Advantages and Disadvantages of Ayurveda.
I have spent about some 12 years in the allopathic health sector (albeit as a senior civil servant,) and another 6 years studying and administering Ayurveda and Indian systems of medicine.
I share some features of Ayurveda both good and bad.
The good side of Ayurveda medicine -advantages
1. There can be no further proof of the enormous canvas on which Ayurveda can function than reading about the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library which has over a lakh formulations from Ayurveda listed drawn from 54 authoritative texts listed in the D&C Act 1940.
The exact formulation is given w.r.t the stanza in the Sanskrit text duly scanned and translated into English and 6 other UN languages – all in a digital format available to patent examiners in six patent offices worldwide.
The approach was approved by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. India was not only the first but the only one to have done this on such a huge scale. As a result of this,(to my knowledge), more than 250 patents which claimed to have made discoveries and inventions but were based on the knowledge of Ayurveda have been foiled.
2. The authoratative texts contain references to several conditions which can be prevented through following a daily and seasonal regimen based on diet, plant based decoctions, oils, purgation but depending on the constitution of each individual.
The remedies call for using plant based drugs which sometimes contain minerals and metals. Good manufacturers ( of which there are ~30 which account for >80 % of the manufactured products, conduct extensive laboratory testing for purity and strength of the ingredients and the absence of toxicity.
3. I have personally visited major institutions like the Banaras Hindu University, Gujarat Ayurveda University, the National Institute of Ayurveda Jaipur, the Tilak Mahavidvyalaya Pune, the Aryavaidyashala Kottaikal among many, and watched innumerable patients being treated for a range of conditions. They mostly seemed to feel better.
Even in the case of cancer, the medication given has, according to leading oncologists whom I can name,said it improved the quality of life of the patient through better sleep/ metabolism which are so important when undergoing chemotherapy.
4. Ayurveda is not a panacea but if used intelligently (and humbly),it can give a range of patients relief without ingesting chemical drugs.
The bad side of Ayurveda medicine – disadvantages
1. Most unfortunately over the last more than two decades ( that I have been associated with the sector in different ways), I have repeatedly found absurd claims being made on the labels of medicine, in advertisements and in poorly researched published articles.
2.There is very little regulation as the Drugs and Cosmetics Acts and the Magic Remedies Act are administered by the states who are quite flexible while granting licences and then turn a blind eye to enforcement requirements. The claims being made on labels are often quite simply ridiculous, even dangerous. I have seen extremely well educated people and well- traveled foreigners convinced that a particular medicine would help them because it was so claimed on the label.
3. There are also very few trusted practitioners and no directories of licensed practitioners available. Many practitioners make grandiose claims.
During COVID, I met a practitioner in a Ayurveda treatment centre who claimed to have prevented and treated hundreds of Covid cases in 2021. I tried to tell him why he should not make such claims but he was convinced he had done it.He became aggressive so I preferred to leave rather than start an argument. Such claims were also made when HIV/ AIDS was a growing problem.
Ayurveda is a time- honoured system and India has much it should be proud of.But the credibility of the system depends on proper supervision, licensing, testing and enforcement. Consumers must be convinced about competence of the practitioner + safety / efficacy of the medication. Only Governments can act as a bridge to do that.That is a duty -not an option.