Recently I had the good fortune of listening to a lecture on Rasa Sastra or the science of metals in therapy by expert Dr Hari Shankar Sharma. He explained that metals that have been purified as per the Ayurvedic texts were not harmful and, in fact, were miraculously efficient.
Rasa Sastra is part of the syllabus of the Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery course. The prescribed medicines are vetted by experts and taught to students. One such medication is Tribhuvan Kirti Rasa. It is used in the treatment of acute and chronic fever. It is used to treat liver and spleen diseases. It also helps improve digestive power.
I have had discussions with many stalwarts in the field of herbo-mineral preparations and they say that purified mercury, especially combined with sulphur, is not toxic. However, these medicines are not prescribed for young children and pregnant women. Tribhuvan Kirti Rasa contains purified cinnabar, purified aconite, dried ginger, long pepper, purified borax, long pepper roots, black pepper, tulsi juice, ginger juice and datura leaf juice (all in equal quantity). A juice is prepared out of it and stored for three days and then made into pellets. The process of trituration is well defined and is carried out for about eight hours per day. In earlier times the grinding was done manually in a kalva yantra, a flat pestle made of granite. Today it is done mechanically using an electrically- operated kalva yantra.
Tribhuvan Kirti Rasa is prescribed for a wide range of conditions from PCOD to sinus to chronic fever. Normally, physicians do not give rasa preparations for long periods. Tribhuvan Kirti Rasa is given for patients with vata and kapha vitiation.
The controversy regarding the presence of heavy metals in Ayurvedic medications needs to be set at rest. In India, classical preparations with heavy metals are permitted. In other countries drugs are exported as food supplements and the metal levels are prescribed. These levels will definitely be exceeded in herbo-mineral preparations. Ayurvedic pharmaceutical companies should not export such herbomineral drugs as these could exceed the mineral/metal content permitted for food supplements. In India, purified metals, especially purified mercury with sulphur, is considered safe. So consulting a good Ayurvedic physician and taking herbo-mineral preparations is safe and effective.
The government should sponsor more for research into the nature of absorption of these drugs to set people’s mind at rest. Also, herbo-mineral drugs can be very cost-effective. Minerals are available in plenty and drugs can be made without affecting the environment. For plant-based drugs, our forest resources are being exploited indiscriminately.
Herbo-mineral drugs are also effective in treating cancers; however, it cannot cure all cancers. Ayurdeva has classified some cancers as asatya or incurable. Those that are curable have better quality of life with less side effects. Suggest an Ayurveda or Siddha drug and the first question will be, “does it contain heavy metals?”
We have been brainwashed into a western way of thinking where metals are considered toxic. Experienced Ayurvedic physician can tell from long years of practice how effective these rasa drugs are. The government should better document and disseminate such information. Without support, Ayurvedic drugs will be used only by a minority of the population.
(The writer is retired Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org/arogyamantra.blogspot.com)