Doctors say that in addition to being ill-timed, the unscientific advisory could be misleading to persons who may experience symptoms.

Science races to fight Coronavirus but Indian govt thinks Ayurveda and Homeo can prevent itPTI
news Coronavirus Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 13:31

As countries around the world struggle to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus strain, India’s Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) has sparked controversy with the release of an advisory. The advisory, released on Tuesday, is titled 'Homoeopathy for Prevention of Corona virus Infections' and 'Unani Medicines useful in symptomatic management of Corona Virus infection'. Doctors say that in addition to being ill-timed, the unscientific advisory could be damaging to persons who may experience symptoms.

Coronavirus has claimed 132 lives in China where it originated, as per reports, as of Tuesday.

With scientists as yet unable to assess the exact cause of the virus' origin from Wuhan in Hubei province, fear-mongering regarding the virus has been going viral on social media over the past week. Thousands remain in quarantine in China, even as hundreds around the world in at least 16 countries are under observation for symptoms. Countries have stepped up vigil at airports and public places, screening passengers flying in from China.

The AYUSH advisory states, “The outbreak of a mysterious new CoronaVirus is rapidly spreading. The whole world is going through the fear of this Corona Virus, the Research Councils under the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India have issued advisory based on the Indian traditional medicine practices Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani.” (sic)

Prescribing good hygiene practices, the advisory also suggests ‘prophylactic’ Ayurvedic medicines. "Drink Shadang Paniya (Musta, Parpat, Usheer, Chandan,Udeechya & Nagar) processed water (10 gm powder boiled in 1-liter water, until it reduces to half). Store it in a bottle and drink it when thirsty. Agastya Harityaki 5 gm, twice a day with warm water. Samshamani Vati 500 mg twice a day. Trikatu(Pippali, Marich & Shunthi) powder 5 gm and Tulasi 3-5 leaves (boiled in 1-litre water, until it reduces to ½ liter and keeps it in a bottle) keep taking it in sips as and when required. Pratimarsa Nasya: Instill two drops of Anu taila/Sesame oil in each nostril daily in the morning.”

It adds, however, “If you suspect Corona Viral infection, wear a mask and contact your nearest hospital immediately.”

“This advocacy is for information only and shall be adopted in consultation with registered Ayurveda practitioners only.” it states. 

It further recommends various homeopathic medicines following a meeting of the Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy's Scientific Advisory Board on 28th January 2020. It said, “The Expert Group has further suggested that general hygienic measures for prevention of air-borne infections suggested by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India, for prevention of the disease should also be followed by the public.”

The advisory lists "Unani Medicines useful in symptomatic management of Corona Virus infection" along with a dietary recommendation of "easily digestible, light and soft diets."

Several doctors have reacted to the government’s announcement, strongly condemning its decision to back non-allopathic practices in light of the recent outbreak.

“We haven’t confirmed any cases in India so far and we should take proper measures as issued by the WHO for screening and prevention. While things like washing hands frequently and other basic hygiene measures are good things on the list, it’s a little presumptive of them to back Ayurvedic measures in view of an outbreak. There’s so much we don’t know about this virus or its spread,” stated one General Practitioner from Chennai.

"Now is not the time to rely on treatments that are still largely debated. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued measures to take as precautions and to help screen cases, we should stick to these protocols instead of introducing homeopathic measures," adds a Bengaluru-based pediatrician.

Narendra Nayak, President of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations issued a statement condemning the government for 'promoting these sort of unproven therapies to lull people into false sense of security that they can be safe if they consume such concoctions.'

"We strongly condemn this attempt by the govt. to promote quackery in the name of alternate medicine. When all the authorities including WHO state that is neither any vaccine nor any treatment for coronavirus the govt. is promoting these sort of unproven therapies to lull people into false sense of security that they can be safe if they consume such concoctions. Wonder why the medical bodies are silent on this blatant falsehood." read the statement.

(With input from Dr Nimeshika Jayachandran)

Read: Fact check: Busting the myths around the Coronavirus

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