If 2015 saw a marketing blitzkrieg to showcase yoga to the world, this year was about dedicating it and other AYUSH practices for treatment of diabetes.
The quality concern in herbal medicine, however, remains a challenge that needs to be addressed through validation and proper enforcement of regulation.
Faced with questions about the scientific basis of traditional medicines, the AYUSH Ministry entered into an agreement for improving international acceptability and branding of AYUSH systems.
Benchmarks for training in yoga and practice in ayurveda, unani medicine and panchakarma will help ensure the highest standards in quality, safety and effectiveness of traditional medicines, the ministry said.
India also partnered with the US to initiate research efforts on traditional medicines for cancer treatment and the first US-India workshop on traditional medicine was held.
Recently, yoga as an “ancient Indian practice” was inscribed on UNESCO’s representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
On International Yoga Day celebrations in Chandigarh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to all that yoga must be devoted to fighting diabetes.
“All people belonging to the field of yoga must continue with their yoga activities but diabetes must be the main focus,” he said.
Following which a yoga protocol to fight diabetes mellitus, developed by a committee of experts, was unveiled in October. This protocol includes various exercises and diet regimen that a patient can follow.
Continuing with the theme, a national protocol was also launched for treating diabetes through ayurveda. These guidelines prescribe medicines for different symptoms. The protocol also includes a list of fruits and vegetables a diabetic patient should or should not eat. It also recommends an active lifestyle, physical exercise, yoga in order to avoid falling prey to diabetes.
The emphasis on diabetes also landed the ministry in a major controversy after a misleading advertisement of an ayurvedic medicine, AYUSH-82, for diabetes gave a false notion that diabetics could avoid using insulin after taking the drug for a few months.
This was in contravention of Drugs and Magic Remedies Objectionable Advertisements Act-1954 which disallows advertisements of the cure for chronic illnesses like diabetes. The advertisement was subsequently pulled off air in October.
Questions have also been raised about research and clinical trial methods for AYUSH-82 before making tall claims.
AYUSH Minister Shripad Yesso Naik admitted that quality concern with traditional medicines was a huge challenge.
“Many questions are raised about the scientific basis of traditional medicine, their quality, safety and efficacy. It is true that the facet of the traditional and complex herbal formulation can’t be explained fully on the conventional parameters used for testing of chemical drugs.
“But for the sake of safety and consumers to use these medicines with confidence, it is necessary to ensure quality of products,” he said.