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New Delhi housewife Sashi scoops COVID-19 “immunity-boosting” powder into a water jug for her family every morning and joins a growing number of Indians who believe traditional supplements will help ward off the pandemic.
As India happens eight million cases – second only to the United States in the world – and the death toll surpasses 120,000, people are increasingly turning to ancient Hindu “Ayurvedic” medicine.
And modern Indian consumer businesses are capitalizing on the growing demand for alternative approaches, turning homemade therapies into packaged products like turmeric milk and basil drops.
The 50-year-old Sashi saw an advertisement on television for a herbal drink by Ayurveda and yoga tycoon Baba Ramdev, “that can protect my family from the coronavirus”.
“I thought that since it was on TV it must be good,” she said.
The pandemic has increased nervousness about the fragile state of the Indian health system.
Experts believe the number of cases and deaths due to under-examinations and under-reports is much higher than officially reported.
There is no scientific evidence that Ayurvedic treatments can prevent the coronavirus.
But the sector had been massive even before the pandemic, and people believed that natural remedies could cure anything from cancer to the common cold.
It’s now worth $ 10 billion a year, according to the Indian Industry Association.
Ayurveda practitioner Bhaswati Bhattacharya said the lack of a coronavirus vaccine and other conventional treatments have fueled the onslaught of well-known natural remedies.
“Ayurveda has been written for 5,000 years and is probably around twice as often. It has seen epidemics, smallpox, and pandemics, so people say,” Let’s see if it works, “she told AFP.
Not a magic pill?
The growing interest in Ayurveda – the “science of life” in Sanskrit – and other therapies was also promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu Nationalist Party, which founded its own ministry in 2014.
In January the Ministry of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homeopathy) touted traditional remedies as a means of combating the coronavirus.
More recently, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan published guidelines for treating some asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 patients with Ayurveda and yoga.
Ayurveda products are displayed just as prominently in pharmacies as medicines.
Mother Dairy, a leading milk producer, said there had been a “phenomenal” consumer response to their recently launched turmeric milk for children.
“The demand is very, very high, so we are increasing production and sales,” Mother Dairy Product Manager Sanjay Sharma told AFP.
“Health and immunity based products are a new phenomenon. This is an opportunity … to offer consumers precautionary health care at a very affordable price.”
Philipe Haydon, former executive director of the Himalaya Drug Company – a major manufacturer of herbal pills and creams – said demand for wellness and immunity products is up to ten times higher than before the pandemic.
But the hunger for alternative treatments has also led to controversial and pseudoscientific claims that COVID-19 “cures” have been found.
Although there is no scientific evidence, several politicians from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party have advocated the use of cow dung and urine to cure the virus.
And in June the AYUSH Ministry ordered the yoga guru Ramdev, who had made his company in Patanjali one of the most famous brands in India, to stop marketing its herbal medicine “Coronil” as a medicinal product.
The Indian Medical Association has also asked the Minister of Health, who is a doctor himself, to provide evidence that Ayurveda and yoga are effective in treating the virus.
“None of them offer specific protection against COVID-19,” Anand Krishnan, professor of community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, told AFP.
“It is more important for people to follow the measures of social distancing, masking, and hand washing.”
© 2020 AFP
Quote: Home Remedies Boom as India Pandemic Cases Rise (2020, October 29), accessed February 1, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-home-remedies-boom-india-pandemic.html
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