January 06, 2006

Maligning Ayurved

earlier post

Brinda Karat's uninformed or deliberate comments and the Health Minister's support of her without proper basis have created tremendous confusion and shock amongst the people.

Innocent people have become confused about Ayurved because for so long, we Indians have been accustomed to rely on Western medicine.

It is necessary to clarify some basic issues as regards Ayurved:

1. People do not take Ayurvedic Medicines BECAUSE they are 'vegetarian', but because of their belief in their curative value.

As far as medicines for treating diseases are concerned, the concept of 'vegetarian' or 'non-vegetarian' is irrelevant. The function of all medicines should be to treat the disease and this applies to every system of medicine whether Western or Eastern. There is no 'moral' or 'ethical' issue involved, as grandly proclaimed by Brinda Karat. The only moral issue for a medical practitioner is to treat the patient with all the means at his disposal to bring relief to the person from disease.

As Lalu Yadav, for once, said aptly, whether a medicine contains bones of Manav or Danav is irrelevant as long as it gives relief from disease.

If those who are out to malign traditional medicine, like Brinda Karat, are so concerned about people being given 'non-vegetarian' medicines, they ought to also know that the pharmaceutical capsules which millions of Indians have become accustomed to pop into their mouths while taking Western medicine, are made from Gelatin. For those who do not know, Gelatin is made by boiling skin, bones and connective tissues of animals. (For those interested in learning where else is gelatin used in the food that they consume without a second thought, this article may be of interest)

2. Ayurved also never claims that all its medicines are only herbal based, although a vast majority of them may be based on material of plant origin.

3. Ayurvedic medicines make use of materials of plant, mineral as well as animal origin. The aim of ayurved is to preserve life and protect from disease and not to treat patients with just 'vegetarian' medicines. Therefore, it is immaterial whether the medicines are derived from plant, mineral or animal origin.

4. There are a number of standard treatises on Ayurved which contain procedures and formulations for medicines to treat various diseases. The First Schedule of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 lists 86 treatises concerning Ayurved and Sidha systems and another 13 treatises concerning Unani system. A vast majority of the Ayurvedic medicines are based on such prescribed formulations although a number of proprietary medicines containing variations in ingredients are also being made available by various manufacturers. Apart from the products generally available, Ayurvedic practitioners also give patient-specific formulations to individual patients based on their diagnoses and applying their own practical knowledge and experience.

5. The manufacture of Ayurvedic medicines is already governed by The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, contrary to the impression that is sought to be created that Ayurvedic medicines are not regulated.

6. The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 prescribe specific rules for manufacture, labelling, packaging, limit of alcohol, Government analysis and inspection,as well as standards. The same rules apply for Ayurvedic, Unani as well as Sidha medicines.

The above will serve to give some basic information to the people who are frequently misguided by vested interests and pseudo-intellectuals like Brinda Karat.