COVID-19 pandemic is unique in several aspects and has challenged health care experts across the globe. The disease has turned the attention of medical experts to the immune system, the body’s defence force against disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that humans come in contact with on a daily basis.
Immuno-compromised patients need to boost or enhance their immunity to maintain their health, which is also the primary goal of any Ayurvedic treatment.
The world has changed due to the ongoing Covid pandemic and taking care of one’s health has become more crucial than ever. At this crucial juncture, we are in search of a panacea. In times of Coronavirus, doctors are talking about immunity building as this is pivotal to fight with the highly contagious disease. In an exclusive interaction with Padma Shri Dr. J Hareendran Nair, we get to know the role of Ayurveda in times of Covid-19.
1. Tell us about the role of Ayurveda in boosting immunity currently, in times of COVID-19.
Ans: Ayurveda itself is the Veda for Ayu: means knowledge for life, health, and well- being. Ayurveda deals with immunity boosters and immunity enhancing techniques through several combinations of herbal medicines, diet and exercise plans, and several nutraceutical plans. Yoga or a combination of ingredients for immunity boosting like Chyawanaprasa is a classic example. Several herbs mentioned in Ayurvedic manuscripts, viz Aswagandha, Giloy, Amla, etc. are proven for their immune boosting properties.
The COVID-19 pandemic is unique in several aspects and has challenged health care experts across the globe. The disease has turned the attention of medical experts to the immune system, the body’s defence force against disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that humans come in contact with on a daily basis. In the current scenario, Ayurveda can play a very important role to boost natural immunity. Ayurveda offers a variety of treatments and medications to boost immunity, these solutions can be quickly implemented on large scale with the advantages of simplicity, affordability, and acceptability.
Today, when India is facing an unprecedented challenge of overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become imperative to follow an integrated approach and is an opportunity to explore the true potential of Ayurveda systems in innovating solutions to fight COVID-19. We believe that more than the immune-modulators for COVID-19, we need antiviral formulations to contain the infection by immunity-building. We are concentrating our efforts through effective research and clinical trials in this direction. I would like to take this opportunity to say that we have succeeded in that through our antiviral ayurvedic formulation, ZingiVir-H.
2. How Ayurvedic medications can help immunocompromised individuals?
Ans: Immuno-compromised patients need to boost or enhance their immunity to maintain their health, which is also the primary goal of any Ayurvedic treatment. Rejuvenation and nutritional replacement therapy are offered to such patients in order to boost their natural immunity. Ayurveda focuses on restoring the lost nutritional elements in the body (micro nutrients such as minerals and vitamins) through unique Ayurvedic formulations. Ayurveda focuses to rejuvenating the body by replacing such deficiencies and stimulate natural immune-boosting chemicals like cytokines, interleukins, and blood cells like lymphocytes etc.
Similarly, in the case of COVID-19, where the virus impacts the immunity of an individual, Ayurvedic drugs made of immunity-boosting herbal ingredients can play a crucial role in not only assisting in regaining immunity but also controlling their present and existing morbid conditions too. Such patients need to be isolated from public interaction as a short term solution.
3. What is your take on the Supreme Court judgment on AYUSH doctors regarding COVID-19 treatment?
Ans: The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgement was delivered on an appeal by the Homeopathic fraternity which was interpreted as AYUSH which includes Ayurveda. The Supreme Court is absolutely right in observing the point as stated below. “There is no such claim in other therapy including allopathy. The High Court is right in observing that no claim for cure can be made in Homeopathy”. We respect and will abide by the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
4. What is your opinion on the need for infrastructure and an appropriate system to test and approved modern-backed Ayurveda drugs in India?
Ans: Even though Ayurveda exists for eras and proven for its efficacy and safety, in this modern time the lack of research in Ayurveda to establish the effectiveness and safety is becoming the main constraint for recognising Ayurveda globally. We believe there is a need to focus on research in Ayurveda to establish it as an evidence-based and clinically proven system of medicine. We have consistently been reiterating the need to introduce and regulate Ayurveda drugs and herbal products in India in order to keep a check on the quality and efficacy of products. The process of testing, developing and marketing of medicines has to regulate to protect the interests of the public. Thereby, we believe and promote the use of modern-backed Ayurveda techniques, where our products undergo various quality checks to meet global standards of medicine.
To create such an ecosystem in the field of Ayurveda, the co-operation of governments, regulatory authorities and other medical systems are an absolute necessity. With this unique ecosystem in place, research can be conducted in an integrated manner with modern medicine and other systems of medicine as they have concreted validation systems and tools for conducting research. This collaborative approach can enable us in making the process of finding solutions to viruses such as COVID-19, quicker, and effective.
5. According to you, what are the challenges and opportunities that stand ahead for Ayurvedic products on the national and global stage?
Ans: Today, the size of the global Ayurveda market is expected to reach US$9.7 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 16.2%. While in India the industry is forecast to rise three-fold from US$2.5 billion in 2015 to USD 8.0 billion by 2022. With the outbreak of COVID-19 in India, we have been witnessing a strong belief among consumers in India towards immunity-boosting Ayurveda and herbal products. The Ayurveda market has witnessed significant growth in the sector, with many national and global players introducing their range of herbal products to meet the consumers’ demand.
Dr. J Hareendran Nair explained challenges and opportunity Ayurveda faces in the present times:
At this juncture, the science of Ayurveda still faces several challenges that need to be overcome in near future in order for India to become the global centre of traditional medicine. The challenges are the lack of integration with other medical systems, the lack of standardised and validated research tools, the lack of publications in Ayurveda through proper research.
Apart from these the attitude of ayurvedic doctors and professionals need to be changed. They need to be more focused on research, especially evidence-based research. The attitude of modern medicine professionals towards Ayurveda should be changed and the regulatory authorities and government should refocus on research in Ayurveda as multi-disciplinary and multi systems. More manpower, expertise, and infrastructure are also required for ayurvedic research.
The science of Ayurveda itself can offer a problem-free health system if it is practiced correctly and in a disciplined manner. There is lot of scope in Ayurveda therapy of chronic diseases, infections and infestations, immuno-boosters and immuno-modulators, system-based rejuvenation and restoration, metabolic disorders, maintenance of disciplines in lifestyle, etc. There are lot of anti-viral anti-microbial formulations in Ayurveda that are unexplored and underutilised. As we are facing new microbial and vital attacks through various global outbreaks in recent times, we should improve this deteriorated situation of the healthcare system as an opportunity to utilise Ayurveda in anti-microbial and anti-viral therapy and research.
Padma Shri Dr. J Hareendran Nair is founder and MD of Pankajakasthuri Herbals India Pvt. Ltd.