Ayurvedic protection? India’s AYUSH ministry draws flak for advocating alternative medicine against Coronavirus

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The health advisory from AYUSH says that coronavirus infections can be prevented using ayurveda etc. © Ministry of AYUSH Facebook
The health advisory from AYUSH says that coronavirus infections can be prevented using ayurveda etc. © Ministry of AYUSH Facebook

Related tags India Ayurveda Virus

India’s Ministry of AYUSH has attracted criticism from medical experts for suggesting alternative medicines, such as Ayurveda, homoeopathy, and unani practices, could act as immunity booster against the deadly novel coronavirus.

The country’s press information bureau (PIB) issued the advisory last Wednesday, specifying the types and the methods for preparing the traditional products.

One of its Facebook posts claimed that the coronavirus infections ‘can be prevented’​ with ‘solutions’​  from Ayurveda, homoeopathy, and unani which has its origins in ancient Greek medicine.

Some researchers and medical practitioners have since voiced criticism against the advisory.

Dr Ram Vishwakarma, from the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, said in response to queries from NutraIngredients-Asia​ that the advisory issued by AYUSH was not based on any scientific study or clinical trials.

"Since this virus strain is not available to any laboratory in India, it is inconceivable that any preclinical or clinical testing is done in such a short period of time," ​adding that leading local newspapers had published editorials that criticised the advisory as well. 

A senior endocrinologist based in New Delhi, Ambrish Mithal, also told Telegraph India ​that it was “inappropriate and premature to recommend any alternative therapies for what appears like a looming epidemic.

“While scientists are still struggling for answers, health authorities recommending untested and unproven medications can be misleading and potentially dangerous,” ​he added.

A professor at Banaras Hindu University, Subhash Lakhotia, echoed the views, commenting that such public advisories that listed specific drugs without the experimental evidence was ‘fraught with serious risks’ ​and that the public might purchase the product without consulting ayush experts.

What were suggested?

Three types of traditional herbal practices, Ayurveda, homoeopathy, and unani, were suggested by the ministry as a preventive measure.

Drinking Shadang paniya powder – a liquid ayurvedic medicine which consists of musta, parpat, usheer, Chandan, udeechya, and nagar – was an example.

Another example was taking 5 grams of Agastya harityaki – an ayurvedic medicine commonly used for respiratory problems – twice per day with warm water, samshamani vati 500mg twice per day, 5 grams of trikatu powder (consisting of pippali, marich, and shunthi) and drinking tulasi leaves boiled in water.

Arsenicum album 30 – the homoeopathy medicine derived from arsenic – was suggested to be taken on an empty stomach for three days as a prophylactic medicine against possible coronavirus infection.

Unani practices, such as taking 3 to 5 grams of khamira marwareed per day as a prophylactic measure or preparing a concoction of herbs consisting of Cydonia oblonga, jujube linn, and cordia myxa linn, were the other suggestions.

The ministry has stressed that the above are preventive measures and not a treatment advice.

“The Ministry of AYUSH is issuing the advisory as preventive measure and not claiming to be a treatment advice for the coronavirus infection.

“The Research Councils under Ministry of AYUSH are involved in various public health activities and provide lifestyle advocacies time to time for the general public.’"

India was hit with the first case of the coronavirus infection from a student studying in Wuhan University, as reported by the Kerala health authorities on last Thursday.

Indian officials have ordered that all travellers arriving from China are tested for the coronavirus symptoms.

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