Ayurveda Takes a Paradigm Shift

Date:   Friday , October 07, 2016

Headquartered in Bengaluru, Sami Labs is an ISO 22000 certified health & wellness company that develops, manufactures and supplies Ayurvedic Extracts, Nutraceuticals, Probiotics and APIs which are used in Cosmetic, Personal Care and Food Formulations.

For over five thousand years, India has been practicing Ayurveda, one of the oldest systems of medicine documented in the Vedic scriptures. However, it is still being considered as an alternative medical system not just abroad, but in India as well, and the pursuit needs to accelerate.

As people live longer and healthcare costs go through the roof, wellness has become a key focus. Changing lifestyles have dramatically changed our food habits particularly in this generation, resulting in many people falling prey to chronic lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes. While modern medical systems help to deal with such issues, they are designed to treat the symptoms rather than the cause, and that forces people to spend more on medical care. On the other hand, the basic philosophy of Ayurveda is to prevent and manage the underlying cause. It is more than just an alternative medical system; it is a holistic approach to living that helps maintain one’s health while attaining longevity. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit terms ‘ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (knowledge).

There has been an increased interest in Ayurveda, especially from the Western countries. The global herbal supplements and remedies market is forecast to reach over a $100 billion dollar by 2017. However, India’s current share of the export market is just 0.2 percent of the global herbal trade, underscoring the massive opportunity for India to tap this growing market. The credentials of Indian natural products is based on the science of Ayurveda, and the market is open to ideas and products that are authentic yet backed with science to prove them right.

There are many factors for the emergence of Ayurveda – One, people are living longer than before. And secondly, the products are safe and effective, making it the ultimate option for a large set of consumers. With modern techniques and scientific studies substantiating the claims of Ayurveda, there is a boost in the market. As healthcare costs rise, people, especially those living in developing countries, are increasingly turning to herbal remedies for primary care.

Another major factor that is contributing to the re-emergence of Ayurveda is the increased access to information about ancient medical systems. It has helped to dispel certain myths about Ayurveda such as:

• Harmless and thus self-prescribed
• Slow in curing
• Homemade and lack clinical testing

Unlike yoga, climatic and environmental conditions also play a key role in ensuring the correct Ayurveda experience. Like it was mentioned earlier, Ayurveda is not just a treatment, but a holistic way of living. One needs to keep in mind that many Ayurvedic herbs are fast disappearing. India is home to 15,000 medicinal plants, out of which 7,000 plants are used for Ayurveda and nearly 400 are on the endangered list. The green movement and a rising interest to live in an organic, sustainable and natural environment have put the focus firmly on Ayurveda. While the growth of nature derived products began in the 1980s, the lack of growth and promotion had stunted the growth of Ayurveda.

Why Ayurveda matters – India & the World

The WHO estimates that nearly 80 percent of the world’s population use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary care and Ayurveda is a major part of that. In India, 65 percent of the rural population uses natural remedies as a first step for healthcare. In Africa, traditional medicines serve 80 percent of healthcare needs, while in China it is about 40 percent. However, the lack of scientific validation, proper research and documentation have been the major reasons why Ayurveda and other traditional medicine systems have not been able to penetrate foreign markets. In recent times, there have been a number of initiatives by several groups to scientifically validate the claims made by Ayurveda.

The rising number of patents on Ayurvedic medicines and treatment methods is also an indication that Ayurveda is gaining popularity among the masses. In the last decade, India had been able to get patents for over 100 Ayurvedic products and has created a demand in the global market for Ayurvedic products, which also boosted the demand for raw materials resulting in a demand-supply gap. Timely initiatives taken by the government and various NGOs also have helped in addressing the issue.

Some of the initiatives taken by the government include the establishment of National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) at the Centre-level as well as State Medicinal Plant Boards (SMPB) in almost all the states of India. Through these boards, the government provides funding to the farmers and organizations to promote cultivation of medicinal plants. The medical fraternities in the country want the government to bring in an Act to protect native medical techniques like Ayurveda as they fear losing out to patents from foreign firms.

Ayurveda has been a field that is slowly gaining significance in the research and development front, and is being opted by practitioners to showcase the credibility of natural health science with the help of technology in the global market. The national government has also been in favor of the promotion as it puts Indian tradition on the global map and marks its presence significantly in world health affairs.

Thanks to the signing of a Project Collaboration Agreement (PCA) between the WHO and Ministry of AYUSH in May 2016, traditional medicine practitioners will have to adhere to strict protocols and benchmarks. The PCA aims to support the WHO in the development and implementation of the ‘WHO Traditional and Complementary Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023’ and will contribute to the global promotion of traditional Indian systems of medicine. For many in the rural areas of the world, herbal medicines and traditional treatments are the main, or perhaps, the only source of healthcare. We must not let the wisdom of our sages die down.