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Siddha Leghiyam will be part of the Amma Baby Care Kit

A siddha-based `leghiyam' will nestle with the toys, a rattle, a nail cutter and a soap in the baby care kit that the government will be giving to mothers soon after childbirth. Health officials say the medicine will enable mothers deal with post-childbirth ailments, besides helping in nursing.
“We were already giving leghiyam to mothers from 2007 at the block level, but this is the first time this is being done on a larger scale. It will provide more nutrition to the mother,“ said a senior health official.

However, allopaths ask where is the evidence for the efficacy of this medicine. They insist on double-blind studies and testing on mice that would prove that the leghiyam is not harmful.

Sowbhagya Leghiyam contains more than 18 ingredients, with sukku (dry ginger) constituting the biggest portion. Doctors say the concoction helps improve lactation, eases gastric problems, relieves pain and keeps infections at bay . “Instead of having one pill for each ailment, the leghiyam one pill for each ailment, the leghiyam factors in everything including nutrition,“ said Dr R Varalakshmi, medical officer (Siddha) at the Maternal and Child Health centre, Poonamallee.

Varalakshmi says the leghiyam used to be prepared at homes across Tamil Nadu. “But with the advent of allopathic medicines, siddha medicines went on a downtrend. Many forgot how to make them at home,“ she said, adding there has been a sharp spike in those turning to traditional medicine over the last five years after several research papers authenticating the branch of medicine were produced. “Most people bought the leghiyam from shops. But the ill-side of this is, one, it's expensive, and two, it is hard to find which ones are spurious. Many of these have high metal content,“ she said.

K Badrinath, proprietor of the Dabba Chetty shop, started in 1885 on Kutcheri Road, Chennai, is also seeing an uptick in the number of people seeking recourse to siddha. “We see a lot of young mothers wanting leghiyam for backaches, digestion and gas problem. There was a lull in sales in the 90s, but it's picking up again,“ said Badri nath whose great grandfather started the shop. Instead of giving out leghiyam, what the government should ideally be focusing on is to train mothers in breastfeeding, says Dr P Chandra, a former director of the Institute of Social Paediatrics at Stanley Medi cal College. “Very often we find that mothers don't have a problem in lactation, but infants are not being breastfed regularly . That being the case, where is the need for the government to introduce a concoction that has little science-based evidence?“ asked Chandra.

Allopaths have also questioned the basis on which the leghiyam is being introduced to moth ers. “The concoction being given by the elderly within the family is an issue, but when the gov ernment introduces it on such a large scale in the public sector, it is taking it to an all new level, especially when the debate on allopathy versus traditional medicine is still on,“ said a doctor, who did not wish to be named.

However, the scales seem to be tilted more in favour of leghiyam than against. “Siddha has a long codified history. We even have a national institute of siddha. If the step by the govern ment has been vetted by senior siddha and ayurveda doctors, it is good,“ said Dr Subha Sri, steering committee member of Common Health Coalition that advocates for better access to and quality of maternal-neonatal health and safe abortion services.

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