India’s new government has launched a drive to promote the country’s ancient therapies as it seeks to cash in on the multi-billion dollar global market for holistic medicine. The global market for Ayurveda medicines is estimated at about US$100 billion (RM3 trillion) today. India’s share in this is negligible because quality standards are not maintained to international specifications. The government has decided to address this lacuna. In India, domestic companies such as Dabur, Emami and the Himalaya group have pioneered herbal products, combining ancient traditional medicine with cutting-edge technology to make pills, creams and oils. Ayurvedic centres and clinics have also sprung up in Europe and the United States in recent years, and global chain The Body Shop has created its own range of Ayurvedic products.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the world to make Ayurveda “a way of life” and in doing so expand India’s share of the growing global market for holistic medicine. He promised to revive India’s flagging economy and has already announced plans to establish a state-funded Ayurvedic research centre and hospital. He appointed India’s first minister for Ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homeopathy—known as the AAYUSH ministry—and has also called for an international yoga day. The new AAYUSH minister, Shripad Yesso Naik, said he would make promoting Ayurveda a “high priority” as he began his newly-created role.

According to the World Health Organisation, 65 per cent of India’s rural population uses Ayurvedic remedies, mostly due to poor access to modern health facilities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to provide affordable healthcare to India, where nearly 25 per cent of the population lives on less than US$1.25 a day and more than 40 million people have been pushed into poverty because of the cost of medical treatment.

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