What Is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a system of medicine that originated in India more than 2,000 years ago. It is believed to be one of the earliest forms of holistic healing. Ayurveda relies on natural remedies that support the body’s ability to heal itself.

Ayurveda is well-known and trusted by people in India. Recently, it has been commercialized in the U.S. and has gained rapid success in various markets. Some ayurvedic product lines are performing at a competitive level with corporate giants such as Colgate and Nestle.

Key Takeaways

  • Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine that originated in India.
  • The market for Ayurvedic products has exploded recently in India and the U.S. as a result of social media and increased familiarity with the system.
  • There are few clinical trials that provide research evidence for the efficacy of Ayurvedic medicine in the treatment of ailments.

Understanding Ayurveda

The earliest accounts of Ayurveda can be found in the ancient scriptures of Hinduism, called the Vedas, in the fourth book, Atharva-veda. The use of ayurvedic medicine waned and transformed over the course of several centuries as India came under the influence of cultures from other parts of Asia and Europe.

However, the market for Ayurvedic medicines has witnessed a resurgence globally and in its home country. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) estimated that the market for Ayurveda products was $4.4 billion in 2018. In India, the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH), is responsible for regulating the market for Ayurvedic products.

In the U.S., the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has a comprehensive page about Ayurvedic medicine. According to the NCCIH, few clinical trials and systematic research reviews suggest that Ayurveda is effective. The agency recommends a visit to a conventional health provider before considering an Ayurvedic option for an ailment or disease.

Many companies have been eager to capitalize on the popularity of Ayurveda-based products. Patanjali is the leading producer of Ayurveda-based products, including dental, hair and skin care products, and natural healing and food products. Based in Haridwar, India, Patanjali is the only company to directly challenge industry incumbents in India, such as Unilever and Coca-Cola. Other companies, such as Himalaya and Dabur, have also joined the market for Ayurvedic-based products

A critical factor in their success is that Patanjali has broken through some barriers to entry, such as high startup and manufacturing costs, in order to offer low prices to consumers. As a result, they have achieved rapid success where their cohorts have not.

Ayurveda’s Historical and Cultural Advantage

One of the significant obstacles to launching a new product is consumer resistance: people prefer to stick with what they know and normally shun the unfamiliar. Ayurveda has been able to avoid that problem because it is a trusted and well-established medicinal practice in India. The practice's historical legacy in India has allowed Ayurvedic products to easily enter the market, bypassing many of the time-consuming steps that most new products must endure like building name recognition among the public.

Bringing new pharmaceutical and medicinal products to the market requires substantial investments in adhering to existing government-mandated regulations. During the initial years of Ayurveda's ascent into the Indian market, the Indian government did not mandate clinical trials for many of the products. According to reports, trials for Ayurvedic medicines were conducted by some institutes but on a voluntary basis. The AYUSH website has prescribed guidelines to conduct clinical trials but they were not mandatory until 2020.

Another common obstacle when introducing a new product is the cost of advertising. If a company can't get the word out, no one will know it exists. Social media outlets have been vital in breaking down this barrier and allowing Ayurveda products to gain traction without excessive spending on marketing.

In general, the success of Ayurveda has sparked a revival in all-natural products and established cosmetic and pharmaceutical corporations have responded by producing their own lines of natural products.