Nutraceuticals, Naturals and Nutritionals-A Discovery Path from Ayurveda

“Health and desire for longevity have been inherent features in all social orders and at every stage; all human races have endeavoured to achieve these goals. Only sustainable efforts are percolated through generations, even to the modern day. Ayurveda is one such inherited tradition of health and longevity. Health of our society ultimately rests upon the effective revival of Ayurveda in its full dignity.”
–  Parigi Ramesh Kumar and V Prakash 

Ayurveda as a way of life and habits is the most ideally suited systems to inspire a discovery path to Nutraceuticals, Naturals and Nutritionals. Such a path has already been initiated by the pioneers of Ayurvidya. The term Ayurvidya, was coined by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. It was a most thoughtful act to imbue our millennia-old health tradition with the dignity of a fresh scientific quest. A renaissance mindset always asks fresh and deep question. Whereas revivalist mind is more been to validate and systemise the tradition, without much questioning. It is obvious that for a global impact of Ayurveda inspired health products, we need a renaissance mindset and novel ideas on products, processes and positive health. The present series of articles in ‘NuFFooDS’, will hopefully evolve such innovative paths to discovery.


The epistemology of Ayurveda is based on Indian Darshanas like Sankhya. As a consequence, the principles underlying health, nutrition, disease and aging need to be first grasped before premature efforts are made to ferret out some products. In a recent survey of the utilisation of traditional system in National Rural Health Mission, it was found that 80-100% of population in 14 out of 18 states used Low Health Tradition. We have witnessed innumerable failed Ayurvedic products mainly because they have been hurriedly evolved without any due diligence on the basic principles, processes and scientific rationale. On the other hand, Ayurceuticals is a distinct category of nutraceuticals which cover products inspired by Ayurveda, with adequate safety and efficacy, and added dimensions of scientific rationales, good manufacturing procedures, quality, purity and user friendly dosage forms. There will be list of Generally Regarded Ayurvedic Safe Plants (GRASP), approved by the department of AYUSH and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) scientific panel. A tentative list has been drawn up of 310 plants. These needs to be further pruned and defined as to the parts to be used, limits of dose range and duration of therapy etc.

Ayurceuticals can cover other categories of naturals and nutritionals when the products are inspired from Ayurvedic usage or principles. There is an urgent need to constitute a trans-system and trans-disciplinary experts to characterize and define the criteria which has to be fulfilled for Ayurvedic naturals and nutritionals.

Ayurvedic Nutra-epidemiology

India, with its wide ethnicity, cultural food patterns and geoclimatic zones, offers an immense diversity that is mind-boggling. The challenge appears so huge than those who insist on uniformity get easily disheartened. Frankly, it is such a nutra-diversity that has a stupendous survival value for a nation that is more than five millennia-old. However, barring a few exceptions, we have not adequately documented this regional, urban or rural and cultural food usage and their diverse processes of preparation. It is essential to conduct, robust and adequate sample surveys of the intake of nutraceuticals, naturals and nutritionals. The data base would be a very rich source of serendipitous products discoveries, founded upon centuries of usage. We propose that NuFFooDS can provide a forum to share such data, specifically for the national priorities of health and nutrition. For Ayurvedic Pharmacoepidemiology, a beginning has been already made and the emerging results in diabetes mellitus and arthritis are most interesting.

There is a scope of combining nutrigenomic with Ayurveda epidemiology, particularly in relation to the concepts of Ayurveda of Prakruti and Pathya. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has major program called TRISUTRA for Prakruti / Ayurgenomics. There is a need to develop an interface of this program with nutra-epidemiology surveys. The emergent results may provide novel insights to discover Prakruti-friendly products based on the host genome comparable food usage in the field.

Reverse Nutraceutics

In the last two decades, observational therapeutics and Reverse Pharmacology (RP) have played a major role in drug discovery from the traditional system of medicine. The path of RP is organised into three stages: Experientialï‚®Exploratoryï‚®Experimental. Transdisciplinary R & D network for such studies have been gainfully employed for time-bound deliverable. Similar approach can also be brought to Ayurceuticals for product discovery. Reverse nutraceutics will help to understand the mechanism of action of product in systems biology. This in turn will reduce three major bottlenecks of cost, time and toxicity in product development. It will also enable to optimise the safety, efficacy and acceptability of the natural products based on evidence. Thus the approach of product development will be from clinic to laboratory than visa-versa.  Figure 1 shows the diverse steps in the process of Reverse Nutraceutics. This approach is essentially a movement from the bedside to the bench and can be very cost effective, productive and safe for Ayurceuticals.

Fig. 1: Reverse Nutraceutics

Major Fields for Ayurceuticals

With global let down of modern drugs of chemical origin there is an increasing pharmacophobia due to reports of severe adverse drug reactions. The resultant alarming rise in morbidity and mortality has brought about a movement of “back to the nature”, with an aptitude for “green medicine”. The rising rate of malnutrition, anaemia, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, allergy, resistant tuberculosis, acute febrile illnesses and atherosclerosis has evoked a need to face these health challenges in a holistic and an integrative manner.
Ayurceuticals for complementary use or as nutritional supplement can play a major role in the nation’s healthcare delivery. They suited for their synergistic effects in disease management, preventive effects in high risk conditions and health promoting effects. The further articles in this series will share product/ process ideas in this domain.

Recommended Reading:

  1. V Prakash, Kumar R. Innovation in Functional Food Industry for health and wellness in Innovation in Healthy and Functional Foods. Editor: Dilip Gosh, Shantanu Das. CRC Press by Taylor and Francis Group. 2012: 5. 
  2. Vaidya A. New Approaches For Foods And Nutrition For The Bottom Of The Pyramid. Editor: Dilip Gosh, Shantanu Das. CRC Press by Taylor and Francis Group. 2012: 169.
  3. Kshemakutuhalam, 1st ed. Ksemasarmaviracitam = Ksemakutuhalam: a work on dietetics & well-being / composed by Ksemasarma; with English translation. ; general editors, Darshan Shankar & D.K. Ved ; chief editor, G.G. Gangadharan ; editors, M.A. Lakshmithathachar , M.A. Alwar ; translator, R. Shankar ; editorial assistant, M.A. Ananth. Published by Indian Institute of Ayurveda & Integrative Medicine (IIAIM) in Bangalore; 2009.
  4. Vaidya A, Pathak N, Hiteshi AS. Clinical Perspective of Ayurceuticals: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health and Wellness. Editor: Dilip Ghosh. CRC Press By Taylor and Francis group ( Manuscript send for printing)
  5. Vaidya A and Devasagayam T. Current Status of Herbal Drugs in India: An Overview. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2007 July; 41(1): 1–11.
  6. Vaidya AB. Reverse Pharmacological correlates of Ayurvedic drug action, Sir Ram Nath Chopra Oration. Indian J Pharmacol. 2006; 38:311–5.
  7. Bhushan Patwardhan, Ashok D. B. Vaidyaand Mukund Chorghade. Ayurveda and natural products drug discovery. Current Science. 2004; 86(6): 789-799.
  8. Narayana D.B.A. Reverse Pharmacology for developing functional foods/ herbal supplements; approaches, framework and case studies. In: Functional Foods and Product Development (Eds J Smith and E Charter). Wiley Backwell, Oxford, UK. 2010; 12: 244-256.
  9. Agarwal, BB and Sung B. Pharmacological Basis for the role of curcumin in chronic diseases: An age old spice with modern gadgets. Trends in Pharmacol Sci. 2008; 30: 85-94.
  10. Bhavan’s SPARC. Selected Medicinal Plants of India (A monograph of Identity, Safety and Clinical Usage). Mumbai CHEMEXCIL. 1992.
  11. Gogte VM. Ayurvedic Pharmacology and Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants (Dravyagunavignyan). Mumbai: Bhavan’s SPARC; 2000.


Dr Ashok D B Vaidya, Research Director, ICMR Advanced Centre of Reverse Pharmacolgy for Traditional Medicine ( with inputs from Nidhi Shukla, Research Fellow and Hiteshi Dhami-Shah, Research Fellow at Medical Research Centre Kasturba Health Society, Mumbai ) 

Read Previous

“Nutraceutical industry will be suffocated to death”

Read Next

Institute of Excellence – NIN

Leave a Reply