Mod-01 Lec-18 A Science Initiative in Ayurveda (ASIIA)

Mod-01 Lec-18 A Science Initiative in Ayurveda (ASIIA)


In the long history of Ayurveda, it has had
contact with Chinese medicine, it has had contact with Arab medicine, and we have evidence
of those contracts and Ayurveda was never averse to accepting what was useful for patients,
and adhered to Charaka s old adage that the whole world is teacher for the wise. For example,
the examination of pulse – Nadi pariksha or the use of Mercury extensively in treating
patients, that these were not mentioned in the Brihat trayi, but they came later from
external sources and they have enriched Ayurveda. Today, we will be talking about the interaction
of Ayurveda with what we call modern science. Ayurveda was also a science, but it was pre
modern science. When we talk about medical science, today, I want especially to refer
to a two major events during the renaissance which made modern medicine according to my
reading and that was one related to structure; the other related to function. It was Vesalius
during renaissance in Italy who published the great work the structure of the human
body; the fabric of the human body. Now, prior to that also anatomy existed in
Europe, but very often the descriptions were inaccurate; they were not verified to the
extent they should have been. For example, Aristotle talking about women having more
teeth than men; now, there are many such in all ancient descriptions of anatomy, but it
was Vesalius who showed by painstaking dissection over many years; the accurate description
of the human body; even going to small pisiform bone or lumbricals, tiny structures, nothing
was left out and that description laid the basis for modern medical science in structure;
that is accurate observation without which there can be no modern science. A similar development by William Harvey; incidentally,
he had his education in Padua in Italy and he did the famous experiments on circulation
and showed that the human heart is a pump and that is responsible for the circulation
of blood, by painstaking experiments. So, if you have a hypothesis or an observation,
if you have to prove that particular idea, then you have to have experiments done. In
other words, your imagination or hypothesis if you want to test it, if you want to convert
it into science, there is no escape from doing experiments. So, these two- accurate observations
and experimental verification, these were the foundation stones of modern medical science.
So, the interaction of modern medical science from the West Europe with Ayurveda – that
is what will be interesting to us in this discussion. Now, we will be discussing the science Ayurveda
encounter in India. One dealing with plant sciences, essentially Taxonomy; Garcia Da
Orta from Portugal who came here in the 16th century to Goa; Van Rheede from Netherlands
in the 17th century; Ainslie Roxburgh and many other British observers and scientists
in the 19th century. These were the contacts with European science, Taxonomy at that time,
a very modern science in those days with Ayurveda. And then came Pharmacology; Sir Ram Nath Chopra
in the 20th century, early 20th century, followed by Organic chemistry with great names like
Asima Chatterjee, Govindachari, Sukhadev and many others who are living. So, that was mostly
the dominating the 20th century. Now, Modern Biology, Immunology, that innovatively follows
in the 21st century. These are the subjects we will be touching on in this lecture. Now, the first encounter, Ayurveda and modern
science, I mean whenever I say science I mean medical science or other sciences like Taxonomy
applied to medical science. Incidentally, I must point out the Taxonomy plant sciences.
These were not very considered very different from medical science because you will often
find in the 20th, in those centuries, many professors of medicine in Europe, for example,
they were also professors of plant science or Botany; this was not uncommon in England,
in Europe, even in Calcutta. So, there were not far apart at that time. Now, the first encounter was Garcia Da Orta
who came to Goa in the 16th century, the first in a fleet coming from Portugal and that was
the time they had just established themselves in Goa, and epidemics raged in the Goa. And
according to one description in a matter of 10 years, the population of Goa reduced from
400,000 to 40,000; ten viceroys and governors perished because of tropical diseases like
cholera, dysentery and so on, which were new to the Europeans and there no way of treating
them. And when the Portuguese physicians ran out
of medical supplies from Portugal or when the fevers were completely unfamiliar tropical
diseases, then they had looked at what the native physicians were doing. They observed
the use of sandalwood paste in treating fevers and that was one of the first that they adopted;
external application for containing fever; so, it was a fragrant introduction to Ayurveda
by the Europeans. Now, the, while the officials, the European officials in charge of colonial
administration, they had strict rules about employing Indian remedies or Indian physicians.
The state physicians and the staff from practical angle, they did not hesitate using their services. An American scientist Timothy Walker, he did
an extensive study of the records available in Goa during this early colonial days; especially
the use of native medical applications in Portuguese medicine. For much of what I say,
I owe to these studies of Dr. Walker. In 1782, when there was no European physician left
in Goa, Pao that was the name of a native Indian, a name which had been converted to
Portuguese, a traditional physician with many years of experience; this is what the Governor
Coutinho writes. This man who had no formal qualification in western medicine, he was
a traditional practitioner, but he had many years of experience. So, he says, the Governor,
with many years experience which compensated for the defects of his education became the
chief physician in Portuguese, India in Goa because they had no choice; they had no Portuguese
physician available and the problems were pressing. So, the Indian, they needed a physician
and Pao was appointed, and he supervised a large military hospital, 3000 people being
treated annually, its pharmacy and its medicinal plant garden; all these were under his charge. He produced a booklet on descriptions and
virtues of medicinal roots for use of not only in Goa, but also Portuguese colonies
in Asia. Now, in this book, many of the plants which are mentioned they were actually taken
from the Bruhat Trayi, the Ayurvedic classical text. And one of the plants which he mentioned,
not all the plants mentioned were taken from Bruhat Trayi, but Cobra wood was mentioned
by him. And what is Cobra wood? It is not mentioned in the Ayurvedic text. It is grown
in Sri Lanka and South India. It used in treating snake bites and it turns out that this was
nothing but Rauwolfia serpentarina which became very famous later on. You will see the references
to that later. This is one of the first mentions of that and it is referred to in many India
Portuguese publications of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was used extensively by Vaidyas in South
India, and remember, the Bruhat Trayi, they were composed in the North of India. These
were used in South India in treating rheumatism, small pox, measles and cholera; it was also
used in Sri Lanka. The Vaidyas in Goa: It is an interesting story
because hospital facilities largely limited the use of Portuguese army personal. They
built hospitals, the 3000 bed hospital or 3000 patients being treated annually that
hospital. These were all mainly meant for Portuguese
soldiers, their families and Portuguese officers, but the demand greatly exceeded supply. They
did not have enough Portuguese physicians and the locals also sought local treatment
and therefore, the Vaidyas were pressed in to medical service; so, treating essentially
fevers and tropical diseases. So, both the Portuguese officials, soldiers and families,
and also the locals, they did not shrink from using the help of Vaidyas. And Vaidyas held important posts in Goa throughout
16th and 17th centuries. And Indian physicians we have records to show that they treated
aristocracy, one Governor, and staff of a Jesuit college. These are all Dr. Walkers
research has shown; they treated them. These Vaidyas faced many restrictions in legal terms
in registration, number who could practice etcetera, but this did not involve the prohibition
of the use of plant based remedies which had been used traditionally. Now, the, a new development; the Portuguese
had colonized Brazil, and their attention turned to Brazil for economic reasons and
their interest in Goa started diminishing to that extent, and the people of Indian origin,
the demand for medical services, they could not stop here. Not only the native population,
but the remaining Portuguese officers and staff, they had to have medical help and the
Portuguese physicians shifting their attention to Goa, their dependence on Indian physicians
became even greater. So, we had a culturally dualistic type of situation in Goa at that
time. Vaidyas of Indian origin who were similar with the great traditional practices of Konkani
s in Goa and also the Vaidyas practicing in Malabar coast, that provided useful medical
information for treatment. Now, in the, at that time, the British were
colonizing the rest of India. There was a sharp prejudice against Ayurveda in British
India, whereas in Portuguese India, there was a more friendly attitude towards Ayurveda.
There was a greater diffusion of knowledge of Ayurveda in these Portuguese colonies. Now, these were the medicinal plans which
were used frequently in Goa and also the applications are given here. Aloe for cooling agent in
fever: emetic, purgatives. Althea Asafoetida, Benzoin, Cinnamon, Ginger, all these were
used in traditional Indian medicine. They had been used and for very similar indications,
they were used in treating patients in Goa; treatment of fever with Ginger, stimulant
for appetite – Asafoetida, Benzoin for stomach disorders as a tonic, Cinnamon stimulating
appetite as a tonic, as a perfume, Ginger for anti-rheumatic, carminative etcetera.
These indications are very similar what you find in Ayurveda also. It goes on. Opium – this was not there in
our traditional Indian medicine, but that was used in Goa as a sedative and pain killer.
Pepper – tonic and food additive; Sandal wood extensively used; Sarasaparilla, Tamarind
as a digestive, laxative, antipyretic, and so on. So, that use was increasing and the
trade in these medicinal plants was in the hands of Goanese people and they made fortunes
by exporting these to Europe; that is another story, we would not get into that. Now, that was the time, this was the background
in Goa when Garcia Da Orta make made his entry into Goa. Now, he was an interesting person
who as a Spaniard by birth became a physician and he reached Goa in a fleet commanded by
Alfonso de Souza who was a friend of his. So, in 1534, Garcia Da Orta landed in Goa
and started practicing medicine and he practiced medicine in Goa for 36 years; it is a long
period indeed. And during this practice, he published this great book which is his claim
to fame that is Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India in 1563; almost 30 years
of experience in Goa. And it was first printed publication on Indian medicinal plants and
practice of tropical medicine in in western literature; it was nothing earlier. This was written in the form of a dialogue.
That was a very fashionable type of presentation in those days; scientific themes being presented
in the form of a dialogue, which makes it more easily readable. Here, Garcia is talking
to a man called Ruano. Ruano is asking questions and Garcia is answering; that is the way it
is written. There are 57 colloques or discussions and each one deals with the plant, and there
are also some references to things like diamond; non not plants. That is also there, but basically
it is dealing with India s medicinal plants, but it also contains something about medicine.
The medicinal plant is applied for treating a particular disease; there will be a reference
to that disease where very valuable information on the disease, historical, geographic correlates
of these diseases. And this is the cover page of that Colloques. This was published in, written in Portuguese,
but very quickly it was translated into Latin and all the European languages. This was the
first authentic description of India s medicinal plants and it became something of a bestseller
because it introduced India s medicinal plants and also the use in India s traditional medicine
to Europe; that was the historical significance of this book. If you in this book since Garcia
had been so long away from Europe, in Europe at that time Galen s medicine was the authentic
medicine. Nobody dared question any of the views of Galen, even if they had been unverified
by science or anything. But in Garcia s colloquies, you will find he is raising questions about
some of Galen s concepts and he also adds I could not have written this, if I had been
living in Europe. So, being away from Europe gave him a certain
amount of independence intellectually and also the willingness to question. This was
also appreciated in Europe; somebody sitting far way in Goa; he is raising these interesting
questions about the Galen s heritage; that is another interesting aspect of this book.
Apart from the great wealth of information on medicinal plants, this book contains very
real descriptions, authentic descriptions of diseases like cholera. In our Ayurvedic text, these are, the cholera
is described; diarrhea s or various other diseases, but detailed portrait of a disease,
that you have to read in books like Garcia. And also in British India, at that time there
were administrators, collectors of various districts; there are excellent descriptions
of diseases. They were seeing a disease like cholera for the first time or some other diseases
and there are very nice descriptions of diseases; that is another thing which you find in Garcia
s book. Among the many plants discussed, Sarpagandha
is of special interest which we had already referred to that Pao had mentioned this and
Garcia also mentions this because it was extensively used in South India, and this is not mentioned
in Charaka, Susruta or Vagbhata. Now, this was called long known in India as Pagal ki
jadi. It was used for treating insanity. In the treatment of insanity, if you look at
Charaka you do not find this plant mentioned, but the common they but, they characterized
this as a drug for treating insanity. Then it became the source of Reserpine in
1950 because long known as a tranquillizer of patients with insanity or other kinds of
restlessness that was known. And in 1950s Rustom Vakil, very well-known cardiologist
in Bombay trained in modern medicine, we had no good drugs in those days to treat high
blood pressure. So, in desperation, Rustom Vakil, based on this information from native
physicians that here is a drug which tranquilizes people and on a hunch he gave this Rauvolfia
to patients with high blood pressure and found that blood pressure could be controlled. This
he published in the Bombay hospital journal; he was a consultant in that hospital and that
was picked up by Seba, and they did extensive research on this in Switzerland; that is how
Reserpine came in to the market. One of the first drugs for treating high blood
pressure, it won a great deal of recognition; it triggered a whole lot of research. As anti
hypertensive, it quickly lost its importance because much better drugs became available,
but what followed was something interesting because this was known as for treating insanity.
It was found to have some effect on neuro transmitters in the brain. And a great deal
of research in neuro transmitters in the 1960s, they were triggered by the work original work
on Reserpine and that has created a whole new branch of a research in neuro transmitters.
So, it had some scientific significance apart from the treatment of high blood pressure. Root of China was another drug which was mentioned
by Garcia indicating its origin from china because they had colony in Macau in China.
So, the Portuguese colonies they had a good deal of exchange of information. Now, in the
ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts, this is not mentioned, but there was a text by Bhavamisra
which was published in the 15th century, many centuries after Vagbhata, there you find this
drug is mentioned in the treatment of Phiranga roga which is syphilis, which is not mentioned
in the old Ayurvedic text. This is a picture of Garcia as he looked at
that time and this was in the 16th century and the next century this board window of
Taxonomy had been opened, but it was opened much further by this remarkable person Van
Rheede. Van Rheede was the Dutch Governor of Kochi.
That Kochi was not just a small state; it was a lot of Malabar Coast also was involved
and he was the Dutch Governor in Kochi. He was a very daring commander, a noble man by
birth, but he did not have much of higher education. But when he came and settled down
in Kochi, became known as a brilliant commander, one of the things he observed was the natives
of Kerala, they looked healthy to him and he attributed their state of general health
to the spices that they were consuming; like many of those like cardamom, ginger, cloves,
all these if noted that they were consuming this in small quantities, turmeric, then all
their daily consumptions they were taking small quantities and he thought their good
state of health had something to do with this. That is how his interest was aroused and soon
he started organizing a survey of the medicinal plants in the Malabar Coast. By Malabar Coast he meant all the way from
Goa to Kanyakumari, and soon this interest became, so he became so passionate about this.
He organized a very big group almost a hundred people. As a Governor he had the resources;
the Dutch East India Company supported his effort and this team included professors of
Botany and medicine, herbalists, Ayurvedic physician Itti Achuthan, language scholars,
clergymen, artists, soldiers, engravers, almost hundred people and lot of field workers. There were three herbalists from South Kerala
where I live. There was a Itti Achutan an Ayurvedic physician; he was the one providing
the medical information or the use of these medicinal plants. There were many other herbalists;
there was a Father Mathew who was involved in this. So, a large number of highly educated
expert people were part of this team, and he found among his soldiers people who could
draw extremely good botanical drawings. He took them also and you will see some of the
remarkable drawings which they made at that time. Now, they worked on this for 30 years and
this is Van Rheede. And his campaign was a total success and he
published Hortus Malabaricus, the garden of Malabar. It was published in 12 volumes over
a 30 year period in Latin from Amsterdam. And they said, gave the names of 740 plants
in Malayalam, Sanskrit, Latin and Arabic, ethno botanical information and exquisite
drawings unmatched in beauty and accuracy even today. There is a lot of medical information about
the use of this in a particular disease; that was supplied by Itti Achutan. And Dutch East
India Company, they financed this effort over this long period in the hope that this could
lead to the treatment of tropical diseases. Perhaps, it might even have a good commercial
angle. And this was made use of by Linneus in developing his system and it was translated
only recently in 2008 into English and Malayalam by professor Manilal of Kozhikode. Now, these are some of the drawings from Hortus
Malabaricus; so extremely impressive. Now, here is a coconut tree. You can see on
the left hand side, a coconut tree, as soon as it is planted. It is grown a little bit,
a little more and in on the right hand side, you can see a tree in its adult hood; it leaves
with such authentic detail. Now, here is a creeper. Here is a Jackfruit; you can see how beautifully
it is drawn. Now, here is a papaya which was not, it was
introduced by Protuguese in India, but you can see the Portuguese papaya. Now, here is a palm tree. These are some of
the examples and each one of them is a masterpiece of botanical drawings. Now, the 19th century, after Van Rheede the
interest in the Indian medicinal plants heightened and number of British, Ainslie s one and Roxburgh
in Bengal, these they did extraordinarily fine work on the lines of what Van Rheede
had done. In fact, Roxburgh produced a book Hortus Bengalensis; it did not get kind of
recognition which Hortus Malabaricus got, but that trail which was opened by Van Rheede
was followed by many others including an Indian Muiudin Sherif in Chennai in 1869. So, number
of publications came on medicinal plants of India, and the the interest in the medicinal
plants of India reached such high level in 75, the 19th century British Pharmacopoeia
said 75 percent of the drugs of vegetable origin, they had their origin from India. Now the 19th, late 19th and early 20th centuries,
the British administration, they set up a series of research institutions in India.
Everybody knows that the British introduced western hospitals system in India. They started
nursing, midwifery, medical education, medical schools, all these are known. What is not
so well known? They also set up research institutions; one of them was Indian Research Fund Association,
the forerunner of ICMR. They started this even before the MRC of Britain.
Haffkine Institute, Mumbai, Nutrition Research Laboratory in Coonoor, King Institute, Guindy,
Central Research Institute in Kasauli and School of Tropical Medicine, Kolkata; these
were all started by the British towards the end of the 19th century or early 20th century,
but there was not one which was focused on Ayurveda or the traditional medicine in India
because they did not consider because it was, it was worth investing in research in this
medicine. However, so Ram Nath Chopra was appointed
in the School of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta, and he started the first department of Pharmacology.
So, we had so far the window of Taxonomy; that is how modern science looked at Ayurveda
through a window of Taxonomy. Then, it was Sir Ram Nath Chopra who opened a new window
that is the window of Pharmacology. This was the first such centre in Pharmacology established
in India and he did monumental work on drugs, and his aims were, I have quoted this, to
make Indian Pharmacology self supporting by enabling her to utilize locally produced drugs,
economically. And he had this vision of natively produced drugs would plays play a very important
role in health services. And secondly, he wanted to discover remedies
from the claims of Ayurvedic, Tibbi and other indigenous sources suitable to be employed
by exponents of modern medicine. These were the two objectives of Ram Nath Chopra. And
apart from the botanical identification which had been done earlier, his work involved chemical
analysis, pharmacologic studies and clinical trials of a large number of these drugs. Those were introduced by Sir Ram Nath Chopra.
He was a Kashmiri who did this great work in Culcatta. And the physiologic action of the active components
of living tissue, on living tissues in vitro and in vivo and animal preparations he did.
These were all pioneering efforts that time. And mammalian organisms, how do they respond
to the administration of these compounds, and these Rauwolfia Serpentina, he did extensive
studies in 1933. And his two books the Indigenous Drugs of India and Medicinal and Poisonous
plants of India, thus they became classics because there was no other publication of
that kind. And this new window pharmacology, it was a
question of a few decades. It went on to a new window opening; that was Organic chemistry.
It was a natural step from isolation of compounds etcetera, which Sir Ram Nath Chopra started
in Calcutta. It was natural that natural products chemistry should follow, and this large volume
of work was done in the throughout 20th century. It still goes on and the outstanding pioneers
were people like Asima Chatterjee in Calcutta, Govindachari who worked in Bombay and in Chennai
and professor Sukhdev. So, there are number of other people living also who had contributed
extensively to natural products chemistry. And hundreds and hundreds of papers have been
published and there is a mine of information on this. This database on Organic chemistry
related to medicinal plants, that is a valuable source of information to everybody working
on medicinal plants and drugs from medicinal plants, including multinational companies.
So, India became a leader in natural products chemistry in the 20th century. Now, the current state of research, if you
look at this, this is the background starting with Taxonomy, then pharmacology, natural
products chemistry, all these interaction of modern science with Ayurveda, this this
had been happening from 16th century to the 20th century. But today, if you look at Ayurvedic
research, there are three types: one is the medicinal plants, continuation of what had
been going on, then there are clinical studies and Basic science. Now, these three, I would
like to consider them. Now, medicinal plants going on for 70 or 80
years, thousands of papers but none of the medicinal plant derived drugs in common use,
like codeine, atropine, ephedrine, quinine, emetine, they emerged from India, they all
came from outside. None of these arose within India. The only significant outcome, modern drugs
Reserpine and guggulip; both are derived from our Indian medicinal plants, but neither of
them could claim to have made a great impact in terms of medical treatment or in terms
of economics. What is happening is, there is a great deal of screening of medicinal
plants going on and we have not been able to come up with any major drug, a blockbuster
drug, as they say. That has not happened; unlike the Chinese in a short period of 10
or 12 years, they could come up with this artemisinin from a Chinese traditional plant
which is a effective treatment for Falciparum malaria. We have not been able to come up
with a drug of that kind. If you look at the clinical studies, these
are studies done in patients. A particular type of Ayurvedic treatment, how effective
is it? There is, there has always been a debate; this randomized, double blind, controlled
trails which is the standard test in all drug development programs; you have to go through
this before a drug can be marketed. Now, this may not be applicable to traditional drugs
like Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine, because conceptually itself, if you have a
controlled and a study group comparable or identical in every respect, except the study
group you are doing an intervention; that is the concept behind randomized, double blind,
control trial. But in Ayurveda, this is simply not possible because you cannot say that one
group of hundred people, another group of hundred people, they they are the same. They
cannot be the same because Ayurveda each individual is different; their prakriti is different;
it is like finger printing. So, you cannot say that these two are comparable or identical
groups. So, conceptually there is a difficulty in this controlled trails. Therefore, the WHO organized a meeting in
2000, how to, you have to have some kind of evidence; that was the subject of discussion;
there was representative from India also and they came with a, with a number of liberalized
guidelines. One of them was a subject or a group serves as its own control. This is not
acceptable in modern medicine, but here a group of subjects or a subject, individual
with a known disease; that is now confirmed, inclusion criteria, then they are subjected
to this intervention and the outcome you touch the same subject. So, the subject or as subjects
serve as their own controls; that was accepted; Similarly, the intervention that you make.
in modern medicine, you are only giving one particular drug. So, here in Ayurveda, often
it is not possible to have just one drug; there may be some procedure attached to it
or something else. There may be two or three items in that treatment; so that is called
a black box. So, that was accepted. We will not dissect
each of them and try to find individual effects. So, that was accepted black box approach,
and observational findings also were accepted. So, these were some of the liberalized guidelines
of the WHO where even though these guidelines are available, we have very few papers coming
from India on clinical research. And when it comes to basic science being applied,
modern biology, immunology and so on, the situation is worse because that has received
the least attention. And P C Ray, the great pioneer of chemistry in India, he called Ayurveda
from 600 BC for almost 800 years as the Ayurvedic period in the history of Indian science; not
only because Ayurveda is the mother of medicine, but he also regarded it as the mother of chemistry
because all the rasa shastra, the mercury, studies on mercury, its properties, its biological
effects, all these were done in the under the umbrella of Ayurveda and also a great
deal of plant science. So, P C Ray in his History of Hindu Chemistry,
he calls this period Ayurvedic period in India s history of science. But inspite of that,
there has been very little interaction between modern science and Ayurveda in the 20th century
or subsequently, there is no forum where scientists and Ayurvedic physicians interact. So, in the present century or the end of 20th
century, the most dramatic development is the molecular biology, immunology, and there
is a great scope for having using the techniques of these two disciplines in investigating
Ayurvedic concepts and procedures. This has not happened. So, in 2007, a science initiative
was started under the or with the support of the Office of the Principal Scientific
Advisor to the Government of India, and these projects were no different from other science
projects, but there is a national perspective in these projects, and also they could have
some stage potential utility for India s population. So, that was clearly mentioned in starting
the science initiative. Now, we had a series of projects identified
at that time. I have simply listed them here. The Genomic basis of dosa prakrti; we have
talked about it at great length the vata, pitta, kapha, prakrtis; four mixed prakrtis.
So, these three main prakrtis, we have seen the how important they are in Ayurveda because
they determine the predisposition of subjects to various diseases; they determine the course
of the disease; they determine the response of the subject to drugs because the same treatment
will not produce the same result in these three prakrtis. Therefore, it is a subject of great importance
in Ayurveda, but there has been no evidence. In 2007, there was no clear evidence, biological
evidence for this because the prakrti determination was done on the basis of a series of traits:
physical traits, mental traits, behavioral traits put together; this is vata, this is
pitta, this is how they had been identified traditionally; that method was being followed,
but is there any biological evidence for this? That question remained. So therefore, by 2007, we had already techniques
in Molecular Biology. We could do DNA sequencing, gene expression studies, number of new techniques
had become available, which did not exist 30 years ago. Therefore in 2007, this project
was started and I have listed all the investigations, investigators. Three locations for the study,
subjects being selected in Manipal, subjects in Bangalore and in Pune, and they were selected
by traditional Ayurvedic physicians based on uniform criteria and the blood samples
taken from these subjects, they were tested for three different molecular markers. That is, one is the single SNP s; that is
changes in the DNA, gene expression studies and methylation studies. These were the three
markers which were selected mainly to see if there were patterns in these three molecular
markers which would correspond to these three prakrtis. That subject is going on. Since
they are all writing papers etcetera, I will not be giving the results and so on. The second
was the biological effects of amalaki rasayana, we had a lecture on the subject. If you give
this rasayanas, what effect does it have on the body? When we say that rasayana giving the regenerative
powers are increased; that is one of the claim made; their cognitive functions improve; their
digestive functions improve; these are all claims made by Ayurvedic physicians. So, can
we really have some markers to check or test these claims? Now, this has been completed
and published of subject of great interest. So, this is producing biological evidence
internationally acceptable to a very ancient treatment with rasayana. Then we have immunologic and metabolic effects
of panchakarma. Panchakarma is a very crucial Ayurvedic procedure. When the doshas are perturbed,
they are plentiful; you want to eliminate them, evacuative measures, and when you do
that what happens to the immunologic system in the body, the immune functions, what happens
to metabolic functions? This study was done in Bombay in the Podar hospital which is an
Ayurvedic hospital and the metabolic functions were studied by Professor. Thatte in Nair
hospital and Immunologic studies were done by doctor Chiplunkar in the ACTREC. So, that studies, again they have, their paper
has already been sent for publication. Micro structural characterization of Rasasindur;
this is another interesting subject because Rasasindur is a mercury derived powder and
this is used in Ayurveda, but mercury, as you know, is a highly toxic substance and
its use is forbidden in the modern medicine. It is considered highly toxic, whereas if
you talk to traditional Ayurvedic physician, they would tell you that Rasasindur, we have
been using for centuries. We do not find these complications you are talking about. Now, here is something which needs to be tested;
it is a riddle. How do you find this non toxicity which they affirm? Instead of dismissing it,
we should test it. So, this study was done by Professor. Sujit Roy in IIT, Kharagpur,
currently he is Bhubaneshwar, to look at the micro structure of this whether that could
give an give an explanation to this non toxicity of the drug; that is a change in the structure;
that paper has already gone. And then again looking at the functional Geonomics
in these three types of plants, anti vata, anti-pitta and anti–kapha plants, is there
something in their functional Geonomics which could explain their different type of responses,
different types of therapeutic effects? That is a project done by Shasaany and others in
Lucknow SEBA. Now, these are the projects which have been going on for the last few
years; some of them published, some of them under publication. They have given on the whole encouraging results
and because of this encouraging results on Ayurvedic science, initiative in Ayurveda,
it has been possible to take it to the next stage because Department of Science and Technology,
they were encouraged by the results seen so far. So, they have set up a task force in
Ayurvedic Biology with similar objectives; that is to apply basic science to test the
concepts and procedures in Ayurveda. It does not get into herbal drug development; it does
not get into clinical trials or safety and efficacy; it confines itself to these; Apply
basic science to study the concepts and procedures in Ayurveda; that is where it stands today. Now, the there are certain hurdles in doing
this kind of research. The first problem is like panchabhuta, tridosha, rasa, rhutucharya,
these are all fundamental basic Ayurvedic concepts. But to make them, projectizing them
for experimental work is exceedingly difficult. How do you make it testable in the laboratory?
That is the first problem that we face in this kind of research. When you want to do,
apply basic science to study an Ayurvedic concept, immediately, you have this problem
panchabhuta or tridosa, how do you do that? Second, when you write a protocol for a scientific
study, we have a number of practical difficulties because the ancient texts, they may not lend
themselves to writing so easily because they are interpreted differently by different authorities.
Weights and measures mentioned may no longer be accurately understood today and several
procedures lasting for days and so many other complexities would make it very difficult
to reproduce today. These are practical difficulties. Then we have competent scientist and equally
competent Ayurvedic experts who share an open mind, and share the interests to study this.
There are too few like that in this country, and this applies to finding referees or members
of monitoring committees and so on. It is quite difficult to find enough people; that
is another great limitation. And then having found these scientist or Ayurvedic
physicians, after they take the plunge and sooner or later, you may find their interest
may not be sustained. They begin to have all kinds of doubts: what would my peers think
about this work? How would scientist abroad think about it? Would my PhD students be willing
to work on this project and so on, the scientists are worried. Whereas, Ayurvedic physicians
some of them would start wondering, should I be a party to investigate Ayurveda by science
when it has been successfully practiced since the time of Buddha, why should I be a party
to this? So, they also begin to have hesitation in this. And these can easily affect the morale
of the whole group and that can be a hurdle. Therefore, they should have a strong curiosity,
tenacity in pursuing this objective, and they should also have the humility to recognize
that when you do this reductionism, reductionist approach to an Ayurvedic concept, we are limited
by that. In other words, if you find there is no evidence by that particular approach,
your reductionism, that may be a reason for that because there is a whole lot more which
you have not analyzed. That humility one should have. In other words, based on one particular
test, you cannot come to a final conclusion. An example is the Amalaki Rasayana and this
2000 years, it has been used and Vagbhata, I have quoted this many times, truthfulness,
freedom from anger, contemplation on the unity of existence etcetera; this is what really
constitutes a permanent rejuvenator, but these are not testable in the laboratory. However, the laboratory studies show that
the genomic stability in rats and they enhance biomarkers in the drosophila. These are enhanced
by this rasayana. Now, that is a very limited approach to studying rasayana using modern
techniques, but it is a very important finding. So, here, even though we have not looked at
the rasayana holistically, but what little we have analyzed have come out with a brilliant
finding which is something to be to be cheered, and that is one important lesson we have learnt
from the work done so far.

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