Dangers Of Self Treatment With Ayurvedic Medicines – Two Live Examples

One of my previous lecturers, from Bangalore, was suffering from Tuberculosis for sometime. A month back, I woke up to the news that he had succumbed to the disease.  At this age, pulmonary tuberculosis is certainly not a disease to die with. Close sources to my lecturers opine that my sir was treating himself for his condition. The lecturer was more renowned for his cartoons than his Ayurveda skills.

Another young Muslim Ayurvedic doctor from Mangalore, who was phenomenal in spreading Ayurveda awareness in Muslim community by conducting medical camps, delivering speeches and treating patients, recently succumbed to Dengue. He was treating himself. The young chap was an alumni of Alva’s Ayurveda Medical College. 

taking medicine

Ayurveda – where everyone thinks he can handle his medicines
One of the drawbacks of Ayurveda system is, it is very simplistic. Many diseases can be treated with simple herbs available in the backyard.

Ayurvedic medicines do not have side effects. Oh Really?
Browse through the list of thousands of Ayurvedic medicines, that I have described, you will find one or the other side effects, with most of them.

Generalization of prescription: If your doctor prescribes medicines A, B and C to your child with cough, cold and fever, it never means that the same prescription holds good for any other child with cough, cold and fever. It may be rhinitis with viral fever or Typhoid with rhinitis, the disease diagnosis can not be taken lightly.
An able Ayurvedic doctor would consider body constitution, age, place of patient, level of disease manifestation, tolerance capacity of the patient, his diet and lifestyle, hereditary factors etc., before deciding on medicines.

Ayurvedic medicines available without prescription: There are certain class of prescription-only-Ayurvedic medicines. Unfortunately, you can get them without any prescription. In fact, there is no stringent rules set for sale of Ayurvedic medicine, in India.

Lack of thorough knowledge of disease: Medicines, herbs, home remedies may look very simple, but its usability in particular disease is the most crucial part, which can only be done by a qualified Ayurvedic doctor. In the process of treating a patient, diagnosing the disease correctly  and assessing its severity forms 65 % of the work.

Failure to understand and read one’s own symptoms Till today, whenever I fall sick, I have not succeeded in deciding the right course of medicine for myself. I always end up consulting my colleagues.
We can never judge our own health system without an ‘external view’.

Treating family members and friends: There is a saying by Master Charaka that ‘Apta’ is a bad quality of patient. Apta means one who is very close to the doctor, like doctor’s relatives and friends. Because the doctor is emotionally attached with his friends and family, chances of error of judgement are maximum. Hence I make it a point not to treat even my daughter, wife, sister or mother. I take them to specialists.

How self medication harms

  • Wrong medicine to disease, which may have no effect on disease, which further leads to bigger complications.
  • Weak medicine for a strong disease, which might subside the symptoms temporarily, patient thinks that he has been cured, but the disease grows inside, silently.
  • Opposite medicine to disease – which worsens the disease with medicine’s side effects, causing a new set of problems, along with the existing ones.
  • Very strong medicine for a mild health complaint – leading to excess of treatment, which in turn leads to complications.

Always remember to consult an expert before taking any medicine by yourself. Be it Ayurveda or any other system of medicine.

10 comments on “Dangers Of Self Treatment With Ayurvedic Medicines – Two Live Examples

  • Khalid Hamza

    05/11/2012 - 2:28 pm

    Hello Doctor,
    Does that mean that the claims made by Himalaya healthcare (Banglore) and others like Baidyanath on their website regarding all their products being harmless and carry no side effects are False? I use many of their products especially the single herbs for conditions mentioned.


    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      05/11/2012 - 4:33 pm

      If you have gone through the Himalaya website products in detail, no where they encourage the visitors to take those supplements on your own. The information is there just for the sake of knowledge.
      Whether a product is having any side effect or not is a relative, subjective issue. For example, milk does not have any side effect, except for those who are allergic to it.
      Ginger is usually considered as a harmless spice, but some patients do feel burning sensation and gastritis with it.

      I would say, the Ayurvedic product information is useful
      1. To let know the customer, about the actual composition of the herbs. In case he finds that he was allergic to something, he can call back his doctor.
      2. To know the right dosage, what to do in over-dosage, etc.
      3. To know what additional benefits the product has.
      4. What may be the warning symptoms suggesting towards side effects
      5. For how long the medicine can be taken safely
      6. Does the medicine has any reaction with other medicines? etc.

      These facts would enable the patient to take command over the possible adverse situation. He will be informed and be ready to act, in case of any untoward change in his health, due to his medicines.

      Reply to comment
  • vn

    05/11/2012 - 5:04 pm

    If ayurvedic doctors cannot treat themselves, then how can they treat others?? especially in diseases like dengue??

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      05/11/2012 - 10:21 pm

      Good question. Honestly, I do not know about you, but I have tried treating myself for common cold and small fevers, But I can not.
      Either it is dengue or tuberculosis, once it passes certain stage, better to resort to allopathic methods, rather than wasting precious life-saving time with home remedies and herbal medicines.

      Reply to comment
      • vn

        06/11/2012 - 12:02 am

        Would platelet or blood transfusion save the critical patient in dengue case? or is it the allopathic medicines?? I ask this because I think even allopathic medicines have been largely unsuccessful in treating dengue and tuberculosis. Maybe a blood transfusion or platelet transfusion is the only hope. It is usually the surgical intervention that saves lives, not the allopathic drugs.

        Also once the diseases passes a critical stage ayurvedic doctors usually resort to metal based and kasturi based medicines right? instead of home remedies and herbal medicines??

        I ask this sir because I don’t think allopathic drugs work at all in most of the cases(even in simple cases of fever, cold). It is usually the surgical intervention that finally works. My friend’s mother had cancer in a very early stage(critical) and she was made to undergo chemotherapy and she died immediately within a few days because she could not handle chemo.

        That’s why in many cases like this there is no magic bullet and hopefully there should be proper integration of surgical techniques with ayurvedic medicines, or else such cases of failure will grow.

        Reply to comment
        • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

          06/11/2012 - 9:53 am

          Hello sir, here are my views –

          1. In dengue, of course, there is no specific treatments in allopathy. But IV fluids and blood transfusions have known to reduce the risk of death. Hence, once, if the fever is not under control, when a dengue patient observes warning signs like Abdominal pain, vomiting, hepatomegaly, bleeding, lethargy, excessive tiredness etc, it makes sense to get hospitalized, rather than sitting and trying with self-treatment.

          2. Anti Tuberculosis treatment with allopathy is quite successful in prolongation of life expectancy. When I was working as a internee in a nursing home, I have seen many cases getting resolved with allopathic treatment. But the medicines cause side effects such as retinopathy, liver impairments, lack of muscle bulk etc, which can very well be treated with Ayurvedic medicines “under medical supervision”.

          3. It is not true that only herbal medicines and home remedies are used to treat minor ailments and metal based medicines are used for sever / chronic conditions. Both are used in both the conditions. Kasturi is just an ingredient in many Ayurvedic medicines. Nothing more than that.

          4. We can not categorically snub allopathic system of medicine as useless. Of course, in cases of cold and such other viral conditions, they and we only have medicines to keep the symptoms under control.
          Surgical intervention can not be seen as the ultimate method of treatment. It is costly, many would prefer to die rather than get themselves under a knife, it is risky.

          5. In the example given by you, may be, a combination of chemotherapy along with Ayurvedic medicines to improve her strength and tolerance could have worked. May be, chemotherapy was resorted at a later stage.
          Chemotherapy does work in many cancer patients. We have the best example in Yuvraj Singh.

          I am not acting like an Allopathic fan boy. Please do not get me wrong.
          Ayurveda has some good treatments, medicines and therapies, so do Allopathy, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Unani, Physiotherapy, Chinese medicine and so on.
          Wisdom lies in mutual co-operation, co-existence and choosing best combination of treatments after mutual consultation.

          Reply to comment
          • Sachin Talreja

            06/11/2012 - 2:08 pm

            Dear Sir,
            I regularly read your articles. I just want to ask if there is any Ayurvedic medicine to control blood cholesterol and anything like aspirins to reduce blood viscosity for the heart patients.

            Reply to comment
          • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

            08/11/2012 - 2:56 pm

            No problem answering queries and going in depth of the matter. 🙂
            Scope of Ayurvedic methods in Cancer treatment is enormous. When it comes to guessing the life expectancy, any doctor can make mistake. That is just so very normal.
            In case of benign tumours, (the ones which do not spread), surgery is the choice of treatment. But in case of malignant tumours, (spreading type), surgery along with chemotherapy is done. This is because, though the surgery is done and tumour is removed, there may be chances of malignant cells circulating in the system and may lodge in any part of the body and start replicating.
            Chemotherapy has lot of side effects because it kills some amount of normal cells along with cancerous cells.The immunity of the person is also compromised to a great extent. Hence the chances of infection and so on.
            So, if the cancer grows beyond control, then doctors might give up.
            Yuvraj singh had chemotherapy only.
            Kasturi is an important Ayurvedic ingredient in many medicines I agree, but I,honestly have not heard of Kasturi, being given so much importance that there exists a special category of kasturi-based medicines.
            Mineral based medicines in chronic and severe stages of disease, and herbals in milder form of disease – This theory is there. I admit. But this is told in the introductory classes of Ayurveda. When it comes to actual practice, both types of medicines are administered in both cases.
            For example, Loha bhasma is given in anemia, be it acute or chronic.
            Sudarshana Churna, a herbal medicine is used both in mild and severe kind of fevers.
            Of course, to children, during pregnancy and lactation, herbal products are preferred to mineral and metal based products, to be on the safer side of things.
            I have great respect to antibiotics. They are really great. Only thing is they have to be used very sensibly.
            I also have due respect to chemotherapy, in cases where it really saves lives. The risk : benefits ratio should always be weighed without any prejudice.

            Whenever commercialization, corporate interest etc enter into any health system, they just rip off the original beauty, simplicity and usage, be it Allopathy or Ayurveda.

            Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    06/12/2017 - 11:49 am

    Hi, better to continue for 2 months, then give a gap of 1 month and then continue again.

    Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    02/04/2018 - 10:09 pm


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