Clinical trial to check Panchakarma’s role in stroke rehabilitation to get underway as ICMR gives final nod

Arun Sreenivasan, New DelhiWednesday, May 16, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

A first-of-its kind randomised controlled trial (RCT) to examine the effectiveness of Panchakarma, an ayurvedic therapeutic process, in the rehabilitation of stroke patients is all set to start at three elite healthcare institutions in the country as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has given final clearance to the programme, it is learnt.

The pioneering experiment integrates modern medicine principles with ancient ayurvedic wisdom to expedite rehabilitation and bring back the motor and sensory functions of the brain following a cerebrovascular accident or stroke. The RCT, considered the gold standard for a clinical trial, will be conducted at three centres  — Christian Medical College Ludhiana, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) Kochi and Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences Thiruvananthapuram.

The project, named Restore, will be conducted by experts from Neurology and Holistic Medicine departments. “Relevant papers for the research study are already submitted and a green signal from the ICMR has come. The trial is expected to get underway soon. Our Stroke Division, a dedicated department for comprehensive care, is leading the programme and the Panchakarma therapy will be done by us,” Dr Ravindranatha Kamath, Head of Department, Holistic Medicine, AIMS Kochi, told Pharmabiz.

Panchakarma, which literally means five procedures, refers to a detoxification and rejuvenation protocol involving massage and herbal therapy to help strengthen and rejuvenate the body. According to Ayurveda, stroke or Pakshaghata is caused by vitiation of ‘vata dosha’, which controls the motor and sensory activities in the body. “A stroke affects individuals differently and therapy varies from person to person. Panchakarma treatment will be tested a month after stroke during the trial. Many studies have shown its effectiveness,” Dr Kamath pointed out.

As part of the therapy, medicines will be given orally to boost blood supply. Natural antioxidants in these herbal formulations will help increase oxygenation to the brain, rejuvenate brain cells and decrease cell death. The external therapies and Panchakarma will also improve the functioning of peripheral nervous system. Heat modalities in therapy maintain the muscle tone and reduce spasm or stiffness.

A clinical trial with the stamp of approval of the ICMR, India’s apex body for biomedical research promotion, assumes significance as supporters of integrative medicine have been calling for fool-proof experiments to check the effectiveness of holistic techniques in the rehabilitation of patients with debilitating diseases. A recent clinical trial held by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has shown that a week of Panchakarma programme can remarkably change blood-based metabolites that are potential risk factors for inflammation, cholesterol regulation and cardiovascular disease.

Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and approximately 1.7 million cases are registered in India every year. Incidence of the disease in the country ranges from 135-152 per 1 lakh population. As much as 42 per cent of stroke deaths occur in the first 30 days. The disease affects the whole family as one third of stroke patients are left with permanent disability.