As Tamil Nadu grapples with dengue outbreak, the controversy over the use of a herbal drug, Nilavembu Kudineer, for prevention and treatment of the disease is growing. The state government has endorsed the use of Nilavembu Kudineer for fever management, including dengue, as well as for improving immunity. At the same time, actor Kamal Haasan advised people against using the drug till the time its efficacy is proved, following which a police complaint was filed against him.
What is Nilavembu Kudineer?
Nilavembu Kudineer is a herbal drug comprising nine ingredients in equal measure. The primary ingredient of the drug — nilavembu (andrographis paniculata)–is a small plant that is said to have antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic properties and several other health benefits. Under Siddha treatment, it is prescribed for all types of fevers and also for body aches. It is consumed as a drink mixed in measures prescribed by Siddha medical practitioners.
Controversy surrounding Nilavembu Kudineer
Usage of Nilavembu Kudineer was approved by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa during her term in office for treating dengue and chikungunya. Some researchers claimed the drug was not completely safe and could have side-effects like infertility. However, state health minister Vijaybhaskar quashed all such claims and said it has been scientifically proven that the Nilavembu decoction can treat fevers like dengue and chikungunya.
Actor Kamal Hasaan’s tweet last week whipped a controversy when he raised concerns about the possible side effects of the drug. “It’s not that the research should be done by allopathics. The traditionalists should also have done it. It is traditional for medicines to have side effects,” he posted.
What does research say?
According to allopathic scientific research, there is no cure for fevers like dengue and standard treatment is essentially management of fever and symptoms till the body recovers from the ailment.
US-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre found “Andrographis possesses antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and immunostimulating properties. Either alone, or in combination with other herbs, andrographis has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory infections such as those associated with the common cold or flu. Andrographis extract may benefit patients with ulcerative colitis. It also reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, patients should use caution before using this herb as it may interact with many drugs.”
It also found that if a patient is on chemotherapy drugs, antiplatelets or anticoagulents, blood pressure drugs, Andrographis would interfere with the medicines the patient is taking.
MSKCC research found common side effects to be headache, fatigue, allergic reactions, lymph node pain, nausea, diarrhea, altered taste etc.
Drug in high demand
The Government Siddha Medical College Hospital has, meanwhile, provided nilavembu kudineer chooranam to over 8.6 lakh people through its outpatient department, according to a report. The drug is available in a powdered form which is made into a concoction with water.
The Tamil Nadu Medicinal Plant Farms and Herbal Medicine Corporation Limited is reportedly selling the medicine at GSMC. It is also being sold on call with doorstep delivery options.