While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the world continues an upward surge, scientists are putting in a concerted effort to develop vaccines and treatments with a view to check the spread of the pandemic as early as possible. The virus is insanely infectious and a majority of the world’s population is still very much susceptible to it. Since the entire world continues to grapple with an unprecedented and unimaginably serious human crisis, vaccine development is definitely the most crucial need of the hour.

In order to address pandemic outbreaks, it is extremely important to have a competent system of medicine closely linked with R&D, because human health can only improve through innovation that keeps pace with the emerging challenges. The modern allopathic system of medicine gives quick relief from diseases but not necessarily the guarantee of good health. It is in this context that the traditional Indian system of medicine or Ayurveda, can play a niche role in terms of affordability, accessibility and long-term benefits by way of ensuring good health and a strong immunity to fight diseases for all citizens of the country and across all age-groups.

Ayurveda is not only the ancient Indian science of preventative health and healing but also a philosophy of living life in harmony with nature. It is said to have originated in the Vedic times with its roots in the Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools of Indian philosophy. Ayurveda cures by removing the cause of the disease itself, rather than merely treating the symptoms. Ancient sages realised that transgressions against nature’s laws and against our own inner wisdom are the cause of all diseases, which may be either physical or karmic in origin.

Physical diseases are the result of engaging in excessive usage of our senses, improper and irregular eating and sleeping habits, or ignoring the cycles of seasons along with its associated changes or our age. Karmic diseases result from incorrect actions (bad karma) performed in this or previous lifetimes. Hence, the concept of rebirth (punarjanma) came to be recognised as the truth in ancient Indian philosophy, which meant that the physical body was the only part of us that dies upon death. Our psychic instrument, or antahkarana, which is composed of the intellect, mind and ego, travels with us in the next several lifetimes too until we attain final liberation (moksha).

Thus, good health encompasses all aspects of our physical, physiological and psychological well-being. Ayurveda describes health as the perfect harmony of bodily functions, a well-balanced metabolism and a happy and poised state of the mind and the senses. It has categorised the physiological functions of the body as falling under three heads, viz. Clana (movement), Pacana (digestion or assimilation of food), and Lepana (respiration), which correspond to the three dosas (humours), i.e. Vata (wind), Pitta (bile), and Slesma/Kaph (phlegm). These dosas maintain a harmonious ratio of their own when the body is in a good state of health performing the above three functions. An imbalance in the three dosas results in an improper flow of blood in the blood vessels, which adversely impacts the overall metabolic functioning of the body.

On the contrary, the modern allopathic system of medicine is based on an obsession with a particular cell, organ or disease, which is only a part of the overall human body. Since it focuses chiefly on the symptoms of the disease, allopathy largely relies on drugs and surgery to help the body get rid of pathogens or diseased tissue. But, the inherent toxicity of chemical-laden drugs weakens both the body and the mind in the long run. Here, it must be emphasised that with the progression of the disease and the onset of acute conditions, administering drugs or performing a surgery becomes a necessity. But, Ayurveda can be used in conjunction with allopathic treatment to not only make a diseased person physically and mentally stronger but also help him rebuild his confidence in himself to live life again. In this way, it can also help ease the pressure on modern healthcare systems by renewing focus on the effective and timely prevention of any kind of hormonal imbalances and diseases.

With the increasing popularity of several Ayurvedic home-based remedies during the COVID-19 pandemic, India stands to gain enormously as a producer and exporter of traditional herbal medicines in the coming times. In fact, the West’s growing fascination with not only Yoga but also various other natural remedies including traditional and alternative medicines and local herbs, etc. augurs well for India. Through a smart and strategic marketing plan, this can also help provide a substantial source of income for poor farmers and companies across the country. As per a study conducted by the Spain-based Natural Products and Chemistry Research Organisation, Indian exports of medicinal and aromatic plants has increased from 2010 to almost double their value in the year 2014. The Indian herbal medicine and Ayurvedic market was estimated to be worth $4.5 billion in 2018. According to WHO estimates, it is expected to reach $5 trillion by 2050 from the existing $62 billion, with India having a share of 2.5%.

The North-eastern states of India, especially, are blessed with a unique topography, soil and climatic conditions that are extremely favourable for the growth of several rare species of medicinal plant varieties. However, the major hurdles in this respect include lack of adequate marketing, technological know-how, paucity of funds and poor infrastructural facilities. The hill states of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, in particular, have immense potential for the cultivation of oil-bearing plants such as peppermint oil, rose oil, spearmint oil, lemongrass oil, etc. Local medicinal herbs used in traditional Assamese food such as bhedailota (skunkvine leaves/Paederia Foetida), manimumi (Indian pennywort), musundori (heartleaf/Houttuynia cordate), maati-kaduri (sessile joyweed), etc. are also used by the people of Assam for their primary healthcare needs. Hence, their cultivation needs to be taken up on a commercial basis that generates adequate income and employment opportunities for the local population here. In this way, the medicinal plant sector can not only become a major bio-resource for the entire North-East, but also facilitate in promoting India’s Ayurvedic food-cum-health practices at the global level.

The recent controversy around Patanjali’s Coronil has drawn attention to the fact that it is the responsibility of the government to play a more pro-active role in promoting Ayurveda as one of Bharat’s most priceless civilisational heritage. The corporate-led big pharma giants, in collusion with a corrupt Indian bureaucracy, have no doubt been a major hurdle in hindering the accreditation process of Ayurvedic hospitals. Ayurvedic health practitioners have alleged that in the case of allopathic hospitals, both big and small, there are different standards of accreditation processes, which is however, not available when it comes to Ayurvedic hospitals. This has proved to be one of the major lacunas in the growth of Ayurvedic hospitals on a similar footing with the posh, luxuriously-maintained allopathic hospitals. Moreover, the heavily West-inspired Indian education system has produced a generation of Hinduphobic youth who have been immaculately trained to first question and then ridicule everything that is Indian/Bharatiya.

With a proper and effective regulatory system of checks and balances in place, Ayurveda has the potential to become a multi-billion dollar profit-making industry, which shall prove to be a game-changer in furthering India’s soft-power image in the global political and economic scenario too. Besides ensuring their safety and efficacy, the government needs to cross-check and verify the therapeutic claims to truth of Ayurvedic medicines before marketing them, so that no agenda-driven lobby can find any slightest way out to discredit Ayurvedic health practices.

Hence, commercialisation and marketing of any form of herbal remedies should be preceded by credible scientific research of specific plants and their medicinal values grown in a particular region of the country. Heavy penalty provisions should be imposed for making false claims or counterfeiting of medicines, etc. The health impact of Ayurvedic medicines needs to have a valid track-record as reflected in the National Health Policy (NHP), 2017 which aims to ‘standardise and validate Ayurvedic drugs and ensure quality of medicines, develop infrastructure, foster research and link AYUSH systems to the Accredited Social Health Acivists’ (ASHA) network’. Adulteration of Ayurvedic medicines through illegal addition of salts, synthetic drugs, etc. used in allopathic medicines, steroids or any other poisonous chemicals is very much a possibility to entirely discredit and disrepute Ayurveda as a holistic system of health and well-being.

It is a well-established fact that traditional Indian knowledge of local plant varieties is prone to exploitation and profiteering in the hands of big pharma and hence needs to be protected from bio-piracy and unethical patents. The West has already appropriated Yoga and made it its own form of aerobic exercise through nomenclatures like power yoga, hot yoga, etc. Quite in the same manner, the West has again been in the forefront of commodification and marketing of local knowledge related to Indian herbal remedies in the form of fancy eye-catching products such as turmeric lattes, yogic teas, etc. In this respect, the government needs to engage and sensitise the local community in question and also devolve more powers to the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL). In this way, India can rightfully and proudly claim whatever always belonged to it, while at the same time, also adhering to the international patent classification systems.

Ayurveda is India’s traditional way of life that is based on maintaining human-nature balance at its optimum best. The Western civilisation was built on the foundations of ‘modern science’ which included allopathy too as one of the important benchmarks of ‘modernity’. However, the West is now facing an existential crisis in terms of a decline in traditional family values and societal relations which has negatively impacted people’s overall physical and mental health in these countries. Considering such a situation, the projection and marketing of a nature-friendly way of life at the global level has the potential to establish itself as a brand name in its own right, besides truly leading India in the way of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.


  1. Maya Tiwari. (2005). Ayurveda: A Life of Balance. Delhi: M.B. Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  2. https://www.teriin.org/article/making-medicinal-plant-wealth-work-northeast-india
  3. https://www.dailypioneer.com/2017/columnists/ayush-and-the-challenges-ahead.html

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.