Supreme Court Temporarily Bans Patanjali’s Misleading Claims: Ayurvedic Medicines Under Scrutiny Amid Government Support

Imagine a world where a single pill could ward off COVID-19, where diabetes could be cured with vegetable juices and herbal concoctions instead of insulin, or where asthma could vanish with just yoga and breathing exercises. These are the bold assertions put forward by Patanjali Ayurved, a major player in India’s traditional ayurvedic products industry, reflecting the ancient Hindu healing practices dating back 3,000 years. The term “ayurveda” originates from Sanskrit, combining “ayur” meaning life and “veda” meaning science or knowledge. Practitioners of ayurveda utilize herbs, animal extracts, and minerals prepared according to age-old texts.

Despite widespread acceptance among Indians, concerns linger among scientists regarding the safety and effectiveness of ayurvedic products. Unlike medicinal drugs, ayurvedic products are classified as dietary supplements in the United States, lacking the rigorous testing required for medical approval.

Under the Hindu-nationalist government in power since 2014, alternative systems of medicine, including ayurveda, have received unprecedented support. India’s Ministry of Alternative Medicine receives nearly $500 million annually, with the government actively promoting ayurveda on the international stage, boosting the fortunes of companies like Patanjali.

However, the Supreme Court of India has recently issued a temporary ban on certain Patanjali products. This move follows allegations by the Indian Medical Association that Patanjali and its brand ambassador Baba Ramdev made false claims against evidence-backed modern medicine and spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

“The entire country has been taken for a ride,” remarked one of the judges during the court proceedings. The case, brought to court in August 2022, highlights Patanjali’s bold advertisements in Indian newspapers, claiming the ability of ayurvedic products to cure chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart diseases.

Notably, Patanjali’s public face, Baba Ramdev, is a vocal supporter of India’s ruling party, the BJP, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The company’s ties to the government have raised concerns among scientists who accuse the administration of prioritizing alternative medicines over modern medical practices to glorify India’s cultural heritage.

Despite court orders and warnings from regulatory agencies, Patanjali continues to defy restrictions on misleading advertisements. Critics allege the company’s close association with the ruling party shields it from accountability.

However, the rise of traditional medicine in India coincides with a broader cultural shift in healthcare policy. Since Modi assumed office in 2014, the government has significantly increased funding for traditional medicines, despite ongoing doubts about their efficacy.

“The worry is people are being misguided,” expresses Dr. Jayesh Lele of the Indian Medical Association, citing cases where patients suffered adverse effects from ayurvedic treatments due to misinformation.

Yet, skepticism persists among some experts, like Kishor Patwardhan of Banaras Hindu University, who believe that the promotion of ayurveda should be based on robust evidence rather than political agendas.

Critics accuse the Modi government of undermining scientific education and promoting historical inaccuracies, eroding public trust in evidence-based practices. The dissemination of unscientific ideas by influential political figures contributes to societal damage, undermining the progress of rational thinking and scientific inquiry.

Former Kenyan Prime Minister’s Daughter Praises Ayurveda’s Healing Touch, Vows to Introduce it to Kenya

Ayurveda, an ancient healing system originating from the Indian subcontinent, has garnered acclaim from Rosemary, the daughter of Raila Odinga, the former Prime Minister of Kenya. In 2019, Rosemary regained her eyesight through Ayurvedic treatment in India and now expresses her intention to introduce Ayurveda to Kenya, believing it can benefit millions.

Rosemary conveyed her gratitude, stating, “Earlier I couldn’t see, now I can. PM mentioning my treatment shows close relations b/w our countries. I’ll take Ayurveda to my country, it can help millions of people,” as reported by news agency ANI on Wednesday.

This development coincides with the recent inauguration of the Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Jamnagar, Gujarat. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, attended the ceremony alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The WHO center in Gujarat aims to harness the potential of Ayurveda by integrating ancient practices with modern science, making it the world’s first and only global outpost center for traditional medicine.

Raila Odinga himself had lauded Ayurveda and expressed his intent to bring it to Kenya. In February, he discussed with PM Modi the possibility of establishing a branch of the hospital where his daughter underwent treatment in Kenya. Odinga stated, “I have suggested to them that they should come and set up a branch in Nairobi, Kenya, and I am going to work with them to set up this center,” as reported by ANI.

Odinga was referring to the Sreedhareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital and Research Centre in Kerala. Following a diagnosis of a brain tumor in 2017, Rosemary underwent surgery in Nairobi. However, during the post-operative period, she experienced a severe loss of eyesight. In 2019, she traveled to India and received treatment at Shreedhareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital in Koothattukulam, Kerala, which successfully restored her vision.