The Government of India’s Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) released an advisory Wednesday detailing methods of “prevention” for an infection from the novel coronavirus strain that has affected over 6,000 individuals around the world – a number only expected to increase over the days to come.

The prevention methods list good practices for hygiene during a viral epidemic, but also cite homoeopathy and “symptomatic management” of a coronavirus infection using Unani medicine. This, when no cure or vaccination has been invented for the deadly infection yet.

The recommendations come a day after the 64th meeting of the Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) on 28 January 2020. Among them are Arsenicum album-30 on an empty stomach daily for three days a “prophylactic medicine” for coronavirus infections. In homoeopathy, the drug is prescribed as a general, preventive tool for influenza-like illnesses, without any scientific backing to support their effectiveness in addressing coronaviruses.

Also recommended by the ministry is a list of “preventive” Unani treatments such as shadang paniya, consuming samshamaniagastya harityaki among other Unani drugs. Combined with a series of Ayurvedic practices was general advice on how to avoid contracting the infection from an infected individual. Washing hands frequently with soap and water for 20+ seconds, avoiding contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick, among others were part of the advisory.

The release ends with dietary recommendations from Unani physicians – an easily-digestible, light and soft diet – for what one can only guess are airborne infections at large.

The advisory was met with harsh criticism on social media from medical professionals and the general public.

Not only does the novel coronavirus strain have no known cure or vaccine, but there also isn’t any evidence to back the prescribed medicine or diet for coronaviruses.

This isn’t the first time the Ministry of AYUSH has faced heat for propagating pseudoscience as alternative medicine. In fact, the Ministry has not once (since its foundation in 1995) submitted its medical recommendations through the ruthless double-blind clinical trials that its allopathic counterparts are subject to – for years on end – before it reaches any medical advisories, if at all.

However, the CCRH unit of the Ministry has set up a dedicated wing that pens down letters and editorials to counter what they define “false propaganda” to sabotage alternative medicine. This “propaganda” is allegedly concocted by Western medicine and spurred by Big Pharma to maintain the monopoly that allopathic medicine has in the pharmaceutical industry.

Among those the ministry has already written to is Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who cited both homoeopathy and astrology as “bogus” in 2016. “No one in chemistry believes in homoeopathy… works because of the placebo effect,” he said.

In the view of the Director-General of CCRH, R K Manchanda, research and funding into the medical value of homoeopathy is a work in progress.

“Indian government is investing into research in homoeopathy. Whatever clinical experience we have gathered so far needs to be appreciated and utilised, and not unnecessarily defamed,” Manchanda said, The Wire reported.

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