Can alternative medicine systems like Ayurveda be tapped to fight Covid-19?
New Delhi: Even though the Covid-19 vaccination is in full swing, the pandemic continues to affect a huge population, severely affecting the country’s economic and social fabric. There are many who recommend tapping Ayurveda, India’s ancient alternative medical system.
A report in Hindustan Times last December draws attention to the praise lavished for Ayurveda by the Delhi Government Health Minister Satyendar Jain in his tweet. “Congratulations to Chaudhary Brahm Prakash Ayurved Charak Sansthan for successfully catering to 2000 Covid patients with pure Ayurvedic treatment. It is the 1st Indian Ayurvedic hospital that has treated Covid patients from ages 1 month-106 years. I applaud the team and staff.”
The patients at the Sansthan were treated with a mix of three herbs, haldi milk, and amla churan for Vitamin D, called Nagaradhi Kwath. A case-control study of 1,000 patients was done wherein half received the ingredients while the other half didn’t.
Talking about this study, Prof. Vidula Gujjarwar, Director Principal of the Sansthan said: “We are yet to analyze the results of the study but there was an improvement in the condition of the patients. We are not saying that these herbs cure Covid-19, but it helps in relieving the symptoms.”
The Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) has brought out a National Clinical Management Protocol based on Ayurveda and Yoga for management of Covid-19. Stating that the pandemic had created a global health crisis, it says “Ayurveda and Yoga can certainly play a pivotal role to augment preventive measures provided in the guidelines by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (M0HFW). The current understanding of Covid-19 indicates that good immune status is vital to prevention and to safeguard from disease progression.”
The document in its general and physical measures states that besides physical distancing, respiratory and hand hygiene, wearing a mask, gargling with warm water added with a pinch of turmeric and salt should be done. Further water boiled with Triphala (dried fruits of Emblica officinalis, Terminalia chebula, Terminala bellerica) or Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) also can be used for gargling.
It goes on to suggest nasal application of medicated or plain oil (sesame or coconut) or application of cow’s ghee once or twice a day, especially before going out and after coming back to home.
Also advisable is steam inhalation with Ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi) or Pudina (Mentha spicata) or Eucalyptus oil once a day.
Other suggestions include six to eight hours of sleep and moderate physical exercises and yoga protocol.
In terms of dietary measures, the protocol suggests use of warm water or water boiled with herbs like ginger (Zingiber officinale) or coriander (Coriandrum sativum) or basil (Ocimum sanctum/Ocimum basiicum), or cumin (Cuminum cyminum) seeds etc., for drinking purpose. The diet should be fresh, warm and balanced. Hot milk (150 ml) with half teaspoon haldi (curcuma longa) is suggested once at night, which may be avoided in case of indigestion while Ayush kadha (hot infusion or decoction) should be had once a day.
Also suggested in the protocol document is Specific Measures/Symptom Management which lay down the clinical severity, medicines and doses and timings. Management of mild Covid-19 cases is mentioned listing symptoms, formulation and dose. All this, of course, is subject to physician’s discretion.
Paper in NCBI
There is an interesting paper “Outcomes of Ayurvedic care in a Covid-19 patient with hypoxia – A Case Report” on the website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. This is a part of the United States National Library of Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. Written by Jyoti Anand Joshi and Rammanohar Puthiyedath, it reports the outcomes of Ayurvedic intervention in a COVID-19 patient with severe hypoxia requiring supportive oxygen therapy.
The case involved a 26-year-old housemaker who complained of severe breathlessness while it was found that all the people she had come in contact with during her travel from Panvel to Alibaug, had tested positive for Covid-19. On opting for Ayurveda treatment on the second day of her hospitalisation, she was administered medicines.
The report states: “Sadharaacura” was discontinued to prevent it from inducing rukata (dryness) after seven days when breathlessness was completely relieved. Sukmatriphala was discontinued after four days when the patient was taken off oxygen support and there was no indication of any lung infection like pneumonia which is a known complication in Covid-19. Sagangapaniyam with Guduci, as well as Kanakasavam and Indukantam Kasayam was continued up to the point of being discharged from the hospital to support immunity, kindle the digestive fire and to keep the pranavahasrotas (airways) patent. After discharge, the patient has been advised to drink guducipaniyam (water medicated with stem of Tinospora cordifolia).”
Discharged on the 11th day, the patient after five days repeated the RT PCR test for Covid-19, which was negative.
Last year there was a report in Zee News which said that the clinical trial conducted at three hospitals with the combination treatment of an Ayurvedic remedy called “Immunofree” by Corival Life Sciences, and a Nutraceutical called “Reginmune” by Biogetica have shown better results than the conventional medicines approved by the government for coronavirus treatment.
Approved by the Clinical Trials Registry-India (CTRI), the trial was conducted on moderate Covid-19 positive patients at Government Medical Hospital, Srikakulam Andhra Pradesh, Parul Sevashram Hospital, Vadodara, Gujarat, and Lokmanya Hospital Pune, Maharashtra.
With the pandemic threatening to stay longer, it is felt that other medicine systems should be explored to curb its spread to help the nation and its people get back on track faster.