As the field of alternative medicine gains immense popularity in the wake of COVID-19, the ancient practice of Ayurveda with India as its land of origin can don the role of quiet yet powerful armed forces in the fight against the coronavirus, according to a seasoned Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
Weill Cornell Medicine is the biomedical research unit and medical school of Cornell University, a private Ivy League university and according to Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya, practicing Ayurveda is like approaching the disease from the perspective of air, water, land and time.
"This is elaborated in a chapter on epidemics known as janapada-uddhvansa in ancient classic medical texts. The daily lifestyle of a survivor includes cleaning the air, using clean water properly, cleansing the land, and becoming aware of time," Bhattacharya told IANS in an interview.
Alongside this pillar of lifestyle guidelines are a pillar of wisdom for food (ahara) and a pillar of medicines for epidemics.
According to Bhattacharya who is Fulbright Specialist in Public Health-Integrative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, Ayurveda does not focus on the virus.
"It focuses on the person, the host. Every seed that can grow will not grow in every soil. Ayurvedic wisdom says to empower the soil of the body so that the virus cannot take hold. This is pure personalised medicine at its best," she emphasised.
The Ministry of AYUSH in India has proposed to include Ayurveda solutions in the district level contingency plans being drawn up to contain Covid-19 in all districts across the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent address to the nation advised everyone in his 7-point appeal to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of AYUSH to help build immunity against the coronavirus pandemic.
Bhattacharya said that cleansing the air includes fumigation, the use of flames in homam, daily diyas, and any burning of herbs, especially those with anti-viral or poisonous properties.
"Burned ajwain is used in eye remedies and can be used in a dhoopana, along with neem, haldi, garlic and onion peels, and coconut husk. Opening doors and windows in the morning after rising brings in fresh air allows concentrated particles to leave," she said.
Known in vernacular languages as jutha, etho, ushta, enjalu, eccam, aintha and engili, among others, many Indians know rules of washing hands, feet and face at certain times of day and around certain activities.
"We know how to bathe before cooking, before eating, and after using the toilet. We know to not touch our faces while cooking or touching children and persons outside the household. We know to wash our hands after handshakes," Bhattacharya elaborated.
Keeping the land clean around our homes requires removal of inorganic waste, planting of trees, leaving water and food for birds, and consciously ensuring that the space breathes clean air regularly. Fumigation around the home precipitates the particles of germs that hover.
The awareness of time is developed by regular meditation, yoga and appreciation of quiet and calm.
"During pandemics, people who are not mentally resilient require extra assistance, breaking down with low thresholds for trauma and showing poor stress management," Bhattacharya told IANS.
Ayurveda also offers guidelines for food during epidemics, stressing that we should keep our guts clean.
We should eat simple foods, healthy foods, and foods that do not disrespect the environment.
According to her, gradually shifting toward eating vegetables, whole grains and pulses, and using less ingredients is advised. Adding raisins (draksha), coriander (dhanya) leaves, prunes, spinaches (saag), palak and dark green leafy vegetables to the diet helps the bowel push contents down and out.
To prevent illness, Ayurveda says to keep gut clean using foods.
"If you need extra help, try taking 1 tsp of triphala with hot water at night. If you need more help, contact an ayurvedic physician. You can take 1 tsp of dashmul powder with 1 tsp of psyllium husk with hot water at night. The main goal is to have large bowel movements daily and get the gut clean," she advised.
To keep the prana-vaha-srotas (ENT+respiratory system) clean, make a bitter kada/kara/kwatha.
Decoctions at sunrise and sunset are a ritual for cleaning the nasal passages by stimulating the bitter taste buds, which turns on the airway's immune machinery.
"Guduchi/giloy (Tinospora cordifolia) is the best plant for boosting immunity during this pandemic and is found in many forms," she said.
For more specific symptoms, such as lower airway breathing difficulty, middle airway asthma, or upper airway, special formulations such as Soma Asava, Yashi Churna, Agasthya Haritaki Rasayan, Pushkarmoola asava, Vasa Avaleha, and Chitraka Haritaki Avaleha exist.
According to her, Ayurveda is not a chemistry-based science.
"It includes ecology, geology, biology, botany, and many other modern sciences which are disconnected. Trusting Ayurveda as an overall approach is trusting that all sciences are deeply connected," said Bhattacharya who hold a Ph.D in Ayurveda from Banaras Hindu University and has been affiliated with Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.