Monday, April 19, 2010

The medicine man

Ayurvedic physician E.T. Narayanan Mooss, of the famed Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala in Kerala, has won the Padma Bhushan for his exemplary years of service

By Shevlin Sebastian

One day, Ayurveda physician E.T. Narayanan Mooss, then 25, received a distress call from a girl, Hema, who was suffering from haemophilia (a genetic disorder that impairs the body’s ability to control blood clotting).

When Mooss reached the home, he saw the stunning sight of blood all over the floor. Apparently, Hema had struck her leg against a glass placed on the floor of the kitchen and developed a cut. The blood did not stop flowing.

Immediately, Mooss prescribed some medicines and managed to stop the flow. Later, he got her admitted to a hospital and after careful treatment, was able to cure her. “This case gave me a lot of self-confidence,” he says.

The years have gone past and Mooss has treated thousands of people. Nevertheless, every morning, Mooss, 76, continues to receive patients in a clinic near his house at Ollur, (8 kms from Thrissur). He listens to them carefully and asks numerous questions about their daily routine and lifestyle, as well as the diseases they suffer from.

“The Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala is the place of last resort for most people,” says Narayanan. “So I have to know the history of the patient before I prescribe anything.”

Incidentally, the most common complaint is rheumatism. “There are 80 types of rheumatic diseases,” says Narayanan. Other complaints include skin diseases, intestinal problems, piles and insomnia.

“Insomnia is brought about by worry and stress and an inability to control the mind,” he says.

Thanks to its high rate of success, the Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala has a sterling reputation. Vayalar Ravi, the Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, was hurt in a car accident on a recent trip to Liberia. He is on a 21-day massage recovery programme at the Vaidyaratnam.

“We have patients from all over the world,” says Narayanan. “At present, there are a few from the Netherlands and England.”

Does the presence of foreign patients imply that Ayurveda is better than allopathy?

“In allopathy, the root of the disease is not removed,” says Narayanan. “Instead, it is suppressed. After some time, when the medicines are stopped, the disease might return. In Ayurveda, the factors causing the disease are removed.”

And, of course, one of the great advantages of Ayurveda is that there are fewer side-effects, as compared to allopathy.

The Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala has been a landmark in Ollur for decades. They run a nursing home, an herbal garden, an ayurveda college, a charitable foundation, a research and development lab, as well as a manufacturing unit.

“We ensure that the highest quality is maintained in the medicines we make,” says Narayanan. “To do that we have people who have been working for us for decades. They have been imparting the knowledge to assistants in order to maintain the purity of the products.”

The medicines include a mix of fermented products (asavas), oil-based herbal extracts (thailams), ghee-based herbal extracts (ghrithams) and gulikas (herbal pills).

The company has more than a thousand retail outlets all over Kerala and in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore.

The family has been Ayurvedic physicians for decades. Narayanan belongs to the third generation. His grandfather, E.T. Narayanan Mooss was conferred the title of ‘Vaidyaratnam’ (a doctor who is a jewel) by Lord Reading, the Viceroy of India, in 1924. Narayanan’s own father Neelakandan Mooss was awarded the Padma Shri in 1992, while he has gone one better and won the Padma Bhushan a few weeks ago.

“Of course I am elated, but I never asked for it,” ” says Narayanan. “Suddenly I was told that I have been honoured.”

Narayanan has had a long and brilliant career. So what are the qualities needed to be an excellent doctor?

“A good physician needs a lot of patience,” says Narayanan. “He should identify the ailments accurately. He should have a deep knowledge of Ayurveda, so that he can prescribe the right medicines. He should be calm of mind, and healthy of body. He should treat patients with respect, and not think of exploiting them.”

The continued success of Narayanan and the Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala proves that he is on the right path.

(The New Indian Express, Chennai)

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