Rediscovering the magical secrets of Ayurveda

As Covid-19 numbers continue to rise alarmingly, doctors and researchers say that traditional medicines are much more than just immunity boosters.

The coronavirus pandemic has rekindled people’s interest and belief in traditional medicines. They are making conscious lifestyle changes, opting for Ayurvedic products and witnessing its advantages on regular consumption. To cure any disease, Ayurveda goes to the root cause of the ailment and is known for preventive care. When the pandemic struck, people started consuming ‘kadha’, Ashwagandha, turmeric and more to enhance the body’s immunity level. 

Although debates around the effectiveness of Ayurvedic treatment for Covid-19 are ongoing, it is to be noted that the Covid Care Centres (CCC) are curing asymptomatic corona-positive patients or those with mild symptoms without serious comorbid conditions. These provide treatment for the people who do not require intensive care. This way, hospital beds remain vacant for patients with complicated cases in need of critical care.

All India Institute of Ayurveda’s (AIIA) Covid-19 Health Centre in Sarita Vihar, Delhi, is administering the majority of patients with stand-alone Ayurveda treatment protocol including Ayurvedic medicine, diet, yoga and relaxation techniques. “Patients were discharged in good health showing 100% recoveries without complications during the treatment period with SPO2 more than 90%. No aggravation of symptoms was observed. It is also observed that there has been 0% mortality till now in admitted patients,” an AYUSH Ministry statement said.

Dr Aneesh T., medical officer, Nirog Street Certified Centre, Roorkee, says, “Covid-19 is a disease affecting multiple systems of the body with clinical features mostly pertaining to the respiratory system. Ayurveda has been successful in treating viral infections. As an Ayurvedic expert, I firmly believe that Covid-19 cases presenting with minimal or nil symptoms can be managed successfully.”

 The contribution of Ayurvedic doctors is through three domains: preventive, curative and community interventions. Dr Aneesh explains that advocating a healthy and disciplined lifestyle by including herbal medicines, yoga and Pranayama are crucial and practised widely is the preventive aspect. Whereas the curative part deals with the prescription of time-tested Ayurveda formulae to individuals with a history of contact with Covid-19 cases which have proven successful.

 In such uncertain times, Ayurvedic medicines can play a major role in the prevention of Covid-19 virus as well as treatment. It is certainly effective for prophylaxis of the infection too. “I start with precautionary measures for all of my patients which provide complete protection and ensure that the immunity of the individual is at an optimum level. I have treated many patients who have been under home quarantine, with mild to moderate symptoms of fever, loss of taste, abdominal discomfort, dry cough and cold. Generally, I see disequilibrium of the ‘dosha’ and advice appropriate Ayurveda combinations along with nasya and gandusha,” says Dr Bhavana Diyora, Ayurveda doctor and preventive wellness consultant at GALF (Get a Life Fitness).

 All Ayurvedic medicines are good immune-boosters which when coupled with lifestyle changes can help to boost the immunity. Some Ayurvedic hospitals have treated Covid-19 patients through Ayurvedic medicines and changes in lifestyle. But these were either asymptomatic Corona-positive or had mild symptoms without serious Comorbidities. Dr Shashi Bala, senior consultant and head of Ayurvedic department at Moolchand Hospital in Delhi says, “You can prevent any kind of virus entering the body through Ayurvedic medicines and way of life. In certain cases, as such, no treatment is required as it depends on how your body is reacting to coronavirus and if it is strong enough to protect you from the virus then there is no need for medication. Only Allopathic treatment can work for patients with Covid-19 complications.”

She suggests the patients follow the three pillars of Ayurveda — Ahara (diet), Vihar (lifestyle) and Brahmacharya (abstinence). To make dietary changes such as consuming cooked food and as per the season. “Bringing about lifestyle changes such as washing hands using a handwash, aloe vera gel or multani mitti, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, oral cavity should be cleaned in the morning and night through rinsing the mouth with sufficient amount of warm water mixed with turmeric or sendha namak which is called gandusha and lubricating the nostrils with oil and sound sleep can strengthen the immune system,” adds Dr Bala.

 Increased emphasis on immunity

Due to Covid-19, people are now giving more importance to immunity. Dr Shiney Linu of Kairali Ayurvedic Centre in Mumbai reveals that they get queries from people about ways to boost immunity as no cure has been found which is specific to Covid-19 in any medicinal form yet. She says, “Preventing yourself from falling sick is possible through Ayurveda for which you have to follow Dhincharya (daily regime) and Rithucharya (seasonal regime), detoxify your body and rejuvenate once a year through Panchakarma therapy.” 

 She also adds that diet forms a crucial aspect in Ayurveda and should contain ginger, garlic, pepper, turmeric, clove, cumin, fenugreek and cinnamon. Dr Linu asks her patients to consume healthy digestive food of the season and give them their immunity booster kits containing Chyawanprash, Mulbarin, Arogya herbal infusion, Ashwagandha capsules, Anuthylum and Triphala Ghritam.

Growth of Ayurvedic products

Philipe Haydon, CEO of The Himalaya Drug Company informs that over the past few months, there has been a demand for preventive care. It includes wellness products including Guduchi, Tulasi, Amalaki, Ashvagandha tablets and more are seeing a huge demand. Besides this, the proprietary formulations, Septilin and Immusante, have seen a significant rise in demand. Haydon says, “Evidence on the potential and strength of AYUSH systems to help promote immunity and improve respiratory systems has contributed to an increase in demand for Ayurvedic and immunityboosting medicines in the recent past.”

 At this time, immunity is a buzz word across the globe and consumers are turning to the goodness of ancient Ayurveda, believes Arjun Vaidya, CEO of Dr. Vaidya’s. He says that the consumers have also understood the significance of a healthy lifestyle and while the pandemic has proven to be adversity for most businesses, it’s a huge opportunity for Ayurveda and e-commerce brands. Dr Saurabh Arora, founder of Arbro Pharmaceuticals informs that their immunityboosting products are being widely used and not only by individuals but corporates, organisations and hospitals. People are consuming their chyawanprash, immunityboosting Curcumin (increases the body’s antioxidant capacity which helps in boosting immunity) capsules and Ayush Kwath powder.

 AIIA recently began Covid-19 trials with Nisarga Herbs. A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial is being held at ESIC Medical College and Hospital, Faridabad wherein the neem formulation will be tested on their 250 frontline medical and non-medical staff who are highly exposed to Covid-19 patients. The results of the clinical trials are expected by the end of November. Girish Soman, CEO, chairman and founder of Nisarga Biotech Group says, “Our neem formulation will prove to be an effective antiviral in preventive use and we are looking at strategic funding for further research to introduce it as a standard drug.”

Nisarga’s neem extract is already being used in the University of Texas, San Antonio for the past few years on cancer research. Soman adds, “During this research, we found good anti-inflammatory activity due to the presence of compounds such as Nimbolides, Nimbin and Salinin in our proprietary neem extract. With pre-clinical studies demonstrating excellent anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity, neem was a natural choice. With our proprietary patented extraction technique, we are confident that the neem capsules will show good preventive action.”

 He informs that they were working on a new product (tablet), Respirade before the pandemic struck. “We have administered the tablet twice a day to our employees, their families and companies in the vicinity for the last four months and no one has reported cough, cold and flu symptoms. There have also been any Covid-positive cases so far. Respirade is a much more affordable version of Imuplus but has been specifically designed for respiratory tract infections and their treatment.”