As many as 35 people have died of dengue in Tamil Nadu since January 2017, the state’s health secretary J.Radhakrishnan said recently total of 10,032 cases of the fever have been reported in the state this year. To treat this epidemic, the Tamil Nadu government decided to distribute a traditional Siddha herbal concoction, nilavembu kudineer, free of cost. The Central Council for Research in Siddha, working under the Ministry of AYUSH, has said (https://thewire.in/188422/daphne-caruana-galizia-murder/) that the concoction works not just for treating the disease but also to prevent it.
“Medical system regains their value when they are effectively utilised in public health out breaks. In dengue outbreaks the details about Siddha intervention in dengue may be helpful and by which a large number of sufferers may be benefited (sic),” a report from the council says.The state government is distributing the liquid using mobile units and government units. “We will continue to make elaborate arrangements to distribute nilavembu kudineer to the public. Also,the government hospitals have been instructed to ensure proper hydration of all fever patients by keeping ready nilavembu kudineer, ORS, kanji (gruel). Special medical teams have been dispatched to the vulnerable districts such as Salem, Dharmapuri and Tiruvannamalai,” Tamil Nadu health minister Vijayabaskar s
Even though there is no evidence of their efficacy, alternative remedies such as papaya-leaf juice for dengue find many takers during epidemics. While it is hard for government bodies to
curb such practices, what they must never do is to endorse them. One of the several ingredients of nilavembu kudineer comes from a plant called Andrographis paniculata, which appears in
herbal medicine systems across South Asia. As is often the case with such herbs, some evidence exists for its potency against a range of illnesses. For example, A. paniculata is known to
inhibit the dengue virus in animal cells in a laboratory, and to reduce symptoms of respiratory tract infections in small human trials. But innumerable other herbal remedies also show such
early promise. Sadly, only a tiny handful of these remedies go on to prove their efficacy in large-scale, placebo-controlled human trials, the gold standard of modern medicine. This is because the science of developing drugs from medicinal plants is complicated. Poly-herbal remedies like nilavembu are a mix of several compounds, while most of modern medicine relies on single- compounds. Plus, the amount of the active ingredient — the compound in a herb that acts against an illness — varies across plants. So drugmakers have to find a way to identify this ingredient and test it in large- scale trials. This exercise requires not only massive financial investment but also intellectual honesty.