Ayurvedic herbs and supplements get a shot in the arm amidst pandemic


Herbs and plant-based traditional cures have found a new place in the sun since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has put public health globally at great risk.

With no vaccine or probable cure for the virus in sight, traditional medical practices like Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy, etc. have been gaining traction in India and worldwide to boost human immunity as the first line of defence.

Across India, the sale of immunity-boosting plants has upped manifold. Nurseries are running out of curative plants such as Ashwagandha, Giloy, Citronella, Brahmi, Lemongrass among others.

It is brisk business for nurseries. In anticipation of continued demand spike even after the pandemic is over, many nursery owners are solely concentrating on preparing saplings of herbal plants. They also expect a rise in export orders once overseas flights are fully operational.

South Mumbai nursery Passion Green’s owner Alka says, “June and July are typically slow months for the nursery business, but this year we have sold ten times more herbal plants then we do in a year”.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s advocacy for taking kaadha (herbal decoction) of Basil (tulsi), haldi( turmeric), cinnamon bark, sunthi (Zingiber officinale) and krishna marich (Piper nigrum) for immunity, has also helped to push demand and awareness of the benefits of such roots and herbs.

Government initiatives

Dipping into India’s 5000-year-old repository of traditional medical practices, the ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) has directed all states and union territories to start the commercial production of immunity-boosting herbal decoctions to fight the Covid-19 virus.

The dried decoction is to be sold as sachets, tea bags or tablets under the generic name as ‘Ayush Kwath’ or ‘Ayush Kudineer’ or ‘Ayush Joshanda.

In keeping with the central government’s mission of bringing 10 lakh hectares under herbal cultivation in the next two years, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to develop 800-km network roads in the state as an ‘Herbal belt’.

The plan is to plant medicinal trees like Neem, and herbs like Brahmi, Ashwagandha, and Jatropha along both sides of the road.

The Uttar Pradesh government has also directed authorities to plant herbal trees in villages via Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).

Giving a big leg up to herb cultivation, under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan financial relief package, the government has also earmarked Rs 4,000 crore spend to promote the same.

According to market tracker Euromonitor International’s blog, the pandemic has resulted in a change in consumer lifestyles, with an increased focus on preventive healthcare remedies leading to a surge in demand for immunity-positioned supplements, including Ayurvedic medicines and products as consumers pursue different ways to combat the virus.

High sales of herbal products

Established Ayurvedic companies, like Dabur India, Himalaya Wellness and Patanjali Ayurved, Baidyanath, Emami is witnessing high demand for products like Chawyanprash, Honey, Guduchi and Giloy tablets, Septilin, and other immunity syrups.

According to industry experts, the sale of honey, chyawanprash and herbal teas are seeing nearly 18 percent growth in sales month-on-month.

Another report by Nielsen in March 2020, pegs demand for honey up by 35 percent, for chawyanprash by 81 percent and turmeric by 38 percent in modern trade stores.

In addition to these traditional Indian medicines, other immunity-improvement products, such as vitamin C, fish oils, multivitamins, and mineral supplements, are also seeing a sales boost as consumer priorities shift to a complete focus on inner wellbeing.

Optimistic about the current trend, and in an effort to strengthen its portfolio, Dabur has launched ready-to-use immunity-booster products like Tulsi Drops, Giloy Neem with Tulsi Juice, Amla Juice, and an all-new Immunity Kit.

Dabur is also conducting a three-month clinical trial to see if its’ best-selling Chyawanprash formula could keep healthy individuals from contracting coronavirus.

According to a senior official of the Himalaya Drug Company, their Pure Herbs range of products like, Tulsi, Guduchi, Amalaki, Ashvagandha, and others propriety formulations such as Immusante and Septilin, is witnessing a significant increase in demand.

PureHands, Himalaya’s hand sanitizer, launched in 2003, is also seeing a huge uptake and is expected to drive sales going forward.

The effectiveness of herbal medicines to protect against the corona virus is not known, but what is clear is that the global prospective of Ayurvedic medicine is increasing.

World Health Organisation’s Bulletin says traditional medicine, including Ayurvedic and Chinese, generates $60 billion a year.

And the pandemic has given the potential of such alternative therapies a further fillip.

Shampa Bahadur has been a business journalist for more than two decades. She has written for Business India, PTI Media TransAsia and India Infrastructure Publication Ltd among others. She has also written coffee table books. She can be reached at shampa@indoasiancommodities.in

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