Everyday Ayurveda by Bhaswati Bhattacharya
Due to various pandemic and emergency acts invoked by various governments, authorities have deferred to the dominant medical hierarchy to oversee care of all patients who test positive. In India, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has encouraged Ayurvedic doctors to find cures and share them with society, there are official rules that non-allopathic doctors may not treat patients who have the virus, who test positive, or who have moderate to severe symptoms.
Legal physicians are being prevented from practicing their profession, even with willing patients clamoring for natural remedies.
As the second wave rolls in, the natural question of interventions that work has resurfaced. The following are true stories conveyed by seven physicians from 6 states of India to a physician.
Physician A is an ayurvedic physician working alongside allopathic physicians for two decades and practicing integratively in a division of an allopathic specialty hospital. Because the allopaths are clinically experienced, they are open-minded to whatever works. In the current political environment, however, they prefer the ayurvedic physician to take charge of the ayurvedic interventions, with the consent of the family but without large publicity about their integrated approach. When they attempted to publish their data on positive patients during the pandemic since March 2020, the journal reviewers demanded they remove all information about the approach or mechanism of action of the ayurvedic medicines used, any use of bhasmas, and the detailed protocol, saying it was not favorable to international journal readers. Only the ingredients of the medicines were permitted in the article, for scrutiny. The physician group continues to help patients in Maharashtra, but carefully avoids any further attention. The ayurvedic physician reports that they treat 400 inpatients daily and see over 5,000 patients daily in the outpatient clinic. All are collectively disappointed that they are not able to share their protocol and success to needy patients, but are wary of Maharashtra’s draconic policy.
Physician B is an established allopathic physician but has learned actively through clinical experience how to help patients using ayurvedic remedies. While his main jobs shuttle between a government-funded hospital in Andhra Pradesh and a corporate hospital, he also runs a private clinic in which he quietly uses ayurvedic remedies. He has treated over 400 positive cases and has documentation. None of his inpatients have faced fatality. He has treated politicians who quietly consult him. For them he gives jaimangala ras, amrita aristam, mahalaxmi vilas ras, or somasava, depending on their symptoms. For difficult cases, he consults with colleagues who are trained ayurvedic physicians.
Physician C is a young ayurvedic physician doing night duty in the ICU of an allopathic hospital in Karnataka. Most ICUs in India are covered during night shifts by the cheaper wages that ayurvedic physicians are demoted to receive. He has worked with senior colleagues during patient crises and used hemagarbha pottali and abhraka bhasma, as well as emergency lepas (poultices) of turmeric and nilgiri oil on the chest. No patients have died, and several emergency episodes have converted to stable situations in which patients pronounced unsavable have been saved. He has not been permitted to write the protocols he used into the charts in the hospitals, as they are not evidence-based protocols.
Physician D is an ayurvedic physician-professor with his own private rural clinic on weekends and evenings, whose brother is an allopathic physician. He has treated over 500 patients since February when there were no protocols and no acts forbidding treatments. Word of mouth has brought teleconsultations in the spring and office visits now. As transport is a grave issue in his remote area, he treats the specific symptoms according to 4 main levels, acute shortness of breath, asthma-type distress, dry cough without shortness of breath, and acute fever. At his college, he uses jaimangala ras, amrita aristam or sansamani vati, hemagarbha pottali, chest lepas of cow urine mixed with turmeric and has monitored tests such as spO2, ferritin, d-dimer, and IL-6. Nilgiri oil is used on the chest to stimulate blood flow during acute crises. Mustard oil is used for simple non-acute shortness of breath or dry cough. Steam inhalation for 2-5 minutes is prescribed to most patients. His colleague was arrested and jailed for showing data on rasa-aushadhies used for treatment. Everyone is careful.
Physician E is a professor at a large central university in Uttar Pradesh. He uses sudarshana churna and sanjeevani ras for unknown patients who have mild-moderate symptoms and have tested positive. In the Delhi area, he uses tribhuvan kirti ras and guduchi ghanavati. He encourages everyone to devote 2-5 minutes per day for steam inhalation. He requests all patients’ family members to have tea with bhunimba, known also as kalmegh, with black pepper and yastimadhu.
Physician F is an ayurvedic physician practicing in a state-registered panchakarma hospital in Karnataka. He actively prescribes an immunity kit composed of swasamrit leha, sudarshana tablets, chyavanprash, anu tailam, haridra rasa, dhoopana packets, and eranda-haritaki. Each kit has a coupon for a consultation to be used during any acute crisis. The kits are sold to corporate insurance members as a preventive as the second wave begins.
Physician G is working in an approved-for-Covid ayurvedic hospital in Haryana and has tried to share the multi-modal treatment protocols that includes thrice-daily decoctions for cleaning the gut, clearing the lungs, and improving immunity protection in the throat, smoke fumigation of all patient areas at sunrise and sunset, pranayama exercises using the intercom as patients sit on their beds, and light foods to prevent the gut from preventing immune talk between lymph, gut and blood. Many, many politicians of his state have come to request doses of medicine for staff and family, and for themselves. Yet, his group has been unable to publish their data, primarily because the data have not been gathered in a systematic way to the international standards of medical research.
Ayush physicians throughout India struggle to fulfill their ethical duty as healthcare workers. In India, 60% of the country, most of the poor and most rural populations depend on ancient traditional medicines. The tight control by allopaths and the rhetoric of evidence-based medicine when they have none is a struggle for many. Ventilators fail in 80% of cases partly because allopaths are not well-trained in the equipment. When allopaths use non-approved protocols or fail to use non-harmful medicines, there are no legal consequences for their negligence of providing what they claim are all treatment options. Meanwhile, Ayush physicians have been jailed. Ostensibly, it is a struggle for allopaths to ensure that only competent trained professionals treat patients. Yet they cannot guarantee that their fellow allopathic doctors are practicing competently, as there are no successful treatment protocols.
In the name of public health, patients should be released to their human right to choose the medicine they want to take. Allopathic educators commonly boast how few doctors there are, and how we need more physicians to serve the nations in which we work. Ayush doctors should be allowed to treat patients actively during this second wave so that the public can learn for themselves what actually works.
Dr. Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2022 in Public Health, Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, and a columnist at The South Asian Times writing for the public since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.