By Dr.B.K.Prashanth M.D (Ayu), Ph.D
Rasashastra is a branch of Ayurveda which explains about the use of Parada (mercury), various metallic and mineral origin compounds, animal products combined with herbs. The combination of metallic and herbal products together forms herbo- mineral formulation or Rasaushadhi.
Table of Contents
The ancient scholars of Ayurveda like Acharya Charaka, Sushruta, Vaghbata knew the importance of metallic and mineral origin substances for therapeutic benefit but limited their use in the classical text. The procedures needed for the purification of metals, minerals and some of the poisonous substances are not mentioned in the Brihatrayees i.e. Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Astanga Samgraha. The herbal preparations and formulations which were used during the time period of Brihatrayees were found effective but the dosage was comparatively high, less palatable and the medicines had a short shelf life.
Only after 8th century. A.D, the development of Rasashastra took place with which process like
Parada samskara – purification and processing of Mercury
Shodhana – Purification procedures for metals and minerals
Marana – incineration procedure
Bhasmikarana – calx / Bhasma preparation etc. came into existence.
Various yantra (machines), puta(pits of fire), koshti (stoves with different temperature controls) were also used since the development of Rasashastra.
The various text books reveal that Rasashastra was developed primarily for two reasons- Dhatu vada and Dehavada. Dhatuvada means transformation of lower metals like Naga (Lead), Vanga(Tin) and Tamra (Copper) to higher and precious metals like Gold and Silver.
The idea behind this principle may have been to make the society prosperous. Dehavada denotes transformation of a body to healthy state by eradicating the diseases and making the tissues of the body strong, immune to various diseases and enable the person to lead a healthy andlonger life. Various techniques and manipulative procedures were used to achieve Lohavada and Dehavada. These were difficult, monetarily costly, secretive to general public and achieved only by few people.
Yatha Lohe Tatha Dehe Kartavyaha Sootakaha sada |
samaanaM kurute devi pratyayaM dehalohayoho || Rasarnava
The elaborative description of Rasaoushadhis (formulations with metal/mineral) and their therapeutic benefits is found from the time of Chakradutta (11th cent.A.D). He was the first Acharya to tell about Parpati kalpana (Rasaoushadhi resembling thin flakes). The texts up to 12th century mentioned about the techniques needed for the ‘Lohavada’ purpose. After 13th century the books started describing about the methods needed for the various metals and minerals to be converted into ‘Bhasma’ (very fine powder after incineration) so that they could be used for ‘Dehavada’ purpose. This knowledge about Dehavada slowly gained importance and was followed to prepare many herbo-mineral formulations to treat various diseases.
The various metals, minerals and other substances used in the field of Rasashastra has been classified into Maharasa, Uparasa, Sadharana rasa (8 substances in each group), Loha (Metals), Upadhatu, Ratnas (precious gems) and Uparatnas (semi precious gems). The classification is based on the use of the different substance for Dehavada and Dhatuvada.
Benefits of metals and minerals:
The various text books related to Rasashastra describes in detail about the various procedures to be carried out to make the metal or mineral safe before used for therapeutic benefit. The steps involved like Shodhana (Purification), Marana (Subjecting the purified substance to heat), Bhasmikarana (Process of converting the substance to very fine powder) enables the metal, mineral, mercury to be absorbed into the human body. During the above said procedures the metals and minerals are also processed with various herbs at different stages which enhance their property and help in their therapeutic action.
The introduction of Rasaoushadhies (herbo-mineral Ayurvedic medicines) to ayurvedic pharmacopoeia has revolutionized the treatment aspect of the system. Rasaoushadies are quick acting, efficacious in lower dose, have long shelf life of the formulation and easily palatable.
अल्पमात्रोपयोगित्वात् अरुचेरप्रसङ्ग: । क्षिप्रमारोग्यदायित्वात् औषधेभ्यो अधिको रस: ॥
रस रत्न समुच्चय / रसेन्द्र सार सङ्ग्रह
alpamātropayogitvāt aruceraprasaṅga: | kṣipramārogyadāyitvāt auṣadhebhyo adhiko rasa: ||
rasa ratna samuccaya / rasendra sāra saṅgraha
Specific qualities of Rasaoushadies:
- The various substances used in the formulation are converted to micro size form after various procedures and it is readily absorbed in the body.
- Due to the presence of metals, minerals and even poisonous substances in small dosage, the formulations are quick acting and efficacious.
- The Rasaoushadies show their therapeutic and rasayana efficacy in small dosage forms with suitable anupana (adjuvants).
- Due to the presence of various metals, minerals and herbs, the shelf life of Rasaoushadies is more than formulation containing only herbs.
Pro view, counter view
Views on Rasaoushadies:
There is a view in the people including many learned physicians of different medical fraternity that since Rasaoushadies contain metals, minerals, mercury and other toxic substances, they are poisonous. The medicines are not ingested inside the body and neither gets expelled from the body completely. The remnants of the medicine get deposited in vital organs like kidney, liver, brain etc. Hence the formulations are not safe and should be avoided. Animal experiments have proved about the toxic effects of the formulations.
Dr CP Mathews-MS DMR -INDIA’s senior most oncologist says,
In Palani, Tamil Nadu, there is a famous temple of God Subrahmanya Swami. There, ghee and milk Abhisheka (bathing) is done to the idol of the God. The idol is built by Boghar Maharshi.
Boghar Maharshi made 9 idols, with Nava Pashana Chendooram, which contains mercury and arsenic among many other things. Out of 9 idols, he installed one but buried 9 in the Palani hills.
Leprosy is cured by the Abhisheka teertha (bathed milk and ghee) of Palani Swami.
The idol is made up of four compounds Arsenic, four compounds of mercury and sulphur.
Till 1949, throughout the world, Arsenic, Mercury and Bismuth were the main drugs for Syphilis and Gonorrhoea. (reference)
But it is to be understood that the Rasaoushadies are prepared only after proper purification methods told in the ayurvedic texts. The substances are subjected to various standard operative procedures before they are made into medicines. Since the Rasaoushadies are having metals, minerals etc they are to be taken only for a limited number of days. Ancient Acharyas had also mentioned their restricted use for internal purpose. Proper adjuvants and diet have to be followed during the treatment regime. Animal experiments cannot substitute the normal human behavior and response to the medication always as the lifestyle, food habits, pharmacodynamics will change from experimental animals and humans.
Rasaoushadies when used internally in proper regime and dosage have proved highly effective in curing many acute and chronic diseases and aided in promoting health of an individual. The formulations also have prevented the onset of diseases by improving the immunity of an individual thereby assisting in delaying the ageing process. The interaction between the medicinal herbs and the metal or mineral used during the manufacture of the formulations may increase or decrease the pharmacological or toxicological effects. Adverse effects and toxicities are not limited or restricted to any one group or system of medicinal products.
Rasaoushadhies are formulations which contain purified and processed metals, minerals, other elements and herbs in small quantity which provides quick relief from the disease. Proper diet, adjutants are to be given along with the Rasaoushadies. Improper preparation methods, excessive dosage and duration of treatment is not recommended as it can cause damage to the health. It can be safely used in individuals for the required number of days as told in the ayurvedic texts.
Consult Dr.B.K.Prashanth M.D (Ayu), Ph.D
E mail: [email protected]
Dr JV Hebbar
Some Ayruvedic scholars try to rule out the principles of Ayurveda, by over-relying on Rasa Aushadhis. For example, some believe that any and all Rasa aushadhis can be given even in ama stage of the disease, because these metallic compounds are prepared by the process of heating. This argument is not valid. Even kashayas are boiled for hours. This does not mean that any and all kashayas can be given in Ama stage.
The over-enthusiasm towards Rasa medicines should be dealt with caution.
The below are a few techniques used in examining the characteristics of herbo-mineral compounds.
Measurement of particle size and surface characteristics:
SEM – Scanning Electron Microscopy – Determines the surface structure of Bhasmas. It is useful even in nano-particles.
DLS – Dynamic Light Scattering – Determines the size distribution profile of minute herbo-mineral particles
TEM – Transmission Electron Microscopy – Useful to ascertain the Crystal structure of the particles.
Phase identification of minerals
XRD – X-Ray Diffraction – Provides information about structures, phases, preferred crystalline orientations (texture), average grain size, crystal defects etc.
EDX – Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy – Used to know elemental percentage of any compound
AAS – Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy – To determine the percentage of constitute elements. Useful in qualitative and quantitative analysis.
AES – Atomic Emission Spectroscopy – Determines quantity / concentration of an element in a sample. It is cheap but the detection capacity is less.
Characterization of thermal effects:
TGA – Thermo-gravimetric Analysis – Determines change in the weight of the sample in different temperatures.
DTA – Differential Thermal Analysis – Measures heat differences between a reference sample and a sample of investigation in a specific range of temperature
DSC – Differential Scanning Calorimetry – Measures heat flow of a sample in a range of temperature.
Quantitative analysis of organic materials:
HPLC – High Performance Liquid Chromatography – Quantitative and qualitative analysis of a mixture of compounds. It is useful not only for detection of organic compounds, but also for seperation.
FTIR – Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy – Detects presence of functional groups or organic ligands such as hydroxyl group, esters etc. It helps in characterization of phyto-chemicals. It is more commonly used for detection.