Year : 2020 | Volume
: 14 | Issue : 4 | Page : 1--2
Mainstreaming the alternative amid COVID-19 – An opportunity for AYUSH
Professor and Former Director, Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, Maharashtra, India
Professor and Former Director, Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, Maharashtra
|How to cite this article:|
Patwardhan B. Mainstreaming the alternative amid COVID-19 – An opportunity for AYUSH.J Ayurveda 2020;14:1-2
|How to cite this URL:|
Patwardhan B. Mainstreaming the alternative amid COVID-19 – An opportunity for AYUSH. J Ayurveda [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 7 ];14:1-2
Available from: http://www.journayu.in/text.asp?2020/14/4/1/304915
Every disaster has a silver lining within it. Humanity learns lessons from it so as to try to prevent such disasters in the future, and if they happen, then face them better prepared. COVID-19 is an unprecedented global health disaster which has shaken every healthcare system across the globe. The so-called conventional medical system, with its huge infrastructure and scientific advancements, failed to mitigate the challenges this virus has thrown. This inadequacy in healthcare during this pandemic even by the most robust health care systems of the world is understandable because no system can predict, plan, and prepare for demand of such scale.
In this era of evidence-based precision medicine, no medical science has any proven treatment for COVID-19. Current management of COVID-19 is largely based on experience and empirical evidence. Several allopathic drugs are actually being repurposed based on empirical evidence. Other systems of medicine such as AYUSH similarly has many safe interventions with similar empirical evidence in mitigating COVID-19–like illnesses. It therefore defies logic why safe AYUSH interventions are ignored.
COVID-19 demands a multidimensional approach starting from prevention of infection, building of immunity to prevent progression to disease from infection, disease mitigation, etc. Each medicine system has its own unique strengths, and therefore, all available knowledge must be utilized in an integrated manner to maximize benefits for the user. Such integrated protocols comprising the best from modern and traditional systems of medicine such as Ayurveda can significantly improve quality of medical care and public health. This is much more important in a developing country like India where healthcare infrastructure is grossly inadequate, and there are a sociocultural acceptance and a use of traditional medicine by a large proportion of population.
It is now well known that this virus affects different people differently. Ayurveda has a concept of Bala akin to nonspecific immunity, which enables a person to prevent a pathologic cause from progressing to a disease state. This is also responsible for varying degrees of severity of the disease in different people. Ayurveda has extensive modalities to improve this Bala by using Rasayana (rejuvenating) and Balya (tonic) substances. A disciplined and healthy daily routine (Dinacharya), Yoga, and meditation have evidence of improving health status of people. Such practices can also have exciting prospects in managing this COVID-19 pandemic. Ayurveda can contribute to boost immunity and help in systemic and local prophylaxis. Yoga and meditation can improve respiratory function and mental health. Simple home remedies such as hot medicinal kadha, steam inhalation, and spices such as turmeric, clove, cinnamon, and licorice can also help in slowing the disease progression.
At the same time, AYUSH also offers disease mitigation solution for COVID-19 disease. Recognizing the fact to create evidence body to support these claims, the Ministry of AYUSH sets up an Interdisciplinary AYUSH R & D Task Force on COVID-19 in the early days of the outbreak pandemic. The Task Force aims to strengthen interdisciplinary collaborative research culture among Indian scientists by establishing a network of medical institutions where the strengths of modern medicine and AYUSH systems can be scientifically integrated for the benefit of people. Such rigorous research on AYUSH systems can help India to innovate and aspire for global leadership in healthcare.
Four Ayurvedic herbs based on the available preliminary evidence – Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Pippali, and Yastimadhu – have been identified by the task force for evaluating their role in the management and prevention of COVID-19. These researches are being conducted in an integrated manner by involving institutes such as CSIR and ICMR, wherein a large number of top medical scientists, physicians, pulmonologists, and pharmacologists are working hand in hand with Ayurvedic Vaidyas. A large number of studies, including prospective and retrospective population-based, epidemiological, and observational studies and randomized controlled clinical trials, are underway.
The protocols of these researches have been thoroughly reviewed by scientists from ICMR and other leading medical institutes. Data and bioethics monitoring is also being done by neutral and credible bodies. These works undoubtedly are being done as per globally accepted scientific standards. It is hoped that the data from these studies will be publishable in reputed scientific journals.
In terse, adhering to scientific standards of quality and safety, integrating simple measures from Ayurveda and Yoga in the standard of care for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is reasonable, ethical, and fair in the interest of larger public good. It will not be in the interest of humankind to keep humanity away from the potential benefits of systems such as Ayurveda and Yoga, by terming the alternative medicine.
In such a crunch situation, we need to look for extra-ordinary and overhauling changes in both our approach and implementation of healthcare. All the verticals of healthcare systems such as allopathic medicine, Ayurveda, Yoga, and Homeopathy need to be integrated as equal partners of healthcare delivery in an optimal manner for the larger benefit of base horizontal, i.e., better health of the population. AYUSH systems can offer significant prophylactic, therapeutic, postinfection convalescence and rehabilitation solutions as part of mainstream healthcare delivery of the nation. COVID-19 global pandemic is an opportunity to reposition AYUSH systems as part of the mainstream healthcare system by tying up loose ends.