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Coronavirus & traditional medicines: the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question

While there is no vaccine or specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19 to date, the usage of alternative medicine to boost immunity and, thereby, prevent the disease spread is a topic of hot debate across the globe.

The spread of pandemic COVID-19 to over 123 countries has fuelled the demand for Ayurveda, Homeopathy or traditional Chinese remedies in countries like India and the US as people are on the look-out for natural remedies to up body immunity. FMCG companies like Dabur, Himalayala Wellness and Patanjali Ayurved recently revealed they were experiencing high demand for immunity booster products.

In fact a few countries have started investing in study and clinical trials of “natural remedies”. Researchers in the Philippines are testing Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) as an effective and safe agent against the novel coronavirus.

The Indian Ministry of AYUSH in January issued an advisory recommending possible treatment through the traditional healthcare systems even as the allopathic fraternity opposed it tooth and nail.

AYUSH Minister Shripad Naik clarified his ministry did not claim Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy to have cures for novel coronavirus but that the alternative medicine can help boost immunity.

"We have firmly said that though our medicine is not validated scientifically, it has been proved that Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani can be used as promotive medicines," he said.

“Advising treatment methods not yet scientifically proven can have their fall outs, especially when people won’t listen to standard advisories issued to prevent the disease like frequent hand washing. The same will have disastrous effect at this crucial juncture when India is facing the third stage (community spread) of the virus outbreak,” said Dr P Gopikumar, Secretary, Kerala State Branch, Indian Medical Association.

However, a large section believes there is no harm in exploring the possibilities of traditional remedies in boosting immunity, an indirect way to fight COVID-19.

“Simple methods like burning of Aparajitha choornam in the house to make the air cleaner, rice soup with panchakolam powder, water boiled with dahasamani, Shadanga Paneeyam and other medicines can be administered to boost immunity..,” said Dr D Ramanathan, General Secretary, AMMOI (Ayurvedic Medicinal Manufactures Organisation of India.

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