The classical texts of Ayurveda were teachings of Gods to learned saints and sages. These were then taught to the physicians who treated the general population. These were then divine directions for the wellbeing of the human population. Whatever its origins — divine or otherwise — in India Ayurveda is still one of the most trusted and widely followed systems of medicine.
Yet, Ayurveda had declined in the recent years. However, we are now seeing a surge in its popularity with almost all sectors — from big pharma companies to ayurvedic PCD companies India reporting a surge in sales. Yet, the sector remains rife with challenges and the increasing competition among Ayurvedic firms and against conventional pharma firms.
The Origin and History of Ayurveda
The ancient texts of vedas have many references to the science of healing, its respected practitioners and their importance in any human society. The Atharva Veda has the most detailed descriptions of diseases and their cure. The Upanishads – especially the Yogapanishads, has a detailed anatomical account. The Puranas continue the tradition of recording medicinal knowledge and its prevalence in the society.
After this came the systematic observation, development and recording that forms the basis of Ayurveda. It is important to note that Ayurveda is not written at one sitting by one person. Instead it is a series of compilations by different authors. Some of the subsequent work added to the original texts, while some were improvements or developments.
Some of the names that must be noted here are Agnivesa Samhita who is among the first few practitioners. His work was restored by Caraka in the sixth century B.C. This is among the most authoritative record of Ayurvedic medicine and the origin of much of the Ayurvedic knowledge we have today. Susruta samhita, which records the teachings of Dhanvantari, the god of medicine. Later works include Astanga Samgraha, Astanga Hridaya and Bhela Samita.
Almost every ancient civilisation practised some sort of medicinal art that was used to treat common sicknesses to more serious illnesses and battle scars. What stands out about Ayurveda is its systematic record, development through the ages and the largely scientific process of experimentation and impartial observation.
Even though by modern standards, these are found to be inadequate, the fact is that among the ancient forms of medicine, Ayurveda shows the most remarkable evidence of scientific temperament.
Ayurveda: Then & Now
As is obvious from our ancient texts, Ayurveda was the main system of medicine in ancient India. Its practise was based on the very modern principle of ‘service for all’. Both the commoner and the king benefited from its teachings.
The scenario today is remarkably different. Although Ayurveda still flourishes in the country of its origin, its practise has long been overtaken by conventional medicine and Ayurveda has become ‘alternative medicine’. The industry — comprising of big FMCG companies, pharma sector, small franchises and Ayurvedic PCD companies India.
Ayurveda is clearly no longer the ancient practise it was. It has changed significantly in its practise in the modern era. While small practitioners may remain, the industry has become much more organised with proper manufacturing processes in place, a nationwide distribution network and aggressive marketing by its sellers. This reinventing of Ayurveda is necessary if it wishes to remain relevant in the modern era.
While the market for herbal and natural medicine worldwide is expected to grow at an impressive 16%, the growth and development of Ayurveda in the global market has not been impressive so far. Ayurveda has unfortunately failed to be a major part of the natural remedy market worldwide.
Part of this is the ignorance about Ayurveda’s ancient lineage. However, the bigger challenge pertains to the very nature of Ayurveda and the manufacture of Ayurvedic medicines. Unlike conventional medicine, Ayurveda cannot be seen as a modern science. This is because it lacks the vigorous testing, experiments and records that are essential in modern medicine. Instead, much of Ayurvedic teachings are taken as granted.
The second and more pressing problem comes from the manufacturing processes. The presence of contaminants means poor quality of raw materials. Some formulations also contain elements like lead and arsenic, which are not allowed in medicinal products in many countries.
Ayurveda has a long venerable ancient past in India where it flourished as a major form of medicine. However, the face of modern Ayurveda has changed completely with big FMCG companies as well as Ayurvedic PCD companies India fighting for a share of the pie.