“Global audience is very receptive to Ayurveda as a concept”
Rasmika Bhatia, Director, Preserva Wellness explains to TPCI how people in the country are moving towards Ayurvedic products. She also notes that testing of products is still done at a very primary level in India and not enough companies are focused on it. She believes that the government should provide tax breaks to practitioners of Ayurveda and also provide support to them to start their practice.
TPCI: According to a report, as many as 77% of the country’s households use Ayurvedic products. What, according to you, is the reason for such a high usage of Ayurvedic products in India?
Rasmika Bhatia (RB): In my opinion, more and more people are slowly shifting towards natural healthcare. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that people want to reduce the amount of chemicals they are consuming and want to move towards a natural or plant-based lifestyle and being in a country like India, it is quite easy to do so. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old science and every child who grows up in the country knows about its existence. Due to development in modern medicine and products like pain killers, antacids etc. coming into the market and their easy availability, Ayurveda took a back seat for many years. But growing pollution, adversity towards plastics and presence of harmful chemicals in our environment are bringing back into focus a system of natural living.
The second reason is that most people facing chronic disorders have realised that allopathy and modern medicine only suppress or treats the symptoms of a problem and not the actual problem. There is no cure for diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, arthritis etc. Ayurveda, on the other hand, alleviates the root cause of the problem and provides long term relief. It is slow in acting in comparison to allopathy but provides a permanent solution to health problems.
The third reason is that more and more companies are also making better quality ayurvedic products. These are not necessarily in the form of supplements like we are doing at Preserva Wellness but also products like soaps, toothpastes, make up, etc. This is making it easier for consumers to find a natural alternative to consumable goods.
TPCI: What measures (like lab testing of medicines) are taken to ensure that these medicines meet international quality standards?
RB: Testing of products is still done at a very primary level in India and not enough companies are focused on it. The word natural is also used very loosely as any product that has even a small percentage of natural ingredients can label and advertise themselves as that. Customers need to be more aware and actually read labels to check the percentage of natural ingredients in a product or if it is tested and certified. We at Preserva Wellness provide tested and certified natural alternatives. Our food products are licensed by FSSAI and supplements are made in AYUSH licensed factories. Our ingredients also go through a quality check before being processed and we obtain a certificate of analysis of every batch.
We produce all our products in WHO-GMP facilities. The final stage is that each batch goes through heavy metals and pesticides testing in government certifies laboratories to check for impurities.
TPCI: What benefits do Ayurvedic treatments have vis-a-vis its other counterparts like Siddha, Yunani, Homeopathy & Allopathy? How is their credibility established in comparison to these alternate forms of medication?
RB: In allopathy, diseases are treated with the help of drugs based on chemicals. These are primarily used to suppress symptoms and provide quick relief. Unlike natural systems of medicine, these do not alleviate the root cause of a problem by only eating medicines. That can only be done through surgical procedures.
In homeopathy the objective is to bring about a change in the human body to make it respond in a better way to get the system right in place and remove imbalances.
Siddha and Ayurveda are similar in their nature of treatment as they balance the five elements of nature or believe in the amalgamation of the five elements through use of plants and herbs. Siddha is primarily practised in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Ayurveda is practised throughout India.
Ayurveda uses plants and herbs to balance the five elements of nature in the human body. It is based on the science that if there is an imbalance in any of the 3 doshas – vata, pitta or kapha – then it leads to illness or disturbance and is aptly known as the science of life. Disturbances in any of the three major doshas are addressed by a range of Ayurvedic treatments, including herbal remedies, dietary restrictions, yoga, massages, specialised treatments, meditation and breathing exercises. People going through Ayurvedic treatments and the doctors prescribing the treatments even after 5,000 years of the texts being written are testimony to its working and curative powers. It is known to effectively address the root cause of a problem and alleviate it from the body/
TPCI: How can cross-learning between Ayurveda & other modern forms of medicines be encouraged? How can more students of medicine be encouraged to pursue a career in this discipline?
RB: Ayurveda as a science treats and prevents illness by use of herbs and plants in combination with yoga, meditation and massage. If other forms of medicine like phytomedicine are combined with Ayurveda, it leads to production of herbal medicines which are safe and very effective. Cross learning between various streams of medicine can also help students and doctors understand how each of them work and use them judiciously and in combination for treatment of their patients. For example many doctors prescribe Ayurvedic supplements to provide relief to their patients from constipation, acidity, arthritis etc, since Ayurveda has excellent cures for such illness without the side effects of their allopathic counterparts.
The Government should provide tax breaks to practitioners of Ayurveda and also provide support to them to start their practice. It should also give incentives to companies promoting Ayurveda and treat them differently from companies which have other businesses as it is a part of Indian heritage.
The current problem in our country towards Ayurveda is distrust. This can be removed in three steps. The first being testing ayurvedic products for quality and regulating their production. The second is that the government and private institutions should generate work opportunities for Ayurvedic doctors so that more students can pursue this career and it becomes a lucrative option. The third is that misinformation and false claims by certain practitioners, religious influencers or businesses should be strictly curbed and dealt with as it is will bring about trust in this system of medicine.
TPCI: How receptive is the global audience to Ayurvedic medication? Does it face any trade barriers when exported abroad? What is the mechanism to address these?
RB: The main trade barrier is to get certification and licensing to sell in other countries. This again stems from the fact that the Ayurvedic industry in India is not well regulated and there are no quality checks. If the sector has better controls in place, it will be easier for companies to get approvals as well as credibility.
The global audience is very receptive towards Ayurveda as a concept but has adapted it in their own way just like they have done with yoga. Some call this cultural appropriation. The challenge for Indian companies is that the global audience does not always want to buy Indian labelled goods due to distrust and lack of quality control. Hence, the west has made their own versions of ayurvedic products or use products which have ingredients imported from India but the final product is created in their respective countries. There are very few Indian companies who have succeeded in creating a space for themselves and a loyal customer base across other nations.
There is a small percentage of the global tourists who come to India for wellness tourism. This is actually the audience that has made Ayurveda popular in western culture and they are the most receptive towards ayurvedic treatments and products.
TPCI: What measures can/have be taken to ensure that global influencers accept the credibility of Ayurvedic medicines? What is the success rate so far?
RB: As mentioned before, the sector requires regulation. This will enable global influencers to accept the credibility of ayurvedic medicines. Certain steps have been taken already to do so but a lot more is required. One particular step that has been taken by private and government institutions is to translate and simplify Ayurvedic texts so that a regular consumer of such products can also understand the science behind it. This also has to be done on a larger scale but nonetheless it is a step in the right direction. The wellness sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world economy and the worldwide supplements market is projected to reach US$ 86.74 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2016 to 2022. Ayurveda is growing along with this and the Indian government is taking steps to bring it back into popular culture. Ingredients like curcumin and ashwagandha have become known the world over and with more regulation in our country, the sky is the limit for Indian brands.