Friday, May 28, 2010

"Only a totally blind man can appreciate the semantic solace of some visibility. What are the blessings of sight I know? I am ever grateful to the grandeur of a little vision regained due to the ophthalmic incarnation through Sreedhareeyam..."
Mr.VR Krishnayyer (rtd. Justice, Hon supreme court of INDIA)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sreedhareeyam canteen is serving holistic and wholesome vegetarian food cooked according to Ayurveda principles.
Wholesalers, Dropshippers, Distributors and Manufacturers Directory

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sreedhareeyam Hospital
Sreedhareeyam: Vision For All: Part 2
Ajay Mathew

There have been a number of instances at Sreedhareeyam where success was found while it was only failure that the patients met with in other systems of medicine. Some of the miracle successes we have had over the years and the basis of possibility of such cases are discussed below. According to Dr. N P P Namboodiri, its all miracles in the sense that all these helped manifest the capabilities of Ayurveda in an area of health care that needs specialisation. A large number of such cases from the long history of the hospital stand testimony to the supremacy of Ayurveda system of medicine over other systems in treatment of eye diseases.

“At Sreedhareeyam, we strive to maintain and cultivate the hospital into a shrine of hope for hundreds of people who seeks cure from their various and mysterious ailments. Fortunately, due to our long history of successes, we have an astounding number of patients coming in daily from the length and breadth of the country, seeking cure,” Dr. Namboodiri says. “In the field of the treatment of eye diseases, we desire to rank ourselves from an international perspective. The history of the miraculous cures at Sreedhareeyam and our eminent panel of doctors proclaim our supremacy in this field. With all our expertise and resources, we foresee a wider dimension for our services to the society in the future,” the physician says with a sense of pride and hope. In the wake of the prevailing situation, Sreedhareeyam, according to Dr. Namboothiri, “aspires for a wider participation on a large scale in the battle to annihilate darkness of human eye from the face of earth.
Apart from offering treatments to the ailing public, the hospital is also a home-away-from-home for those who desire a retreat from the stress filled life and its hassles. All types of ayurvedic treatments are offered at the hospital, including Full Body Massage, Pizhichil, Dhara, Njavarakizhi, and Steam kizhi, which are administrated scientifically, taking into account the finest details of precision. Other ayurvedic procedures like Nasyam, Swedam, Dhara, and Tharpanam are safely administered by duly trained staff, who are friendly and very helpful to patients, who often do not speak the local language, Malayalam.

All the treatments offered here are unique in the sense that the medicines used for all these treatments are produced at the Manufacturing Unit of the hospital. “The ingredients of the medicine as well as the treatment procedures are all according to those parchments ('thaliyolas') and ancient books ('grandhas'), which counts among the traditional and precious assets owned by the Mana,” Dr. Narayanan Namboothiri, the young and dynamic physician, who heads the research unit of the hospital, says. The research centre is studying several manuscripts on ayurveda, found all over the State and putting them in order. Medicines are grown in the Koothattukulam campus, where the ancestral home of the vaidyas. Medicines are also manufactured here under the supervision of Narayanan Namboothiri, the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital.

The encouragement from the government of India to develop research in Ayurveda has been very minimum. Although ayurveda is an Indian tradition, Delhi exports ayurvedic drugs worth under 5.5 billion rupees (about $120m) a year. By comparison, China's ayurvedic exports are worth $5.56 billion a year. Dr S.K. Sharma, an adviser to the Indian Government, says Delhi has set an export target of $1.08billion by 2008.
Experts predict that hundreds of herbs used for centuries by traditional healers in India could soon be on western pharmacy shelves. Dr Sharma says, with 15,000 plant species, India is well placed to increase its share of the $75billion global market in medicinal plants, which is growing by at least 7% a year.

The Indian Council of Medical Research has launched a series of studies to test the health claims surrounding a variety traditional medicines. Clinical trials have shown that herbal remedies for asthma, diabetes and even sexually transmitted diseases may be effective. The council is looking at treatments for a range of other conditions used for over a thousand years by practitioners of Ayurveda and Siddha medicine.

Professor Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, a member of the council, said that in some cases the herbs may be more effective than Western-style medicines. “We have plants for bronchial asthma, hepatitis and arthritis,” he said. "We have other plants which have been shown to be effective for treating sexually transmitted diseases and they have been used in that way by tribal populations for centuries. We have herbs where you can relieve headache, fever, gastroenteritis, sneezing and coughing. These conditions can easily be alleviated."

Professor Chaudhury acknowledged that in some cases the council will be unable to prove that the herbs work. This is because many of the remedies are based on a combination of plants which taken on their own would not be effective. "There are hundreds of herbs but we are unable at the moment to do very good testing for combinations of plants. “In the Ayurvedic system they use usually combinations. But testing combinations with modern technology is difficult.”

The cost of treatment here is very affordable. A three-week long stay and treatment at Sreedhareeyam cost me about Rupees Twenty Thousand, which is less than $500. For those who prefer Dorms or rooms shared with other patients, the cost could be less than half of what I had to pay. In order for those who cannot afford, the Nellikattu Bhagavathi Devaswom Charitable Trust set up by the Hospital Management helps pay partial cost. In addition, the Hospital has two free clinics in a month, when patients are seen and given supplies for a month free of cost. On an average, more than 200 patients avail these free clinics every month.

A part of the credit of all rare and unique treatments one gets from Sreedhareeyam Ayurveda Gaveshana Kendram can be attributed to the long tradition and experience of the "vaidyans" or physicians belonging to the 'Nellikkattu Mana' over the generations. Nellikattu Mana and their extraordinary knowledge in the science of Ayurveda have a long history, of which the origin could be traced back to the 19th century. Men of this family were well known for anti-venom and eye treatments even in those days. The family originally belonged to a remote village in North Kerala named Sukapuram. They were said to be popular in that part of the world when they decided to migrate to Koothattukulam in Ernakulam district in central Kerala. They attribute their talents and special acumen in curing rare diseases to the blessings of their favorite Deity 'Thirumandhamkunnu Bhagavathi'. All the treatments offered at Sreedhareeyam Ayurveda Gaveshana Kendram starts with a special prayer to Thirumandhamkunnu Bhagavathi.

The science of Ayurveda is the ancient system of treatment of India, which was refined and polished by the wisdom of the ancient Rishis or sages who were said to be the messengers of God and the seat of knowledge. Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced in India for thousands of years. But interest in the technique has been growing in other parts of the world with the general trend towards holistic medicines. It has become a big tourist attraction in the south Indian state of Kerala.. Ayurvedic herbs are studied scientifically, and students take seven years to qualify.

The word "ayu" means 'all aspects of life from birth to death' and the word 'veda' means knowledge or learning. Ayurveda unlike modern science is not only for curing diseases but is a promoter of longevity too. Ayurveda is a holistic and integral medical system as it treats man as a whole - which is a combination of body, mind and soul. The three authentic works that are considered to be the supreme guides to any Ayurveda practitioner are 'Charaka Samhitha', 'Susrutha Samhitha' and 'Ashtanga Hridaya'.

Ayurveda is a science of positive health and fulfillment in life. There are eight branches in Ayurveda which is called Ashtanga Ayurveda. Shalakya Thantra is the Ayurvedic branch of opthalmology or otorininolaryngology, a detailed study in the etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, prevention and treatment of diseases that affect the portions of 'Jathrurdva' or the portions from above the neck like head, ears, nose, eyes, throat.

Acharya Susrutha was a true master in the subject such that most of his observations in the subject are alien even today to the modern medicine practitioners. For instance, Susrutha describes five types of pteryguim, a disease of the eye, whereas modern science is only aware of four types. Susrutha could be hailed as the pioneer surgeon in medical history who systematically and elaborately dealt with the anatomical structure of the eye. The prognosis made by him on Aveitis and Glaucoma is regarded as remarkable and has not been improved even today.
"Netra roga vigyan" or the knowledge of the management of eye disorders is a part of Shalakya Thantra. The original work of Nimi or Vidheha on Shalakya Thantra alone is not available today. Susrutha has stipulated drug therapy for various types of conjunctivitis and glaucoma along with surgical procedures for the removal of cataract and pteryguim. Some of the very useful texts such as 'Yogaratanakara', 'Bhavaprakasha', 'Ashtanga Hridaya', and 'Sarangadhara' deal with the science of these diseases very deeply.

There are altogether 72 eye diseases as described by Susrutha in Ayurveda. Among them Cataract, Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Degeneration are the most common diseases which are found commonly today. Other diseases like Pteryguim, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Myopia are also found.

Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old tradition of herbal medicine, is considered an "alternative" to modern/Western medication in the modern world. Ayurveda uses herbs and spices like basil, turmeric, garlic, ginger and aloe vera, as well as yoga exercises, to treat physical and psychological problems. The market in traditional medicine is large, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates. DN Tewari, chairman of the ayurveda task force in India's Planning Commission, says, ayurveda's attractions are growing by the day. "The world as a whole is switching over from chemical drugs to natural drugs because they are non-narcotic, they have no side-effects and are easily available. "The world is interested in simpler and gentler therapies - especially for ageing, the problem of obesity, diabetes, neurological disorders, cardiac diseases and digestive problems."

Recognizing the rapid growth and changes in the health care, the Indian government has decided to introduce a `medical visa' for foreigners who come to India for medical treatment, enabling them to stay on for an extended period. The medical visa would be admissible to all foreigners seeking medical care in recognized specialty hospitals or treatment centers. The initial period of such a visa will be one year or for the period of treatment whichever is less. Unlike the tourist visa, this can be extended and the State Governments and FRROs have been given the powers to extend such a visa.

Even as the ancient ayurveda science is becoming increasingly popular, it has encountered several hurdles too. Lack of funding for research has limited its growth and wider use. However, utilizing the available on going research, basing them on the ancient wisdom of the Rishis and Munis, and availing the few encouraging measures from the government of India, Sreedhareeyam, a growing, modern, and professional institution, marches on with its vision, restoring “vision for all.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sreedhareeyam: Vision For All
Ajay Ghosh

After traveling nearly 20 hours New York, I arrived at Kochi international airport on December 30, 2005. Then it was an hour drive by car through rubber, coconut, and banana plantations, to my final destination, Sreedhareeyam, an Ayruvedic Eye Research Center and Hospital at the picturesque town, Koothatookulam.

As my car entered the iron gates below the tall entry-tower, the aroma of herbal medicines originating from the medicines manufacturing unit and the Research Center welcomed me. Less than 50 meters into the sprawling Hospital Campus is the Temple of Goddess Nellikattu Mana Bhaghavathy, the local Deity. About a dozen steps lead up to the presence of the Goddess, Whose presence and blessings are believed to be the last resort to thousands of patients who come here seeking vision to their many eye diseases.

After paying Rupees 150, roughly $3.00, I was issued a Registration Card, and the receptionist told me in a gentle voice: “Dr. N.P.P. Namboothiri is on duty today. But, before that, you got to see the Junior Doctor, Dr. Rajesh.” While waiting to see the doctor, I took a walk to Naalukettu, the more than 300-year-old building, where the Namboothiri family had started the Eye Clinic more nearly two centuries ago. At the center of Naalukettu, in the little prayer room, the staff and patients begin each day with a short prayer and songs, seeking the blessings and protection of the Nellikattu Mana Bhaghavathy.

After waiting for about 45 minutes, I got to meet with Dr. Rajesh, a middle-aged Ayurvedic physician, who has been working at Sreedhareeyam since its inception more than a dozen years ago. He went through patiently my detailed reports I had brought from the doctors who treated my eyes in the US. It was a full 20 minutes consultation, during which he enquired of my current overall health, in addition to my eye problems.

In December 2000, I was diagnosed with Uveitis with Vasculitis and peripheral neovascularization. After being treated with Prednisone, a steroid, upto 100 mg per day, though my vision had improved, it had inflicted several side-effects on my entire physical as well as mental health. Later on, after several surgeries that included a cataract, laser-surgeries, and Vitrectomy, I was put on Cellcept, a substitute for prednisone, 2000 mg per day in addition to Predforte, which is a steroid, Cosopt and Alphagan, all eye-drops, twice daily. Whenever, I was off anyone of these medications, the vision would deteriorate and/or the pressure on the eye would increase.

In November 2004, Dr. James Weisz of the Connecticut Retina Consultants, found that “the optic nerve head had some modest cupping with some inferior thinning.” After examining my eyes on July 8, 2005, Dr. Weisz mentioned that I had “the history of uveitis, presumed to be secondary to Sarcoidosis and this uveitis is complicated by retinal vasculitis as well as vitreous hermorrhage in the right eye.” In addition, he had mentioned that I have the history of “increased pressure with steroids and steroids are necessary to keep your inflammation under control.” My pressure on the right has been difficult to control with “some progressive glaucomatous damage to the optic nerve in your right eye.”

It was then I decided to seek ayurvedic treatment, a medical science of ancient India, dating back to over 5,000 years. Sreedhareeyam Ayureda Gaveshana Kendram is an endeavor by Nellikattu Mana, a Namboodiri family with traditional experiences and talents in Ayurveda treatment especially in the treatment of eye diseases. Sreedhareeyam, started in the year 1999 with the aim of offering the best of Ayurveda to the public, is located virtually in the lap of nature amidst acres of green paddy fields, coconut groves and banana plantations.

After examining my eyes with a hand-held tiny torch, Dr. Rajesh prescribed my daily dose of medications through my stay at the Hospital. My prescriptions included, Nasyam and Kashayam at 6 am. After breakfast, my main treatment would begin at about 8 am with Nethradhara, Eye Drops, Purampada, and Thalam, each with an interval of about 10-15 minutes. The same procedures would be repeated in the afternoon, and will conclude with Kashayam at about 6 pm.

After a few minutes, I was led to visit the senior most physician and the Medical Superintendent at Sreedhareeyam, Dr. N P P Namboothiri, a famous eye physician from the Mana, who is the mentor and guide to the hospital. Dr. Namboothiri, a decorated and highly successful Ayurvedic physician, who had worked for 27 years as a Senior Medical Officer at the Goverment Ayurveda Hospital in Thodupuzha, is well known all over India for his prowess with the eye. Dr. Namboothiri, who had treated me during my first visit in July 2005, felt satisfied at the progress I have made in the intervening months. He suggested that I started with the treatment plan prescribed by Dr. Rajesh, and that he would evaluate its impact in about a week. The final and described as the most important of all treatment s one receives here is Tharpana. In tharpana, medicines in liquid are made to stand on the eye for 15-30 minutes within a rim around the orbit made of 'Uzhunnu Mavu'. This is followed by folding one’s eyes for two-to-three hours, preventing it from any signof light, and giving complete rest to the eyes.

It was a full three weeks of treatment for me at Sreedhareeyam. My first visit was for four weeks and my vision had showed signs of improvement. The inflammation on the retina was substantially reduced and the damage to the optic nerve was contained, which I thought, was the biggest achievement of the treatment I received at Sreedhareeyam. The cataract on my left eye was healed without a surgery, although the pressure on my right remained elevated. Doctors here had advised me to return for a follow up treatment in about 4-6 months.

At Sreedhareeyam, where more than two dozen trained eye-specialists, all with degrees in Medicine, the primary focus has been on Ayurvedic treatments for all types of diseases. However, specialized treatments are given for the various diseases affecting the positions above the neck. Most of the eye diseases, which have got no treatment in modern medicine, have been successfully treated here. People come here from all strata of society and from all corners of the world. Most of the patients here at this nearly 200-bed hospital are those who have tried the regular Western medicines and have been given up as having no cure for their problems. They choose to come here as the final resort, and hope that Sreedhareeyam is the answer to many of their eye diseases.

Jayachandran, a 43-year-old male, originally from Bangalore, now living in Japan, told this writer, “I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare hereditary disorder, which causes poor night vision and ever-narrowing field of vision beginning in childhood.” About 12 years ago, he lost his vision completely and was declared blind. After being treated around the world for several years with no positive results, he heard about Sreedhareeyam, and came here about two years ago. “It’s my fifth visit in two years. I am beginning to see for the first time in 12 years,” Jayachandran said with a sense of joy and satisfaction. “The doctors here have been able to arrest the process of degeneration, and they have assured me that I can regain about 10 to 20 percent of my vision, which is great.”

Simran, 10 and Sonal, 12, two sisters from Sydney, Australia, were here for treatment for Retinitis Pigmentosa. Online search for treatment for this rare eye disease by their desperate parents brought them here at Sreedhareeyam. After four visits with a gap of three months between each visit, now the doctors at Sreedhareeyam, have advised them to return to Sreedhareeyam after two years. There was a sense of relief and inner joy on the face of the Mr. V. Goyal, the father of these two young kids, realizing that the process of degeneration has been arrested and their vision will be stable.
Ella Murugan is a 20-year-old boy from Salem, Tamil Nadu. He was diagnosed with Retinal Detachment, and was treated at the famous Sankara Netralaya in Chennai for more than three years. “After each surgery done on my eyes at Sankara Nethralaya, I began to lose my vision, and I became totally blind,” he said. “This is my fourth visit in less than two years, and now my eyes can see things and people around me, as though they are shadows.” He expressed confidence that in the near future, he will begin to see more clearly.

The story of Abdul, a 10-year-old boy from northern Kerala was heart-breaking. While playing with his friends, a sharp wooden stick pierced through his right eye, severely damaging his retina and the optic nerves, resulting in severe bleeding of the retina, thus leading to the loss of vision. In December 2005, he was at Sreedhareeyam for his third hospitalization in 15 months. “Also, his bleeding on the retina has been contained,” his mother told this writer. “He has begun to see partially,” she added.

These are only a few of the hundreds of success stories one gets to witness during the stay from patients who come here for various eye diseases. “Results from the treatment here are the only publicity we do,” said, Narendran, Executive Director of Sreedhareeyam. “Our ever-increasing number of patients is a witness to the impact of the treatment patients receive here. Our publicity is by word-of-mouth only of these success stories.”

“At Sreedhareeyam, ours is a humble attempt to treat the disease and annihilate it through the way of nature,” says Dr. Narayanan Namboothiri, who treats patients from the same room in Naalukettu, where he was born 34 years ago. “Patients from all over the world come here for various eye diseases, including those suffering from Cataract, Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, and Diabetic Retinopathy. We strive to give them our best, trusting in God’s power to heal them,” the gentle-speaking Dr. Narayanan Namboothiri says.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shirodhara involves slowly pouring liquids over a third eye, which is located on the forehead. Shirodhara aims at purifying and rejuvenating body. It is beneficial for eye problems, stress, insomnia, memory loss,and graying hair.

Nasyam is the traditional Ayurvedic treatment wherein medicated oil is poured in the nasal cavity. This is a highly effective treatment for sinusitis, headache, migraine and chronic cold.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ayurveda - A site for sore eyes

by Binita Kuruvilla

Trying out sreedhareeyam, an ayurvedic eye hospital in kerala

Sreedhareeyam, a famous ayurvedic eye hospital nestling in a remote corner of Kerala, attracts patients from all over the country looking for cures that range from glaucoma to double vision and retinal detachment.

The hospital began as a small venture, meant to house five to 10 patients, but faced with an overwhelming response, grew to accommodate more staff and facilities for the growing stream of visitors knocking at their door.

Today, it is a large, modern building, which accommodates 200 people in double rooms, wards and cottages. The hospital has arranged for nearby hotels to take people in, triggering off a cottage industry in this bucolic land of swaying palms and paddy fields.

It is 6 a.m. in Koothattukulam, Kerala, and for the eye patients at Sreedhareeyam, it is kashayam (a form of liquid medicine) time. In half an hour, patients living in various hotels and lodges in Koothattukulam swarm in and the treatment rooms fills with babies, children of assorted ages, the young and the old. Many are non-Malayalis, drawn by the repute of the hospital and their own desperate search for a cure.

Sreedhareeyan is managed by the Namboothiri family, whose ancestors have been ayurvedic physicians for the past couple of centuries. The late Vaidyan Brahmasree Thrivikraman Namboothiri and his brother Parameswaran Namboothiri were legendary physicians who specialised in eye treatment.

I am here to find a permanent solution to the recurrent sties on both eyelids, which had responded quite positively to ayurvedic medicines prescribed by Dr N.P.P. Namboothiri at an eye camp in Mumbai. This was where I first heard about Sreedhareeyam. Previously I had spent a year seeking a cure with allopathy and homoeopathy, neither of which was in the least effective.

My routine of treatments started with nasyem (traditional Kerala house) at the corner room of the Naalu Kettu. Medicinal oil was dabbed on the crown of my head, ears, palms, soles of my feet, and three drops into each of my nostrils, upon which I was to inhale deeply, shutting one nostril at a time. The entire process takes about half a minute, and completely clears the nasal cavity, providing protection against colds.

Netradhara was next, where medicated liquid was poured into each eye seven times, while I was to open and shut my eyes, a procedure lasting less than 10 minutes. Then I had breakfast, following which I returned to the Naalu Kettu, for kizhisvedam, a light massage around the eye area with herbs wrapped up in thin cloth and dipped in hot water, adding up to a very refreshing experience.

I spent 45 blissful minutes at the treatment room next door, lying on my back, having warm, medicinal oil gently drizzled onto my forehead from left to right. This was called shirodhara. At the end of this, rasnadi powder was rubbed into the crown of my head as protection against colds, as I was not allowed to wash my hair till the end of that particular week of treatments.

With a thin red towel tightly wrapped around my head, I sat in one of the comfortable wicker chairs in the verandah surrounding the sunlit courtyard of the Naalu Kettu, watching the dappled light play on the surface of the warm, polished wood of the building.

The next treatment for me was purampoda, which involved the application of a paste on my eyes, which was to dry, be wiped off after half an hour, and reapplied for another half hour.

Next, at room 215, was mini-tharpanam, where little wells of dough are shaped around the eyes, and filled with medicinal ghee for 15 minutes, during which time I had to open and shut my eyes. Once this was removed, tiny, scented nambiarvattam flowers were placed on my eyes, which were then tied up firmly with a bandage for the next hour.

Once the bandage was removed I went off to the canteen for lunch after which I had my second session of netradhara and eyedrops, followed by the purampoda. Then a short wait for the kashayam bottles to arrive, and back to the hotel in the minibus.

This was my routine for the first week, during the course of which I met some of the other doctors: Dr Sreekala, Dr Narayanan Namboothiri and Dr N.P.P. Namboothiri, who has several decades of experience in the field of eye treatment. They are the seniormost doctors of the hospital. Each, after careful questioning, added their comments to my case file, which had already been written in by Dr Soumya and Dr Sangeetha.

My first set of treatments lasted about nine days, after which I had nine more days with a different routine. I had kizhisvedam in the morning, followed by tharpanam, which was similar to mini-tharpanam, except that the ghee-and-medicine concoction was left on the eyes for half an hour, and the bandage was to be removed after three hours. After the bandage was untied, I had eyedrops, which were no longer the stinging variety, mercifully.

Sitting around with my eyes shut for long periods of time, I met people seeking treatments for a variety of problems. Take Sapna: She was basking in the glow of post-natal bliss, when she suddenly developed double vision. After unsuccessfully seeking a cure at other medical institutions, she was directed to Sreedhareeyam. At the end of a 24-day treatment, she felt a vast improvement in her condition.

Arvind, a mischievous 11-year-old, suddenly found the vision in one eye deteriorating rapidly. After coming to Sreedhareeyam, this deterioration was traced to a minor bicycle accident. After a couple of weeks of treatment, his vision improved tremendously.

Many children with high-powered spectacles were here to stabilise and gradually improve their vision. Other complaints were squints, loss of sight due to spurious medicines or the intrusion of foreign objects into the eye, retina detachment, eye infections, glaucoma, cataract and retinitis pigmentosa. Some of these conditions eventually lead to blindness, but if detected at an early stage, can be cured.

“Glaucoma, cataract and acute corneal problems, if brought to us while still in the early stages, are curable, however, we never promise to completely cure anyone, since the effects of treatment vary from person to person,” explains Dr Narayanan.

Although most of the patients at the hospital seek cures for eye-related complaints, they comprise only about 60 per cent of the total number of patients. Several patients wish to be cured of ear problems, and others of more general problems like arthritis, kidney disorders, skin problems and even cancer.

“It is God who looks after this hospital,” says its Chairman, Narayanan Namboothiri. “We put in our effort, but it is God who makes things work here. We have no tension at all, we simply have faith.”

Perhaps it is this implicit faith and trust in the divine that is responsible for the patience and compassion displayed by all the nurses and doctors in the hospital.

Several more toil behind the scenes, involved in the preparation of medicines in rooms at the Naalu Kettu, and at the GMP certified factory, where efficient, scrupulously clean attendants stir large vats of mysterious, steaming liquids which eventually go into neatly labelled, attractively packaged bottles, as kashayams, grithams or arishtams.

My last day at Sreedhareeyam was spent in meeting the doctors, getting the medicines prescribed for the next couple of months and exchanging telephone numbers with my new friends. My eyes felt rested, my vision clearer. The sties had practically disappeared even before I had arrived at Sreedhareeyam, and I was advised to give it a few more weeks to heal completely. I would see the doctor next at Mumbai, as Sreedhareeyam organises frequent medical camps at major cities in India.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sreedhareeyam Temple

Sreedhareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital, main entrance.
Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications

Ayurveda for the eye
Anitha K. Moosath

If detected early, ayurvedic treatment can do wonders for eye ailments, and render surgical intervention unnecessary.

A bunch of eye-catching solutions, that's what the Sreedhareeyam Ayurveda Gaveshana Kendram offers those looking for an answer to eye problems. The hospital is the continuation of a chikitsa tradition handed down through five generations by the Nelliakattu Mana at Koothattukulam in Kerala.

The family vaidyas have provided eye and anti-venom therapies for decades. But it was only about five years ago that they decided to go in for a full-fledged hospital. However, the mana (household) has been retained as a treatment centre for those forced to stay elsewhere when the hospital's
150-bed main block and Ashwini cottages are fully occupied.

Around 40 per cent of the patients here are those affected by Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a retinal degenerative disease that usually causes deterioration of night vision. "It's a genetic disorder most common among children of blood-related parents. Total cure may be hard to come by, but ayurveda has medicines to prevent further deterioration," says Dr N. Narayanan Namboothiri, chief medical officer at Sreedhareeyam.

He is among the seven ayurveda practitioners of the family that includes three vaidyas and four doctors.

"Most people opt for ayurveda only after trying out other treatment forms. The sad part is that by then, the disease may have reached an advanced stage and the chances of cure are dim.

The best we can do in such cases is to ensure that the situation does not worsen," he says. "A cataract patient can avoid surgery if ayurvedic treatment is done early on. The same is the case with retinal detachment too," he adds.

Exposure to pollution and working conditions could affect the eye, and such complaints are more in metros, says Dr Namboothiri, who holds consultations at Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai, and in Chattisgarh too. "Quite a few software professionals come to us with `dry eyes'. Gazing at the screen for hours on end cuts down the number of times you blink and also affects normal lubrication of the eye. Dry air-conditioned interiors can add to your woes," he says.

The focus at Sreedhareeyam is on the eye, though treatment is offered for other diseases as well. And it seems they have succeeded in changing the `brochure image' of ayurveda ? as being synonymous with Kerala massage ? if the number of foreigners and North Indians visiting this remote village is any indication.

The research wing headed by the Nelliakattu vaidyas has delved deep into `Shalakya Tantra', the ayurveda branch that deals with eyes, ears, nose, head, throat and teeth. Much has been garnered from the palm-leaf manuscripts preserved by the family too. "As many as 100 eye diseases are listed in Shalakya Tantra. Even the different stages of degeneration in RP are given in detail," says Dr Namboothiri.

The treatment also includes rejuvenation therapy. "Your nerves cool down and the stressed-out body relaxes when medicated oil is poured in a dhara on the eye or forehead or when urad dal is shaped around the eye contours and the inside of the ridge is filled with ghee," he says. And it's not always kashayams (ayurvedic concoctions), thailams (balms) and oils alone; exercises too are part of the treatment here.

"We have drawn much from yoga and Natyasastra. Eye movements as in Kathakali and Mohiniyattom have a soothing effect," he adds. These are best put to use in children who want to avoid lenses for myopia or astigmatism.

The hospital follows a strict regimen. Those with eye problems are not allowed to read or write, watch television or work on the computer; the food is strictly vegetarian and sticking to tradition, footwear is not allowed inside. All treatment procedures invariably start with an invocation to Nelliakattu Bhagavathi, the family deity.

Most of the medicines are manufactured at the Sreedhareeyam oushadasala, according to the rules laid down in the granthas. Some of the herbs are grown on the 34-acre campus and cattle are reared for milk, a vital ingredient in ayurvedic preparations.

Sreedhareeyam's motto is "vision for the visionless". The doctors also run a campaign Sunetra at schools "to make children aware that there is more to many minor ailments than meets the eye. They should be told how a little timely care can avert serious trouble," says Dr Namboothiri.

The Nelliakattu family has also set up a charitable trust to offer free treatment twice a month. Sreedhareeyam is already in expansion mode and on the look out for more funds for research to bring to light facts from ancient texts and "to add a spark to many a dark life."