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Narendra Singh: 1935–2012

Narendra Singh, MD, was a man of numerous accomplishments who spent his lifetime dedicated to the study of Ayurveda and medicinal herbs in the context of his dual expertise in pharmacology and conventional medicine. He served as referee for numerous national and international journals, in addition to being on the editorial board of the Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Sciences and serving as editor of the Journal of Biological and Chemical Research, the Journal of Biotechnology in Medicinal Plant Research, and the book Clinical Studies on Kamala (Jaundice) and Yakrit Rogas (Liver Disorders) with Ayurvedic Drugs (1988). Dr. Singh was well-regarded professionally and held several honorary fellowships from a variety of organizations in science, nutrition, longevity research, herbal medicine, and brain research. He passed away on July 31, 2012.  

Dr. Singh was born in the village of Kamhenpur in Uttar Pradesh, India, where he was introduced at a young age to Sanskrit and the Vedic tenets of Hinduism. This influence was pivotal to the evolution of his holistic approach to medicine. Following his training as a physician and surgeon (MBBS, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) at the Sarojini Naidu Medical College in Agra, and service in the Indian Army, he returned to academia. In 1967, Dr. Singh received his MD in Medicine and Pharmacology from King George’s Medical College, Lucknow. He eventually was appointed as the college’s Head of Ayurvedic Research in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, as well as Head of the Regional Ayurvedic Research Institute of the Indian government’s Department of Health; he retained these titles until 1995. In 1999, Dr. Singh received a Doctorate in Alternative Medicine from the Indian Board of Alternative Medicine, Calcutta. 

His most recent titles include Director of the International Institute of Herbal Medicine & Clinic (Lucknow), as well as President of the International Society for Herbal Medicine. In 1997, he was appointed Scientific Director of research and development at Organic India Pvt. Ltd, Lucknow.

Over the years, Dr. Singh’s research focused on evaluating Himalayan community pharmacopeias and the medicinal herbs mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts. Throughout the course of his clinical career, he applied this knowledge to the formulation of Ayurvedic herbal remedies, sometimes combining them with Western medicine to elicit optimal clinical outcomes. His book Herbal Medicine — Science Embraces Tradition (2010), co-written with the clinical biochemist Marilena Gilca, MD, reflects his confidence in the integrative approach and in how holistic treatments can be developed with an appreciation of the limitations of each medical system.

Ever mindful of the need to develop natural herbal remedies in a safe and sustainable manner, Dr. Singh recently applied his expertise to create numerous herbal formulations under the auspices of Organic India, a private company that grows, manufactures, and markets certified-organic Ayurvedic herbs and teas through direct partnership with village agricultural communities. He is best known for his research on the adaptogenic and anti-stress properties of classic medicinal and Ayurvedic herbs. For example, his 2002 book, Tulsi: The Mother Medicine of Nature, written with Yamuna Hoette and Ralph Miller, elaborates upon the value of tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum, Lamiaceae) for a variety of medicinal uses associated with its adoptogenic and healing properties. Revered in India, tulsi (also known as holy basil) is described in terms of its traditional religious value and as an Ayurvedic remedy to heal mind, body, and spirit. Information regarding a wide range of current experimental and clinical research affirming the rationale behind its potential medicinal worth also is included.

Considered both a scholar and gentleman, Dr. Singh was well-respected by all who knew him. His winning smile, humble demeanor, and genuine congeniality will be missed by all of us who called him a friend and colleague. Most importantly, his lifetime of work toward providing a better understanding of the value of Ayurveda in the context of modern medicine is not only a well-deserved legacy, but also serves as an important example to those who continue to explore the value of traditional medicinal systems in a scientific context. For those wishing to review Dr. Singh’s extensive contributions to science and medicine, his curriculum vitae is available at

Dr. Singh is survived by his wife Savitri, daughter Anita, and his three grandchildren Vaubhav, Abhisarika, and Parul.


—Memory Elvin-Lewis, PhD, DScProfessor of Biomedicine in Microbiology and EthnobotanyAdjunct Professor of Biology