Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto - OCS, 15th INTERNATIONAL ISKO CONFERENCE

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Hemalata Iyer, Raghavan K.S.

Last modified: 2018-01-31


Key words; Knowledge structures; Complementary and Alternative systems of medicine; Ayurveda and Siddha system of medicine.


The holistic systems of medicine view patients as a whole, including their psychological, physical and social, and mental aspects. Ayurveda and Siddha (AY&S) system of medicine originated in India several thousand years ago, independently of biomedicine, are holistic systems of medicine. They moved to the west in the 80’s and are an integral part of the healthcare system today, being accepted as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).  The use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has increased considerably in the recent past. This has been in spite of the advances in healthcare technology and its use by conventional medicine, otherwise known as biomedicine or allopathy.

The practice of AY&S spans over a very long period of time marked by paradigm shifts, language adaptations, and integration with conventional biomedical (Allopathy). This is a traditional form of medicine that has evolved but yet retains the native and ancient flavor. It is unique and as such the knowledge organization issues are unique and challenging as well.

The challenge lies in that the traditional knowledge coexists along with the current adaptations. The needs of the practitioners that acquired knowledge partly through oral traditions and the needs of those with formal education in colleges and universities can vary in approach and content. In addition, during the i980’s this system of medicine moved to the west and since then is being legitimately practiced in hospitals and clinics. The NCCAM in the United States of America has recognized this system of medicine as an alternative and complementary form of medicine (CAM).  This adds another layer to the complexity to the direction of its growth and development.

Considering the complexities of the domain and the variety and strata of users it seems important to create knowledge structure, including the major typology of concept relationships. Although classification schemes do include alternative medicine and there are ways of classifying using the Colon Classification, there is room for enhancement.

What is needed is a foundational conceptual knowledge structure for this AY&S domain. This could serve as a conceptual foundation for developing ontologies, special classification schemes and other information handling tools. The proposed paper envisages to create such a knowledge structure.


1. Examine the domain of AY &S systems of medicine to identify the different streams of knowledge, communication modes, practices, adaptations and other aspects t.

2.  Examine how AY&S is represented on the web and whether there is a difference in the representations in websites from the US, Europe and Asian countries.  This will also provide an insight into how it is legitimized and practiced in the western world and the topics that are emphasized. This will also feed into objective 3.

3. Develop a conceptual knowledge structure of AY&S system of medicine to serve as base for creating ontologies, classification schemes, and could be used for other applications.


Data was collected through interviews of medical practitioners, educators and administrators and inheritors of the oral tradition from cities, towns and semi- rural areas in South India, where these systems are dominantly practiced.  In addition, the colleges of Ayurveda and Siddha and also the national research councils and hospitals in South India were visited in order to gather data.

The various aspects covered in the interviews included knowledge structures, mode of organization and access to information, the use of technology, information storage on palm leaves, areas of integration between conventional biomedicine medicine and the indigenous systems of medicine, the pharmaceutical methods and other areas. In addition to the interviews, seminal texts, journal literature, relevant and appropriate websites will also be consulted.

The main results will be a conceptual foundational knowledge structure of AY&S domain.