Ayurveda is one of the most ancient traditions of India. In fact, given its long history, we can call it one of the most ancient living traditions. To get a better perspective, consider this: people were practising Ayurveda before most of the modern nations were formed! The unique part of its story is that this is no stagnating tradition. It is still flourishing, practised and followed by millions in India and abroad.
While it is one of our most impressive inheritance, one must not forget that it is a form of applied science. Like many Vedic traditions, it thrives on questioning and exploring. So, the question is whether ayurvedic medicine manufacturers should embrace modern methods and technologies? While the proponents of modern manufacturing are many, some still believe that ancient methodologies were the only way.
The roadblock to the modernisation of Ayurveda lies not only in the change in character of the industry, but also in its sourcing and production. Unlike other fields, Ayurvedic raw materials are not produced in a factory. These natural raw materials – herbal, metal and mineral substances – are far more complicated to procure on an industrial scale.
A moot point
Actually, the argument is moot because manufacturers must modernise whether they want to or not. There are two reasons for this – economy and regulation. Modernisation will ensure that they can run their manufacturing process at a profit. But even more compellingly, modernisation is imperative to ensure that government decided standards are met and adhered too.
In other words, modernisation is imperative not just to ensure efficiency, but for the industry’s very existence. Actually despite the term ‘modernisation’ this is not exactly a modern approach. The Indian Ayurvedic medicine industry has been at a slow, but steady march towards a modern approach in manufacturing, teaching and practising of the craft.
Compliance with certification
Modernisation of Ayurvedic Drugs Manufacturing Process Drugs & Cosmetics Rules 1945 lays down the rules for the manufacturing of Ayurvedic drugs. This are in accordance with the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia and Good Manufacturing Practices provided in Schedule-T. According to this ayurvedic medicine manufacturers need evidence of safety and effectiveness.
The date of expiry and various dosage forms are as prescribed in Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945. In addition, one can also voluntarily apply for quality certifications. These include WHO-GMP guidelines as well as the Premium Mark from Quality Council of India scheme of AYUSH. In fact, strict rules are already in place for practitioners and educators of Ayurvedic medicine.
Modernisation in Manufacturing
The modernisation of Ayurveda now extends from the institutionalisation of education, professionalism in medical practise and an organised manufacturing sector. From a small scale/cottage industry, Ayurveda is today a multi-million global enterprise.
But this modernisation is not sudden. Ayurveda traditionally was practised by highly learned practitioners who enjoyed a close following and respect. The mass production of Ayurvedic medicines can be traced to the late 19th century in Bengal and Kerala. But even at this phase the production was largely under the control of vaidyas or traditional doctors.
However, by the turn of the 20th century, manufacturing in Ayurveda would go through another phase, moving from mass production of the vaidyas to a more organised sphere of industrial production. Today the process is complete with mechanised industrial processes, clinical testing under strict legal guidelines and the influence of market factors.
There are multiple reasons why this traditional craft had to go through complete modernisation. Although a number of traditional practitioners (who rely on traditional means of making medicines) still exist, the modern manufacturers account for most of the domestic and international trade in Ayurveda. Some of the reasons for its inevitability are:
- Ease of packing and ingestion
- Wider reach
- Essential for taking advantage of an organised marketing sector
- To ensure compliance with laid national and international standards.
- To remain competitive
- Industrial-scale production
- Consolidation of the industry into an organised sector
- Attracting the best of mathematical and manufacturing manpower and practices.
Although Ayurveda is still practised in the age old traditional manner by some practitioners, the bulk of the industry today is completely modernised. With ayurvedic medicine manufacturers facing increasing competition, demand and government scrutiny, this modernisation was inevitable. It is also necessary to overcome the challenges faced by the sector and emerge as a credible, reliable and robust global healthcare industry.