Doctors at the Sreedhareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital and Research Centre near Kochi assert that ayurveda can easily cure many eye diseases without surgery.
"Before we came in, there was no ayurvedic medicine in this field," says N.P.P. Namboothiri, the hospital's managing director and chief physician. "We have become the pioneers."
Kerala draws every year tens of thousands of Indians and foreigners in search of ayurvedic treatment. But few beyond Kerala appear to know what ayurveda can do in the field of ophthalmology.
Eye diseases are rampant today, caused in part by long hours of work on computers, poor eating habits, long and frequent journeys, inadequate hours of sleep and so on.
Eye disorders can also result from watching TV for long hours, reading small print continuously, inappropriate head position while lying on the bed, heavy sneezing and even overindulgence in sex.
Television is to blame for most myopic disorders in children.
"Many of these diseases can be completely cured through simple treatments we offer," Namboothiri told IANS at his office, which is part of the family's ancestral home.
Hailing from a family of ayurvedic practitioners, Namboothiri set up Sreedhareeyam with five beds in 1999. It has expanded to 350 beds and also gets around 200 daily patients.
The hospital is located at a site where the Namboothiri family ran an informal clinic for a very long time.
Sreedhareeyam has 16 centres in Kerala and elsewhere in India, including major cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Chennai.
In Kerala, it also has a presence in Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Thodupuzha and Thiruvananthapuram.
Unlike earlier times when many turned to ayurveda only as the last resort, today many prefer ayurvedic ophthalmic treatment right away, doctors with Sreedhareeyam say.
"Early detection of eye ailments helps in faster and better recovery," Namboothiri said. "If treated early, ayurveda strengthens the nervous system and prevents degeneration of the optic nerves."
According to him, even complicated and rare diseases that affect the optic nerve and retina that lead to blindness can be treated with great success with ayurveda.
"Thousands of people are today resorting to ayurveda for effective cure," he said.
Major eye diseases treated at Sreedhareeyam include diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and detachment of retina.
The hospital also manufactures all medicines and formulations utilized in eye and other treatment.
Shalakya Tantra is the branch of ayurveda that deals with ailments above the neck. Ayurvedic texts deal with 76 eye, 28 ear and 31 nose diseases.
Sreedhareeyam boasts of a large collection of ancient ayurvedic manuscripts of medicinal preparations and treatment methods.
These inscriptions in old Tamil and Malayalam are on palm leaves and have been handed down by ancestors of the Namboothiri family.
"We even treat and cure eye problems not normally curable by other medical sciences," Namboothiri says.
"Today, our hospital has brought new respect to the science of ayurvedic ophthalmology."