AYUSH Ministry hits back over criticism of Coronavirus advisory

An Ayurvedic Hospital run by Govt of Kerala

The ministry of traditional medicines at Government of India has hit back at critics who have questioned the medical validity of its recent advisory on countering Coronavirus through herbal medicine.

The AYUSH ministry had issued a list of dos and don’ts last week, including items such as ensuring proper personal hygiene, wearing face masks in public and avoiding contact with sick people.

However, several representatives of ‘modern’ or allopathic medicines, such as doctors and doctors’ associations, severely criticized the government for trying to promote alternative systems of medicine such as Ayurveda (Indian herbal medicine), Unani (Ionian herbal medicine), Homeopathy and so on.

What came in for heavy criticism was the suggestion contained in the advisory that some herbs can help human beings increase their immunity against diseases.

The ministry had suggested that according to Ayurveda and Unani, certain herbs can help boost a person’s immunity and help ward off viral infections.

The AYUSH ministry also listed a few of the herbs that are recommended by Ayurveda and Unani for boosting immunity, and the way in which these herbs were to be consumed.

According to The Hindu, the head of Indian Medical Association (IMA) — a body of allopathic medical practitioners, described the advisory as “quackery”.

“The strains of coronavirus undergo mutations and changes. How can a generic treatment advisory be given,” the newspaper quoted Rajan Sharma, President of IMA, as saying.

The claims and counterclaims come in the context of a larger dispute between the government and the allopathic establishment over efforts by the government to standardize, recognize and promote non-allopathic systems of medicine and their practitioners in addition to ‘modern medicine’.

In its first official response since the controversy broke out, AYUSH ministry today did not mince any words in replying to the criticism.

“Certain news reports from the media and medical professional bodies did manipulate and tried to malign the image of AYUSH systems of healthcare and tried to create distrust among the public towards these medical systems,” it said.

It pointed out that even allopathic doctors have no cure or treatment to offer to corona virus victims. At present, the virus kills between 5% to 10% of those that it infects. Most of the casualties are those with weak immune systems, including the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic diseases.

“The world is trying to find some help for the pandemic of Corona virus. There is no cure possible as of now. In this situation, any little help from any corner shall be welcomed. The effort of AYUSH Advisory may be seen from this right perspective.”

It also said that it did not claimed to have any cure for Coronavirus.

“These measures are advised based on the principles of approach in respective medical system to such viral diseases where respiratory involvement is evident. These advisories neither claimed effective treatment for Corona virus nor suggested any specific drug to combat corona virus.

“The personal hygienic measures and few herbal preparations which may be helpful to maintain health are indicated in the advisory. It was also advised that the use of these preparations should be done in consultation with registered practitioners from respective system of medicine,” it said today.