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Scientists to study how herbs work

mumbai Updated: Feb 22, 2011 01:18 IST
Snehal Rebello

Scientists might soon be able to tell how Ayurvedic herbs such as Brahmi and Amlaki boost the memory.

In an effort to validate Ayurvedic medicine, a team of city scientists and medical practitioners have started work towards gathering evidence on how 40 traditional herbal drugs prescribed by the 6th century physician Vaghbhata, function at a cellular level in animal tissues and organs through the use of radionuclides.

Radionuclides, also referred to as radioisotopes, are chemical substances that exhibit radioactivity.

“Presently, Ayurvedic doctors prescribe drugs without knowing how they function at a molecular level in the human body. Even the extent of its localisation around the organs, to gauge effectiveness of prescribed dosage, is not known,” said Dr RD Lele, head of nuclear medicine at Lilavati Hospital and the brain behind the project. “We want to study the mechanism of action of the drug in the body. There could be a placebo effect where the patient believes that the drug is working and hence feels better. And if the drug works, we want to know how they work at a molecular level,” said Dr Lele.

The research is a collaboration between the Haffkine Institute, Parel, the Board of Research in Isotope Technology (BRIT), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and a few independent doctors.

On February 24, Dr Lele and Dr Abhay Chowdhury, director of the Haffkine Institute, will present their initial study at the Department of Science and Technology to seek financial support. Ayurveda experts are skeptical about the study.