India’s Traditional Medicine Fraternity Must Rise Up

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This article Our traditional medicine fraternity must rise up to the Covid challenge by Anuradha Goyal, author and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on May 10, 2021.

Pandemic has lasted longer than we could have imagined. It seems to be in no hurry to leave. Thankfully, we know how it spreads. We have vaccines to deal with it. As our medical facilities and medical fraternity deal with this massive onslaught, one wonders why have we not seen anything substantial from the field of traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Unani, and Siddha. There is a full ministry in the Government of India dedicated to supporting these traditional medicine streams for good seven years now. Their biggest achievement to date seems like Yoga day celebrations. For which they are currently running online contests.

Traditional Medicine Fraternity Must Rise Up

If the allopathic fraternity could come up with vaccines and quick protocols to deal with the unexpected virus, why have the alternative medicine practices not come up with anything yet? Yes, I know, they have been telling us to drink warm water and Kaadha. But that is what our grandmothers too tell us. There is no way to know if it had been effective enough. I am not aware of any studies that indicate efficacy and lend us confidence and conviction.
Ayush 64, a repurposed Malaria drug from the 1980s has been recommended for mild and moderate cases. But comes with a caveat of ‘Adjunct with standard care’. Public domain reports say that it has been tested in 3 different cities that found it useful and safe. If it can work independently, no one says anything about that.

Ayurveda Opportunities?

Pandemic is a new challenge. Ayurveda et al have a huge opportunity to come out with solutions quickly. There are three main phases of the disease to address. The first is preventive. Which prevents the disease in the first place, or helps build up immunity to deal with it. The second is an actual treatment for those who are infected. And the third is rehabilitation or post-recovery care that helps you regain lost health in the process.

Post Recovery treatments

As and when the second wave comes down, we would have a huge population of people who have successfully battled the disease. But are still dealing with the long-term after-effects. Most recovered people complain of general weakness, body aches, and lethargy for long durations of time. This is a huge opportunity for the traditional medicine systems to explore working on providing post-recovery relief. Given the general understanding as well as the perception that there are minimal or zero side effects of traditional medicines and practices, they would be such a welcome step after people have taken in heavy and extra doses of allopathic medicines to deal with the virus. Add to it all the stress that they have gone through while at a hospital and by being witness to so much pain and grief all around.

Ayush Ministry

Can the Ayush fraternity come out with post-recovery Covid care solutions? If someone is going to tell me, they do exist in some corners of the country, then they need to engage in the massive communications exercise. They need to make us, the common citizens aware of the world, aware of their presence along with the options available to us. However, I will stick my neck out and assume they need to come out with the solution as the problem is recent, scale unprecedented. If they can see, opportunity immense. The opportunity is big not just for providing solutions and helping people heal. But also for carving out space in the mental map of an average person, who needs to be convinced of exploring traditional medicines next time they need help.

Ayurveda therapies are personalized based on various parameters. The primary being the nature or Prakriti of a human being. This means that the doctors need to spend far more time with their patients, which should ideally mean a lot more doctors are needed. I am not sure if they have explored telemedicine for pandemic care or care of regular diseases during the pandemic. Most probably they have not.

Ayush Medical Professionals

Various sources put the number of Ayush medical professionals between eight to fourteen lakhs. More than 50% of them being Ayurveda doctors and more than 35% being homeopaths. We have seen Ayurveda doctors work in the wellness tourism industry that includes luxury resorts and spas across the country, but in a lot more in places like Kerala, they have managed to create a reliable brand around Ayurveda. We do see one-off Ayurveda hospital and one-off famous doctor in our towns. A few young doctors are creating their own brands using social media. While others choose to work with the cosmetics industry. Some of them find success easier outside India. However, their collective presence or branding under one umbrella is nowhere close to where it should be.

As per the colorful Ayush ministry, dashboard they have allocations of Rs 2000 crores for the last financial year. They have about 4000 hospitals, 27,000 dispensaries. About 750 ongoing research projects. Do we have proportional outputs to show?

Every calamity presents an opportunity. Here is a big one for them to show their strength and generate the much-needed faith in these systems while helping humanity heal.

india traditional medicine fraternity new indian express
Original op-ed article published in New Indian Express on 10 May 2021

Edited for this online publication.

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