Ayurveda for COVID 19: Professionals owe the responsibility to protect it from quacks and fake news

Indian Ayurveda professionals are lagging behind their foreign counterparts in handling quacks and protecting credentials of the Ayurveda at the time of COVID 19 pandemic. The professionals of Ayurveda cannot abjure the responsibility to conduct laboratory tests on Ayurvedic formulations being circulated on social media or suggested by quacks to treat COVID 19 patients or kill the virus. This is the only way to enhance the credibility of Ayurveda in fighting infectious diseases and bring it back in the hands of Ayurveda professionals.

Siddheshwar  ShuklaSiddheshwar Shukla | Updated: 24-12-2020 10:45 IST | Created: 31-03-2020 10:10 IST
Ayurveda for COVID 19: Professionals owe the responsibility to protect it from quacks and fake news
Representative image Image Credit: Flickr

In terms of income, the Ayurveda continues to serve its professionals for over 2,500 years. However, in terms of research, Ayurveda professionals seem to have failed the legacy of their founding father and great researchers. 

Nobody could deny that the misinformation on the treatment of COVID 19  is being spread against all the medical systems from Allopathy to Ayurveda to Homeopathy and others. The World Health Organization (WHO) has rightly called it infodemic. However, the promptness shown by allopathic professionals in falsifying the fake news and misinformation on the allopathic drug formulations is not seen among professionals of Ayurveda and other systems. Besides, the Ayurvedic professionals in India seem to have gone in hibernation due to COVID 19 pandemic. They have apparently left their profession in the hands of quacks, astrologers, grandmothers (daadis) and material-grandmothers (naanis).  

The social media and also the mainstream media are deluged with misinformation on Ayurveda formulations to treat COVID 19 patients, avoid infection, or even kill the virus by camphor vapour etc. However, the Ministry of Aayush and Ayurveda research institutions under its jurisdiction seems to be ignorant. There is only one rejoinder regarding COVID 19, on the website of the ministry, sent to a national daily of India for publishing a defamatory article. In the article, published on March 22, the author seems to be so frustrated with the non-verified Ayurveda formulations on COVID 19 that he suggested to shut down the ministry. The ministry responded by throwing the numbers of Ayurveda institutions and professionals but not their quality.

Ayurveda is not only the world’s ancient most medical system but also the ancient most established medical discipline. Punarvasu Aatreya (550 B.C.), alumni and professor in the University of Takshshila was the founder of School of Ayurveda in the university. Before this school, Ayurveda was taught in the School of Yajurveda of the university. He is credited to have authored the first book on Ayurveda having eight parts and also establishing eight departments in the School. Jeevak, born in Tibet (China), an alumnus of this School who studied Ayurveda here for seven years, became the physician of Mahatma Buddha. The next name we know is Charak (100 B.C.). Hereafter, there a huge gap for research in Ayurveda. In the modern education system, the first Ayurvedic College was established in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1927. Today, there are several Centrally, provincially and privately funded Ayurveda research institutions in India and also in foreign countries but hardly any of them is responding to the non-verified Ayurvedic formulations suggested by the quacks. Besides, some Ayurvedic practitioners are also making non-verified claims for cheap publicity in Indian mainstream media. 

Fake Ayurveda News on COVID 19: India versus the US 

In another major step to elevate the status to Ayurveda at par with the Allopathy, the Government of India established All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), New Delhi in 2015 on the pattern of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. AIIA is India’s and probably the world’s most resourceful Ayurveda institution with state-of-the-art infrastructure and research facilities.

“In view of the Corona pandemic and recent advancement in the country, it is decided that the routine and specialized OPD services at the AIIA are suspended till 31st March 2020, or till further order,” reads an ‘urgent’ circular signed by Director, Prof. Tanuja Manoj Nisan. This is the only information available on the website of AIIA regarding COVID 19. The other Ayurvedic institutions in India also have similar or no information on the pandemic or any kind of Ayurvedic treatment related to it. After the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interaction on March 28 with the professionals of the Ayurvedic and traditional medical systems underlined the importance of countering and fact-checking unsubstantiated claims of AYUSH having the cure for the disease, the ministry has provided a feedback window inviting suggestions from these professionals. There is no information on the website on the number of suggestions received or if, there is no suggestion at all. It is pertinent to mention that their salaries, packages and protocols are at par with the doctors of allopathic systems.

However, their counterparts in the US have shown promptness in dealing with quacks’ prescriptions. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), the largest body of Ayurveda professionals in the USA, came out with a formal ‘Message to our NAMA community regarding COVID 19’ with every required detail.  “Conservatively speaking and at this time, there are no known nutrients, botanicals, vaccines, or prescription or over-the-counter medicines available to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. Any statements that claim otherwise (and there are many circulating online) should be considered false and misleading. Despite this, our community should be encouraged to employ the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda, which by nature upholds “prevention” as a core principle,” reads the message. While Central Council of Indian Medicine, the nodal agency under Ministry of Ayush lacks any such guideline on its website.  

California College of Ayurveda has also come up with a detailed guideline. “Take the foods that are correct for your current of the three doshas (vikruti), keep your digestion healthy, keep your elimination healthy, sleep well and work with your practitioner to build ojas – the factor that supports immunity,” said Dr. Marc Halpern, recommending additional Ayurvedic tips to build your immunity system.  Several other foreign institutions of Ayurveda are also carrying similar guidelines clearly mentioning the strengths of Ayurveda and admitting the reality of not having any specific medical formulations to treat the disease.

However, the National Institute of Ayurveda, India has issued an action plan to combat with COVID 19 but it hardly has anything from Ayurvedic perspective. “Doctors should not be spreading myths and false information about the disease and try to ally panic and anxiety of the public,” this line mentioned in the bold alphabets is enough to reveal the institute’s confidence in its medical staff.

Will Cow Ghee and Sesame Oil in nostrils protect from COVID 19 infection? 

As Indian Ayurveda professionals seem to be in hibernation due to COVID 19, some self-proclaimed Ayurvedic experts, without any credible study, are recommending through media to apply sesame oils or cow ghee in nostrils at least two times in a day to protect from COVID 19 infection. They never refer to any empirical study or published research.  The camphor fumes and herbal tea is also on the plate. However, the latest issues of International Journals of Ayurveda and Pharma Research, published on March 3, do not have any mention of the novel Coronavirus. 

According to a research published by Harvard’s School of Public Health, the COVID 19 is an ‘enveloped virus’ which is covered with a lipid or oily layer. This layer is broken by normal soap therefore the virus becomes inactive by handwashing with soap. It’s like you wash your oily hands with soap. Can we wash our oily hand by ghee or any other oil? Can a ghee or oil layer prevent the virus from reaching into the lungs along with inhaled air? These questions need to answer before making such prescriptions. This will require study in the laboratory. However, the easy and cheap fame by so-called Ayurveda experts is being earned without any study.

Will camphor fumes kill COVID 19? 

There is no Ayurvedic study to suggest this. However, claims are being made by so-called Ayurvedic experts through media. Surprisingly, the premier government Ayurvedic institutions are not contradicting these unsubstantiated claims. 

Fake News on COVID 19 medicines: Ayurveda versus Allopathy 

It’s not that the misinformation is being spread only on Ayurvedic medical formulations but the most disturbing trend is the silence of national-level institutions of Ayurveda.

There have been several pieces of misinformation and fake news claiming Allopathic formulations such as Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Chloroquine, Silver, etc, but those claims were promptly rejected by professionals of Allopathy.  In a piece of fake news, it was claimed that according to Stanford University holding breath for ten seconds means you don’t have COVID 19 infection. The university immediately rejected the claim besides the claim was scientifically contradicted by allopathic professionals as well.  However, no Ayurvedic professional came forward to approve or disapprove the claim on Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev that holding breath for one minute means you don’t have COVID 19 infection.

It’s beyond understanding why the Ayurvedic professionals don’t do research to approve or disapprove such claims despite enjoying package and facilities from the government at par with the modern medical professionals. The claims on Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev were not contradicted by these professionals but by Allopathic professionals when the former entered into their domain by claiming he had developed a formulation to stop mixing of viral protein with the human protein.

The Bottom Line

An anxious Prime Minister of India reminded these professionals about their duties and professional responsibilities on March 28. “Importance of countering and fact-checking unsubstantiated claims of AYUSH having the cure for the disease, adding that AYUSH scientists, ICMR, CSIR and other research organizations must come together for evidence-based research,” said the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In fact, the Prime Minister was not required to remind them. Because, this is a responsibility bestowed on every professional of Ayurveda by the Charak, who is credited as the father of Ayurvedic Medicines. Describing the responsibility of a vaidya (doctor), Charak has made it a duty of every vaidya to protect the knowledge of Ayurveda from quacks. The strength of Ayurveda in maintaining and enhancing immunity are unparalleled but such unprofessionalism and callousness of today's’ vaidyas (Ayurvedic professionals) are highly disappointing. It will shrink the Ayurveda into a department of herbal medicine under the Allopathy. This is a crucial time for Ayurveda. Every vaidya needs to respect the words of Charak on professional responsibility and pay attention to the Primer Minister’s call.  The people are not demanding anything extra from Ayurvedic professionals but only to discharge their duties.

For more news on COVID 19, please visit the LIVE DISCOURSE. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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