Charaka, Sushruta and Sarangadhara, the great triumvirate of the ayurvedic system of medicine, explained the principles of treating various disease conditions including new ones. If you have a fever, it is considered a vitiation of the pitta dosha and you would use pittahara oushada i.e. medicines to tackle the fever. For example, you can use sandalwood which is cooling. Therefore, one would deploy medicines that contained such herbs and minerals.
The following ayurvedic antipyretics, namely Sudarshana churanam/vati (containing about 30 herbs), Bharyngyadi Kashayam, Tribhuvana Keerti Ras, Vettumaran Gutika, and Amrita Arishtam (with the famous giloy or Tinospora cordifolia) are effective in treating fevers. An ayurvedic vaidyar would have no problem in tackling fevers, especially pyrexia of unknown origin, or those caused by viruses, as they would be looking at the dosha that is vitiated, and treat to bring it into balance.
Let us next look at respiratory infections. Ayurvedic vaidya would never ask you to let it run its course. They would conclude that there has been a vitiation of the kapha dosa and bring that dosha into balance. If it were a simple cold with phlegm, they might prescribe a herbal tea with Adhathoda. Or they have an arsenal of drug combinations, all of which could be used. Some of these are Taleesadi Churanam, Sitopaladi Churanam, Rajnyadi for children, Chyavanaprash, Agasthya Rasayanam, Vasarishtam etc.
A siddha vaidyar might prescribe Adhathoda Kudineer or Nilavembu Kudineer. Body aches and pains are considered a vitiation of the vata dosha and would be treated as such. If there is fever, no oil would be used for treatment, instead, Podikizhi or a poultice made of drugs will be used to bring down the vata dosha. It will be made from horse gram, Alpinia galanga, Acorus calamus and Cyperus rotundus. Usually, 10 to 15 anti-vata drugs would be used.
The principles of diagnosis and treatment of a disease have been beautifully summarised in the nidana panchaka of Charaka. In it, he explains that the best time to tackle a disease is the poorva rupa or the prodromal stage i.e. at the time that the disease has not become full-blown. I read an advisory from the British National Health Service (BNHS), which says that one should not go to a doctor if they have temperature or cough. One should stay at home for at least seven days, it advised. I don’t blame them because allopaths cannot treat a fever or cough of viral origin.
Ayurvedic vaidyas can. We are deploying a Western system of medicine which cannot intervene in the early stages of the disease, which allows the disease to get out of hand and kills the patient. On the other hand, there is ayurveda where patients can be treated when the symptoms first present themselves.
Unlike western allopathic medicine, ayurvedic vaidyars do not prescribe one herb for immunity, another herb for fever etc. The doshas are balanced and the entire system is addressed. Most drugs will have immune-enhancing components, for example, Sudarshana tablet contains Tinospora cordifolia (giloy), which is not only an antipyretic but a rasayana (broadly meaning immune-enhancing and revitalising). Nisha Amalaki made from amla and turmeric does the same while being an antidiabetic too. It is a panacea and keeps your system in fine fettle.
We have a telling proverb in Tamil which goes like this, ‘You have butter with you but you go searching for ghee’ and that I think sums up our health scenario. Let our ayurvedic and siddha vaidyars do the work they have been trained for.
The writer is retired Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org/arogyamantra.blogspot.com