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for people with cancer and facilitate faster recovery after bypass surgery. In clinical trials, many patients with asthma, type II diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes), or high blood pressure who began a regular practice of yoga were able to either lower their drug dosage, or eliminate some pills entirely. Less medication means fewer side effects, and, sometimes, very substantial cost savings.

Other alternative medicine in Bangladesh

Speech and language therapy

Massage therapy






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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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