Ancient science of medicines


Ayurveda is a holistic treatment; it doesn’t draw any line between food and medicine, prevention and cure. Hence, an Ayurvedic drug is often known as nutraceutical, a nutrient said to have health-promoting or disease-preventing attributes.

The world is waking up today to this wisdom of 3,000 years. Pharmaceutical companies all over the world are working overtime; developing and bringing to the market herb-based products which blur the line between food and medicine, herbal-tea for example. The healthcare and herbal segments of the traditional pharma manufacturers are merging to bring out health and nutrition oriented products for common ailments like cough, cold, dermatological and digestive problems.

In the absence of adverse side effects, the Food and Drug Administration authorities across the world approve these formulations for use without prescription from a qualified physician; what, in industry parlance, is referred to as OTC (Over The Counter) drugs.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, there are about 400 families of flowering medicinal plants of which 315 families of plants occur in India. Thus India, with both the knowledge system and the material base, has the potential to assume leadership in the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years.

The science of ayurvedic drugs is based on age old tradition in India. Ancient experts found out the different plant-properties with their inexplicable capacities. The Indian tradition of making these medicines is evidently different from that of Western science. In primordial scriptures, the Indian medicine making techniques is mentioned as Dravya-guna-shastra meaning science of the property of materials. The modern Indian scientists are currently facing a mammoth challenge of developing an intercultural link between Dravya-guna-shastra and modern Pharmacology. To strengthen this link, it’s extremely important for them to recognize our heritage and maintain equilibrium while exploring indigenous knowledge and modern science.

The Science of Ayurveda

Ayurvedic pharmacology is based mostly on herbs. In ayurvedic thinking, the converse is also true. Ayurveda considers every single herb a potential medicine. In the days of yore, these herbs grew naturally in forest areas and were gathered by ayurvedic students and practitioners. Since our independence in 1947, in the last nearly 60 years the forest cover of the country has come down to 2l.9 % of the total land area, the districts of the Tamil-Nadu and Karnataka border being the only honorable exception where the forest cover in fact has grown. Hence, Ayurveda should be released from the handicap of inadequate availability of herbs in nature.

In olden days, an ayurvedic practitioner prepared drugs individually for each of his patients. Since independence, the population of the country has grown from 345 million to 1.3 billion. Doctors of today do not have the time and the patience to formulate drugs individually. There is, therefore, a need for mass production of ayurvedic drugs.

In the past 50 years, western science has developed and fine-tuned the technology for converting medical knowledge into prescription drugs. This methodology including clinical trials is intended to ensure a high degree of safety for the user-patient in addition to product efficacy.

Could the knowledge of Charaka, Sushruta and other ayurvedic seers be tapped and delivered to the populace using the productization methodology currently available. This, anyway, is the business-model that many successful pharmaceutical companies including Himalaya Drugs, Patanjali, and others follow.

Ancient Pharmacology

Relevance of Ancient Pharmacology in Modern World

1.   Ashwagandha

2.   Arketin

Ashwagandha for Rejuvenation:

Ashwagandha – The botanical name of Ashwagandha is Withania Somnifera.

Asvagandhanilaslesmasvitrasothaksayapaha I

Balya rasayani tikta kasayosnatisukrala II

Meaning – The Ashwagandha – an astringent, bitter and hot (in potency) medicine removes (defects in) Vata and Kapha (humors), white leprosy, swelling and general debility. It energizes and enhances sperm.

Medhamsmrtimkantimanamayatvam Aayuh

prakarsambalamindriyanam I

Strisu praharsamparamagnivrddhim

Varnaprasadampavananulomyam II

Meaning – The Rasayana promotes – intelligence, memory, luster, immunity and longevity, strengthens sense organs and sexual excitement, stimulates (digestive) fire, gives (good) color (to skin) and maintains favorable (state of) vata (wind humor).

Rasayanasyasya narah prayogat

labheta jirnospi kutipravesat I

Jarakrtam rupamapasya sarvam

bibharti rupamnavayauvanasya II

Meaning – By taking this medicine, even an old man casts away all senility and bears the form of fresh youth.


Bhavaprakasa-nighantu, Guduchyadiganah Slokah -179 (Vedic period)

Charaka -samhita, Siddhisthanam, Adhyayah 1, Slokah 74, 75 (1st Century BCE)

Current Relevance

Scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) have developed a herbal stress buster. The drug ‘Composite Indian Herbal Preparation’ or CIHP-I, was prepared with 15 commonly available herbs, including ‘ashwagandha’, ‘brahmi’ and ‘chyawanprash’. The Defence Institute of Physiological & Allied Sciences (DIPAS), in association with the Army Medical Corps, has completed extensive drug trials involving over 3,000 soldiers. The ‘CIHP-I’ was found to be beneficial for soldiers serving at high altitudes, cold areas and also in low intensity conflict situations that expose them to intense stress and high altitude sickness. It was found to be effective in improving physical and mental efficiency.

Arketin  for Malaria: Malaria is a major killer, especially in the tropics, which is home to a large number of the poor. The scientific community declared a premature victory over malaria in the 1980s, when it was thought to have been eradicated from the face of the earth. (Remember N.M.E.P the National Malaria Eradication Programme of the government of India, which did a periodical door-to-door survey to confirm that there was no occurrence of malaria.) Malaria resurfaced with vengeance with the two principal weapons, DDT against mosquitoes which spread the disease and quinine which fights the disease, failing.

Professor Li Guoqiao from the Guangshou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, on a trip to the mountainous Yunnan province in 1974, came across a plant called qunghao – which is mentioned as a cure for malaria in Chinese medicine books dating from 340 BCE. Prof. Li made his breakthrough in 1997 when he used artemisinin in conjunction with western synthetic drugs to create Artekin.

Recent tests indicate that Artekin cures nearly 100 percent of patients and kills the blood parasite so quickly that it cannot build up resistance. By contrast, chloroquine – the most common anti-malarial drug available – has a success rate of less than 40 percent.

Arketin is effective not merely against the common form of malaria, which affects the liver; but, also against the Falcibrum malaria, which affects the brain and is often fatal. This drug which represents ancient Chinese wisdom delivered in modern allopathic vehicle costs only a small fraction of chloroquine and makes it possible to reach the benefit of medicine to those who need it the most – the poor.


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