Ayurveda – striking balance between mind, body and spirit
Total COVID-19 cases globally have crossed 500 million, with more than 1.2 million fatalities. We are now experiencing a second coronavirus wave, with many parts of the world reimposing lockdowns. The pandemic has challenged healthcare systems across the globe and has turned the world’s attention to the immune system, the body’s defence against disease-causing micro-organisms that we touch, ingest, and inhale every day.
The COVID-19 crisis has also led to high levels of psychological distress and significant impact on mental health, especially in vulnerable groups such as healthcare workers. Such distress is accompanied by changes in immune function, including an increased risk of viral respiratory tract infections. Since we are still months away from a potential COVID-19 vaccine, our immune systems will need to adapt to ward off the susceptibility to COVID-19.
In such a scenario, our traditional and age-old practices may be useful in improving psychological quality of life and reducing the risk of infection. Ayurveda, one of mankind’s oldest forms of plant-based wellness and healing methodologies from India, has great potential and possibilities to be employed both for prevention and as a complementary treatment option for COVID-19.
Ayurveda, which means ‘the science of life’ in Sanskrit, dates back more than 5,000 years and finds mention in the ancient Vedic culture. It is also referred to as the ‘Mother of All Healing’. Its knowledge was passed down orally from the gurus (masters or teachers) to their disciples for thousands of years. This practice of Ayurveda places emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through close attention to balance in one’s life, right thinking, diet, lifestyle, and the use of herbs.
The potential role of Ayurveda in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic is the main focus of this year’s ‘Ayurveda Day’. Ayurveda Day was observed this year on November 13 and is believed to be the birthday of Lord Dhanvantari, the god of medicine in Indian mythology. The objective of Ayurveda Day is to focus on the strengths of Ayurveda and its unique treatment principles, to work towards reducing the burden of disease and mortality, and to promote Ayurvedic principles of healing in society. In Ayurveda, several treatment options are available for enhancing immunity against respiratory illnesses. These interventions can be quickly implemented on a large scale with the advantages of simplicity, affordability, and acceptability.
Deploying Ayurveda against COVID-19 in India
In India, several initiatives have been taken to utilise the practices of Ayurveda to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Indian provinces have used Ayurvedic treatments complementary with other allopathic treatments. One such province is Kerala, where Ayurvedic therapies were part of the repertoire of COVID-19 treatments and resulted in successfully reducing mortality and boosting recovery.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation, mentioned using Ayurveda medicines for improving immunity against COVID-19. The Ministry of AYUSH, a nodal Ministry of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in India, has released a set of guidelines for management of COVID-19 by boosting immunity and measures for self-care using Ayurvedic principles.
The new Ayurveda guidelines underline the crucial need to follow physical distancing, respiratory and hand hygiene, as well as the wearing of masks. The protocol recommends ‘easy to follow’ practices in daily life that can help boost the immune system and keep infections, including COVID-19, at bay. Gargling once or twice daily with either a pinch of turmeric and salt mixed in warm water, steam inhalation with carom seeds, mint leaves or eucalyptus oil mixed in water are some of them. Also, nasal application of medicated oils, plain oils like sesame or coconut, is recommended once or twice daily, especially before stepping out or after coming back home. Similarly, getting adequate sleep for six to eight hours, moderate physical exercise, and simple Yoga postures are also recommended. Following a fresh and balanced diet, drinking turmeric milk daily and use of ginger, coriander seeds, basil leaves, and cumin seeds in your diet also helps in boosting immunity.
There are separate recommendations for high-risk patients, including those with co-morbidities and increased age, asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, or those with mild COVID-19 symptoms. Additionally, there are suggestions for the prevention of post COVID-19 lung complications like fibrosis, fatigue, or mental health issues. All these may be found in the accompanying pictures or on ayush.gov.in.
The COVID-19 will eventually pass, but it will present us with a new ‘normal’. The key, as this ancient system of wellness indicates, will be to strike equilibrium between the mind, body, and spirit. Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Ayurveda will also play a significant role in formulating strategies against future pandemics. As individuals, the onus in on us to delve into our traditional cultures and adopt time-proven wellness techniques that might show us the path to a sustainable and healthy future.
Courtesy High Commission of India in Jamaica