It's Time for Metal Based Medicines of Ayurveda
By Sheela Rani Chunkath | Published: 31st October 2015 10:00 PM |
The other day, there was a discussion regarding the use of metals in Ayurveda and Siddha. While I have written extensively about herbal formulations, I think the readers need to be made aware of the many metal preparations which are considered safe if purified properly and if a competent vaidyar prescribes it.
Western medicine is exploring the use of platinum as an anti-cancer drug. In Ayurveda and Siddha, we do use gold and diamond bhasmas for serious conditions. A Kotakkal vaidyar with whom I had a discussion said that he had not seen any side effects if the bhasma was properly prepared and prescribed by a competent doctor.
So we have vanga bhasma (tin ashes) for diabetes and tamara bhasma (copper ashes) for abdominal disorders. Since these are metal preparations, patients are very nervous about using it. Charaka has said that a medicine is not medicine if it has adverse side effects and hence these medicines can be had under the proper guidance of a vaidyar.
With herbs becoming scarce, metals could be a cheap source of effective medicines. What the authorities need to do is ensure that they are prepared strictly in accordance with the manner prescribed in the texts. Metals and other animal products can be a cheap source of effective medicines for many diseases.
Cowry shells, which are available in plenty, is used to make varatika bhasma. The method for preparation is given in Rasatarangini, a text devoted to metallic and other preparations. Varatika bhasma is used as an expectorant, sedative, digestive and appetiser. It is useful in coughs, bronchitis, phthisis and other wasting diseases. It is also useful in the treatment of irritation of the gastro-intestinal tract, abdominal colic and liver and spleen enlargement. The dose is 200-400 mg twice or thrice daily.
Now making this bhasma is quite easy and cost-effective. The government authorities need to do whatever is necessary to set people’s mind at rest about whether these preparations harm the vital organs. The liver, kidney and spleen are considered vital for one’s health and preparations, which adversely affect them, are never prescribed in Ayurveda. Perhaps, we need to publish more scholarly articles based on sound research about how bhasmas of various metals do not affect the vital organs as feared.
Varatika bhasma is prepared in the following manner. Cowry shells are washed in water, and then soaked in lime juice and then exposed to sunlight. The juice should totally submerge the shells. Shake the container every now and then so as to uniformly coat the shells with lime juice. When the liquid has dried up, take the cowry shells and add some more lime juice and grind to a fine consistency. Dry the mass and subject to calcination. Repeat the calcination till the product is of the consistency desired. Usually cowry shells are put in a crucible with lime juice and twice calcined. Calcination is done in the traditional manner using cowdung cakes. About 1,000 cowdung cakes are used for calcining about 11.5 kg of the material.
The other day when I visited Gandhigram’s production facility for Ayurveda and Siddha drugs in Chinnalampatti, I saw calcined apple snails. The lady who had been doing this for many years explained to me that live apple snails are taken and then calcined using a crucible and cowdung cakes. She was well aware of the number of cowdung cakes to be used as this had been prescribed in the texts to obtain a particular temperature. She showed me the finished product of calcined apple snails which is used in the preparation of a very effective medicine for treating piles.
We should do more research to promote production of cheap and effective medicines.
The writer is retired Additional Chief Secretary, Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at sheelarani.arogyamantra@gmail. com/arogyamantra.blogspot.com