India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) speaks with Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the Global Ayush Investment and Innovation Summit in Gandhinagar on April 20, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

In recent times, India has leveraged its soft power to make Yoga global. However, much bigger and profound impact can be made, within a decade, if the World Health Organisation (WHO) fully backs the Gujarat-based Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM).

This week India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation, in presence of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, of this Centre.

India has committed $250 million to build the Centre in Jamnagar that will conduct research, with the spirit of India’s vision of ‘One Earth, One Health’. It will be all-inclusive, making use of traditional medicines including Chinese, Korean, Japanese and African systems.

On this occassion, Dr. Ghebreyesus noted, “the Centre is historic and will prove to be a game changer.”

PM Modi said that the Centre will create a database of traditional knowledge system using technology. It will create international standards for testing and certification of traditional medical system so that confidence in these medicines improves.

It will be a global platform for the experts of traditional medicines, and will also mobilise funding for research. With holistic approach of treatment for specific diseases, patients could benefit from both traditional and modern medicine.

Dr. Bhushan Patwardhan, member of the Task force for GCTM told Gulf News, “Its true that traditional medicines are looked at with some scepticism. People question its side-effects. At GCTM, we will create innovation and research-backed scientific understanding.

Beauty of the traditional medicines is that its personalised. It depends on your prakriti (nature of one’s mind and body). It serves to an individual’s demands. We will create an integrated health system and come up with holistic medicine practises for mind, body and consciousness.”

A huge change is underway

If GCTM succeeds, the current trend of prescription by medical practitioners is set to undergo a big change. Doctors would be able to prescribe holistic solutions with the help of modern science, modern diagnosis and traditional medicines. India wants to take a lead in it.

Pertinently WHO data suggests that around 80% of the world’s population — in 170 countries — uses traditional medicine such as herbs, acupuncture, yoga, indigenous therapies and plants and flower-based mixtures. The traditional medicine is the first line of treatment.

Many countries have sociocultural tradition of wellness practises and biodiversity heritages. But, it needs scientific “treatment protocols” for better applications to the patients.

Traditional medicine is the mainstay of people, who can’t afford costly allopathic treatments. Already, traditional medicines are part of a multi-trillion dollar global beauty, wellness and pharmaceutical industries. Right now traditional medicine business in India is above $18 billion.

Even manufacturers of allopathic medicines, who have aggressive lobbies in world capitals to undermine traditional medicines, are looking for natural drugs to adopt and make synthetic capsules out of it.

Over 40% formulations of allopathic drugs were, originally, based on traditional medicine like Aspirin and Metformin, which is taken for diabetes. Ghebreyesus — in his speech — pointed out how “turmeric, neem and jamun” and products from Brazil to the Kalahari Desert are used to make modern medicines.

National health system

Five decades back, the world’s first Ayurvedic University was established in Jamnagar. 

What Modi has started is great boon for Indian institutions which are, already, working to make Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy and other medicines — known as AYUSH in government — popular.

Darshan Shankar is the co-founder of Trans Disciplinary University in Bengaluru. He is supported by top industrialists like Ratan Tata, Aziz Premji and others.

Shankar told Gulf News, “PM Modi has launched a bold and long overdue initiative. India is sitting on a gold mine. The country has around 2500 medicinal plants. Our laboratory at Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions has prepared scientific profile of each of these plants. Government owned Traditional Knowledge Digital Library has 300,000 medicinal formulations based on Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and Sowarigpa medical systems.”

As Modi noted, India is a treasure trove of herbal plants and our ‘Green Gold’, Shankar draws attention to the fact that, “India must build up on the traditional medicines database as the political leadership is backing it.”

Modi talked about the role of traditional medicines in increasing the tourism of Kerala. “‘Heal in India’ can become a big brand of this decade” he said.

Modi declared that, “Very soon, India is going to introduce a special AYUSH visa category. This will facilitate people to travel to India for AYUSH therapy.”