By Steena Joy
The science of Ayurveda, the origins of which lies in our very own Kerala, stands in danger of losing its authenticity and with it, the hordes of wellness tourists who flock to the state in search of a cure that eludes modern allopathy.
The numerous Ayurveda resorts and Kerala government Green Leaf certified treatment centres will also need to focus their attention on sourcing of the medicinal herbs needed in Ayurveda which are slowly depleting.
Dr G G Gangadharan, medical director, Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine (I-AIM) Healthcare Centre and chairman, National Steering Committee for Global Ayurveda Festival, (a biennial get together of the Ayurveda fraternity not only from Kerala but from the world over) says, “The global wellness market is worth some five trillion. India earns Rs 9,000 crore from Ayurveda services alone and we have not even seen the tip of the iceberg as far as this science is concerned.
Ayurveda is the only area where India is 5,000 years ahead of other countries. But this success story is in danger. Now even other countries like Switzerland, and Sri Lanka, our neighbours are offering Ayurveda. We have to make our visa procedures simpler and we have to document and up our research on this science. As Ayurveda is not officially recognised by many countries, it is difficult for patients travelling to India for Ayurveda to get medical insurance.”
He added, “What is even more alarming is on the production front. On the one hand, mass production of Ayurvedic medicines is diluting the science. On the other, a shortage of herbs required to produce these medicines is looming. When the demand for Ayurveda increases, how will the treatment centres get the plants and herbs needed for production? Ayurveda uses some 1600 plants and herbs of which only 120 are in actual usage. Of these about 60 are not easily available.”
Dr Gangadharan felt that a strong backward integration model needs to be adopted. “We have urged the government to implement a nursery technology programme to step up cultivation. Here again, some plants need to be cultivated ‘in situ’ in their original environment or they will lose their medicinal value. Some herbs like guggul which is the most used in Ayurveda is difficult to cultivate. So the government has to subsidise farmers and have a buyback arrangement.”
Baby Mathew, chairman and managing director, Somatheeram Ayurveda Group, opined, “Because of the good climate and soil, and also the availability of herbs and plants, Kerala is the ideal place for practising Ayurveda. It is good that the government has implemented GMP in Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing. But sadly, there are no high standard research facilities for Ayurveda like the IITs for technology or IHMs for hotel management. The government has finally given approval for setting up an Ayurveda University, so at least the tourism department and the health department are on the right track. But, we also need to give our Ayurveda treatment centres the ambience of a resort unlike our old Ayurvedic clinics that had a hospital like atmosphere. This will help in giving a genuineness to the treatment.”