Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine which deals with the prevention, treatment and nonrecurrence of diseases as well as the management of health.
Unfortunately, many people who pass judgements on Ayurveda have mostly not taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with its basic concepts and philosophy.
Ayurveda postulates that man is a microcosm of the macrocosm and made of the same mahapanchabhutas as our environment, namely akasha, vayu, aap, agni and prithvi that is ether, air, water, fire and earth.
It further postulates that disease manifests primarily from a disturbance or vitiation of the three bioenergies in man namely vata, pitta and kapha.
Vata is the bioenergy of movement, pitta the bioenergy of transformation and kapha is the bioenergy of consolidation.
Charaka, the father of Indian medicine, identified the rasa (taste), guna (property), virya (action pathway), vipaka (post digestive effect) and karma (action) of myriad herbs or dravyas, and related them to the gunas or properties of the doshas, namely vata, pitta and kapha.
One of the properties of kapha dosha is coldness. If the kapha dosha is vitiated, in that it has increased (it could also decrease), a vaidya would use a herb or dravya that has its opposite property, namely heat, to correct the dosha or vitiation.
So a yoga or combination of herbs called trikatu, which consists of dried ginger, pepper and Piper longum whose main property is heat, is administered to correct the vitiation of the kapha dosha.
The Ayurvedic acharyas have, with great precision and detail, described the nature of both popular and obscure herbs and minerals which could be used in the treatment and prevention of diseases and the maintenance of health.
So it is that an Ayurvedic vaidyar does not have to agonise over discovering a new molecule to treat Covid-19.
He studies the symptoms of a patient, identifies the doshas vitiated, the seat of the disease, understands his prakriti (loosely translated, his body type or nature), his age, comorbidities etc. and proceeds to address the whole system and the cause of the disease.
The term idiopathic (cause unknown) is not a concept familiar to Ayurvedic physicians. Pathya and apathya, what is wholesome for your health and well being, and what is unwholesome, are clearly delineated.
Every disease condition dictates that certain rules regarding ahara (diet) and vihara (activities) must be observed.
For example, if you have a severe pain in your stomach, with gas and bloating, an ayurvedic vaidya would identify this as a vitiation of vata and advise the patient to avoid vata-increasing foods such as chana, cauliflower etc., and treat him with vata-reducing dravyas.
High fever is identified as a vitiation of pitta and would be treated with pitta-reducing drugs such as Swertia chirata or Tinospora cordifolia, which are used to treat fever.
Our acharyas have documented the properties and actions of our herbs and minerals, including poisonous herbs, and judiciously combined them to deliver a yoga or combination that works against identified problems.
The Ayush Department of Government of India recently issued guidelines to Ayurvedic vaidyas for their use while treating Covid-19 patients. One such patient is a lady of about 57 years with chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
She has been on dialysis for almost seven years. She is being treated by a leading diabetologist in Chennai.
She tested positive for Covid-19 with a history of fever, cough (not controlled by antibiotics) and diarrhoea. Her comorbidities include hypothyroidism and a tumour in her breast. The allopathic doctor referred the case to an ayurvedic physician to treat her for Covid-19. She tested negative for Covid-19 on the 13th day.
Similarly, the scion of a leading Tamil newspaper who tested positive for Covid-19 (although asymptomatic) tested negative for Covid-19 in three days after following the prescribed Ayurvedic medications and guidelines regarding ahara and vihara (food and activities).
Another patient of about 40 years with high fever and who tested positive for Covid-19 in USA tested negative for Covid-19 with ayurvedic medication. A detailed case study has been since been published about this in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine.
Sometimes, an Ayurvedic remedy looks as simple as a grandma’s kitchen remedy, sometimes a drug, a bhasma, looks like it has come from an alchemist’s workshop which baffles those who are unfamiliar with its preparation and concept.
To deride or scoff the unknown is not the mark of a scientist but that of a closed mind.
The writer is a retired Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at sheelarani.