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When AI meets ayurveda: Nadi pulse sensors and personalised recommendations

When AI meets ayurveda: Nadi pulse sensors and personalised recommendations

New-age ayurvedic devices promise to gauge your bodily imbalances and offer a detailed, multi-page list of recommendations for your wellbeing
An ayurvedic doctor uses the nadi pariksha device to read a person's pulse
Dr Sriharsha K.V. uses the Nadi Pariksha device to take a pulse reading | Goutham V

Since childhood, 38-year-old HR professional Murali Krishnan had had a weak immune system and was prone to falling sick. When he heard about pulse diagnosis from a colleague, he decided to give it a shot and visited an ayurvedic doctor in Mumbai.

The doctor placed three fingers on Krishnan’s right wrist to feel his pulse. Later, he pulled out a device that looked like a multi-fingerprint scanner with three ridges underneath.

“I kept my left hand on the handrest, and the doctor placed a sensor on my wrist. After 15 minutes, he explained my body type and then shared information about food and lifestyle modifications with me,” Krishnan told Happiest Health. The doctor then handed him a sheet with a diet plan customised for his specific needs, designed to help him balance his immune system.

For centuries, ayurvedic practitioners have utilised nadi pariksha (pulse diagnosis) to diagnose physical, mental and emotional imbalances in the body. Now, they supplement their analysis with sensors. Such devices can help young ayurvedic practitioners make better diagnoses, a skill that normally comes only with prolonged practice and study.

The device works by measuring the radial pulse, recorded in the area above the wrist joint near the base of the thumb. Based on the pressure waveform recorded from the arteries, these devices can measure up to 22 parameters that are normally considered by ayurvedic practitioners. These include measures of everything from the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) to agni (the digestive fire) and stress.

At the core of ayurvedic management of any condition is the principle of the body having three energies – vata (air element), pitta (fire element) and kapha (water element) – that govern all bodily functions. Traditionally, ayurvedic physicians identified these energies by feeling a person’s pulse. Based on the movement, rate, rhythm, strength, and quality of the pulse, they infer whether a person is sick – and how.

Sensor-based devices represent a paradigm shift for ayurvedic practitioners, given they had to measure all these parameters by merely sensing the blood flow with their fingers.

With the advent of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), these devices have grown more accurate. “Earlier, the devices were not that accurate. However, they have become very smart with the recent development of AI and ML. They can provide equally good and sometimes better outcomes than a manual nadi pariksha for young ayurvedic practitioners,” says Dr Sanjay Chhajed, Founder and Director of Nadi Guru Pulse Diagnosis Training and Research Centre, Mumbai.

Riding the wave of interest among practitioners, many pulse wave diagnostic devices have become available in the market, including Nadi Tarangini, Veda Pulse, Naadi Swara and AyuRythm among others.

The Nadi Tarangini device taking a reading | Goutham V

Nadi Tarangini says their devices are up to 87% as accurate as a seasoned ayurvedic practitioner. “The challenges were high to convert the 5,000-year-old science of pulse diagnosis into a sensor-based objective system,” says Aniruddha Joshi, Founder and CEO of Atreya Innovations and the brains behind the Nadi Tarangini system.

A team of ayurvedic doctors, data analysis engineers and thought leaders worked together to convert the “feeling” information into rule-based data algorithms using ML, he says.

With 500 devices sold so far, Joshi says they have a database of over 1.95 lakh users, based on which their ML systems work to constantly improve the device’s accuracy vis-à-vis that of a traditional practitioner.

For the user, the device offers a three-page diet and lifestyle modification chart with 7 and 15-day programmes covering everything from a personalised diet to specific yoga postures, sleep schedules, music suggestions (a raga depending on your unique nature), exercise regimes and recommended daily water intake. Doctors get a more detailed report, which includes the 22 parameters normally recorded in a traditional pulse diagnosis.

A single nadi consultation session with an expert may cost between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500.

Dr Sriharsha KV, the Chief Ayurvedic Physician at Sritulasi Ayurvedalaya in Bengaluru, uses pulse monitoring devices in his practice, and says they help those who come to him get a framework of what to do and what not to do. He advises individuals who consult him to put up the sheet in the kitchen and refer to it when preparing food. However, “Knowledge of internal organs is not obtained from the device,” he says.

Based on the report card and the place of residence of the individual – a lifestyle correction plan is systematically chosen from the available database for the 7-day and 15-day programmes, including a personalised diet, yoga, sleep, music, exercise, and daily water intake. Doctors will also receive a detailed version of the report.

However, for some, there is nothing like the doctor’s touch.

“I always suggest doing the nadi pariksha manually and then using the device to get the detailed report. The patient feels comfortable when we do the nadi pariksha in the traditional way by touching and feeling the patient’s pulse. When the machine does it, the satisfactory level is just the mindset,” says Dr Chhajed.

With AI paving the way for more and more accurate diagnoses across medical care, ayurveda too is set to benefit. Pulse diagnosis is already here to stay but requires in-person measurements. Futuristic diagnoses could be made with something as simple as a photo of your tongue, a project Joshi is pursuing as his next. “There is always a continuous process of new data, patterns, rules, knowledge, discovery, and new data in the medical domain,” he concludes.

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