By Frances Bulathsinghala/Sunday Observer
Professionals from diverse streams of specialisations in the country, seek an opportunity for traditional physicians to treat Covid-19 patients so that it could be ascertained if we need to spend billions of dollars to import a vaccine.
These professionals argue that Sri Lankans should not underestimate the vast knowledge and skills of its thousands of indigenous medicine physicians who have already cured the people with Covid-19 symptoms, who had sought their treatments. They said that some traditional physicians have also cured Sri Lankan Covid-19 patients living abroad by sending their medicines through their relatives and friends.
These professionals maintain that Sri Lanka should investigate for the sake of the country the statements by traditional medicine physicians in almost every district, who have accounts of Covid-19 positive patients and those exposed to the virus recovering after consuming their medicines.
There are also reports of every quarantine centre and hospital in Sri Lanka as well as almost everyone in the forefront of the Covid-19 battle are using only traditional medicine to boost immunity in the backdrop of there being no Western medicine for this ailment.
These professionals argue that this is the same as in the case of ailments, such as Dengue from which hundreds of Lankans die every year, but against which Allopathy/ Western medicine is helpless as it has no cure.
They said that they have lists of names of traditional physicians from around the country who have with them evidence in writing with all details for follow up as well as video recorded evidence of the Lankans who had contracted Covid-19 disease recovering within three days. These professionals who stand for traditional medicine, said that the approach of the Traditional and Ayurvedic physicians are totally different from the approach of the Allopathic (western) doctors.
The former treat the patient to restore the balance of tridoses (three factors) and the patient as a whole, whereas the latter treat the specific disease and the specific virus, or bacteria).
These professionals argue that Allopathy, Ayurveda and our traditional medicine are three different Knowledge systems and they cannot be compared by the same criteria.
“We ask the Government with much respect, to make arrangements to allow our traditional physicians to test their medicines which are all from herbs and non-toxic, on treating Covid-19 patients,” said Harsha Kumar Suriyaarachchi, an engineer who along with several other academics and intellectuals has formed the Sinhala Weda Uruma Baraya which lobbies to overcome the obstacles that prevent Ayurvedic and Traditional physicians from treating Covid-19 patients. Our intention is to assist the President to implement the plans related to our traditional medicine stated in his visionary Saubaghya Dekma, he said.
“We urgently call to set up a Deshiya Waidya Sabhawa which is an integral part of the Saubhagya Dekma, to ensure that traditional medicine is upheld, our physicians supported, their rights and skills recognised and used for the wellbeing of the people of the nation.
We understand that there are many traditional physicians who have submitted their medicines for Covid-19 to the Sutra kamituwa (committee appointed by the Department of Ayurveda to investigate traditional medical products), the related channel for such testing,” Eng. Suriyaarachchi said.
He urges for the protection of the intellectual property rights of Sri Lankan traditional medicine and practitioners so that the country will not risk its traditional medicine knowledge being stolen and patents achieved by other countries on local herbs and their usage especially for Covid-19, as has happened in the past on other instances.
“We are facing a health challenge which has crushed the Western world which does not have the kind of expertise that we have; the expertise that is bound with nature; our age old Deshiya Chikitsa or Sinhala Wedakama (traditional treatment) where a humble physician would hold thousands of years of knowledge which he would use not to mint money, but to heal and accrue good merit, as per Buddhist tradition,” said Nemsiri Jayatilleke, an academic at a university in the stream of Mathematics and Philosophy of Science, a core founder of the Sinhala Weda Uruma Baraya.
“Our traditional medical system and its ideology is still vibrant. The European imperial powers who ruled our country for almost four-hundred years could not destroy our culture even though they destroyed many other cultures of much bigger countries.”
“We have no more time to lose. We need to show publicly in the quarantine centres and in the hospitals whether these diverse traditional medicines of our many physicians who have developed Covid-19 cures can cure these patients. The situation where the Traditional Physicians are prevented from treating Covid-19 patients by the Western medical authorities shows the western knowledge hegemony,” Jayatilleke said.
These professionals who have discussions with indigenous physicians in many parts of the country, the latest being Panadura, argue that people should remember their medical legacy that stands in the form of the first hospital in the world in Mihintale and the fact that every village still has the tradition of having an indigenous physician committed to prevent, pre-empt and cure illnesses of people as in yesteryear.
Dr. Abey Rathnayake, Senior Lecturer in Medical Anthropology, Former Head, Department of Sociology, University of Peradeniya whose Ph.D. Thesis is on the Developments of Traditional Medicine in Sri Lanka and organised the Kandy meeting of the Sinhala Weda Uruma Baraya two weeks ago, showed the differences of medical systems and their philosophies and relevance.
Some of the attendees included Ven. Kumbukkadawala Punnarathna Thera, retired Principal and a Karaka Sangha Sabhika, Asgiriya Chapter, Ven. Hanguranketha Naradha Thera, Vice-Principal, Variyapola Sri Sumangala College, Kandy, Ven. Mahawela Rathnapala Thera, Karaka Sangha Sabhika of the Malwathu Chapter and Visiting Lecturer, University of Peradeniya, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya, Emeritus Professor, C.M. Madduma Bandara.
Emeritus Professor, H.M.D. R. Herath, Department of Sociology, University of Peradeniya and the Deputy Chairperson, Kanda Udarata Urumaya Department who has written his Ph.D thesis on the Taxonomy of Sinhalese Herbal Plants. Prof. Herath delivered a talk on the classification of medicinal plants in Sinhala traditional medicine.
here are many physicians throughout Sri Lanka, such as indigenous medical physician D. D. Hettiarachchi of Ganemulla whose Covid-19 curative and preventive medicines have been taken by hundreds of Sri Lankans in Dubai and Italy who had got them down through beneficiaries at the height of Covid-19 phase 1 and safeguarded from the disease.
Traditional medical physician Amila Sanjeewa in Gampaha who runs a traditional medicine charity, said that he has treated around 18,000 persons against the Covid-19 infection, primarily preventive and has written proof to provide. These are a few examples and not an exhaustive list of all the physicians of Sri Lanka who say that they have investigated and made cures for Covid-19.
These physicians ask why officials take traditional cures and specific traditional medicine of physicians but do not work towards ensuring that the people educate themselves on the power of traditional medicine against Covid-19. The narration below of a traditional medicine physician who shared his views at a meeting in Panadura, may epitomise the problems and issues of the traditional medicine physicians of the country.
“My name is Sampath Kalutharage. I am an Ayurveda Shasthri qualified traditional physician who has received training from the Malawena Weda Parampara based college in Beruwela. I have a background related to traditional medicine. My grandmother was a weda hamine. I have also apprenticed under a well-known physician of the area, Piyasena Edirimanne who passed away six years ago.”
He in turn is the student of the well-known Diyal Jayakoddy (Palpolla wedamahattaya). This physician’s uncle is the famous weda bhikkhu, who was the chief priest of the Benthara Wanawasala temple.
“I live five kilometres from the Dombagoda army camp in Kalutara. Some 692 military personnel were put under quarantine in the camp and there was one Covid-19 positive patient. From the first day of quarantine, they took my medicine. In the first phase of Covid-19, I gave these medicines free so they could take it if they want to.
In the second phase, they asked for it. The Covid-19 positive military personnel recovered within three days.”
“I have treated 10 other Covid-19 positive patients who on their personal initiative took the medicines while being treated at hospital. Over 50 Covid-19 exposed people have taken my medicines. Most of these people have been close associates of their infected relatives. No one had contracted the disease after taking the medicines I prepared.”
“However, now the authorities approve my medicine only as food supplement, and I have to produce it in a building 12 feet wide and 20 feet long. Now I am in debt trying to get this sorted. I have been informed by the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) as per its rules that there has to be a production plant for the medicines I make to give me permission to release it.”
“Like all traditional physicians, I make my medicines in my home. Wedamahattayas did not have big buildings to make their medicines. If specific buildings are required to ensure the safety of patients thinking our medicines will be contaminated, I urge the authorities to consider an alternative route other than physicians spending large sums of money for building constructions or for renting or leasing. Maybe temples could be facilitated for us to prepare our medicines or any other alternative.”
“There are many other traditional physicians who have submitted their medicines to the health authorities for approval and are awaiting results.”
He highlighted along with other traditional physicians, the need to protect their knowledge from unscrupulous elements and calls for steps that will prevent traditional physicians from being forced to revealing the wattoruwa.
In the discussions organised by the Sinhala Weda Uruma Baraya, a key point that surfaced was the need to protect traditional physicians against the forced revelation of their herbs and preparation methods. They appeal to the authorities to look into this with a strong sense of patriotism while ensuring that no harmful substances are used by fraudulent entities passing off as traditional physicians.