Bengaluru: Tipplers in Kerala are finding new ways to satiate their thirst for liquor.
Alcoholics have now turned to Ayurveda after the Kerala High Court had on 2 April stayed a government move to provide special passes for them to access liquor based on a doctor’s prescription.
Manoj Kaloor, a member of the Central Council of Indian Medicine, a body for Ayurveda on the lines of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), told ThePrint that since the lockdown on 24 March, Ayurvedic pharmacies across Kerala have seen a 20 per cent increase in sales of ‘arishtams and asavams’, which have alcohol content.
He added that many of the pharmacies have now begun insisting on prescriptions for the Ayurvedic medicines while others have put up boards that say these herbal concoctions are strictly to be used for medicinal purposes.
An arishtam is an Ayurvedic tonic or concoction prepared after fermenting medicinal herbs. They are recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners to treat ailments. Since arishtams are fermented, they contain upto 10 per cent alcohol. Asavams are similar to arishtams but are made from freshly pounded herbs.
Kaloor said social media may have prompted alcoholics to turn to herbal medicines.
“There has been a lot of publicity created through social media that arishtams can help satiate alcohol urges. So people will go to any extent to try and source it,” he said.
He added that practitioners usually only prescribe 25-30 ml of arishtams and asavams for ailments but added that those who consume 500 ml or more could get a high.
“We usually prescribe 25-30 ml, which will not have more than 10 per cent alcohol. It is not wise to take anything more than what the Ayurvedic doctor has said,” Kaloor said. “But non-availability of liquor in the market may be driving people to consume large quantities of these herbal drugs. Alcoholics will consume anything that gives them a high. Haven’t we seen cases of people consuming sanitisers too?”
While Kaloor said classical Ayurvedic medicine sales are anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 600 crore a year in Kerala, he had no revenue figures for the lockdown period.
D. Ramanathan, secretary, Kerala Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Association, however, told ThePrint that only a few people are turning to these herbal drugs for a ‘high’.
“Around 80-90 per cent of people who consume Ayurvedic arishtams use it as medicine, be it Amritarishtam, Dashamoolarishtam,” he said. “Only about 5-10 per cent of the people use it for its alcohol content. The alcohol in these herbal concoctions is self generated and does not harm people’s health like arrack and other forms of liquor.”