Giving Ayurveda its space

Sidelined by modern medical proponents, Ayurveda was also caught between the politics of Centre and State

Giving a stamp of validity, the Kerala Government has finally published the report on Ayurveda practice during Covid 19.

After overcoming many a challenge, a comprehensive report titled Ayurveda Response to Covid 19 pandemic in Kerala, India, and its impact on Quarantined Individuals – a Community Case Study was published in the peer reviewed journal Frontiers in Public Health.

This feat could be achieved despite the fact that the Government of Kerala had refrained Ayurveda practitioners from treating Covid 19 patients through a Government Order, which later had to be withdrawn after the High Court intervened.  Yet another challenge was the constant lobbying of the modern medicine practitioners in downplaying the role of Ayurveda in public health. Perhaps an indication of the dominance of modern medicine could also be seen in the fact that the Ayush department secretary is a doctor of modern medicine!

Coming to the report, in a nutshell, the study was part of the Amritham project conducted in over a lakh of individuals (1,01,218) comprising 25.7% of those who were quarantined by the Kerala Government between May-July 2020. The majority, 92.2% of these people had travel history. It was found that only 0.34% – that is, 347 of these quarantined people who had consented to take Ayurvedic medicines, went on the develop Covid 19 disease. In comparison, 1.61% of the rest of the people under quarantine during the same period of the study had developed the disease.

All those who tested positive under the care of State Ayurveda Covid 19 Response Cell (SACRC) also recovered without the disease going into any severe complications or having Covid 19 sequelae.  Details of the study can be viewed at .

The Amritham project till June 28, 2021, had benefited 8,09,756 individuals.

Even when Ayurvedic products had been much sought after during the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, the Kerala government had been sidestepping its importance and only following the conventional modern medical practices, which has till now failed to provide either prevention or cure to the various ways Covid 19 affects people. Besides, people who had recovered were found to be having a prolonged after-effect.

In such circumstances when modern medicine, which has its strength in emergency care, could not throw any solution, it was only natural to look for solutions in what the modern medicine practitioners term alternative and supplementary therapies that include traditional medical systems.

Information about Covid 19 and its manifestations, the effects of vaccines and other issues related to the disease control are still in a constant state of evolution. In the latest Lancet paper published on October 28, studies based in the UK on Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines show that although two doses of vaccine offer good protection against severe disease and death, vaccination is not an effective tool against preventing infection as was initially believed.

Hence it would be only prudent for governments to get researchers to find a way forward towards integrating various therapies. World over people had been looking at alternative medicines in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic, of which Chinese traditional medicine’s integration with the modern medicine is spoken as an example. However, the indigenous system of Ayurveda, which is a thriving system in Kerala even otherwise, had to face rough weather because of various denouncing statements about Ayurveda by the dominant modern medicine practitioners.

Neither the State nor the Union governments had given Ayurveda a free hand, though later the Ayush Ministry under the Union government came up with a detailed guidelines for Ayurvedic practice during the pandemic. The State government, which gave permission to provide Ayurvedic medicines to consenting individuals under quarantine, however, did not take the positive results of the observational study as a step to widen the scope of the study or give consent to the practitioners to evolve a public health preventive kit for the population.

The study was kept under wraps for more than a year and was published only on October 15, 2021 whereas the period of study on quarantined individuals under government institutions was from May 21 to July 8, 2020 and the report was submitted to the Government by end of September, 2020.  

The year 2020 was the period when there was a rush of activity in publishing papers online by reputed medical journals which covered even small studies that could give an idea for either more studies or for using certain medicines in Covid 19 care. But study conducted by the SACRC, which comprised the public service network of Ayurvedic medical facilities and doctors in Kerala, that gave promising positive results, were neither asked to be revalidated in another study with controlled groups, nor was this community study published on a fast track so that others could carry on such studies to revalidate the first attempt by Kerala’s SACRC.

There was a bias against Ayurveda that that went beyond the usual campaign by modern medicine.

As a senior researcher in Kerala Dr. M. Prasad said, “Unfortunately, Ayurveda is caught between the politics of the Centre and the State”.

As many people had turned to Ayurvedic measures, especially after the Union government came up with the Ayush guidelines, publishing of the community study done in Kerala on quarantined individuals at such a late date has little impact in managing public health. It only serves the purpose of making public the study.

When many modern therapies like hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), remdesivir or plasma treatment with little backing of studies and despite a number of side effects, were used in prevention and treatment of Covid 19, it was unfortunate that Ayurvedic medicines, which provided a reasonable validity to be used as a preventive medicine or as a disease management protocol with little side effects, were never considered by governments aggressively.

Ayurveda’s victory lies in the fact that despite various State governments in India not promoting the indigenous system, the public have recognised the benefits of using the system for better health.

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