Systems Health®: Combining Eastern and Western Medicine
Podcast #55 — Aired February 26, 2015

What do you get when you combine the foundations of modern science with the collective wisdom from ancient traditions? Systems Health®, a program that integrates the most extraordinary biomedical discoveries with ancient systems of medicine. Our guest this week on BetterWorldians Radio is Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai. He’ll explain how Systems Health® works and how he believes it will revolutionize the practice of medicine.

 

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Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai
Scientist & educator, Systems Health

Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, the inventor of email, a Fulbright Scholar, and Lemelson-MIT Finalist, who holds four degrees from MIT, is a renowned systems scientist and computational systems biology expert. He is the founder of Systems Health(R) and the Chairman and CEO of CytoSolve. He pioneered Systems Visualization, a new course at MIT, in the Department of Comparative Media Studies. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of the International Center for Integrative Systems located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is passionate about integrating both Eastern and Western systems of medicine to create a new convergent medicine that is fully consistent with the scientific method.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
This week on Better Worldians Radio, were talking with scientist and educator Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai. Shiva is a renowned scientist, systems scientist, and computational systems biology expert. He teaches systems visualization, a pioneering new course at MIT. He is also the founder and executive director of the International Center for Integrative Systems in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is passionate about integrating both eastern and western medicines to create a new convergent medicine that is fully consistent with the scientific method. Ayyadurai holds four degrees from MIT including a PhD in systems biology at the Department of Biological Engineering. Hi, Shiva. Thanks so much for joining us today on Better Worldians Radio.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Hello. How are you? Great to be on the show.

Raymond Hansell
Youre very, very welcome. Were very excited because you have so much to share with our listeners today and I think theyre very listening to hear all of your story. Id like to begin your story for our listeners in India where you witnessed your grandmother practicing a healing tradition called Siddha. Can you tell us what that is?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yes. Siddha is the oldest form of tradition medicine that has been documented. It was the original form of medicine that was practiced by the original natives of India who were called the Dravidians and it is still practiced today. It is a traditional form of medicine because they have a complete system. It has its own language and it spans the areas of, you know, herbal medicine, the usage of what they call alchemical metals. It includes yoga. It includes martial arts and it also includes a whole set of yoga techniques. So its a comprehensive system and in fact Ayurveda came out of Siddha. In fact, we have in the United States today, you know, twenty million yoga practitioners. So that is one lineage that can be traced all the way back to Siddha.

Raymond Hansell
Now is Siddha still practiced in India?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah. So Siddha is still practiced in India. In fact, India at the government level, they have an institute called its part of the government ministry called Ayush, A, Y, U, S, H, which is Ayurveda, Unani, Yoga, Siddha, and Homeopathy. So Siddha is one track. So in Indian for example, you can go and get Siddha treatments. In fact, there is a National Institute of Siddha which was inaugurated by the prime minister in 2007. So its definitely practiced today.

Raymond Hansell
Now what did you learn from observing your grandmother?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well what I learned from observing my grandmother was her ability to observe.

Raymond Hansell
Okay.

Shiva Ayyadurai
So you know, most doctors today in western medicine really dont observe their patients anymore. They use instruments. But in the Siddha tradition, it was your power of observation that let you really diagnose the patient. So the observations there included observing the face for example, observing peoples eyes, observing in fact urine, observing the skin. But the observations were done visually, sometimes tactically with your hands, smell, but the individual used their own powers of observation and those observations were used by my grandmother to understand the kind of body type of that person. So everyone has a particular body type and then based on that body type, through those observations, she was able to understand their imbalances. And so you know, if your body is supposed to be behaving a certain way, you have certain imbalances, then she would recommend different types of treatments. And they werent a treatment that you know all size one size fits all. So different people maybe different herbs, different mixtures of herbs, customized. Some people got different yoga moves to do. Some people got different massages and some people in fact got different mantras which are called sound. But today in the western world, we call this personalized medicine but this is the foundations of Siddha which she practiced.

Raymond Hansell
Did that observation take longer than typically what you might find practiced in western medicine where this would be more of a this observation would take a bit longer in terms of that transaction between the patient and the practitioner?

Shiva Ayyadurai
I think if you look at it on average, I would say it was obviously someone has a gashing wound on them, right, thats a pretty easy thing to observe. They have a wound on them. But when you look at measurement and understanding it, what my grandmother would do, I mean, she would do it very, very quickly because this is an art and youve built a sensibility over time. Its not that different than a mechanic when you bring your car in. He doesnt he has a pretty good idea of what is going on by listening to it, good mechanics. In western medicine you know, we spend hours in waiting rooms, we take tons of blood tests, we wait days, weeks, we take MRI images which are getting faster, right, so you can go right in. But it was very quick. My grandmother was actually a farmer who worked sixteen hour days but on weekends she would have twenty or thirty people lined up and she would have to do this relatively quickly because not everyone had time. So the observations were based on intuition and tons and tons of experience which is where intuition comes from.

Raymond Hansell
How did these experiences drive you to pursue science when you moved to the United States?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well for me, you know, seeing my grandmother use this system, and I think the keyword is system, of diagnoses and observation and recommendations and empirically seeing people get healed, as a kid I was fascinated by this and I wanted to know how she was able to do this. What was the science behind it and how could I do it and how could I actually explain it to others, why it worked? So it was really a mystery to me. So I think I was inspired and also moved by this fascinating way that this woman with no degrees who lived in a small village, had tattoos all over her arms, worked sixteen hour days was able to heal people. So that motivation, when I came to the United States, really was the core of my motivation in wanting to study medicine and understand as much as I could, you know, science, match, physics, design, biology, to really understand why this worked.

Raymond Hansell
So you threw yourself into that. I guess something our listeners dont know is you came to NYU at the ripe old age of fourteen which really yeah. Go ahead.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah, I mean, what happened was, I mean, when we came to the United States, you have to understand, we came from what is called a quote, unquote low caste Indian family, so the opportunities in India were very minimal. So the fact that my parents made it here to the United States was significant. So I was motivated by knowing the fact that my parents and we came from very, very repressed backgrounds in India. So coming to the United States was a huge motivator to do very well and I was very ambitious. So by the time I was, you know, thirteen, fourteen, I had finished up all of the math portions of my high school and gotten accepted to a very special program at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. So yes, I did have the opportunity to go to NYU at a very early age and study computer science.

Raymond Hansell
And that further piqued your interest in medical research? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah. It was an interesting transition because I was actually you know, that, studying math and computer sciences at NYU I always thought would be a vehicle for me to use those skills in medicine. So when I finished that, I wanted to drop out of high school. My mom actually introduced me to the head of the computer center which was a very small computer center. This was in 1978 at what is now known as Rutgers Medical School. Then it was known as the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. And his name was Dr. Les Michelson. He was a high energy physicist and he had setup in the medical school, a computing system typically for scientists to use for data processing. If anyone remembers in the 70s who used computers, it was highly technical people, mainly men, and they used computers for data processing. So when I went to that medical school, I thought he was going to allow me to do medical research with my computing skills but he gave me something else to do which was to create the electronic version of the interoffice mail system which is what I did as a project and I called it email. I named it email, a term that had never been used before, and I defined email as we all know and use today. After I did that, I got the opportunity actually to do some medical research because I sort of proved my chops which was to look at sleep patterns of babies. At that time, this medical school, one of the researchers there had some of the best data on how babies were sleeping and how they were also dying of a disease called sudden infant death syndrome. So my job was could I create use my computing and math skills to create an algorithm that could understand the sleep patterns of babies to predict the onset of these apneas which caused the sudden heart attacks or breathing stoppage.

Raymond Hansell
Were going to take a short break for our listeners but before we go, I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate the players in our social game on Facebook for reaching their charity goal for the month of January and because they did three hundred thousand good deeds in the game, were releasing funds to Integral Heart Foundation in Guatemala to sponsor sixty students and to provide food for their families. Were going to take a short break right now but well talk more with Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai when we come back.

Fred Rogers
Hi neighbor.

Raymond Hansell
Youre listening to Better Worldians Radio. Were speaking with scientist and educator Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai.

Gregory Hansell
Hi, Shiva. This is Greg. How are you?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Im doing good, Greg. How are you?

Gregory Hansell
Great, great. So I know you did hint at this a few minutes ago in the first segment but tell us; how does eastern medicine typically differ from western?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well eastern medicine and western medicine in my opinion differ in a very fundamental way. Western medicine, if you trace the history of it, fundamentally it came from war. Modern healthcare, western medicine, came from war. You can trace it back to you know, Florence Nightingale who was not just a nurse but she was the founder of modern healthcare and the idea was that soldiers were dying on the field and it was how do you get them back on the field and they were dying in fact of wounds, not because of the actual the wounds that were not able to be taken care of in the hospitals. So western medicine really came out of addressing that need which is to get the, quote, unquote, the soldier back on the field. So it developed great things like antibiotics and steroids and amazing surgeries basically for crisis management. Eastern medicine on the other hand was a completely different system. Its requirements were very different. It was based on civilian use, people living in indigenous worlds, and how do you maintain and preserve and prevent you know, catastrophic situations. So it was actually a very different requirement and so out of that you had modalities which was primarily based on diet, learning how to live in, you know, in synergy with the environment, with the ecosystem, etcetera. So the whole basis of eastern medicine was some people call it holistic but I call it basically they were fundamentally different systems. Eastern medicine systems requirements were prevention, maintenance of health through the civilian environment. Western medicine was really coming out of war and reaction and crisis minded. So those are the fundamental differences that I have been able to sort of best articulate.

Gregory Hansell
Well thats interesting. What do you see as the benefits of integrating both eastern and western medicine then?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well if you think about the spectrum of someones disease, right, there are manifestations of disease that you dont even see and then there are manifestations which are full blown. So if you think about someone getting cancer, in the eastern system of medicine, there are really six stages to every disease, very early onset going up through the sixth stage where you see the full blown disease like a tumor showing up. Western medicine is really good in that latter stage, you know, after, you know, everything has gone bad. Then you come in and then you try to use chemotherapy or you try to go do surgery. Its really good for that latter half. Eastern medicine is really for that first part where youre diagnosing things, youre seeing phenomenon that are occurring long before they manifest themselves into full blown diseases and you want to address those early. So again, you know, integrating both lets us A, do prevention, and B, for those people who already have stuff, we need to go take care of them because theyre in a crisis and then put them on prevention. So thats the way we can integrate both. There is a benefit to both if were able to train doctors and medical professionals to handle that spectrum.

Gregory Hansell
So what are some of the challenges of that integration?

Shiva Ayyadurai
You know, the biggest challenge is attitudinal and frankly some level of ignorance on both sides.

Gregory Hansell
Right.

Shiva Ayyadurai
So thats really the challenge. So in the western world, you know, people typically go through a reductionist training, reductionism meaning you dont see the body as a system. Engineers do. Medical doctors dont. Medical training is looking at it as parts. So you have you know, an ache in your ankle bone. You go fix that. You dont realize the ankle bone is connected to the foot bone, etcetera. So the challenges are retraining western professionals to have this system holistic approach and part of that challenge is when they hear the eastern, you know, what some people call the woo-woo words, right? Fire, earth, metal, meditation, yoga, right? Also karma, drama, they sort of get freaked out a little bit because these are words that theyre not used to. Theyre used to the words genes, molecules, etcetera. The flipside, the eastern world is very much based on intuition right and they use a language which is frankly, as Ill speak about later, founded in science but theyre not able to communicate that to the modern western world. And that challenge has posed itself where some of the eastern stuff has become religious, guru worship, personality based. So those are the key challenges.

Gregory Hansell
Well thats interesting. So I know theres some implications regarding DNA and genes in your work and they go toward how youre solving some of these challenges or at least responding to them. Could you start by explaining the big difference between DNA and genes?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Sure. So if you think about it, genes in the traditional Watson Crick model which was called the central dogma theory, genes which are sets of sequences in the DNA give rise theyre like the blueprint which give rise to particular proteins and those proteins manifest themselves in particular features in your body. So DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid which is the actual molecule. DNA is billions of what are called base pairs but its actually a molecule with a double helix. It looks like a ladder. Everyone has seen it, a helix, in every cell in your body. So DNA is the actual physical chemical molecule. Portions of that DNA, you know, could be several base pairs, hundreds of base pairs, thousands, code for particular genes and those genes manifest themselves in what are called phenotypes which are features. So for example, if you have blue eyes, if you have blue eyes and someone else, say your wife has brown eyes, there is a gene which codes for eye color. That gene is expressed physically by a set of chemical sequences along that DNA molecule. So DNA is a molecule. Genes are one level up which are aggregates of that molecule which express a particular feature.

Gregory Hansell
Well you know, I read a really interesting anecdote you wrote about identical twins and could you talk about how the difference between genes and DNA might explain why identical twins are not always, well, identical?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah, its a great question. Up until 2000 thats very recent, I mean, in relative genetic history going back to the 50s. The theory was called the central dogma theory as I said earlier but the central dogma theory, it was a religion in some sense that said you are your genes. You have eye color for X, Y, Z genes, you know. Youre going to definitely have that. Or you have this gene for this disease. Youre definitely going to get that disease. However, when the genome project ended around 2000, they noticed that we actually have the same number of genes as a worm. We have about twenty thousand genes. We dont have more genes than a worm. So it really led to this whole field called epigenetics, realizing maybe its not just the genes that make us who we are but its the complexity of all of the molecular reactions because human beings probably have more complexity in that sense. So what ended up happening was they did some very interesting research where they found twins, or more interesting even in mice where they had taken two sets of mice, one which is bred to be aggressive so they had the gene for aggression, and another set of mice which had the genes for say being passive. And they took the mice from an aggressive genes mother and had it nursed by a passive genes mother. Well as the mouse grows up and it turns out that mouse is not at all aggressive even though it is the aggressive genes because the specific mice or the passive mice actually lick their pups when theyre growing and that licking turns on a whole bunch of genes which turn off the aggressive behavior. So the point is what were realizing is that even if you take identical twins, lets say they both have the genes for blue eyes or some feature, based on the environmental conditions, you can actually turn on and turn off genes and that is called epigenetics.

Gregory Hansell
Right. Yeah, Im glad you brought that up because it really does underline that importance of not just the genes but the relationship between the genes and the relationship between them and the environment and that gets at some of your work with systems health. Now I know we want to talk in-depth about systems health but could you begin by just saying to the listeners, what is a system in the case in the way that you mean it and what is systems health?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah, so what is a system? We use that word a lot. A system is an interconnected set of parts and the the things that comes out of that interconnection of those parts, the system, is bigger than the parts themselves, okay? So if you think about it, if I gave you a wheel, some gears, and some metal in a box, one person could put that together to create a tricycle. Someone else could make a bicycle and someone else could make a unicycle. Three very different systems all composed of the same parts but theyre interconnected differently. So the key to a system is not the parts alone but the interconnections among those parts. Thats what the foundation of system theory is, is that what emerges, key word is emerges, out of the interconnection of those parts is bigger than the individual parts themselves. So thats what a system is. Its an interconnection of parts and the emerging property that comes out of that.

Gregory Hansell
So tell us about systems health then.

Shiva Ayyadurai
So I, as I shared earlier, you know, as a five, six-year-old kid watching my grandmother use this system of Indian medicine, I was really moved to understand why this worked. Well about, probably about thirty, forty years of research, four degrees at MIT, and then going back to India on a Fulbright, I cracked the code on really understanding why my grandmother was able to heal people and more importantly, the system of Siddha and Ayurveda, what they were, and why it worked. So if you study Chinese medicine or Indian medicine, they will use a whole language. Vata, pitta, kapha. Some of you may have heard of this in Ayurveda or fire, earth, metal, water, wood in Chinese medicine. These words, when we in the west look at them, we think oh, this must be hocus-pocus. These people are just doing magic. But systems theory which in the western world came out in the 1930s, really founded by American systems theorists in control systems engineering, they came up with a whole new language that became the foundations of modern engineering systems. So every airplane, for example, has autopilot today. Every house has a thermostat. Well the functionality of devices like that are founded in systems theory, in fact called controlled systems engineering, and there are probably about seven principles which govern those systems. What I was able to do was I was able to find a one to one correlation between what we call modern engineering theory and directly with Siddha. One to one. It was like a Rosetta stone. That was the basis of me creating systems health which is really the future of medicine in my opinion because systems health links together ancient medicine grounded in scientific foundation and makes it accessible to the western world. Systems health is really the future of medicine.

Gregory Hansell
I think thats fascinating. You know, its interesting that you brought up the American systems theorists because you know, not to get too wonky for the listeners but I know that in the east for example, in India, there is the notion of interdependent co-arising, Prattyasamutpda, and things like that. Were those influences for you as well?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah. I think youre referring to like Indian yoga theory?

Gregory Hansell
Yeah.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah. So if you look at if you look at the entire Indian lingua franca of Siddha, you know, there is a whole language that they use to describe the world and they use a word called for example [00:29:24] which is un-manifest energy which gives rise to [00:29:28] which is everything we see around us. That gives rise to the subtle energy, [00:29:33]. That then gives rise to the doshas. Im sorry. That gives rise to the elements which gives rise to the doshas. Bottom line is they have a whole language that they use to describe their world. Systems health actually is the Rosetta stone for the source which helps you which helps us understand that.

Raymond Hansell
Were going to take another break right now. For our fans and our listeners out there, if you havent checked out this social enterprise called A Better World, you might find it very interesting. Its mission is to uplift and brighten the world and the goal with the actual social virtual world and everything we do is to do good, have fun, and to change the world in the process. Were committed to creating some awesome digital products designed with the purpose of making a difference through optimism, altruism, and charity. You can find out more at A Better World dot com. In the meantime, well be right back.

Fred Rogers
Hi neighbor.

Raymond Hansell
Hi. Were back now with V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai. Now lets welcome back Shiva and MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi, Shiva.

Shiva Ayyadurai
How are you, MarySue?

MarySue Hansell
Very good. Can you talk a bit about the study of herbs, your study of herbs and supplements and how it relates to systems health?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Sure. You know, in the Indian tradition or the Chinese tradition, herbs all had properties and those properties were defined by a language that we may find foreign to us. Sometimes they called herbs heating or cooling or herbs were called of a particular taste. But they characterized herbs using a certain language that may seem very simple to us but they were property based terms to identify these herbs. In the western world, you know, we look at herbs and we try to break them down into constitutive ingredients. So if you take something like turmeric, it is broken down into various procuminoids (ph). Or if you take cannabis which is broken down into THC or CBDs or terpenoids (ph). So in the western world, we take an herb and we break it down into ingredients and then we try to find an active ingredient and try to understand what that is. In the eastern world, they looked at the herb as a whole and they had properties that described that whole in the language that may be foreign to us. So my study of herbs and supplements is then how do you interconnect the eastern approach which is this holistic approach to understanding that herb, and the western approach which understands the herb or supplement at the biological level, and how do you integrate that together so we can have a systems view, not just a holistic or a reductionist but a systems view to understand the value of that herb to us.

MarySue Hansell
Now you mentioned turmeric and you called it a wonder drug. Why do you say that? What are the benefits?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well you know, turmeric is interesting. The reason I called it a wonder drug is that you know, the number one cause of death in Asia, and the US as many of you know is heart disease. In Asia it is liver cancer. In Asia, we mean China, Mongolia, you know, India, Indonesia, etcetera. But when epidemiological studies were conducted, it was found that Indians have one third less liver cancer across all of Asia and those epidemiological studies traced it down to the food that Indians were eating which primarily included curry. Curry is really a mixture of spices but one of the active ingredients in curry, one of the herbs is called turmeric. In fact Indians have a very low amount of dementia, a very low amount of, you know, inflammation, and many people believe inflammation is the foundations of both cancer as well as a host of other diseases. So turmeric, I consider it a wonder drug because more and more research is coming out on how it helps, you know, modulate or lower inflammation, how it is a, you know, anti-carcinogen, how it is a neuro-protective. It helps in so many ways. Thats why I call it a wonder drug.

MarySue Hansell
Wow. It sounds like I should be taking it.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well yeah. Its an important thing. You know, when we call it a drug, remember I said turmeric was used in curry.

MarySue Hansell
Right.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Its important when people take it, they actually take it in the right mixture instead of just taking a bunch of turmeric by itself.

MarySue Hansell
I see. You mean with food?

Shiva Ayyadurai
With food and mix it with pepper, mix it with other herbs. So in Indian, every village had a curry. Every family had their own curry and essentially in my view, the curry was a personalized medicine. So in a curry they had turmeric, they had coriander, they had ginger, they had cardamom. Curry turmeric being getting most of its yellow color or curry getting its yellow color from turmeric. But yeah. With a mixture of herbs and the reason they mixed it was then you increased the bio availability in western terms of that turmeric. For example, pepper increases the availability of turmeric so your body can absorb it better.

MarySue Hansell
Very interesting. Now how about ginger? That is another one we hear a lot about and I think youve mentioned that in your paper that it is a great anti-inflammatory. How does that work?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah so ginger, you know, from the western perspective, has you know what are called chemicals known as gingerols and there is a whole host of western research showing that it is an anti-inflammatory. It also, you know, one of the great things that its good for is if you ever have, you know, inflammation in the bowels or stomach upset. If anyone is ever having any type your stomach is not doing good, believe it or not, ginger ale is very good. If you cant get anything and you cant get access to ginger root and you can get access to ginger ale, its very, very valuable. So ginger is a phenomenal anti-inflammatory and you know, at home for example, we make we make ginger tea almost every day. But you have to remember, when you use ginger you should always shave the skin off, especially if its raw ginger root. Then you cut it into slices and you can put it in hot water and tea and drink it. Dried ginger has a very different effect. You know, its more used within teas and they call it chukku. But it also has a similar effect but it has a much more heating effect.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah, thats interesting. My grandmother always gave us ginger ale when we were sick so there you go.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah. Theres a reason for that.

MarySue Hansell
Right?

Shiva Ayyadurai
She knew what she was doing.

MarySue Hansell
Right. And how about the benefits of ginseng and something called ashwagandha? Is that how to say it?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Ashwagandha.

MarySue Hansell
Ashwagandha. Okay.

Shiva Ayyadurai
So you know, there are two herbs. So there are two classes of herbs. There are herbs which have immediate effects or even so think about caffeine. If you were to take a cup of coffee, youd get wired pretty immediately, right?

MarySue Hansell
Right.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Same thing if you take certain ingredients. You feel the immediate effects. Many of those are called stimulants. There are other herbs which are called adaptogens, adaptogens meaning that they have effect on your body over time. They adapt to your body. Ginseng and ashwagandha are such herbs. Ginseng is sort of an Indian ashwagandha or ashwagandha is the Indian ginseng or, Im sorry. Ginseng is like the Indian ashwagandha and ashwagandha is like the Chinese ginseng.

MarySue Hansell
Oh.

Shiva Ayyadurai
In fact everyone thinks ginseng is with China. In fact some of the best ginseng is actually American ginseng believe it or not. But ginseng, the benefits of ginseng and ashwagandha, they strengthen the body according to research. They also have tremendous anabolic effects. Anti-aging, so for example building muscle, and you know, benefits in sexual health. So they actually support the up regulation and modulation of certain hormones as you age which get depleted. You can find both of these herbs today in some reasonably good health food stores but again, most of the issues with herbs are that wherever you find it, you want to make sure is the quality good?

MarySue Hansell
Yeah.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Where is the source of it because the ingredients which western science is great at showing, can vary significantly on where the ashwagandha was grown, where it was picked. The same with ginseng. So quality is going to become more and more important. So your question of where can people find it? Yes. You can find it at Whole Foods but where is Whole Foods getting it from?

MarySue Hansell
Exactly. Now here is one I have never heard of, snake root.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah, so snake root believe it or not was the first herb that western scientists truly studied sort of in the 20s. Meaning like today we study many, many herbs. Western science is going after many herbs but snake root was one of the first herbs western science was very fascinated by because its an alkaloid. Its the Indian word for sarpagandha which means snake root and some people call it a word that is associated with Chandra which is the moon. So the folklore goes that snake root, when people had lunacy, quote, unquote when the moon came out, that they would use snake root to calm them down. In fact Gandhi used to chew it because it calms you down. It has an alkaloid property so western psychiatrists, psycho pharmacists were interested in this because they took an active ingredient out of there called reserpine which was used to make some of the early pharmaceutical drugs for psychiatric disorders. So snake root is a calming herb. Again, if you take too much of it, you may get depressed. So all of these herbs have a homeostasis. You want to take the right amount. If you take too much of it, it will calm you too much which leads to depression.

MarySue Hansell
Very good. Now you recommend yoga as part of your health system and I can tell thats something that your grandmother used but what do you say are the benefits? What are the scientific proven benefits of yoga?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well you know, first of all we have to understand what is yoga. You know, yoga first of all, we think its doing these poses. So when we say I recommend yoga for health, what is yoga? So yoga is not just the poses. There are actually multiple branches of yoga. One of the first branches of yoga was being a good human being and being serving others. In fact in the traditional yoga system, you werent even taught meditation. You werent taught any of the asanas until you learned to serve which means serving other people, learning how to live a disciplined life, learning how to be a caring human being. Once you proved those to a teacher, then you were ready to learn yoga which was meditation and what we today call asanas. And obviously the benefits of the yoga system were intended to make someone who was an empathetic, kind human being at the highest level, not just to bend and flex and those kind of things which obviously have their value, right, because you get flexibility, you get strength, etcetera.

MarySue Hansell
Sure.

Shiva Ayyadurai
So those are the material benefits but the larger benefits for health, not only personal health but for systems health, you know, was how do you live in an ecosystem of being a good human being. So the benefits of yoga, thats what they were for.

MarySue Hansell
I think thats a good foundation, teaching people to be good human beings before you do anything. And you mentioned that meditation is also a branch of yoga. Do you recommend any specific type of meditation because I know there are many different types?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yeah thats a great question. You know, when we look at again systems health, again in the traditional when you look at these yogis, if you remove the concept of them being these sort of seers or religious people, they were basically systems scientists of the ancient times. They would look at your body type which was a system and they would recommend particular medicines for you, meditation being a particular type of medicine. So not everyone was supposed to do the same type of meditation. If someone was very depressed, you know, for example there are certain types of mantra meditation that they should not do because it could drive them into more depression. If someone was very active and very hyper, obviously certain types of mantra meditation, observing the breath which was calming was good for them. So the point is the different types of meditation are intended for different types of body types. So in the United States for example, when Maharishi came here, it brought him a lot of wealth from India. He grew this thing called PM which was fundamentally mantra meditation.

MarySue Hansell
Right.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Which is repeating a word. There are different other types of meditation where you can concentrate on the breath or observe the sensations, anapana meditation, or kundalini where you observed the base chakra in the body. Bottom line is there are literally seven or X different types of meditation and they are all intended for different parts of the body based on your system state. So I would not make any global recommendations for people but except to say there are different types of meditation. There is active meditation. For example, listening to music, some people call dynamic meditation. That is good for people who are a little more depressed and you know, want to get a little more active. On the other extreme, people who are highly hyper, theyre probably better off sitting manta meditation or sleep or you know, observing the breath sensations.

MarySue Hansell
Very informative. How about acupuncture? How does that fit into the whole system health?

Shiva Ayyadurai
So you know, its a great question. Recent you know, in the Indian and Chinese system, they recognize that there is energy movement through the body and energy meaning whatever you want to call it, electricity, magnetism, fluid, flow, mechanical, but there was an energy system to the body. In the western world we understood the muscular system, we understood the nervous system. In the Indian system they called it nabis (ph). In the Chinese system they call it meridians. In systems health what weve been able to do is weve been able to understand that those acupuncture points where are points that an acupuncturist goes and manipulates are related to moving energy through the body. What weve done with systems health is we actually have an explanation to actually understand what are those acupuncture points, what are the nabis, what are the meridians. And our theory that is unfolding is that theyre not part of the nerves, theyre not part of the muscle system. Theyre actually part of the fascia system and its a longer discussion but systems health is basically uncovering that that fascial system maps one to one with the nabis and meridians which are the parts of our body which are actually made up of a crystalline material called piezoelectric crystals which are founded by collagen. But systems health is really bridging our understanding of what that meridian system is.

MarySue Hansell
Good. Can you explain what personalized medicine is and how you foresee it working in the future?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Sure. Personalized medicine is what my grandmother used to do. So if you look at ancient systems of medicine, people have been practicing it for thousands of years. Were basically coming to rediscover that one size does not fit all. You know, that and at the genetic level were different but in the Indian level, everyone has got a different body type. The future of this is that in the future when you go to see get healing, you know, its going to be based on you, not based on how much I can sell you, right?

MarySue Hansell
Right.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Its going to be based on you and figuring out the right herbs or supplements or exercise or massage that is right for you. So its basically going full circle and coming back to what my grandmother used to do or what Indian medicine used to do.

MarySue Hansell
How do you see them doing that? Is that through your blood or your genes or your DNA?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yes, thats a good question. So right now the way western medicine is moving is they are going to try to understand your genomic sequence, right, and based on your genome, then theyre going to say okay, for these genes, then you need this. But in my view, that is only going to get half of the puzzle of personalized medicine. What we need to do is not only understand peoples genes but we also need to understand the environment people live in, right? So if youre living in a very stressed world and you have the best genes, youre going to have to manipulate someones inputs based on that. I think the future of that is really systems health because we really integrated east and west to do that so you cant just use you cant do personalized medicine just using the western genetic profile. You have to use that and you have to use the eastern approach.

MarySue Hansell
You know, I see that youre offering a course called the systems health course. Now is that something for lay people or just medical people and is it about everything that weve been discussing over the last hour?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Yes. Systems health was designed for anyone. Obviously medical professionals can take it, healthcare practitioners can take it, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and individuals. When I designed this course in 2007 after sort of cracking this code on integrating eastern and western medicine, I originally offered it at MIT and we did it as a lecture series. Two hundred people would show up on a Thursday night. Now who was in that audience? Well it was MDs. It was PhDs. It was researchers, one half. The other group of people were ordinary people who had an interest in health, feeling better, yoga practitioners, etcetera. So systems health, the bottom line is we design that course so it would bridge this elitism which tends to you know, face the healthcare industry be it on the western side or the eastern side. The idea was to create a language and a way of understanding health using a systems approach that was accessible to everyone and to really break barriers. And if people want to learn more about that course, we have a website, systems health dot com systems health dot com. And on that course you can take individual courses. We actually have a practitioners training, all done online at the convenience of anyones home and then based on that, they can actually get tools which we give away for free that they can use to educate others and even assess others health.

MarySue Hansell
Well Ill have to personally look into that.

Raymond Hansell
Shiva, we need to wrap up in just a minute but I want to ask the question that we always ask our guests on every program and that is how do you hope that the work that youre doing can help make the world a better place?

Shiva Ayyadurai
Well fundamentally everything I have done is, you know, not new. Its basically integrating ancient wisdom that indigenous people had. Indigenous people lived in concert with the universe which means they lived in a sustainable way in small local collectives, solving problems to help civilians in a civilian manner, not for war. So I see systems health as bridging the worlds of east and west, ancient and modern, and science and tradition to bring us all back to true health which is really reconnecting back with our ancestors who actually lived in harmony with the earth. So that is what systems health is about and that is the only future all of us have because the current model of where were going is not going to make the world a better place, but we need to learn from ancient wisdom and that is what systems health does. Systems health takes ancient wisdom and modernizes it so we can all accept it and it is articulated in a way that it hits our western mindset.

Raymond Hansell
Its been a wonderful experience really going through this with you. Youre doing amazing work. Youre what many of us call a true better worldian. So for our listeners, you can find out more about Shivas work by going to VA Shiva dot com. And once again, Shiva, thank you very much for joining us today on Better Worldians Radio.

Shiva Ayyadurai
Youre welcome. Great being here.

Raymond Hansell
Youre very, very welcome. For our listeners, we want to let you know that next month Better Worldians Radio and A Better World game on Facebook will be supporting Fran Dreschers Cancer Schmancer. We will be providing cancer screenings to women in need. As we end our show each week, we like to share our better worldians missions here. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the better worldian in everyone so that we can all make it a better world. In the meantime, until next time, please be a better worldian.