Ayurvedic products are increasing in popularity. A recent report unveiled at the Global Ayurveda Summit in Kochi found that 77 percent of Indian households used them in 2017. This is up from 69 percent of households in 2015.
The rise of ayurveda is being fuelled by growing emphasis on the importance of healthy lifestyles, suggested the report prepared by Powerwaterhouse Coopers (PwC) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). This is against the backdrop of India’s rising rates of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which the report credits with encouraging more and more people to look after their health. To this end, many Indians are turning to Ayurveda and other alternative medicine systems and treatments, such as unani, siddha, naturopathy, and homoeopathy.
The conference heralded further good news for ayurveda on the global scale. The industry is anticipated to almost triple in size in the coming years. By 2022, the market will reach US$9.7 billion in size. This is compared to US$3.4 billion in 2015.
Speaking at the event, Governor of Kerala P Sathasivam welcomed the news. He spoke positively of the Centre “[giving] priority to mainstreaming indigenous medicine systems” in the 2017 National Health Policy. He credited this with giving “a policy boost” to “Indian medicine systems, such as Ayurveda.” The state was identified in the report as being well-positioned to lead the growth of ayurveda in the coming years.
To build on the industry’s growth in India, PwC and the CII encouraged the use of technologyby the ayurvedic industry to satisfy demand. It also said that quality control standards need to be enforced if ayurveda is to be successfully launched at the international level.
The Centre has been keen to promote traditional systems of medicine in recent years. It established the Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in 2014. The Modi government has been keen to promote AYUSH both at home and abroad, constructing state-of-the-art homoeopathic laboratories and showcasing the industry at international conferences.
This is fuelling growing uptake of AYUSH. Not only do 77 percent of households use Ayurveda, there has been a fifty percent increase in patients seeking homoeopathic treatment in the past five years. AYUSH’s increased popularity is being observed not only among Indians, but also among international visitors. Some analysts have credited AYUSH with driving – at least in part – the rapid growth of India’s medical tourism industry.
It has been suggested that India is entertaining a somewhat unhealthy relationship with AYUSH treatments – one which could prove detrimental to public health in the long run. In the treatment of many physical ailments, most AYUSH treatments have no effect beyond that of a placebo.
However, this has not stopped their promotion in some quarters of the press as “a cure for every disease”. Nor has it prevented proposals such as offering a bridge course to AYUSH practitioners to enable them to practise allopathic medicine.
This is not to say that AYUSH treatments cannot be of some public health benefit. For example, homoeopathic treatments may lessen overreliance on antibiotics and other medicaments for ailments such as the common cold. Some evidence has been produced, suggesting the merit of alternative approaches such as music therapy to mental healthcare, as well as the potential value of turmeric in the fights against arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
AYUSH undoubtedly has historic roots in India. This should not, however, validate the often unwieldy tone in which its health benefits are promoted to an extent that is on par with allopathic medicine.
There is a clear scientific consensus surrounding the limitations of what AYUSH can offer in terms of health. As such, the rising popularity of such treatments may seem baffling to some. Yet the industry’s continual growth on the backbone of near-incessant government promotion and largely positive coverage in the media does seem to indicate that, for the foreseeable future, AYUSH is here to stay.
This article was originally published in Health Issues India. It is reprinted here with permission.