There are two basic types of Ayurvedic medicines.
1. Classical medicines / traditional medicines – The formula, method of manufacturing, indications etc of these medicines are present in traditional Ayurvedic text books such as Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita etc. The manufacturing company follows the same formula and prepares medicines.
For example: Chyawanprash, Triphala Choorna, Dashamoolarishta, Chandraprabha Vati tablet etc.
Almost all Kashayams, Churna, Arishtas, Asavas, Lehyas fall into this category.
2. Proprietary Ayurvedic medicines –
They are also known as patent medicines or modern Ayurvedic medicines. The formula, dosage form etc of such a medicine are decided by the manufacturing company. The ingredient combination is not found in traditional Ayurvedic text books. The company itself makes the formula based on reasoning and expertise, conducts clinical trial, research on the medicine about its efficacy in particular diseases, gets license from drug control authorities and markets the medicine.
For example: Liv 52 tablet of Himalaya company
Most of the capsules, syrups, ointments, etc fall in to this category.
Often, I am asked to prescribe traditional Ayurvedic medicines only. Some patients believe that because the medicinal formula is traditional and straight from the text book, the medicines are efficacious.
Let us analyze the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of Ayurvedic medicines.
Number of ingredients:
Usually in traditional Ayurvedic medicines, the number of ingredients is more, when compared to proprietary medicines. Many of the ingredients in traditional Ayurvedic medicines are controversial, extinct or very hard to find.
But in proprietary Ayurvedic medicines, the formula contains only a few ingredients, that the company can procure easily. So, the trust on the genuineness of ingredients is more in proprietary medicines.
Easy to use:
Proprietary medicines have edge over traditional herbal medicines.
Masking the taste – as in capsules Vs Traditional Churnas, Kashayams etc, soft gel capsules containing oils vs oral intake of oils (such as Ksheerabala taila, Gandha taila, Maha raja prasarini taila etc.
improving palatability – as in coated tablets, Syrups etc.
It is a general misconception that all traditional medicines are totally free of preservatives and additives. But the fact is, all Kashayams sold in Market have preservatives, almost all Lehyams including Chyawanprash have added preservatives.
As long as they are in safer limits, I do not see any problem with both proprietary and traditional medicines.
Manufacturing company’s interest:
If I have a company, and I manufacture Dashamoolarishta, I will have to compete with thousands of companies that manufacture Dashamoolarishtam. The only criterion will be competitive price. It will be a race to the bottom. Whoever gives it in lowest price wins.
But if I make a syrup of my own formula, do genuine research to prove its efficacy and market it, I will be promoting my own brand, my own product.
I will obviously work hard to make the product as genuine and as effective as possible. I will conduct Continued medical education (CME) programs to doctors to let them know about my product, because, if product clicks, more doctors will prescribe, more patients will benefit, more money I will make.
Extra profit margins:
The profit margins to the medical store owner, to distributor to manufacturer are high in proprietary medicine.
Genuineness of the formula – Test of time:
The Chyawanprashs, Triphalas are there since thousands of years, serving millions of people. But we cannot say the same to Proprietary medicines. They are there since 2 – 3 decades, so, test of time is yet to be made on them.
So, there are pluses and minuses on both sides.
Question is, should you, as a patient, direct your doctor to prescribe only traditional medicines?
The doctor knows what works best and what does not. Doctor knows combinations of medicines that suits the patients most, out of his experience. Hence, it will be best if you leave the doctor to make his decision.
However, because it is your personal choice, you can request the doctor to prescribe traditional medicines only.