If it were not for the Covid-19 crisis, year 2020 would have culminated differently for India, just like the rest of the world. The pandemic scare shook the most advanced of nations and challenged human intelligence to the core. To control the spread of the ‘highly-infectious’ disease, people looked out for every possible option to not only prevent the spread of the disease but cure it, effectively and permanently.
When the entire world was failing with modern medicine to control the virus, it was India that tasted success with its traditional medicine system, Ayurveda, in helping people with the prevention and management of the Covid infection. The Covid-19 crisis not only made India stronger as a country but a healthier nation with more people now embracing traditional medicines and therapies.
The health challenges
The novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China perplexed the medical fraternity with its unpredictable nature. The infection, its rapidly-growing list of ‘possible symptoms’, no successful vaccine in sight and the recurrence of the infection in ‘cured’ patients caused fear psychosis among the people and the medical fraternity alike.
The prognosis of the Coronavirus infection was something the medical fraternity discovered alongside tackling the damage caused by the virus. Covid-19 can spread silently, rapidly and display worst symptoms suddenly. The fact that a ‘normal person’ can suddenly start displaying symptoms that worsen into life-threatening conditions within a span of a few hours was also a big cause of worry for doctors and posed challenges to the medical fraternity and civic health officials in the management of the disease.
Additionally, the virus affects the respiratory system to a great extent which is why urgent medical attention is needed in patients, particularly those with compromised lung function and other respiratory disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, bronchitis and the elderly.
When the COVID-19 first hit India, the biggest concern with authorities was managing the disease in crowded areas, slums and among the migrant population. Soon enough, there was an evident shortage of beds in medical facilities and designated Covid Care Centres across the country, particularly in COVID-hotspots such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, etc. Even most far-flung areas such as Himachal Pradesh and several north-eastern states soon fell prey to the unpredictable nature and dangerous progression of the COVID-19 infection.
Embracing traditional health systems
Soon enough, there was a major shift in the country’s approach towards medication and health management at the state policy level and within homes too. It was clear that the best way to tackle the virus was identifying and implementing preventive healthcare management that included immunity boosting measures, ayurvedic immunity boosters, yoga and pranayam for improved lung function.
“It was a learning curve for the entire country, the doctors as well as the common man. And, we as a country collectively looked inwards for a solution that was right in front of us,” offers Mumbai-based alternative health and wellness practitioner Geetha Prakash.
“I have been practising for two decades now. Earlier, I always found foreigners more open and embracing of India’s traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda, yoga, etc. After the COVID-19 crisis, now more and more Indians are also adopting traditional ways for a better and healthy living. India has found a new health consciousness.”
In the wake of the unprecedented loss of life that the novel coronavirus caused in countries such as Italy, Spain, USA, UK and others, India tackled the situation by giving equal attention to preventive healthcare.
It was in June 2020 Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved launched ‘Coronil’, an immunity-booster kit, as a preventive healthcare measure. Patanjali claimed that in Coronil, more than 100 ayurvedic compounds are used including ashwagandha, tulsi , giloy and other ayurvedic ingredients that ‘help in boosting internal immunity and fight other symptoms such as cough and cold, fever, etc.’
While Patanjali launched an immunity boosting kit, it’s a known fact that herbs and spices, integral to Ayurveda, have been part of traditional Indian households for centuries. Most home remedies used for fever, cough and cold, sore throat, weakness, body pain, joint pain, diabetes, infection, menstrual pain, migraine, arthritis, etc. are based on Ayurveda and are readily available in Indian homes.
Ayurveda uses natural herbs and spices with high medicinal values such as haldi (turmeric), tulsi, giloy, mulethi, cinnamon, ginger, etc. Medicinal properties of these herbs and spices are also used for strengthening immunity. It’s this immunity-boosting property of Ayurveda that has been helpful in managing the Covid-19 infection.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that has been proactive in providing guidelines during the COVID-19 crisis also emphasised on ayurvedic intervention to manage post-COVID conditions and for immunity-boosting. The ministry emphasised on the daily intake of immunity-boosting kaadha (medical concoction) to prevent the onset of the disease. Additionally, it stated that recovered patients should use chyawanprash and AYUSH medicines to alleviate post-Covid conditions. An advisory by the ministry read ‘In the clinical practice, chyawanprash is believed to be effective in the post-recovery period’ and also listed yoga, pranayama and daily walks among other suggestions.
Opting for healthier lifestyles
The crisis also jolted many out of the slumber of sedentary lifestyles in India. Modern-day living is a magnet for stress and Covid-19 pandemic aggravated in multi-fold. In urban settings where lifestyles are more sedentary and families are nuclear and members get lesser time to spend with each other, stress is a major health risk factor.
Also, the flexible work options provided by multinational companies and new start-ups such as work-from-home, flexible work hours and excessive travelling also posed serious challenges, both physical and mental, to the working population. Erratic schedules and independent living also often means improper and unhealthy food habits. Thankfully, the lockdown that lasted for most of 2020 provided an opportunity to many such people to taste the fruits of a healthy, disciplined living that includes sleeping and waking up on time, eating healthy food and on time and mainly consuming home-cooked meals.
“I was a workaholic before the lockdown but I really compromised on my health in the process. Increased stress levels and a bad diet soon culminated into PCOS that made my life really difficult. The lockdown came as a boon in disguise for me as I got a chance to work on myself and take care of my health. This year, that has been my biggest take-away,” maintains Pune-based marketing executive Sheetal Pandey. “I have promised myself that no matter what I’ll never ignore my health in the future. What’s the point of having a great salary when you don’t have the health to enjoy it!” she says.
It was probably the fear of the virus, the time many had for the first time in their lives to focus on themselves or perhaps the realisation of how precious family and life is but health became a priority for millions of Indians during the lockdown. With restaurant and eateries closed during the lockdown, many started cooking and eating at home, with their families. Many even quit bad habits like alcohol or binge eating and started practicing yoga, meditation, etc.
It’s a welcome change that is here to stay as India takes on challenges of the new year.