AYUSH recommends Unani medicines for ‘symptomatic management of coronavirus infection’

Ministry’s advisory includes Ayurveda and Homoeopathy as prophylactic measures

Updated - January 29, 2020 10:53 pm IST

Published - January 29, 2020 06:13 pm IST - CHENNAI

Photo: Twitter/@moayush

Photo: Twitter/@moayush

Nearly four weeks after China first reported the presence of a novel coronavirus in a cluster of 41 patients in the city of Wuhan to the World Health Organisation (WHO), modern medicine has not yet found a particular drug to treat and cure the infection.

People infected with the novel virus are currently provided only symptomatic treatment, including ensuring they get enough oxygen, and the use of a ventilator to push air into the lungs, if necessary, to allow patients to survive long enough for the immune system to fight the disease.

Unani medicines

But the AYUSH Ministry has sent out a press release listing specific Unani medicines “useful in symptomatic management of coronavirus infection”. The release does not mention the symptoms that people infected with coronavirus exhibit, nor which medicine should be taken for managing what specific symptom.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, coronavirus symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The illness also causes lung lesions and pneumonia. Milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, making detection difficult. According to The New York Times , “Chinese authorities have said they had seen cases that did not meet the usual description. In these patients, the first symptoms were gastrointestinal, including diarrhoea.”

On Ayurveda

In the case of Ayurveda, a couple of medicines have been recommended by the AYUSH Ministry as “prophylactic measures/ immunomodulatory drugs as per the Ayurvedic practices”. In this, the release does clearly mention: “Advocacy is for information only and shall be adopted in consultation with registered Ayurveda practitioners only”. Such a cautionary note has not been provided in the case of Unani drugs.

On Homoeopathy

In the case of Homoeopathy, the release states: “The Group of Experts inter-alia has recommended that homoeopathy medicine Arsenicum album30 could betaken as prophylactic medicine against coronavirus infections, which has also been advised for prevention of ILI [influenza-like illness]. It has recommended one doze of Arsenicum album 30, daily in empty stomach for three days. The dose should be repeated after one month by following the same schedule in case coronavirus infections prevail in the community.”

The advice on Homoeopathy is based on the recommendation of the Scientific Advisory Board that met on January 28 at the instance of Ministry of AYUSH to “discuss the way and means of prevention of coronavirus infection through Homoeopathy”.

The release includes standard precautions to avoid infections — washing hands with soap; avoiding contact to eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and wearing a mask.

Microbial causation

“Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani do not believe in microbial causation of disease, unlike Homoeopathy. In traditional systems of medicine, there is no need for disease diagnosis before disease treatment,” said retired virologist Dr. Jacob John.

Dr. Bhavana Prasher, an Ayurveda doctor from the Delhi-based CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research)-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) counters Professsor John. She said: “Ayurveda does consider external triggers, including microbes. But it does not look at individual microbes. The strategy of management is to boost a person’s immune system and allow it to fight the disease.”

Professor John said that while modern medicine demands evidence through clinical trials, traditional medicine goes by an expert’s teaching that in turn goes by dogma.

Genome sequence

After Chinese researchers first shared the whole genome sequence of the novel coronavirus, a few teams located in other countries have also posted the sequence. It was based on the genome sequence that Chinese researchers could tell the novel virus belongs to the coronavirus family. Preliminary results from the whole genome sequencing show that this novel coronavirus has similarities with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus.

Apart from these basic details, not much is known about the virus in terms of its source, precise duration of incubation, severity, and what makes it quite easily transmissible. Most reported cases have been mild, with about 20% of patients experiencing severe disease, the WHO has said.

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