By Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
Recently Patanjali, the uber-successful Ayurveda venture of Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna, released a medicine called Coronil to cure coronavirus disease. Promptly, the authorities have asked Patanjali to stop advertising until data can be shown that substantiates such claims.
At the launch, their clinical data, independently verified in a study done at NIMS University in Jaipur, showed that 280 patients with coronavirus symptoms were given Coronil and 69% were cured of coronavirus within 3 days. Related symptoms were also relieved. The clinical study was registered with the Clinical Trials Registry of India by a professor of medicine, Dr. Ganpat Devpura and approved as CTRI/2020/05/025273 on May 20, 2020 as a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial (RCT). The intervention was reported as “Swashri Vati & Coronil” to the Drug Policy Section of AYUSH. The launch of the medicine allows people to benefit from it and is ethically done when a medicine can prevent a lot of disease by being released early.
Clearly, people are incensed that modern science cannot find a cure and Ayurveda claims to have proven something using the standards of clinical studies. It was fine when hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) was touted as a cure using the advertising campaign of POTUS but with no evidence. It was also fine when Glenmark released Favipiravir, and other countries touted remdesivir or dexamethasone as cures. No one asked them to stop advertising nor doubted their scanty clinical data.
The problem is not that Ayurveda does not work. The problem is that ayurvedic doctors do not know how to articulate their knowledge well. And most do not know how to do clinical research adapting or evolving the accepted norms of epidemiology into methods that works for ayurveda.
In contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine found a way to take medicines that are very different from pharmaceuticals and make them acceptable and licensed around the world. Ayurveda had not yet found that recipe.
In addition, Ayurveda battles to speak a language of healing that is denied by positivists and scientists who deny the very parameters that Ayurveda believes are the key to health: the woven thread of mind-body-senses-soul that cannot be separated. Ayurveda advocates the key role of the mind that squirts healing chemicals into the body whenever it is triggered, something modern physiology cannot unravel, so it ignores its existence.
For any ayurvedic physician, Coronil is simply an intelligent way to package the medicines we have been using for the past 5 months to treat Covid. The Coronil kit is a 30-day supply of three products that have shown great efficacy for thousands of years.
One is Anu tailam (tailam or tel means oil usually with a sesame base), an ancient recipe of 20 botanical ingredients that has been used to effectively clean out toxins in the head and upper chest, mostly in the sinuses and oral cavity. It is used during nasya, one of the procedures of panchakarma used to clean deep toxins stuck in the areas above the collar bones. Anu tel is also recommended in the late winter for daily dinacharya to prevent the common upper respiratory ailments of cold and flu season. The 20+ plants in the formula include sharp, bitter and warming herbs that clean out old phlegm and create a coating along the nasal walls that prevent penetration of viruses and bacteria. A good recipe will include the classic recipe of tulsi, cinnamon, yasthimadhu, musta, daruharidra, devadaru, tejpatra and other herbs in goat’s milk and sesame oil. They reduce kapha and build up the agni in the body. Every traditional household has a bottle of Anu tailam in the home pharmacy.
The second product in the Coronil kit is Shwasari Ras, an herbomineral remedy that strengthens the respiratory system and cuts through phlegm while destroying inflammation in the breathing canal. It has the magical abhraka bhasma, that rejuvenates the lungs and ear-nose-throat canal, and restores trace minerals to the cells and enzymes in the system.
Coronil itself is made with guduchi, tulsi and ashwagandha, a powerful rejuvenator. It has been made of standardized extracts, chemical contents to get mainstream medical approval.
Pure guduchi, also known as giloy and gilroy and botanically as Tinospora cordifolia, has been used for thousands of years clinically and has immense ability to improve the parts of the immune system that keep disease out. It works without provoking the parts of the immune system that cause autoimmune diseases or hypersensitivity reactions.
Tulsi has an uncanny ability to harvest trace minerals from the soil and deliver them to our respiratory systems. It also traps oxygen like most plants but releases it to the cellular machinery. Ashwagandha has been touted as the Indian ginseng and is used in the aftermath of disease, to aid in rebuilding once cellular crisis is done.
The magic of these medicines, like any recipe, is in the making of the medicine, the proportions, the order in which the ingredients are added, and the way the ingredients are procured. Modern pharmaceuticals and regulatory bodies such as the FDA do not monitor these parameters as they focus primarily only on chemical ingredients, reflecting their infancy in understanding the true nature of the incorporation of medicines into the body.
Just as any apple pie connoisseur knows how to pick the apples, when to add the cinnamon, and how to make the crust, a good ayurvedic physician will not just look at the ingredients on the label of a formulation. Ayurvedic medicines are often considered magic because it goes beyond the logic of modern chemistry and pharmaceutics.
Using the power of biology and chemistry, ancient ayurvedic medicine-makers looked at the power of trees to fight viruses and parasites that infected them. These plants were then used by animals. Keen observation showed that we must observe where an herb is grown, the quality of soil around the plant, when it is picked in the cycle of the day or season, how it is harvested and stored and when it is added in sequence to the medicine. These factors are part of the intellectual property of ayurveda and remain as an immense untapped resource simply because modern pharmaceutic science refuses to acknowledge the power of the living ecosystem and the importance of each factor in the cycle of life that make it unpatentable.
In the meantime, we can be grateful that there are people who are uncompromising about making medicines that truly heal, in a way that truly heals, until the world catches up with the ancient gold standard of living medicines that do not harm as they do their work.
Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
MPH MD (Family Medicine)
PhD (Ayurveda ‑ BHU)