An appeal for Ayurveda amid COVID-19 crisis

This discipline is the world’s oldest scientific medical system based on a robust philosophy of Sankhya and Nyaya darshana.

Published: 31st May 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th May 2020 12:34 PM   |  A+A-

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The debate rages on. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which believes in Western medicine, has been given the authority to decide on how and what Ayurvedic medicines should be given to Covid-19 positive patients.

A government that bans cow-slaughter because cows are venerated in the Vedas, sahould on the other hand encourages Ayurveda because it has roots in the Vedas.

This discipline is the world’s oldest scientific medical system based on a robust philosophy of Sankhya and Nyaya darshana.

As Dr Ninivaggi has brilliantly put, “the world view of Ayurveda is essentially unitary and dynamic. There is no part of the totality of existence that is functionally separate or disconnected from any other.” 

There is constant interaction among the three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. These are regulatory principles of the body’s psychophysiological functioning.

Any experienced Ayurvedic vaidya would first attempt to ascertain the cause (nidana) of the disease, the premonitory symptoms (purvarupas), the symptoms (lakshanas) and attempt to treat the patient based on their desha (place), kala (season) and prakriti (nature).

Why would one expect ICMR to know about how an Ayurvedic vaidya goes about treating a patient. 

There are Ayurvedic pharmaceutical companies, which have turnovers in crores, and presumably, people are buying Ayurvedic medications because it is effective.

This despite repeated attempts to plant stories in the mainstream media about how the kidneys/liver of Mr X failed because of Ayurvedic medications. 

I haven’t seen a single report in the media of a qualified Ayurvedic vaidya prescribing medicines to a patient, who while consuming it as per the prescription, comes to great harm. 

I have also seen reports in the press that Ayurvedic medicines contain metal. But did we not make it clear that some formulations contain metal?

Ayurvedic metals are treated/purified and made into bhasmas or preparations that are assimilable by the body. 

I find that in the treatment of Covid-19, zinc has been prescribed. Is that not a metal? Why is there no hue and cry about it being administered to Covid-19 patients without randomised control trials?

How is it that when the western medical establishment does such things people turn a blind eye? The only reasonable explanation is that we are still slaves to the Western white skin ethos.

All our yogas and formulations are in the public domain and nobody gets to profit if we show by treatment that Sudarshan Churana or Vyagradi Kashayam is effective in treating Covid-19 patients. 

A vaccine, on the contrary, can make billions for the pharma companies which would have us believe that without it, we would all die. In India, at least so far, the mortality is something that should cause panic.

The government of India’s controls on travel, both national and international, have perhaps led to lesser spread. Maybe Indians have better immunity.

Their diet, however poor, contains immune-enhancing spices. Maybe the climate is unfavourable for the spread of Covid-19. Maybe we have a less virulent strain. We need to discuss these factors and advocate medicines from our ancient systems.

Charaka, as far back as 2,000 or more years ago, postulated yogas or combinations of drugs which could be used for treating the vitiation of each dosha.

Nagarjuna, a famous Buddhist physician, enumerated the various herbs and mineral drugs which could be used to treat fevers, respiratory infections and the likes. Nagarjuna also put down the various shodanaor purification procedures that needed to be done before metals are to be used. 

I would not attempt to perform complicated heart surgery because I learnt to do an anorectal procedure in BAMS.

Similarly, a cardiologist should not presume to know what works and what doesn’t in Ayurveda. And what needs to be proven for new molecules discovered yesterday, need not be proven for Ayurvedic drugs that have been in use for centuries.

That is its strength but what’s being done is that Ayurvedic vaidyas are being dragged down to the level of Western physicians who have a pharmacist’s approach to the treatment of disease. If it is disease A, give medicine X. It is this treatment methodology which needs medical trials, not Ayurveda. 


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