The efficacy of Ayurveda and the COVID-19 conundrum. Some real-world insights.

Dr. Priyanka Shandilya

Editor’s Note: There has been a wide ranging discussion and all manner of opinion, outrage, outcry, dozens of litigations, thousands of pages of newsprint, millions of tweets and social media posts, attacking Ayurveda and its very existence as a legitimate health and wellness paradigm. The overactive anti-India, anti-Ayurveda lobby, pro-pharma voices are doing their job well and more importantly are clear as to their goals and messaging.

Any discussion on the obvious miserable failure of modern medicine at many levels, and the associated basic sciences is just not part of the mainstream public discourse. That the pandemic had origins in dubious human motive is beside the point. Even if it is proven to be so, it cannot absolve the modern medicine community of their appalling response: the science applied to it, to explain and heal has been inadequate, ad-hoc, reactionary and almost all of it wrong.

Ayurveda’s uniquely systemic approach to integrated mind-body wellness, has once again been proven in many ways. Dr. Priyanka, surveys the overall response to the pandemic, by both the medical paradigms. She has some important messages to both communities of practitioners as also to policy makers who are willing to listen.


The COVID-19 pandemic that hit us about a year and a half ago has brought with it unprecedented misery, death toll and all round devastation to the entire mankind, with the end not in sight anywhere in the near future. We have seen even the (sic) developed countries with the most sophisticated healthcare systems reeling under its onslaught. This pandemic has shown man his place and asserted that mother nature should not be taken for granted and meddled with. It also has, not for the first time, laid bare the limitations and shortcomings of the modern systems of medicine. 

It is needless to say that ever since the advent of this pandemic there has been a sense of uncertainty, fear, the sense of being lost etc., experienced by the people, a natural reaction when confronted with the unknown.  This has been the case with everyone including the governing administration , the science and medicine “experts” , the front line COVID warriors and then percolating down to the common man. The entire situation has been largely chaotic, though a semblance of order is setting in. The flip-flops and U-turns that WHO/Government bodies made on a host of issues, frequent changes in the recommendations/retractions in treatment protocols for and its associated complications every other day with new waves, has definitely added to the chaos. It is understandable though, because this is seen to be a new phenomenon ( is it really, so ?). The lack of understanding and the general ignorance of the collective has manifested in many ways.

In such a scenario it was but natural to look for an alternative solution , a backup. Ayurveda was the natural choice for Indians. This is when many people jumped into the Ayurveda band wagon, some from the Ayurvedic and many from non-Ayurvedic community, going all out to market themselves and their products with their undercooked, incorrect Ayurvedic knowledge, and propagating totally irrational advice and peddling of formulations undermining the true efficacy of Ayurveda in treating various serious ailments including COVID-19.  The slew of irrational practices of both Allopathy and Ayurveda are highlighted, as also a native Ayurvedic perspective on  COVID-19 and its potential in treating and managing the pandemic. 

Symptoms

Fever is usually seen as a symptom that goes away with a couple of paracetamol pills. “Pop a pill, sweat the fever out” and if necessary use some antibiotics, is the usual treatment protocol and people get symptomatically relieved (though the pathology inside remains dormant as it is left untreated). But, the same isn’t the case with fever episodes since 2020 especially in  cases of COVID-19, as the “condition” is leaving a lasting trail behind, in one form or the other. And this is the  reason why, the management of both COVID and Post COVID complication and rehabilitation has become the biggest challenge to the modern healthcare system.

Whether it is some uneasiness or mild grade-high grade fever, people turn to paracetamol and later some antibiotics, but a small percentage of them who are sensitive enough to hear the whispers of the body, do admit that even though the paracetamol etc., brings down the body temperature, it takes weeks and sometimes months to regain the feeling of “being completely alright”. This is precisely the reason why the reduction in temperature and sweating are not the sole indicators of being free from “Jwara”(~ loosely translated as fever). 

According to Ayurveda there is an obstruction in the structures pertaining to the “Sweda”(~loosely translated as sweat), in the pathogenic process of jwara,. But, this obstruction alone isn’t the only event in the pathogenesis of jwara, as there is a series of events that take place within the body in the causation of jwara. Hence de-clogging the sweat structures alone is not the whole and the sole of treatment strategy in jwara. Reversal of events and rectification of disturbances in components responsible for Jwara, constitute the treatment goals in jwara, for which ayurveda offers modalities through medication-diet- and therapies. Timely use of these modalities would not only bring the temperature down (time frame depends on various factors) but also correct the disturbances and rekindle/reinstate the Agni (~metabolic and digestive force), helping the body to get back to normalcy. 

Agni  & Recovery from  disease

Agni is that force of vitality in the body, the state of which determines how healthy or ill a person is, and it contributes greatly to the recovery from a disease. Ayurveda attaches utmost significance to agni, so much so that its dwindling and not returning to normalcy even slightly, is considered as an ominous sign in the terminally ill patients. Correcting and rekindling of the impaired/suppressed Agni, followed by correction of other components and events, forms the key management factors in jwara (Referring to COVID-19  here).  But, unfortunately, this agni is never given much importance, in the modern system of fever management. Rekindling and achieving a sustained state of agni  is the central factor required for arresting the pathology and preventing it from going deeper in the body, i.e.  preventing progression of the disease and complications. This can be achieved through various modalities, starting from a simple langhana (Fasting for a stipulated time) or laghu ashana (eating a light diet) and then aoushadha prayoga (medication) employed at right stages.  Fever management protocols of allopathy, impair the already weakened  agni, making the body more vulnerable and conducive for the infection and inflammation to thrive, consequences of which are the complications that may even be fatal. Also, the aggravated doshas contributing to pathogenesis of jwara too are left untreated, as a consequence of which there is 1. Delayed recovery 2. Excessive fatigue-body ache-exhaustion even after the so-called “recovery”. 3. Lack of appetite and lasting loss of taste and smell. 4. Weight loss. 5. Continued episodes of breathlessness and shortness of breath. 6. Rapidly progressing infection. 7. Post COVID complications so on and so forth. This is why the majority of people have a difficult time coming back to normal shape in spite of having tested negative post COVID. 

Once the jwara gets deeper and gains a firm hold, we come across moderate to severe symptoms like chest heaviness- breathing difficulty- varying levels of O2 saturation  and other complications after a few days of onset of initial symptoms ( this can be seen from initial phases itself- explained below). Today, we hear an endless list of “POST COVID COMPLICATIONS” suffixed with “ITIS”, the root cause of all of it is the improperly managed (right from day 1) fever and otherwise bad  body state ( by ayurvedic parameters). 

“Asymptomatic” ! Really? 

We quite often get to hear that a patient was completely OK, but suddenly he/she developed fatal complications / that the patient was totally “asymptomatic”  but suddenly had some breathing issues. Here, we have two things to note 1. The sudden onset. 2. Being asymptomatic. 

The above mentioned situation is seen in majority of the cases wherein the subtle body signals went unnoticed or ignored. And also due to the fragmented, reductionist  approach of modern science and its methods of diagnosis-treatment.  People are asked to look out for the COVID 19 symptoms. If they are positive, they are then graded as mild-moderate or severe. Good percentage of people don’t experience these “classical COVID symptoms” , not even a clear-cut fever, but do experience other symptoms, they are considered unimportant and are asked to ignore since they are believed to be “Non-specific to COVID” (not classic of COVID ). 

During the mid-2020, few symptoms of digestive issues were also added to the “COVID-19- signs and symptoms” list. In fact there are many other signs and symptoms that are suggestive of active/latent pathology inside the body when seen from the Ayurvedic perspective but haven’t made it up to the list of COVID signs-symptoms. If the required attention is paid at that very initial stage, i.e. from day one, the progression of the pathology and worsening of the condition can be cramped.   

In the context of jwara chikitsa, Ayurvedic treatises have provided a detailed account of the presentations at the time, right from the beginning of the fever i.e when the fever starts sneaking and till the signs of its cure. But, since most of these are “Non-specific” according to modern medicine, people tend to ignore them.  

A. The asymptomatic phase !

The journey of any disease presentation actually commences from something called as the “Poorvarupa” avastha. The stage when the premonitory signs and symptoms start showing up. This is a stage wherein the disease is lurking around to establish itself, giving no clear cut and pronounced features as to the specifics of a disease ( like the dosha etc.,), but would surely alert that something is not completely alright and as to where the pathology is heading. People who are observant and understand the significance, do note and take these alerts seriously. Majority of the population are so conditioned that they either ignore it or start taking paracetamol etc., as a precaution at this phase itself, which is even worse than ignoring. Next comes the stage (Rupa avastha) when the disease would have established itself firmly in the body and starts showing (-dosha specific) disease specific signs and symptoms that are of high diagnostic value. Patients who come under the “asymptomatic” category, majority of the times experience symptoms from either or both the categories (Poorva Roopa and Roopa) mentioned here. Since, they are non “Classic ” symptoms, they are ignored. 

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 [Loose translation of the above verses- 1. Lack of energy /lethargy 2. Teary /moist eyes 3.Excessive yawning  4. Intolerance (indefinite) to cold water –wind and sun-rays  5.Lack of taste /altered taste. 6. Lack of strength to carry out routine activities. 7. Behavioural change. 8. Indigestion or digestive issues. 9. Heaviness in the abdomen 10. Discomfort in the chest area. 11.Constipation or loose stools 12. Incoherent/excessive speech ]

B. Why early detection becomes important:

The whole mode of management of COVID is not centred around destroying the infection/organisms or for that matter adopting anti inflammatory modalities. But, aims at addressing the pathology then and there, so that the progression of disease is curbed at a very early or whatever the stage the patient presents. The idea here is to neutralise the susceptibility (conducive for disease proliferation caused due to the disturbance in Dosha, Dhatu,Mala). The period from the premonitory stage to “Jwara mukti (Free from fever)” and several days after that is of utmost importance, hence close observation is essential. So, we have to decide – Was someone really “asymptomatic”? 

What is a “New” Disease ? Everything in this universe is a matter of discovery not invention.

When this pandemic struck last year, I fielded all manner of queries from various quarters as to whether Ayurveda, an “Old-outdated system of medicine”, had any formulation or cure for   a “NEW disease”.

Proponents of “Science” are not ready to accept the fact that Ayurveda’s great acharyas had a sound knowledge about COVID albeit without a name like “covid”. The Ayurvedic fraternity is asked to produce scientific evidence and validate the effectiveness of Ayurveda in managing a “New disease like COVID”. But, what is interesting is that, even this so-called “New disease” also presents itself in a similar fashion and follows the same set of “OLD” fundamental principles and descriptions, laid down in the Ayurvedic literature. But,  science in its own blissfully myopic way does not want even to acknowledge the facts, the paradigmatic basis of ayurvedic truths,  leave alone verifying and allying with it .  


Analysis of my COVID cases

The COVID-19 cases that I have personally managed and those I have closely observed, do match the pattern as explained in the Ayurvedic treatises and the line of treatment for the same also is explained there. I would like to present this as a proof of the eternal nature of the Ayurvedic conceptual framework. Ayurveda texts provide  clear cut signs and symptoms to ascertain the “Stage-Doshic dominance-stage wise transformation of fever and finally its recovery signs” as well. This so-called “New disease” also follows the same pattern. Since some of the symptoms could be found in multiple conditions/diseases/stages, the doctor’s discretion plays an important role, to ascertain and differentiate. 

This is the brief data of the patients with confirmed COVID-19 and also of other fevers presenting like one, treated during March to May 2021. Patients who opted for Ayurveda right from the beginning of the onset of symptoms, have been placed under the Intervention group(IG) (14 subjects)  and those who approached for post COVID issues have been placed under the control group(CG) (11 subjects). Subjects who had fever lasting for more than one day and with presentations similar to that, have been included under the Intervention group. 

The age group in the intervention group (IG) from 20 to 78 years, and that in the control group is from10 to 70 years. Out of 14 from the IG, 6 were in the age group of 55 and 80 years, 8 in the age group of 20 to 45 years, 5 had comorbidities, 7 confirmed cases of (RT PCR positive and some living in the same house) and rest with COVID like presentation with Loss of taste-smell-body ache etc.. 4 out of 14 had Breathlessness-Shortness of breath. This graph below shows signs and symptoms presented by the subjects in the Intervention Group.

In the IG, most symptoms got better within 2-5 days of onset and some symptoms were found to last up to 7-10 days. In CG, most symptoms persisted even after they were tested negative for COVID. Most of the symptoms got better within 7-10 days of the onset in IG. In CG, most signs and symptoms lasted for more than 15-20 days after testing negative for COVID. Longitudinal studies would help establish the efficacy in a better way.  

Comparison in symptoms and duration for recovery between IG and CG:

Symptoms Intervention GroupControl Group
Fever 1-4 days 5-7 days and more
Loss of appetite 1-4 days Lasted beyond 20 days.
Loss of smell 6-10th dayLasted beyond 20 days.
Loss of taste 6-10 days Lasted beyond 20 days.
Body ache 1-3 days Lasted beyond 20 days.
Fatigue  1-5 days Lasted beyond 20 days.
Cough 4-7 days Sometimes productive- intermittent cough traces. beyond 10-15 days
Shortness of breath4-10 days Lasted beyond 20 days.
Chest discomfort0-2 days Lasted beyond 20 days.

Ayurvedic diagnosis was arrived at in each case, independent of whether one was tested positive or not. After eliciting the necessary details, a treatment line was planned that included the use of right diet-lifestyle-siddha jala (processed water) and oral medicines. The duration and start of medicine etc, were also decided based on the condition. All fevers followed a pattern and presented in a particular manner, either mild /high grade, intermittent-continuous and so on, exactly as described in the samhitas.

Here are some striking features seen in the above subjects that were quite evident and stood out that are similar to description in treatises:

  1. Subjects in the first phase of fever showed – 

Lack of appetite- Increased urination-Distaste-Absence of bowel movement-Chest discomfort (These were predominantly observed)  . Reference 

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  1. Subjects in second phase of fever  showed- 

Spike in fever-Giddiness-Excessive thirst. 

Reference – 

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  1. Symptoms like Sneezing- Sweating- Desire for food-Lightness of the body and Itchy head being very evident are seen when a person is free from fever, 

Reference- 

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4. One of the subjects from IG was diagnosed as having “Sannipata jwara”. She had fever of 103-1040F associated with chills intermittently and severe weakness for three days. She showed the following symptoms, minutes before she became fever free. 

  1. 8-12 forceful & loud bouts of loose stools. 
  2. Syncope (few seconds)(don’t respond to oral commands for a few seconds) 
  3. Sweating.  
  4. Intermittent feeling of hot flushes and cold feeling alternately. 

She was cautioned about the possible occurrence of these symptoms, hence her parents did not panic. Otherwise, the usual tendency is to rush to the hospital, fearing  dehydration and hypovolemia. Few minutes after this episode, she was no longer feverish and after a few hours she reached “Jwara mukti” stage. 

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These are just few examples to show as to how the classical literature of Ayurveda conceptualizes and looks at diagnosing and treating the fevers of any origin, be it COVID or of different origin with same efficacy. As mentioned earlier, these are given to exemplify how even a so-called new disease follows the same trail as given in the samhitas. It is up to the reader’s discretion to decide whether at all ayurveda is in need of scientific re-validation and approval.


Customizing the treatment protocol

 Although the Samhitas have laid down a general protocol for jwara chikitsa, they have repeatedly stressed on the importance of Pratipurusha Siddhanta i.e ( ~Uniqueness Principle). Samhitas, after having laid down the protocol, have cautioned about the contraindications and exceptions too. Hence, assessment of the patient’s condition before employing the chikitsa is very important. An individual has to be seen as an individual only, hence cannot be subjected to a generic treatment protocol/modality. For example – Generic use of fasting or use of “Peya” by every fever patient. Though it is true that langhana/peya form the first line of treatment in fever,  samhitas have cautioned against its generic use. Fever in Ayurveda is of different types based on Dosha dominance and causative factors. Also, the condition-strength-digestion etc., of each person contracting a fever are different. A treatment is to be planned after considering all these nuances. Indulgence in the causative factors and the response of the body to those causative factors is diverse and unique, which is why a set protocol cannot be generically applied. When ayurveda has so much to say and do about the so called “simple” fever, it is up to the readers to decide, whether this should be ignored as a self limiting condition. 

The idea of “Self limiting condition”

This idea of self limiting nature of a disease is not endorsed by Ayurvedic texts. As every ailment is born out of disturbance in bodily components like dosha- agni- dhatu etc,. Normalcy in these has to be reinstated for which an active intervention, through medicine-diet- therapy, however seemingly trivial and small, is mandatory. Ayurveda is based on the cause and effect theory. So every cause has an effect and vice versa.

The “krumi’ conundrum : A wake-up call to the Ayurveda community

The moment the modern system of medicine identified the virus responsible for the pandemic, major sections of the Ayurveda fraternity jumped onto the bandwagon and started echoing that yes! It is the “krumi” (Microorganism) and Ayurveda samhitas too have descriptions and treatment modalities for it.  Hundreds of whatsapp messages started floating around to describe how the vedas too have references of krumi. But, the issue here is whether we can equate COVID-19 as caused by Virus and compare it to the “krumi /krumiroga”(Born of Krumi) described in Ayurveda. 

Suppose for a moment accept that it is krumi roga, what is to be noted is 1. The presentation, signs and symptomatology of krumi is not in any way similar to that seen in COVID-19 disease. 2. If it is assumed to be Krumi roga (it is not), it should be treated as such and the line of treatment explained for krumi roga, should be employed, which also is not the case. 

Then, why at all compare COVID 19 to krumi

In my opinion the root cause of the problem lies in the attitude of most Ayurvedic fraternity to impress the medical fraternity. Seeing everything through the allopathic eyes and accepting everything, without checking whether it is Ayurvedically true or not, is uncalled for. This attitude also has led to numerous generic advice, starting from herbal antiviral drugs to krmuihara drugs and so on, which is the wrong approach to treat the disease. 

I am not disputing the fact that Krumi has been described extensively, but can we consider COVID-19 as krumi or of  krumi origin ? The answer is , NO  we cannot. 

To RTPCR or not to …

Instead of equating COVID to krumi and using anti-krumi herbal drugs, it has to be diagnosed through the diagnostic methods of Ayurveda and treated in accordance with that. Here in COVID-19, if the condition is assessed and the disturbances are treated, the patient recovers faster. This also is the reason why it does not matter much from the treatment perspective, whether a person tests positive or not for RTPCR. Ayurveda texts lay emphasis on detecting the pathogenesis and uprooting/reversing the same. Same holds good for COVID too. 

Early 2021, the virus underwent a mutation and is undetected in RT-PCR and now the chest CT and so on, are required to be done to trace it. It was unthinkable to question the accuracy of RT-PCR a year ago. This again is another example that strengthens the view that clinical diagnosis, signs and symptomatology (ayurvedically significant) are still valid and relevant, hence invaluable. This in no way is to “blame” modern medicine, but only to highlight how credible and eternal the concepts of Ayurveda are. 

If the patient is observant enough, he would surely notice any one or most of the earlier listed symptoms (Puravarupa-rupa) and there will not be any avoidable delay in detection and treatment there on. The black-yellow-white fungus etc., too are suggestive of the latent untreated pathology in the body. If that susceptibility (Disturbance in dosha dhatu etc.,) in the body is corrected, the external agents won’t be able to thrive. Achieving the laboratory parameters to within the permissible limits alone is not the goal of treatment. There are  much deeper and subtler phenomena that govern the dynamics of body and health, which modern science and technology has not been able to explore so far. Trying to re-tune ourselves to the strums of nature through our  is the only way forward. 

Immunity boosters!

During the first COVID wave, many ayurvedic formulations and herbal combinations with the label of “Improve/increase the immunity” drew a lot of attention, albeit in a negative way. Since it is the immunity overdrive and not its lowered state, that is resulting in rapidly progressing complications, hence attempting to boost the already hyperactive immune system would worsen the condition. Based on such advice alone, certain sections of the medical fraternity declared that Ayurveda is non-scientific and useless. While in actuality, the “authentic Ayurveda” and its practitioners do not subscribe to this generic irrational advice.  

The idea of “Disease resistance” in Ayurveda

The moment a person is diagnosed with COVID or even sometimes as a preventive  measure, some popular immunity boosters like Chyavanaprasha and ashwagandha etc., are advised. What happens if the preparations like these etc., are given during an active episode of fever or conditions such as COVID ? It only adds to the existing pathology and worsens the condition instead of remedying it.  The problem here is not with chyavanprasha /ashwagandha in itself, but the problem is of the people who prescribe it  irrationally and generically. Same can be cited about  ZINC overuse.

What is important is the fact that the immunity does not come in a pill. Immunity is a resultant/outcome of the combination of 1. A proper diet 2. Proper lifestyle 3. Timely use of right medicines to rectify the disturbances. There is no need to do anything extra to boost the immunity etc., all you have to do is to follow the right dietary and lifestyle habits, which will consequently bestow good health (various aspects constitute health)-better resistance to the disease and capacity to fight it effectively. Unless we do this, no amount of Chyavanprash or ZINC can be of any use, instead they will only do harm.  Whether it is before or after COVID contraction, the only way out is to remove the susceptibility for disease proliferation present in the body. 

Ayurveda imposes certain dietary and lifestyle restrictions during and after the recovery from fever, as it leaves the tissues debilitated and vulnerable. During this phase the chances of relapse and developing of complications are very high. The prognosis and also the recovery to a great extent, depends on whether the body is abused or maintained, which again  depends on the diet and lifestyle previous to and especially during the COVID episode. 

Ramaban” for  COVID-19

Like in any other diseases in case of jwara also, it is essential to assess the aspects like the avastha  (Spotting the stage) – the doshic dominance and location (after some days) etc., before prescribing the diet-medicine and therapies. Prescribing, without due consideration to these aspects and employing any one drug /formula to all, saying “any fever is after all only a fever” is a wrong attitude and practice. We are witnessing the same situation now amidst this pandemic. One or two formulations are being portrayed as “The most potent medicine against COVID-19 as a Ramaban” and is prescribed to everyone at different points in time. Needless to say, it is the same in the case of Allopathy drugs. 

In 90% of the “recovered” cases, , the allopaths say that few paracetamols-antibiotics etc., was all that was needed, as they attribute the recovery to COVID’s self limiting nature, needing no serious intervention, while a section of ayurveda doctors say such and such a drug/formulation is like Ramaban did wonders and patients recovered through.

Getting through a COVID episode can be attributed to several factors like  1. The general condition of the body health (Not just whether diabetic or hypertensive etc.,) of an individual contracting is immensely important as it decides the extent of damage and complications. If the condition is relatively good the so-called recovery (temp free state and covid negative result,) is achieved. 2. There are many health issues that surface in the post COVID phase which most people don’t attribute to the former and see that to be an entirely new health issue. 

Across the board prescription of drugs/formulations  

A common “generic drug /formulation” to people “of different ages” “at different geographical locations” etc., is being prescribed for different purposes 1. As a preventive (asked to continue for months together without taking into account the individual’s condition, any associated complaints he has, climate and season, food pattern etc.), 2. During the entire COVID episode. (In fever and also in Breathlessness stages). 3. For POST COVID rehabilitation.

How can any one drug be effective for every type of patient, in every stage of a disease and even for rehabilitation?  Also, one drug for the liver and one for kidneys, is not the Ayurvedic approach. Most of the time, the pathology may have already developed and spread to various stages and places, so identification of the disease and its stage is important. 

It becomes clear now that most of these formulations are designed and prescribed in a way similar to the diagnosis and treatment style of modern medicine. Replacing  synthetic drugs with herbal combinations, in no way can be called Ayurveda, but can be called “Herbal Allopathy” at the most. 

Exercise-breathing techniques: for immunity. The new fad.

There is a misconception that exercise helps to improve the immunity against COVID-19.  Also pranayama and deep breathing techniques are touted to be helpful in the fight against it.   COVID patients start pranayama as soon as they are diagnosed. But, in actuality, “vyayama” of any kind is strictly contraindicated in fever and fever recovery phase as per Ayurveda and this holds good for COVID  too. It is true that Vyayama can improve health and immunity, but with the “conditions apply” clause. It is harmful to exercise in conditions that are contraindicated for it, conditions like COVID .  Because the exercises would actually aid the disease to get deeper and to spread to deeper locations making the pathology stubborn, badly affecting the recovery and  leading to complications. And exercise is not a magic pill, so it could boost the immunity instantaneously like, you start and you have it. There is a certain guideline in Ayurveda for exercising, which unfortunately isn’t much of a fad.

Eat healthy! Eat nutritious! 

Food plays an incredibly important role in the recovery from COVID and in the prevention of post COVID complications. But, people are clueless about what is the ideal diet during COVID and its recovery phase and are practically being misled by the so-called “Nutritious diet fads”. With celebrities posting their diet routines with what one should eat and how much, what is good and what is not and so on. Everyone is out there donning a doctor’s hat and advising. And adding to chaos, most of this advice comes with a tag of “Traditional or Ayurvedic diet”.  

Much of this advice and the food being served to COVID patients in a majority of places are in no way Ayurvedically appropriate. In most places /hospitals people are served with food that is completely contraindicated in fever (COVID) as per ayurveda. Such so-called “Nutritious and hygienic” food being served, is virtually helping the infection/inflammation to thrive in the body, instead of helping the patients to recover. 

A determined effort in changing this, one seemingly simple/ trivial practise itself could benefit the COVID patients enormously. As many times, the entire family gets affected with COVID, and has to depend on other sources for food and they unknowingly burden their own digestive system /body. Fever is a condition where digestion and assimilation is the worst hit. In such conditions, no matter what amount of nutritious food the patient takes, it would not help his recovery, instead it will definitely make the fever stay longer and thrive. 

Likewise other food articles too affect the body at various levels. Hence food has to be customised. So, it is good to come out of the misconception that you can eat whatever you want but eat nutritious food. Right diet could keep you healthy and recover better in case you fall ill, while such wrongful things will make you prone to various illnesses. 

Vitamin C – It is !!

I have been noticing since a year, how my neighbours are eating kilos of oranges on a regular basis as oranges are said to be rich in vitamin C and that it helps to improve immunity. They are wooed by the celebrities on social media to eat a lot of oranges and to even prepare “Eco friendly” toilet cleaners from its peels (pun intended). Though many fruits can be placed under the vitamin C rich category, from an ayurvedic perspective, each one of these is unique and cannot replace the other. So, eating a mosambi is not the same as eating oranges, though all of them are vitamin C rich fruits. 

What happens when you eat a lot of oranges?  Did you know that eating oranges, especially those that are sour, un-seasonally, makes one vulnerable to cough-breathlessness- rashes- worsening sinusitis -increased chances of infection-inflammation- and so on. 

Integration, Is it really ? 

Integration, it seems to mean allowing the use of some ayurvedic formulations like the popular turmeric milk alongside the standard allopathy treatment protocol. Lets see if  turmeric milk can be used at all stages in all patients or can any formulation be used alongside allopathy protocol, like it is  being widely practised?

Turmeric milk

The ingredients are turmeric and milk. No doubt the combination has a very high medicinal value. Today, the media and the people are obsessed with golden milk. My objection here is not to the “Golden milk per se” or preparation per se, but its generic and irrational use.  Turmeric, according to me, is the most abused herb. At one extreme we have people drinking turmeric juice as prevention for Cancer and at the other we see people use the same turmeric and turmeric milk for acne – injury – accident –cough or fever”. In fact, it is the beauty of ayurveda and the bounty of Nature that one single drug can act in various ways and cure various ailments. But, it is not to be done in the way being propagated these days. According to the ayurvedic classics, in all of the above mentioned conditions like cough – injury due to accident/wound etc, there is no mention of  the use of turmeric or its milk, as a main line of treatment at all. When it comes to fevers and specially in COVID-19, use of golden milk generically- irrationally, is bound to worsen the condition. This holds good for all other drugs/herbs too.  

Take rest !!

Take complete rest, sleep !! is another piece of advice that comes free of cost. Of course rest/ sleep is advisable for recovery from any disease. But Ayurveda has laid down certain conditions for the same, because sleep during the day is different from the sleep during night, as regards its influence on the body. In cases like  (fever), sleeping during the day is strictly prohibited (comes with a rule of exception for whom this could be therapeutic, otherwise  it will prevent recovery). So, this too needs customisation. 

During the initial phase of COVID contraction, most patients find it hard to sleep during the night. To a person who is already finding it hard to go to sleep, instead of trying to understand why there is a lack of sleep, they advise that one needs to sleep better. According to ayurveda, the sleep disturbances/patterns too indicate certain pathological conditions that are of diagnostic value and help in narrowing down the possible pathology. This is the level of precision that Ayurvedic texts talk about regarding  diagnosis and treatment. 

Yes! Ayurveda is not a “Science”:

It is only Allopathy that is a science and rest is anecdotal and non-sense. Sadly , this seems to be the “scientific” consensus. It is really unfortunate that humanity has to face such a colossal calamity to expose the limitations of modern medicine. But it also has thrown up challenges to the Ayurvedic fraternity. These challenges need to be accepted and the community needs to honestly introspect , own up to their mistakes so far and demonstrate visibly as to what an authentic Ayurveda can do to alleviate the sufferings. 

The community needs to know that there exists something beyond “Science-EBM-Diagnostics” and it is time we engage seriously with  “Atmanirbhar ayurveda” and stop looking for validation from our counterparts in every aspect whether it is diagnostics or research. 

It is essential that we stop trying to prove Ayurveda as a “science”. Because the term “Science” limits the depth and profundity of Ayurveda ,which is way beyond the current definition and scope of science.  

Implications for the Future

It does pay to be an India-hater, there are millions making a career out of it. But if the primary  intention is to demean everything of Indian heritage, all that is going to happen is that  humanity will be deprived of the treasure trove that is Ayurveda.

There is no malicious intent to show modern western system of medicine in bad light as it has been serving mankind for quite some time now.. For the medical fraternity, to be adamant and to measure the efficacy of Ayurveda with incorrect and unsuitable metrics (be it laboratory parameters or research methods) is unacceptable. The study of Ayurveda with the limiting and reductionist approach of modern medicine will only harm Ayurveda, which will only end up as “Herbal allopathy”.  

The framework for Ayurvedic study is entirely different, hence, only if we respect that, can it flourish. The current short sighted and parochial approach does not augur well. 

Looking at how Traditional Chinese medicine has engaged with Modern Medicine on its own terms and has made an impact on modern healthcare , both in Asia and in some Western Countries is something we should learn from.

Integration, it must be, but sensibly and intelligently.


Dr. Priyanka Shandilya
Dr. Priyanka Shandilya

7 thoughts on “The efficacy of Ayurveda and the COVID-19 conundrum. Some real-world insights.”

  1. Madhuri. T. M

    An eye opener article..In this so called modern era, mass production,mass distrucion..etc mass treatment methods are applied on mass..unfortunate… Ayurveda Medicine system is unique..and human beings are also unique in nature…Thank you Dr Priyanka for such elaborate article…and upholding the Ancient Indian Valuable Ayurveda knowledge..

  2. Excellent article! Thanks for writing this eye-opening piece that busts almost all the myths we have been receiving in the name of advice and WA forwards

  3. Well done Priyanka ji. The main problem is that there is no way of regulating Ayurveda practice. we need a system of implementing standards of education, training and practice of Ayurveda or the quacks will continue to bring a bad reputation to a perfectly sound discipline.

  4. Sejuti Banerjea

    Great article. Lucky are the people who have access to an authentic Ayurvedic practitioner!

  5. Priyanka ji, Namaskara Thank you for standing for Ayurveda what it is and what is not. Pls guide on basic principles of it and where to look for in terms of Knowledge & treatments. Though I have placed my trust in Arya Vaidya Sala Kottakkal but I am not sure where I can increase my knowledge to benefit from Ancient gift. Om namah Shivay !

  6. Thanks for the article and your research. Unfortunately the govt doesnt understand this. Not sure if we have any organization of Vaidyas who work on issues related to Ayurveda. Everyone working on their own wont help. And maybe we need another org for people using Ayurveda as primary science so that there are ways to sort out issues faced by this part of the population.

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