Posts Tagged ‘ayurveda’

A schizophrenic India cannot advance scientifically

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on August 8th, 2020 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

India is subjecting itself to contrary pulls. It wants to be reckoned among powerhouses of modern science and technology. At the same time it is obsessed with its past and wishes to pit ancient India against the modern world. India’s commitment to modern science is only skin deep. The space allotted to it has been rapidly shrinking, and elements, which at one time were considered to constitute the lunatic fringe, have been brought centre stage and made the new mainstream.
Slogans such as ‘We have to defeat corona’ or ‘We have to chase corona far away’ have been coined and repeatedly mouthed as if we were a different virus challenging the supremacy of the corona. Community ringing of bells, clinging of utensils, and use of military helicopters to shower petals may appear to be a striking exercise in public relations, but it diverts attention from the real issues. The pandemic should have been used as an opportunity to discuss the sad state of government hospital system and medical education, but apparently it is more convenient to talk of inanities rather than address real problems.
On the one hand Indian government wants our medical experts to quickly develop covid vaccine. At the same time, false and exaggerated claims are being made quoting government sources. A manufacturer of popular brand of bread has added ‘Ayush Mininstry recommended immunity ingredients’ such as ginger, turmeric, clove, cinnamon, jaggery, etc., and started advertising it as immuno bread, as if eating it would be medically beneficail
Immunity is the new buzz world. By an unwarranted extrapolation, immunity boosting has been equated with cure and that too for covid. A video uploaded on 24 July or a little earlier shows the Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal endorsing a brand of papad being manufactured in his parliamentary constituency. He declares that it has been made under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative and ‘will prove useful in the fight against corona virus’. A manufacturer has added ginger and turmeric to its bread and rebranded it as immuno, giving the imp
Cleverer people recognize the value of claims of scientific validation. At a press conference held on 23 June, Baba Ramdev, a television Yoga guru, and a successful businessman who is known to be close to the highest power centres, launched an Ayurvedic drug called Coronil, claiming that it had cured within a week all covid patients who took part in a trial conducted at the privately-run National Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Jaipur. The Chancellor of NIMS and many members of the faculty shared the dais with the Baba. Under pressure from the government and the media Ramdev backtracked from the cure claim and declared that the Ayush Ministry had used the term Covid ‘management’ for our medicine and not Covid ‘treatment’. The clever distinction is going to be largely wasted on general public.
The Uttarakhand state Ayurveda department has clarified that it has granted license to Ramdev’s pharmacy for manufacturing an immunity booster and not a covid cure. The medicine consists of ingredients traditionally employed in flu and fever cases. Whatever immunity-related properties it may have, they can only be of a general nature and not specific to covid. The government is guilty of permitting the medicine to be given the misleading name, Coronil.
Ramdev has recently been prevented from using the name coronil, not on grounds of medical ethics as should have been the case but on infringement of trade mark. The Madras High Court judge went beyond copyright issues and declared: that Ramdev’s pharmaceutical company, Patanjali, has been “chasing further profits by exploiting the fear and panic among the general public by projecting a cure for the coronavirus, when actually their ‘Coronil Tablet’ is not a cure but rather an immunity booster for cough, cold and fever.” The court has imposed a fine of ten lakh rupees on the company, but this is unlikely to faze Ramdev or weaken his political connections.
Playing the victim card, the Baba declared that practitioners of Yoga and Ayurveda were being treated like terrorists and criminals. Throughout the world there is respect for ancient herbal healthcare tradition. Subjecting traditional cures to rigorous testing to bring them into modern medical mainstream is a greatly valued endeavour.
In 1969 China appointed Tu Youyou as the head of its anti-malarial drug project She interviewed patients, read Chinese medical classics, examined numerous Chinese herbs, and visited practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. In 1981, she presented the findings relating to her discovery artemisinin at a meeting with the World Health Organization. By 2006, artemisinin had become the treatment of choice for malaria, and fetched her 2015 Nobel medicine Prize. Scientific mainstreaming of tradition is a slow, painstaking, altruistic, and long-drawn exercise. Objection is not to herbal cures but to the unethical ways employed to market them.
In times of crisis it is customary for many people to turn to ritual and religion for peace of mind. Many ancient mantras are being promoted as personal ‘protection chants’. For the Lok Sabha member, Pragya Thakur, covid provided an opportunity for pushing forward her political agenda. She exhorted people to recite Hanuman Chalisa five times a day from 25 July to 5 August to ‘rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic’, and to conclude the ritual by lighting lamps on August 5 and offering aarti to Lord Ram at home..
Usually when pandits prescribe time period fo ra ritual, they suggest say from a Monday to the next or from a full moon to the following new moon. An ‘English’ date entered Pragya’s prescription because the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya was scheduled for that day. Individual prayers may have a soothing effect, but organized community ritual can only inflame political passions. Perhaps that was the idea.
Today we recognize the scientific and technological pre-eminence of the West and use it as a benchmark in various ways. It will be instructive to see how the Western mindset has evolved over the past six centuries. Long oceanic voyages as well as encounters with new peoples, new cultures, new geographies, and new ecologies taught the Europeans an important lesson: knowledge does not lie in the past but into the future; not in the church or ancient libraries, but in observation, exploration and experimentation.
The Recent India has chosen to dwell in the past and constantly dwell upon it. If India wishes to progress, it will have to largely resolve its inherent contradictions and jettison a substantial part of the past baggage it has chosen to carry. Unless India learns to value scientific methodology and becomes futuristic it cannot gain strength and command respect in the world.//

Twisting tradition: The curious case of a seedy medicine

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on May 9th, 2015 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Rajesh Kochhar and Ramesh Kapoor



Recently, Sh. K. C. Tyagi, a Rajya Sabha MP, speaking in the House, protested against an Ayurvedic medicine, Putrajeevak Beej, on the ground that it promoted gender discrimination. Responding to the charge, Swami Ramdev, who is associated with the Hardwar-based Divya Pharmacy that manufactures the medicine, stated that the medicine was named after ‘the scientific name of the herb Putranjiva roxburghii’.

The argument is fallacious. The species is a tree which was inducted into modern botany by a British naturalist, William Roxburgh, who has placed on record his reasons for the nomenclature. Roxburgh wrote in 1826 that in Madras, the parents bought the seeds of the so-named tree some cases, families have preserved some trady in the bazaar, strung them, and put them ‘round the necks of their children, to preserve them in health’. It is ironical that the mere latinization of a Sanskrit term denoting ornamental use of a tree is being invoked to claim scientific validation for  its supposed medicinal properties.


The term Putrajeevak Beej is misleading. The correct usage would have been Putrajeevi Vriksh ke Beej ( that is the seeds of a tree called the Putrajeevi). By using Putrajeevak as a qualifier for Beej, an impression is being created that the seeds have a son-related attribute. The impression is strengthened in the minds of people by the circumstance that planting the seed has the popular connotation of impregnating a woman.


Demands have been made that the name of the medicine be changed. The issues involved however are more fundamental than mere name-change. The label describes the drug as Ayurvedic Proprietary Medicine. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 (as amended from time to time) makes a clear distinction between the traditional and the proprietary in the context of Ayurveda.  A traditional medicine consists of standard ingredients, combined in strict accordance with the classical texts (example: Chyavanprash). Proprietary medicine also contains only standard ingredients, but now combined in a novel manner, based on personal experience and research (Example” Liv-52). It can be manufactured only after receiving a license. Putrajeevak Beej consists of a single naturally occurring ingredient. There is no question of any novelty here.


Categorization of an Ayurvedic medicine as proprietary implies controlled experiments and clinical trials. In such a case, the manufacturer  should  make a clear and unambiguous statement on the indications, benefits, side effects, etc. of the medicine. In the case at hand, however, the benefits claimed to be obtainable from the medicine vary from packet to packet, or from batch to batch, as if they were no more than marketing slogans.


The licensing authorities should explain how a simple natural produce which has not been processed even to the extent of being powdered has come to be classified as proprietary medicine implying scientific research and development.


(The first author has been professor of pharmaceutical heritage at National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Mohali, while the second author has published original research on Ayurvedic system of medicine.)


Ayurveda: Origins and evolution-the texts

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on July 27th, 2014 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Rajesh  Kochhar

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