Healing touch: Innovation and investment are taking traditional systems of medicine to next level | The Financial Express

Healing touch: Innovation and investment are taking traditional systems of medicine to next level

The renewed interest in traditional medicine comes at a time when there is widespread panic across the world amid the pandemic.

Healing touch: Innovation and investment are taking traditional systems of medicine to next level
The centre is expected to be supported by an investment of about $250 million from the Government of India to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology.

There has been a renewed interest in traditional systems of medicine in India, both in terms of innovation as well as investment. At the inaugural session of the Global Ayush Investment and Innovation Summit held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, earlier this year, the Centre announced several initiatives aimed at this sector, including aiding farmers, encouraging start-ups, and incentivising medical tourism.

The first-ever mega event of this scale in the Ayush (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy) sector also facilitated agreements with international and national institutions and various other sectors, fuelling financial considerations, mutual research and increasing its reach globally.

Some of the key initiatives included introduction of a special Ayush visa category for foreign nationals who want to come to India to take advantage of traditional medicine and formulation of regulations of safety and quality standards for food products under the ‘Ayurveda Aahara’ category—a move that will ensure manufacturing of quality Ayurveda food products and help in expanding the international market for Make-In-India products.

The ministry of Ayush also signed a host country agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) for establishing a WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine at Jamnagar in India, with its interim office at the Institute of Training and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA) in Gujarat. The centre is expected to be supported by an investment of about $250 million from the Government of India to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology.

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The renewed interest in traditional medicine comes at a time when there is widespread panic across the world amid the pandemic. People have realised how ayurvedic medicines and many other products are aiding people to increase immunity. “During the times of Covid-19, turmeric export from India increased manifold. Innovation and investment increase the capability of any sector manifold. It is time now to increase investment as much as possible in the Ayush sector,” PM Narendra Modi was quoted as saying during the global summit.

Ayurvedic medicines, in particular, have been found to have the potential to support the traditional medicine market. According to a report published by Allied Market Research last year, the global Ayurvedic herbs market size was valued at $9.5 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to reach $21.6 billion by 2028, with a CAGR of 10.8% during the forecast period. The market is expected to exhibit an incremental revenue opportunity of $12 billion from 2020 to 2028.

Ayurvedic herbs are now gaining recognition worldwide for its safe and cost-effective management of diseases, especially in patients of diabetes, skin diseases, obesity, low immunity and infertility, says Dr Meena Deogade, associate professor, All India Institute of Ayurveda, a public ayurveda medicine and research institution located in New Delhi.

Deogade explains how a number of medicinal plants under the category of ‘rasayana’ have been evaluated for their immunomodulatory effect through invitro and invivo experiments. “Stress is invariably related to lowering immunity.Herbs like amalaki, yastimadhu, stavari, mandukaparni and brahmi have beneficial effects on psychosomatic aspects of immunity. A majority of skin diseases today are autoimmune in origin and are difficult to manage.So, a holistic approach of ayurveda renders management in various conditions like psoriasis, eczema, tinea infections, hair loss or alopecia. Obesity and diabetes are leading lifestyle disorders seeking a solution worldwide. The treatment principles correct the metabolism, thereby treating the condition using herbs like trikatu, haridra, asana, meshashringi, guggulu and triphala,” she adds.

Dr Sumol Ratna, general physician, assistant professor, medicine at Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences, feels thatthe underlying comorbidity and immunity status in Covid-19 significantly determines the severity of the disease. “Both traditional and modern medicines not only treat the acute phase of illness but improve immunity, comorbidities and healthy lifestyle. It is evident that traditional measures positively influence mental health and immune function. Hence both ayurvedic and allopathic treatments are important in management of any infection.”

Lending support
There is a huge need for Indian medicines to have the technological support to take them to the next level. “A focus on research will lead to filing more patents for Indian medicines. This will provide empirical and scientific evidence for Indian medicines,” Professor V Kamakoti, director, IIT Madras, was quoted as saying at an event organised by the institute with the Ayush ministry on the indigenous system of medicine in India last month.

Meanwhile, the tribal affairs ministry has assigned Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurveda to identify and document authentic medicinal plants found in the tribal areas of Uttarakhand. The company’s Haridwar-based yoga institute Patanjali Yogpeeth has experience of documenting 65,000 plants and has worked with 200 tribal communities as a whole.Union minister for tribal affairs Arjun Munda,at a meeting with Acharya Balkrishna, MD and co-founder of Patanjali Yogpeeth, last month, said that the practice of growing medicinal plants and preparing herbal medicines should be given the shape of livelihood mission, especially in tribal areas abounding in medicinal plants.The project is being carried out in four districts of Uttarakhand—Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar, Pithoragarh and Chamoli—that have a substantial tribal population. The findings are expected to be taken in the Ayurvedic practice, after due consultation with the Ayush ministry.

Unani, another form of traditional medicine which is based on a holistic approach compared to conventional medicine which is targeted on organs, is also getting a boost. Speaking about the efficacy of unani, Abdul Majeed,chairman, medicine division of unani pharma company Hamdard Laboratories, says the pandemic expanded the scope of information and use of traditional supplements.

“Unani has proved its scope in boosting immunity during Covid and now we want the next generation to understand India’s traditional medicine system and its efficacy,” he says. With a robust R&D department and technologically advanced infrastructure, Hamdard has over 600 product offerings including Safi, Cinkara, Roghan Badam Shirin Almond Oil, Joshina and Sualin as the top selling products in the health segment.

Regulatory mechanism
India has the unique distinction of having multiple recognised systems of medicine. Ayush, for instance, has played an important role in meeting global health care needs. “The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM) is the central body that regulates education and registration in Ayush systems. Registration is mandatory before a professional can begin practicing; only registered practitioners are qualified to prescribe medicines in India,” says Deogade of the All India Institute of Ayurveda.

For standardisation of ayurvedic medicines in the country, the Centre established the Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy (PCIM&H) in 2010. Development of pharmacopoeias and formularies as well as acting as a central drug testing cum appellate laboratory for Indian systems of medicine and homoeopathy are the key fields of activity of PCIM&H. It is the nodal agency in establishing quality standards for drugs of Indian systems of medicine and homoeopathy.

In more recent times, there has been digitalisation of the product licensing process to ensure that there is a robust system for building a database with seamless integration of all states in India. “The ministry launched the Ayush Grid which is the IT backbone for the sector and captures the work of all stakeholders of Ayush systems, including Ayurveda. The licensing and manufacturing of medicines, both shastric or classical in nature and proprietary and novel in nature, are regulated by the Ayush state licensing authorities. Each manufacturer is mandated to have a qualified ayurveda doctor and quality control chemist as official technical experts within their facility,” says Tej Katpitia, CEO, Sri Sri Tattva, an ayurveda and FMCG brand.

The Drug Controller General of India also issues the Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product or CoPP and the WHO GMP Certification by the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) when ayurveda products need to be exported to various countries with standardisation. The govt’s Quality Council of India (QCI) has also initiated a voluntary certification programme called the Ayush Premium Mark and Standard Mark for companies to meet the highest standards of manufacturing for export and domestic markets.

Also known as Sowa-Rigpa medicine, Tibetan medicine—a centuries-old traditional medical system—is also finding increased acceptance. Some of the herbal medicines used in this system have been scientifically researched at clinical and chemical levels, as well as by the governmental and non-governmental institutions, and have been found to be effective in treating different diseases.

“We believe that science and Tibetan medicine are mutually dependent on each other. Since the establishment of the Central Council for Tibetan Medicine (CCTM), in 2004, it has become very convenient to authenticate the reliability of a medical practitioner practising Tibetan medicine. Any individual or institute, practising Sowa-Rigpa or Tibetan medicine has to be registered and recognised by CCTM,” says Dr Tsewang Tamdin, chief medical officer, Men-Tsee-Khang, The Tibetan Medical & Astro-science Institute, in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.

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