Two weeks ago Sobha Rai’s husband bought a few packets of medicine as “medicine for COVID-19”. It turned out to be the homeopathic medicine Arsenicum Album 30C. And Rai has been consuming it as per the instructions on the label.
“This medicine boosts your immunity and helps in the prevention of COVID-19 infection,” shares Rai. The 54-year-old treated her cough with the homeopathic medicine — “the cough that didn’t go away even after visiting many hospitals was cured after opting for homeopathy. That is why I believe it (Arsenicum Album 30C) will also work to boost my immunity to help prevent COVID-19”.
A preventive measure
A cure for COVID-19 has not been found yet, and the only measure we have for now is prevention.
There are several ongoing clinical trialsf of both western and traditional medicines as per the World Health Organisation (WHO). It says it is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.
In such a situation, can alternative medicine or complementary medicine help in this fight?
Dr Vasudev Upadhyay, Director General of DOAA, stresses we have the medicine with us. “That is our immunity.”
So, his department felt the need to highlight preventive and curative measures against COVID-19 and manage its complications.
A point from the DOAA guideline states, “In our context, we have Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Unani, Yoga & Naturopathy, and Sow-Rigpa, which is collectively known as Ayurveda and Alternative Medicines (AAM); ancient and traditional medicinal practices and compendia of huge medical knowledge including respiratory tract diseases can be tested to treat flu-like symptoms of the patients during this pandemic.”
It also includes suggestions for using medicines and remedies that have herbs like tulsi, turmeric, garlic, ashwagandha to name a few, to follow a healthy lifestyle, and to practise yoga based on Ayurveda and some other alternative medicines.
“These medicines have properties that can work as immunity booster. We can use them as preventive measures,” adds Dr Upadhyay and shares that Ayruveda’s first priority is to prevent a disease.
Dr Ambika Prasad Gyawali, VicePresident, All Nepal Homeopathic Association says the root of homeopathy is that it doesn’t just treat the disease, it treats the patients. “That means, it (homeopathic medicine) strengthens the immune system to fight off the disease in a human body — it helps to treat the disease during the process of strengthening of the body’s immunity.”
And Arsenicum Album, which according to him has been in use for more than 200 years, does the same — it is used to treat many diseases including asthma, cough, pain, swelling (inflammation), among others. The DOAA guideline has listed it as one of the homeopathic ‘prevention’ medicines that can be given according to the symptoms prevalent.
“These medicines boost the immune system and could work against corona problems,” the guideline adds.
Alternative medicine is a more holistic way of looking at human health. “It concentrates on lifestyle and other non-medical factors in addition to medical therapies. What kind of food you eat, how well do you sleep, exercise, how well is your state of mind, and your total environment matters a lot,” explains Torakichi Akita, a Kai-therapist.
“Eating more vegetarian food and also working on boosting your immune system, and ensuring good blood circulation with requisite oxygenation, how well have you been detoxifying your body, and how well you are at maintaining your stress and anxiety levels — these are connected to the stability and vigour of your immune system. Then there is the pollution. If the environment is very bad, like in Kathmandu, then it can undermine the effects of an otherwise healthy lifestyle,” Akita says.
Dr Upadhyay too believes in the benefits of incorporating time-tested herbs of Ayurveda or yoga practice like Pranayam into our lifestyle.
“Swine flu was new earlier. COVID-19 is new now. Another one will come in five years. Such viruses will keep on developing in our environment. What we have to do is strengthen our immunity — we can do that by adding herbal decoctions into our lifestyle,” he shares.
Immunity is affected by physical, sensorial, mental or emotional issues, adds Director of Ayurveda Health Home Nepal Dr Rishi Ram
Alternative approaches to dealing with coronavirus Docs say our immunity is the best medicine to fight the virus, so boost it to the max Koirala. “So, there is a need for deeper counselling and lifestyle coaching, and this is possible.”
By raising your body temperature, avoiding junk food, deep breathing, Pranayama and Sudarshankriya, sleeping 8-10 hours, reducing stress, being around positive people, being in nature, all help in boosting your immune system, according to who Akita.
“In this sense, there is no special cure for virus in alternative medicine. The danger of the virus is largely to elderly people whose immune systems are weak or people whose immune systems have been compromised by other diseases and by drugs used to treat these diseases as many drugs weaken the body and leave it vulnerable to various pathogens,” reveals Akita.
He also points out that “viruses and other microbes have helped shape the body’s immune system by enabling it to recognise pathogens and developing resistance. There are no effective preventive or curative remedies for many viruses in mainstream medicine. Historically it has been the body that has fought the virus through its immune system, which learns to recognise, identify and destroy the virus. So, it is very important to keep your immune system active at its highest level”.
Dr Gyawali suggests an integrated approach. As per him, we can take allopathy and complementary or alternative medicine together using the specialities — be it for COVID-19 or any other disease. Even the guidelines for curative management doesn’t claim confirmatory curative management of COVID-19, while its preventive measures include directives like regular cleaning of hands with soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitiser, maintaining safe distance from others and the likes.