With school examinations going on, ayurvedic medicines claiming to enhance memory have become big business in Madhya Pradesh. As a result the chemists stocking the drugs expect a cumulative sale of Rs.250 million this season.
Chemists term the final examination time as "memory power boom" season as many students make a beeline for such drugs in the belief it will aid in building their memory ahead of the final exams.
"I get eight to 10 calls a day seeking advice on which medicine to take for improving a student's memory," Deepak Chaturvedi of Astha Hospital told IANS. "In many cases it is the parents who seek such advice."
Apart from ayurvedic medicines, there are also some homeopathic drugs being sold, and reportedly some allopathic ones. Some names of the common memory enhancers are Shankhpushpi, Deemagin, Memo Nerve and Brain Tone Tablet.
Though these medicines are sold throughout the year, the demand peaks from November to April - the time when most exams are conducted. For many, taking such medicines has become routine, irrespective of whether there is an exam, said a shopkeeper.
Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur are the main wholesale centres of these medicines, from where they are then supplied to sub-centres. In Indore and Bhopal, the business of such medicines is estimated to be around Rs.80 million.
"Even the increase in prices of some brands, by 20-50 percent, has failed to deter the sales. On the contrary, they are now being supplied also to smaller towns and cities like Chhatarpur, Satna, and Mandla," said Vikas Awasthi a supplier with Raj Chemists.
An agent of Lupin Pharmaceuticals said in agreement: "The new market for memory enhancers has now reached smaller places like Dewas, Ratlam, Ujjain, Jabalpur, Satna and Harda."
"The medicines should not be given without first consulting a doctor or else they could prove harmful. These medicines are actually more helpful in cases of loss of memory. They act as anti-anxiety agents and calm restlessness in children, thus increasing concentration power," said Vijay Mathur, a doctor with an ayurvedic hospital.
Though some allopathic drugs are being sold as memory boosters, doctors claim there is no such allopathic medicine to help improve memory. "Of course, general health tonics may make one feel better," said M.M. Beg of BHEL Kasturba Hospital.
Doctors advise against buying any such medicine off the counter without a prescription. They say it is better to sleep for around eight hours, increase their intake of fruits and milk and also avoid stress to feel better equipped to face the exams.
"These so-called memory enhancers could have an adverse effect on the child's memory as the effect of the medicines start tapering off three to four months after their continuous intake," said R.N. Sahu, head of psychiatry department of Hamidia Hospital.
"These medicines increase the flow of glucose into the brain, which when stopped can lead to the decline of natural memory," he warned.
An ayurvedic doctor has a piece of advice. "Students often complain they forget what they have studied, especially during their exams. Taking one to two tablespoons of brahmi (Indian Pennywort or Bacopa monniera) juice with a glass of cow's milk can help boost their memory."