Rasa shastra

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In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical lore of Hinduism, rasa shastra is a process by which various metals, Minerals and other substances, including mercury, are purified and combined with herbs in an attempt to treat illnesses.[1] Its methods correspond to the alchemy familiar in the Mediterranean and Western European worlds.[2] Rasashastra is a pharmaceutical branch of Indian system of medicine which mainly deals with the metals, minerals, animal origin product, toxic herbs and their use in therapeutics.

History of development of Rasa Śāstra[edit]

The credit of developing Rasa Shastara as a stream of classical Ayurveda, especially in fulfilling its healthcare-related goals, goes to Nāgārjuna (5the Century CE).[3]

Important Classical Textbooks on Rasa Śāstra[edit]

Rasendra Mangala[edit]

It was composed by Nāgārjuna Siddha in the Sanskrit language. P. C. Rây considered this work (which he erroneously called Rasaratnākara[4]) to be amongst the earliest surviving alchemical works, perhaps from as early as the 7th or 8th century.[5] Rasendramangala originally comprised eight chapters, only four of which are found in the manuscripts available today. Manuscripts of the work are found at Gujarat Ayurveda University, Jamnagar, at Rajasthan Prachya Vidya Pratishthan, Govt. office Bikaner and elsewhere. An edition and translation was published in 2003.[6]

Rasa Hridaya Tantra[edit]

It was created by Shrimad Govind Bhagvatapad, guru of Shankaracharya, around the 7th century. It contains elaborate description of dhatuvada ( metallurgical processes to transform mercury into higher metals as gold or silver). It is well organised and complete. A Sanskrit commentary on this text was contributed by Shri Chaturbhuj Mishra under the name of Mugdhavabodhini.

Rasarnava[edit]

Edited and published in 1908--1910.[7]

Rasa Prakasha Sudhakara[edit]

It is a 13th-century text by Acharya Yashodhar Bhatt. It was first published by Acharya Yadavji Trikam in 1910. Its second edition was published in 1912 under guidance of Shri Jivaram Kalidas Vyas. It is well organised and complete. It contains 13 chapters describing both Lauhavad (use of metallurgical processes to convert lower metals to higher metals), and Chikitsavad ( use of metals and minerals for therapeutic use). It also describes origin of mercury, properties, 18 samskaras (processing techniques ) of mercury as well as the tools and techniques involved.

Rasendra Chudamani[edit]

It was created by Aacharya Somadeva in around 12th or 13th century. It contains 13 chapters which give elaborate description of mercury and its processing for medicinal use; definition and description of equipments and Puta (temperature requirements and regulation during processing). It can be inferred that at the time of its creation the Gurukula system of education was prevalent as it contains description about Shishyopnayana samskara ( ritual performed at the time of admission ). Specific contribution of this text include high degree of organization followed during compilation and description of 64 divya-aushadis (drugs with miraculous effect) for the very first time.

Rasa Ratna Samuccaya[edit]

It was created by Sri Vagbhatta Acharya, son of Vaidyapati Simha Gupta, around the end of the 13th century or beginning of the 14th century. It contains around 30 chapters. It is considered one of the best treatises written in the field of Rasa Shastra. It contains vivid description of Yantras (tools, equipments), Puta (temperature related processing details), classification of metals and minerals into Rasa, Uprasa, Lauha, Dhatu, Updhatu etc. as well as their processing details. It also describes clinical aspects of Rasa aushadhis. However, it is not considered as an original text. Rather it is considered as a compilation of works of other Acharyas. Though it may contain some original work of Vagbhatta, but it is difficult to differentiate. It derives much of its contributions from Rasendrachudamani of Somadeva. Rasaprabha and Vijnanbodhini are two of the Hindi commentaries available. Saralarthprakashini is one of the Sanskrit commentary available by Sriyut Shastri Khare.

Methods[edit]

The methods of rasa shastra are contained in a number of Ayurvedic texts, including the Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita. An important feature is the use of metals, including several that are considered to be toxic in evidence-based medicine. In addition to mercury, gold, silver, iron, copper, tin, lead, zinc and bell metal are used. In addition to these metals, salts and other substances such as coral, seashells, and feathers are also used.[8]

The usual means used to administer these substances is by preparations called bhasma, Sanskrit for "ash". Calcination, which is described in the literature of the art as shodhana, "purification", is the process used to prepare these bhasma for administration. Sublimation and the preparation of a mercury sulfide are also in use in the preparation of its materia medica. A variety of methods are used to achieve this. One involves the heating of thin sheets of metal and then immersing them in oil (taila), extract (takra), cow urine (gomutra) and other substances.[9] Others are calcined in crucibles heated with fires of cow dung (puttam).[10] Ayurvedic practitioners believe that this process of purification removes undesirable qualities and enhances their therapeutic power.[11]

Toxicity[edit]

Modern medicine finds that mercury is inherently toxic, and that its toxicity is not due to the presence of impurities. While mercury does have anti-microbial properties, and used to be widely used in Western medicine, its toxicity does not warrant the risk of using it as a health product in most circumstances.[12][13] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also reported a number of cases of lead poisoning associated with Ayurvedic medicine.[14] Other incidents of heavy metal poisoning have been attributed to the use of rasa shastra compounds in the United States, and arsenic has also been found in some of the preparations, which have been marketed in the United States under trade names such as "AyurRelief", "GlucoRite", "Acnenil", "Energize", "Cold Aid", and "Lean Plus".[15]

Ayurvedic practitioners claim that these reports of toxicity are due to failure to follow traditional practices in the mass production of these preparations for sale,[16] but modern science finds that not only mercury, but also lead is inherently toxic. There are many animal studies that were done to study toxicity of these medicines & many of them show that these medicines do not produce any toxic effects in animals, provided the medicines are prepared by an experienced person, strictly according to guidelines mentioned in Rasa shastra classics.[citation needed] The government of India has ordered that Ayurvedic products must specify their metallic content directly on the labels of the product;[17] however, M. S. Valiathan noted that "the absence of post-market surveillance and the paucity of test laboratory facilities [in India] make the quality control of Ayurvedic medicines exceedingly difficult at this time.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rasa Shastra – Freedom Vidya". Shrifreedom.org. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 2015-02-25. [unreliable source]
  2. ^ "Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies - Google Books". Books.google.com. 2003-09-29. Retrieved 2015-02-25. 
  3. ^ Savrikar, SS; Ravishankar, B (2011). "Introduction to 'Rasashaastra' the Iatrochemistry of Ayurveda". African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM. 8 (5 Suppl): 66–82. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.1. PMC 3252715Freely accessible. PMID 22754059. 
  4. ^ Wujastyk, Dominik (1984-07). "An Alchemical Ghost: The Rasaratnâkara by Nâgârjuna". Ambix. 31 (2): 70–83. doi:10.1179/amb.1984.31.2.70. ISSN 0002-6980.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Ray, Prafulla Chandra (1907). A history of Hindu chemistry from the earliest times to the middle of the sixteenth century, A.D. Wellcome Library. London : Williams and Norgate. 
  6. ^ Śarmā, Hari Śaṅkar, ed. (2003). Nāgārjunaviracitam Rasendra Maṅgalam ... Anuvādaka Kavirāja Hari {Ś}aṅkara {Ś}armā = Rasendramaṅgalam of Nāgārjuna Edited with Aihore Hindiī Vimarśa, Bhāvānuvāva and English Translation and Notes (chapters 1--4). Vārāṇasī: Chaukhambha Orientalia. 
  7. ^ Kaviratna, Hariścandra; Ray, Praphulla Chandra (1910). The Ras̄ārnavam: or the ocean of mercury and other metals and minerals. Calcutta: Asiatic Society. 
  8. ^ Mishra, p. 86
  9. ^ Mishra, pp. 86-88
  10. ^ Mishra, pp. 87-88
  11. ^ Mishra, pp. 88
  12. ^ [1] Archived 7 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ [2][dead link]
  14. ^ "Lead Poisoning Associated with Ayurvedic Medications - Five States, 2000-2003". Cdc.gov. Retrieved 2015-02-25. 
  15. ^ Catherine A. Hammett-Stabler, Herbal Supplements: Efficacy, Toxicity, Interactions with Western Drugs, and Effects on Clinical Laboratory Tests (John Wiley and Sons, 2011; ISBN 0-470-43350-7), pp 202-205
  16. ^ Hammet-Stabler, pp. 205-206
  17. ^ a b Valiathan, M. S. (2006). "Ayurveda: Putting the House in Order". Current Science. Indian Academy of Sciences. 90 (1): 5–6.