THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A novel research programme - The Ayurveda Inspired Discovery (AID) project - launched by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) here - is likely to accelerate molecular-level studies into medicinal plants and products used in ayurveda with the aim of identifying their active compounds, targets, pathways and discovering potential new therapeutic uses.
‘’The global market for herbal drugs is growing at around 15 per cent per year. There is a huge demand worldwide for natural or nature-derived products because they are perceived to be more effective in the long-term, safer and cheaper than synthetic drugs; which is fuelling a revival of interest in Indian healing systems such as Ayurveda,’’ RGCB director M Radhakrishna Pillai said.
‘’However, most current research in Ayurveda is concentrated on medicinal plants and the development of herbal medicines. At RGCB we want to delve deeper into what makes these drugs effective and the biological pathways they target and this could reveal new uses for these medicines and open up whole vistas for scientific research,’’ he said.
RGCB, which specialises in disease biology, is one of few institutes in India equipped for translational research, having three campuses - one focused on discovery, another on innovation and a Bio-Nest incubation facility to translate the research into applications and products.
As part of the AID project, the institute has recently developed and patented a herbal mouthwash to help reduce mouth infections, abscess and pain suffered by oral cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.
Another Ayurveda-related project being undertaken with the RCC is tests into the efficacy of Varanadi Ghritha (an Ayurvedic mixture of herbs and ghee) in preventing the recurrence of tumours in head and neck cancer
The institute is also conducting a clinical study to evaluate if Amalaki Rasayana can help in the prevention and management of cardiac failure. The scientists are also looking to identify potential antiviral molecules from plant sources to combat chikungunya and dengue infections, and have come up with very promising leads, Prof Pillai said.
The Ayurveda-Inspired Discovery (AID) programme was showcased at RGCB’s pavilion at the 6th World Ayurveda Congress held in New Delhi in the first week of November.
‘’Ayurveda already meets the treatment needs of 70 per cent of India’s rural population. Its solutions for common health problems are often cheap, effective and safe. Our aim is to lend scientific rigour to the evaluation of Ayurveda therapeutics so that they become more acceptable globally and help even more people worldwide,’’ Pillai said.