‘There is a shift towards herbal medicines globally’
Dr K M Ishwar Nambiar is the Managing Director of Alopa Herbal Health Care, a Bangalore-based Ayurvedic drug company which rose to prominence in a short span of time. Alopa has been able to carve a niche for itself through its extensive use of modern science and technology for manufacturing effective ayurvedic medicines, says Nambiar. A doctorate and an MBA, Dr Nambiar completed B Pharm (Hons) from BITS, Pilani. In an exclusive interview with R BabyManoj, he throws light on the increasing role played by ayurveda in providing total well being to humankind. Excerpts:
What prompted you to enter the field of herbal medicines?
There is a shift towards ayurvedic and herbal medicines throughout the world. We felt a vacuum in today’s treatment. The vacuum arose because there are still many diseases which do not find cure in allopathy. It is true that with great strides in allopathy, the incidence of infectious diseases have come down. However, allopathy has been unsuccessful in managing a number of metabolic disorders like diabetes, arthritis, lack of immunity, high cholesterol, gastritis, hyper acidity, renal calculi and hormonal deficiencies leading to irregular menstrual cycles, obesity, over-weight, and infertility.
How can ayurveda and other herbal medicines manage metabolic disorders?
Metabolic disorders are mainly due to lack of micro-nutrients. Earlier, micro-nutrients were available in vegetables and fruits, where farmers used only organic manure. Today in order to increase yields of vegetables and fruits, farmers are using phosphate and sulphate-based fertilisers. Phosphates and sulphates prevent the absorption of micro-nutrients like celenium, magnesium, iodine, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, cadmium, chromium etc, by the roots of the plants.
How important are micro-nutrients for the body? How do herbal medicines help to ensure its supply in the required quantities?
Micro-nutrients are very much essential for DNA and RNA synthesis and its non-availability will affect DNA-RNA synthesis, thereby affecting catabolism (breaking down) and anabolism (building up) of cells, which in turn, may affect metabolic activity of the body. So the need of the day is micro-nutrients. Micro-nutrients are now available in required quantities in many herbal and ayurvedic medicines.
You said there is a global shift of interest towards herbal medicines. What are the reasons for increasing demand in herbal medicines?
Previously there was no need for taking micro-nutrients medicinally, because it was available naturally in vegetables and roots. However, in those days unhygienic conditions led to infectious diseases. Allopathy gained popularity by fighting such infectious diseases. They rose to a position such that the only remedy for infectious diseases were antibiotics. They started with tetracycline. Today their numbers have rose extremely high. It may be noted that while giving relief from various kinds of infections, antibiotics destroy the healthy cells and tissues too. Gradually, the micro-organisms that cause infectious diseases develop drug resistance. There is no antibiotic in the world without side effects.
Ayurveda is considered to take care of mind, body and soul by providing total cure. Could you substantiate this?
In today’s society, stress is one of the biggest problems. Stress is the outcome of intense competition and very high expectations and ambition in daily life. Stress results in lack of proper sleep. It affects the nervous system and immune system. Another area of relevance is untimely meals, fast food culture; all these lead to irritable bowel syndrome. It is a complex syndrome where the patient experience belching, indigestion and constipation (lack of exercise also contribute to this). There is no solution for this in allopathy. Ayurveda is the only school of medicine that provides solution for irritable bowel syndrome.
Digestive disorders lead to indigestion, constipation, and gas trouble. Lack of proper enzymes also could be a reason for this. There are certain medicines in Ayurveda which can stimulate the system to produce natural enzymes. This include ginger, jeera, pepper, clove, cardamom, fennel Thippali etc. Their medicinal properties are time tested as they were part of the daily cuisine of older generations.
The immunity of the body of the present generation has gone down because the oxidants are produced during metabolism. These oxidants are increasing day by day, mainly because of pollution, use of lot of fatty foods and consumption of antibiotics. These oxidants can damage cells and tissues and organs. Anti-oxidants sourced from nature were found in plenty in culinary items which contained ginger, pepper, haldi, asafoetida, etc.
Now in herbal medicines anti-oxidants are incorporated in formulations. The role of anti-oxidants in preserving health is well established in the West. Natural anti-oxidants like ‘amalaki’ (gooseberry) were used very much in our daily life in the ancient time. Traditional Indian food contained all required anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. That culture is fast disappearing. Now the cuisine is getting more and more westernised. As a result fast food, Kentucky chicken, pizzas have become favourite dishes. In such a situation, ayurveda has a very big role in bringing back anti-oxidants to our daily life.
Do you conduct fundamental research for developing drugs? Are Alopa products supported by clinical trials?
We do conduct fundamental research for our products. For example, take our products Profert-F and Profert-M. Clinical trials for these were done by eminent gynaecologists from Mysore and Bangalore. It was found on clinical trials that it increases sperm count and motility resulting in higher conception rates. We have another drug, Profert-F for women. We have found 38 per cent increase in conception rate in infertile couple who have been administered with this medicine. Not only Profert-M and F aid in fertility, but also increase libido in both males and females. Physical and mental well being is possible with ayurvedic medicines which is very important in a healthy sexual life. Western world is looking at India for such invaluable remedies, despite inventing medicines like Viagra that provide only partial remedy to sexual dysfunction, that too with high risks.
What are your comments on the need for clinical trials for Ayurvedic and herbal drugs?
Clinical trials have to be conducted according to the WHO norms. We have to conduct a trial comparing with the placebo; placebo control trial and symptom relief using morbidity index. Any deleterious long term and short term effect on the system including kidney, liver and heart need to be studied and the enzymatic changes taking place in the system need to be observed. The trials need to be repeated for a number of years. We have to continue working on the drug for a minimum of three to five years, so that absolute conclusion can be made about the safety and effectiveness of the drug. In Alopa, we conduct trials purely on scientific basis according to WHO norms. We are going to conduct trials on our products in various ayurvedic and allopathic medical colleges in the country, comparing with the medicines available in the market.
What are your expansion plans? What is the total strength in Alopa?
We are expanding exponentially. This month we have started operations in West Bengal and Maharashtra, We are planning to expand our presence to Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir and Western UP by March 2005. By that time we will have employed another eighty people making current number of employees including managers two hundred.
The nutraceutical segment is expected to be worth US $10 billion by the year 2010; does Alopa have plans to cash in on?
Our products Alloprot and Alloprot- D have caught the imagination of the people in a short span of time. Alloprot is a nutritive supplement for the new generation, providing all the vitamins, essential amino acids and micro-nutrients essential for metabolism.
Aloprot-D is our product for diabetic management. This provides immediate energy and all the vitamins required. These products have been developed assessing the need of the present generation.