With the burden of proof weighing down on ayurveda, any small step in validation of ayurvedic medicine should be a giant leap for the ancient science to be accepted on a global platform. Scientists of the Kannur University, led by M Haridas, have found out the biochemical way by which Dhanvantharam thailam reduces inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.
The team found that the villain of most inflammations, an enzyme called the phospolipase A2 (PLA2), is blocked by free fatty acids present in the thailam. ‘’We have seen that ayurveda is often very effective in treating arthritis. We have not looked into the effects of the herbal components. But that the oil, a vehicle to deliver drug, is itself effective in blocking PLA2 is amazing,’’ said Haridas.
Extremely high levels of the enzyme PLA2 were observed in the synovial fluid of arthritic patients at the time of inflammation. Three free fatty acids in medicated oils - erucic, linoleic and palmitic acids - have been found to block the rogue enzyme and thus bring down the inflammation. The team at the Department of Biotechnology and Microbiology and Inter-University Centre for Bioscience, Kannur University that included V Aparna, K V Dileep and C Sadasivan apart from M Haridas, went on to do crystallographic studies of interactions of the fatty acid and phospholipase with the help of Pradeep K Mandal and Ponnuraj Karthe of the Centre of Advanced Study in Crystallography and Biophysics at the University of Madras.
Crystallographic studies have clearly shown that fatty acids, especially the smaller palmitic acid, clearly fit perfectly into the active site of the PLA2. It has also been found that erucic acid and linoleic acid also inhibit the enzyme, but after taking up convoluted shapes to fit into the active sites.
The findings have been published as two papers in two reputed journals, Chemical Biology and Drug Design and the Medicinal Chemistry Research.
The community of ayurveda physicians has generally welcomed this attempt to validate ayurveda. Deputy Chief Physician of Arya Vaidyasala at Kottakkal Dr Muraleedharan, however, said that the net effect of the Dhanvantharam oil has to be because of the interaction of the oil and the herbs and that the role of medicines also needs to be worked out for a complete result.
Dr Remadevi, head of the pharmacology division of Ayurveda College, Kottakkal, said that an integrated approach needs to be taken up for effective research in ayurveda, involving ayurveda physicians, biochemists, biotechnologists and so on.
“Since ayurveda is moving beyond the domestic population, there is a need to understand it from a modern scientific point of view,’’ said T S Muraleedharan, research head at the Arya Vaidyashala, Kottakkal.