India to conduct clinical trials of ashwagandha to treat COVID-19

Centre to conduct randomised clinical trial of the traditional herb

Alternative-medicine-fresh-herbs-wooden-mortar-ayurveda-basil-peppermint-shut Representational image | File

Soon, India will be testing traditional medicines like ashwagandha for treating mild to moderate COVID-19. The Centre announced that a "multicentre randomised" trial would be conducted with the traditional herb, against standard of care (normal course of management of disease). The herb would also be tested against hydroxychloroquine (HCQS) for the prevention of SARS-COV-2 infection among healthcare workers. 

A study on the efficacy of HCQS in preventing the infection among healthcare workers is already on at several institutes of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). HCQS, however, has not shown encouraging results in studies across the world, with one study in the Lancet reporting prolonged QT intervals ( heart muscle takes longer than normal to recharge between beats) in COVID-19 patients.

The "collaborative clinical research study" on Ayurveda interventions as prophylaxis [prevention] and as an add-on to standard care to COVID 19 is a joint initiative of Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Ministry of Science and Technology through the 

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and with the technical support of ICMR, the health ministry said in a statement. 

The clinical research protocol for the study on prevention of COVID-19 and in coronavirus positive patients has been developed by the head of the interdisciplinary Ayush research and development task force along with Dr Bhushan Patvardhan, Vice Chairman, University Grant Commission (UGC). The protocol has been developed for studying four different herbs-- ashwagandha, yashtimadhu, guduchi and pippali, and a poly herbal formulation (AYUSH-64).

"The core objectives are to assess the preventive potential of AYUSH interventions for COVID-19, and also the improvement in quality of life in high-risk populations," the health ministry said. 

The study will be carried out through four research councils under the ministry of AYUSH and national institutes in 25 states, covering approximately 5 lakh people. "The outcome of the study is expected to pave a new horizon in understanding the preventive potential of AYUSH interventions during pandemics like COVID-19 through scientific evidence," the ministry added.

Health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said these studies shall re-establish the importance of AYUSH pathies with the rigour of CSIR, ICMR and DCGI. The minister also launched the "Sanjivani app" that will generate data on acceptance and usage of AYUSH advocacies and measures among the population and its impact in prevention of COVID 19. The app has been  developed by the Ministry of AYUSH and MEITY (ministry of electronics and information technology), and has been designed to reach 50 lakh people.

“The technology alliance provides a valuable opportunity for such knowledge-based solutions to continue to benefit us even after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed by possible integration of AYUSH in the mainstream scientific efforts," he added. "Let us also understand that the modern pathies of medicine and science are not in competition with those of AYUSH, but complement and strengthen each other in intrinsic ways," Vardhan said. AYUSH advisories for enhancing immunity during COVID-19 pandemic had been acknowledged across the world, he said.