Global Health Emergencies: How Should Indigenous Medical Systems and Knowledge Respond

On 16th May 2020, a dialogue on ‘Global Health Emergencies: How Should Indigenous Medical Systems and Knowledge Respond’ was jointly organised by Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV) and the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), Kochi. Eminent professors, domain stalwarts and researchers participated in the dialogue which was streamed live on Facebook. Indigenous solutions and research ideas were discussed from the viewpoint of making this solution implementation ready and mainstreaming the indigenous medical philosophies.

Padma Shri Anant Darshan shared his insights by calling out that ‘…if we hold the view that modern medicines are evidence-based, this is really a myth”. He elaborated on how preclinical studies are ‘fractured and fragmented’ and the quality of data from clinical studies is poor. Further, experimental models based on bioassays, used in BioPharma R&D processes, are limited in their scope and accuracy. The accuracy of toxicity studies is also sceptical with the number of drugs being retracted from the market due to unexpected side effects. He opined that Ayurveda has a holistic, system-based approach providing a sustainable medical system. He called for Ayurveda institutions to relook at Ayurveda tattva and shastra, and re-establish its credibility in modern times. Shri Anant Darshan is the founder of the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions, which is a Government of India accredited scientific and research organisation mandated to revitalise the medical heritage of India.

Dr. Rajagopal K. V., a senior physician from Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal, elucidated how indigenous medicine can help boost immunity to fight COVID-19. He suggested a model treatment approach through Ayurveda, not only touching the physical wellbeing but also providing for Ayurvedic answers to mental and emotional health during the Covid-19 pandemic. He did agree that like Allopathy, Ayurveda too did not have a ready remedy for Covid-19. However, he assured that a less toxic and more sustainable treatment could be identified from Ayurveda if sufficient effort is put in. He effectively demonstrated the practical approach that Ayurveda has to self-equip an individual with their immunity if at all the COVID-19 condition grows chronic.

Prof. Madhulika Banerjee, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi,  said, “At the heart of drug discovery debates are Ayurvedic knowledge systems. The knowledge in the AYUSH realm is so deep and so vast that heterogeneous solutions are possible.” She went on to add that there is a strong hegemony of western medical systems, and indigenous medical systems are lost within the politics of the pharmaceutical companies. It is important that the indigenous medical system practitioners’ do not succumb to this hegemony and stand up to the integrity and credibility of their discipline.

Prof. Gauri Mahulikar, Dean, Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth, added, “Enough number of labs must be there to validate indigenous medicines. Apart from curative medicines and preventative medicine, we also need to have definitive mineral and metallic medicines to treat the disease, once the disease is found.”  She also said that there is a constructive relationship between science and shastra which needs to be respected and promoted.

The dialogue ended with a vote of thanks by Assistant Professor Nithin Ramakrishnan, from CVV.