INDIA, April 11, 2019 (CNN by Dr. Sanjay Gupta): As an Indian kid growing up in the States, my parents did everything they could to create a little feeling of their ancestral land in our small Midwestern town. And, although neither of my parents was a doctor, they often treated me and my little brother with home remedies passed down to them over many generations. For example, to get us to calm down, my mom taught us an alternate nostril breathing technique. It's called Nadi Shodhana, and my mom, who is an engineer, had a very precise way of demonstrating it. Another was the regular use of a tongue scraper, which was as common in our childhood home as a toothbrush and is something I still use today. Truth is, all of my mom's remedies worked for us. Still, as I progressed through my own medical training in neurosurgery, I wondered how much scientific evidence really existed for these ancient home remedies. So last summer, while filming "Chasing Life," I traveled to the birthplace of many of these techniques and practices, a place known to locals and visitors as "God's own country": the state of Kerala.
As soon as I landed, I was reminded of the remarkable diversity of India. Four world religions originated there: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. There are over 22 languages and hundreds more dialects spoken in India, and the culture is wildly different in the north vs. the south, east vs. west. Kerala is a part of India, but it very much feels like a completely different country, with lush green tropics filled with backwater brackish lagoons running in parallel to the Arabian Sea, near 100% literacy rates and a focus on health that has become the envy of the world. Thousands of years ago, in this tiny coastal state, began what some believe is the oldest medicine practice in the world. It is called Ayurveda, which means the science of life. All those home remedies my mom imported into our home on the other side of the world probably had their origins in Kerala. The region is believed to have given us breathing practices, meditation, tongue scrapers, massage and, perhaps most important, the Ayurvedic diet.
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