Author: Tarannum Rehal
Interview with Manavish Sall (4th Year Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery student at Saraswati Ayurved Hospital and Medical College in Gharuan, Mohali, India)
The effectiveness and modernity of ayurvedic care and treatment compared to allopathic care and treatment has been a hot debate in medicine.
Allopathy is derived from the Greek words állos (opposite) and pathos (suffering, in terms of disease). Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word comprised of the words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge) (Sharma, 2020).
Understanding the root words of Ayurveda, it is based on natural sciences, hence, all Ayurvedic remedies and medicines are made by making use of natural herbs and plants, as well as their extracts. In contrast, allopathic medicine, which is the most typical form of treatment one thinks of, is tested and made in laboratories from various chemical drugs before it is provided to the general public for use (Kerala Ayurveda, 2020). One of the biggest advantages of Ayurvedic treatment is the fact that since it is entirely natural, it does not result in unnecessary side effects on one’s health. Allopathic medicines on the other hand, most commonly result in mild to severe side effects that range from headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and in extreme cases, seizures or even death.
Ayurvedic belief is that prevention is better than cure, therefore it aims to tackle the root cause of disease while promoting a healthier and stronger immune system for optimal health to avoid such ailments from occurring in the first place (Kerala Ayurveda, 2020). In contrast, allopathic treatment more or less works to reduce the symptoms of an illness and treating the symptoms instead of the illness itself. For example, ibuprofen, which we commonly take in the form of Advil, is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that “treats” common ailments such as headaches, sinus infections, runny nose, menstrual cramps, muscle aches, and other common cold or flu symptoms. However, it does not target or treat the actual cold or flu itself and can result in an upset stomach, nausea, headache, constipation, diarrhea, and/or drowsiness, which then need to be “treated” with other drugs or medications.
A key disadvantage to allopathic treatment that is not present in Ayurveda is the possibility of drug (antibacterial) resistance (Kerala Ayurveda, 2020). Bacterial strains are constantly evolving, and over time, tend to develop a resistance to the drugs designed to eradicate or treat them. Despite the chemical efficacy of allopathic medications, over time their strength and efficacy are greatly diminished, which then requires the prescription and use of stronger medications with a likelihood of stronger side effects to destroy the “resistant” bacteria or cells of an ailment. Ayurveda does not pose such a problem since it is comprised entirely of natural ingredients.
Given all these benefits and advantages of Ayurvedic treatment compared to allopathic treatment, one may wonder, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, whether Ayurvedic care may be more effective, or possibly even a cure, compared to current allopathic care being received. In my interview with Manavish Sall, a 4th-year student in a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery program at Saraswati Ayurved and Medical College, we discussed the relevance of Ayurvedic practices, how Ayurveda can be paired with allopathy, Ayurvedic care for COVID-19 patients, and the current allopathic treatment methods of COVID-19 including the vaccine(s).
Ayurvedic knowledge originated in India over 5,000 years ago and is commonly known as the Mother of All Healing (Lad, n.d.). Ultimately, the three principle energies, or dosha, of the body: vata, pitta, and kapha, work in harmony to maintain a balance or homeostasis in one’s physical and psychological health. A disruption or imbalance in any one of these principle energies serves as the root cause for any ailment. Vata (pronounced “vaath”) is the energy of the nervous system and is focused on the brain. Pitta (pronounced “pith”) is the energy of digestion and metabolism. Kapha (pronounced “kuff”) is the energy of respiration or breathing. Though these dosha are present in unique ratios in each individual, the key to maintaining a balance between them is one’s diet. Over time, Ayurvedic practices have branched outside of India in many forms including yoga.
One of the “drawbacks” of Ayurveda is that it takes time, sometimes a week to a month to start showing its effects depending on the severity of an ailment, while allopathy is designed for its chemical drugs to show its working effects almost immediately within a few hours at the very least. However, allopathy does not aim to eliminate the root cause of an illness but rather to reduce or treat the symptoms that it manifests. Though Ayurvedic care may take a while to show a positive change in a sick individual, it continuously works behind the scenes to eliminate the ailment in its entirety. The goal is to make a healthy person healthier and keep a sick person disease-free. Now you might be wondering, if Ayurveda is so effective and eliminates the disease from its root, then why do we even have allopathy? A huge reason for that is that over time, our society has become ingrained in a busy lifestyle where we are constantly working or studying, or both, and we hardly get time to actually spare time for ourselves let alone appropriately implement Ayurvedic practices into our lives. If we fall sick or get so much so as the common cold, we take Paracetamol or Advil, typical NSAIDs to reduce our symptoms so we can get back to our busy lifestyle instead of actually getting rid of our cold or flu from the source. In the old days, people were able to maintain a balance between their dosha and implement Ayurveda into their daily lifestyle because they had the time to do so. Ideally, a balance of treatment between Ayurveda and allopathy is good practice in today’s age. You can take allopathic drugs for quick relief to an ailment but simultaneously pair it with Ayurvedic medications to eliminate the ailment for good. And there is no harm of possible side effects since Ayurvedic medications are made of all-natural plants and herbs anyway.
Now in the case of COVID-19, as of right now at least, it is hard to say whether Ayurvedic treatment can serve as a cure to this virus since just like any virus, COVID-19 is constantly mutating and evolving, presenting new variants. For this exact reason, the vaccine does not provide 100% immunity to COVID-19 either because there are chances of being infected with another variant. Nonetheless, the vaccine does provide at least some protection so if one was to actually at one point become infected, the symptoms or infection would not be as serious and your immune system will have greater strength to fight it off. And, this vaccine, whether it’s made by Pfizer, Moderna, CoviShield, CoVaxin, or Sputnik, all contain an inactivated form of the COVID-19 mRNA to allow your body to produce antibodies to fight COVID-19 in case of infection. A vaccine, or any medication for that matter, will not work to the best of its ability if your immune system is not strong enough to begin with. As a preventative measure, one may take Ayurvedic herbs and plants that help boost or strengthen one’s immunity, not just specific to COVID-19 but in general, and pair it with getting vaccinated for the most self-protection during this pandemic. You cannot just rely upon one method solely and assume that you are completely immune.
Being an Indian myself, and thus growing up in an Indian household, herbs, plants, vegetables, and oils are an innate and key component in my diet. When sick, instead of taking standard cough syrups or pain killers, my family instead gives me concoctions of various herbs. Ayurvedic practices are a regular part of South Asian households but have introduced themselves into many Western societies along with other practices and beliefs.
I had a great time with Manavish in discussing the relevance of Ayurveda, understanding its origin, and how it can be conjoined with allopathy to promote optimal health! I appreciate your time and knowledge that have helped me put this article together!