India’s Background of Medicinal System

Chronological development

Year / Century

Type of Medicinal System & Ethnic group

4th century BCE and the 5th century CE

Surgical treatment decreased, but on the other hand, medicinal use of plants and herbs (1) had developed.

7th century

The arrival of Arab Muslim traders.


Invasion of Muslim brought in Unani medicine (2)

Late 15th century to 16th century

Foreign traders from Portugal, Dutch and the British East India Company came to India with doctors from their native lands and hence indirectly brought in their medical system respectively

1795 – 1869

A German physician and geologist came to India around 1810 A.D. to treat patients using homeopathy. In 1839, Dr. John Martin Honigberger came to treat Maharaja Ranjit using the same method (3)

Current practice

  • In India, the Ayurveda healthcare system is well established.
  • State hospitals and dispensaries of traditional medicine have always been available as the traditional system of medicines (Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, homeopathy, yoga and naturopathy) are well integrated into the national healthcare system. These systems have been providing services to most Indians, especially in the rural areas.
  • On the other hand, traditional medicine is not always accepted by the modern medical practitioners and sometimes they found difficulties to integrate traditional medicine into allopathic medicine. Scientific evidence is much needed for rationale of using this method.


  1. Rao MS, The history of medicine in India and Burma.Pg 55
  2. Elizabeth Williamson,2006, System of Traditional Medicine From South and South East Asia : The Pharmaceutical Journal, volume 276:539
  3. AYUSH in India 2005, Planning and Evaluation Cell, Department of Ayurveda,Yoga and Naturopathy,Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH), Ministry of health and Family Welfare, Government of India,pg 13.

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