JUNE 2001- Contents
Travel & Adventure
the-south-asian.com June 2001
VEDIC WAY TO THE HEART
Isidore Domnick Mendis
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences recently held a conference where doctors from around the world discussed the efficacy of Ayurvedic drugs in relation to a failing heart. The medical fraternity agreed that India's ancient stream of medicine has some miracle cures for cardio-vascular diseases…
The office is abuzz with activity as computer operators in half cubicles take orders from people come to buy and sell stocks online. At the corner of the sprawling office is the spacious room of 52-year-old stockbroker Ramesh Varshnik who sits in front of his 18-inch colour monitor supervising all the big deals being executed by his assistants and animatedly offering advice to half a dozen people sitting in his room.
None of his clients know that just four months back Varshnik was diagnosed suffering from hyperlipidemia - an ailment that generally leads to insufficiency of blood circulation in the heart. The only solution was a by-pass surgery. However, a couple of months ago, under the supervision of a Vaid, he switched to on ayurvedic drug called Terminalia Arjuna. Thanks to that, he claims, all problems have disappeared and his heart is ticking normally.
Varshnik is not the only convert. Today a number of people are turning to Ayurveda and discovering the miracles of this 2000-year-old Indian system of medicine.
In fact, the All India Institute
of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) held a conference earlier this year where
doctors from around the world discussed the efficacy of Ayurvedic drugs
specifically in relation to a failing heart. Dr K.K. Talwar, professor of
cardiology at AIIMS initiated the conference titled Alternative System of
Medicine and Cardiology.
In another study conducted at the Gujarat Ayurvedic University, drugs such as Terminalia Arjuna and Jaharmohara were administered to heart patients. In 66 percent of the cases the levels of chest pains, palpitation and fatigue came down dramatically and blood pressure and pulse rate came back to normal.
Cardiovascular problems have been dealt with at length in Ayurveda, which describes hridaya (heart) as a body organ governing emotions and circulating blood to keep a person alive and healthy.
Origin of Heart Problems
According to Maharishi Kaviraj Nanak Chand Sharma, head of the Kaya Maya Ayurvedic Institute in Tuglaqabad near Delhi, cardiac problems arise due to improper diet, lack of water in the body and stressful life styles. " These lead to thickening of arteries (dhamani praticaya) or hardening of arteries (dhamani kathinaya) resulting in angio-obstruction (vata dosa) and angina (ruja). "
The drug Terminalia Arjuna has been used in Ayurveda for cardiac ailments since ancient times. Arjuna is a dense and tall tree and has long, cone shaped round leaves and white bark used in medicines. This tree is called nadisarjja in Sanskrit and its bark is described as a cardiac tonic. The tree is indigenous to India though it is found also in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Besides the heart, Terminalia Arjuna is said to be beneficial for internal bleeding, ulcers, asthma, diarrhea and dysentery.
Jaharmorha is another Ayurvedic drug used in the treatment of cardio-vascular diseases. It is a yellowish-green soft stone found in the Himalayas. Its powder is processed with rose water and administered to heart patients.
Plants have contributed immensely in the development of certain allopathic cardiac medicines. Many modern cardiac drugs like dioxin, digitalis purpurea, digitalis lanata, strephanthus gratus, thevetia neriifolia, are based on plant extracts. So why haven't Ayurvedic drugs like Terminalia Arjuna become as popular since they too are based primarily on plant extract?
Prof S.D. Seth formerly head of Department of Pharmacology at AIIMS and now emeritus scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has an answer. He says, " The problem is that Ayurveda has never submitted itself to clinical tests and hence it has been ignored by the medical community."
No Scientific Evaluation
Dr. K.K. Talwar agrees and says, " There is an absence of scientific evaluation of drugs like Terminalia arjuna and Jaharmorha. They would have a bright future if their qualities were proved by tests and not just theoretically stated. That's why they have not got worldwide recognition. Medical tests are required to check if such drugs have any side effects."
Clinical testing of a drug can take upto 15 years of which 10 years are devoted to experiments on rabbits and rodents and, in the next five years it is administered on human beings. All allopathic drugs undergo such tests before they are approved.
Dr. V. Muthuswamy additional director general of ICMR says. " Ayurvedic practitioners have kept the rich heritage close to their chest. They consider it as their own repository. They seldom disseminate knowledge of this age-old medical stream. That's why it is being left behind."
Maharishi Kaviraj Nanak Chand Sharma does not agree that a lack of clinical evaluation has left Ayurveda in the cold. He blames both the British rulers and successive Indian governments for the sorry state of affairs.
" Clinical studies on Ayurveda drugs like Terminalia Arjuna and Jaharmorha have been undertaken but they haven't been approved by the government. The Britishers during their rule tried to systematically ruin Ayurveda as it would have had a telling effect on allopathy which was then controlled by them."
In any case, he says, the authorities are making an unnecessary fuss over the issue of clinical testing. " Since Ayurvedic drugs are obtained from natural sources they generally don't have side effects. Where is the need to test such pure form of drugs which do not contain any chemicals?"
But even as the debate
continues, it is the common man who stands to lose. Bereft of the miracle
healing powers of Ayurveda, patients have no choice but to turn to allopathy
for all diseases ranging from headache and sinus to ulcers and heart
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