The Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2). This novel virus is known to spread via human contact through droplets from cough, sneeze, or even breath of an infected person. It was first recorded in Wuhan province of China in December 2019. It was declared as the outbreak of “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30 2020, and later on March 11 2020, as a global pandemic.[1,2] More than 3.52 million cases of COVID-19 and 247,000 deaths have been reported as of May 04 2020 in 187 countries and territories. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle and joint spasm, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, hemoptysis, and in some cases even the loss of sense of smell.
The need of Ayurved in the management of COVID-19
This novel and unprecedented pandemic has challenged health-care systems throughout the world. At present, there is no antiviral therapy or vaccine available for COVID-19. Since ancient times, Ayurved has been evolving, practiced, and upgraded experientially in India, and even today an integrated approach of modern medicine and traditional medicine is practiced widely. There is evidence that the Chinese government followed an integrated approach of Chinese Traditional Medicine and conventional medicine for the management of COVID-19.[4,5] In response to the ongoing pandemic and insufficient medical methods for its management, Indian government released two sets of guidelines for the importance of traditional medicine in COVID-19. “Ayurveda’s immunity boosting measures for self care during COVID-19 crisis” was declared by AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy, and Naturopathy) for developing immunity against COVID-19 (https://www.ayush.gov.in/docs/123.pdf). These guidelines aim at improving immunity without making any specific reference to COVID-19. AYUSH has also passed a memorandum of beneficial practices of various sectors of AYUSH (https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=201167) on April 10 2020.
At present, majority of the research for developing therapeutic strategies against COVID-19 is focused mainly on the development of vaccines and antiviral agents. As no therapy is available, improving the immunity of the population plays an important part to control the spread of the virus. Ayurved is the world’s oldest medical system, which gives special emphasis on developing host immunity and recommends measures to live a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, Ayurved not only focuses on developing physical strength but also providing mental strength through its regimens that include diet, lifestyle, medicine, and therapies. The outbreak may also take a toll on the mental health of the health-care workers as well as the patients and their families. The impact on society at large with enhanced anxiety cannot be ruled out. It is a known fact that psychological stress such as anxiety and depression may increase the risk of upper respiratory viral infection. Thus, it is plausible that psychological stress may have a direct link with immune responses in COVID-19. Ayurved and other traditional practices could be beneficial in improving psychological state of individuals, which can help in moderating the risk of COVID-19 infection. These traditional systems of medicine can have value in preventing, balancing, maintaining, or rehabilitating the case of COVID-19 infection. Ayurved and other traditional systems may have prophylactic benefits and act as add-on therapies for COVID-19 infection by improving the quality of standard care. A survey done amongst the Ayurved practitioners in India concluded that Ayurved can be followed to improve the immunity of health-care workers and common people to combat COVID-19.