Due to the failure of modern medicines to cure diseases like Cancer, Diabetes, and Arthritis, and the yoga gurus like Baba Ramdev Ayurveda drugs are becoming very popular in all over the world. The online purchasing of medicines is a popular way to get rid of physical problems all over the world now. According to official data produced in an international symposium on cancer and Ayurveda at Gujarat cancer research institute in November 2007, information was given that as many as 60 to 70 % of cancer patients rely on herbal medicines as chief or supportive therapy even in Canada or USA.
You might have read the latest issue of JAMA. There is an article entitled "Lead, Mercury, and Arsenic in US and Indian manufactured Ayurvedic Medicines Sold via the Internet" JAMA. 2008;300(8):915-923. It Context that Lead, mercury, and arsenic have been detected in a substantial proportion of Indian-manufactured traditional Ayurvedic medicines. Metals may be present due to the practice of Rasa Shastra (combining herbs with metals, minerals, and gems). Whether toxic metals are present in both US and Indian manufactured Ayurvedic Medicines are unknown.
Luckily this article has not asked for ban of these drugs neither they have been banned yet. But this is the high time to discuss this issue. Are all Ayurveda drugs 100 % safe as claimed?
I would like to draw your kind attention in this regards. The classics of Ayurveda has never ever claimed that all Ayurveda drugs are 100 % non toxic. Even the poison of Snake is used as medicine in Ayurveda. This has been a myth that all Ayurveda drugs are 100% safe and can be consumed without any expert guidance or supervision. No wonder, 80% of total sale of Ayurveda drugs is OTC means over the counter! Most of the patients follow the articles published in news papers or by Babas.
This has created myth for Ayurveda even in scientific fraternity. Many a times patients consumes drugs containing Nag bhasma or Parada i.e. mercury for years and years and when they approach with chronic toxicity of such metals, modern practitioners always defame the science Ayurveda. On the contrary, Ayurveda has always prescribed the drugs with precautions, and cautions. So it is always advised to take even Ayurvedic treatment under medical supervision only.
The definition of TOXICITY or Heavy metals is relative. Toxicity depends upon the body reaction, Prakriti, dose and duration of the drug administered etc.
We all have observed that the NRIs or foreigners, who come to India, can't digest Indian foods or water either and as a result most of the times they rely on Mineral waters only. And on the contrary, almost 80% of Indians are still using that raw water for consumption. And they are comparatively healthy!. Ayurveda has termed it Oksatmya; means which is non-toxic due to practice. We have read the stories of Vishakanyas who were being given Visha i.e. toxins since their childhood and even if they kiss someone, he or she will die due to the Visha. This is the best example of Oksatmya.
The detectable presence of these elements in dietary products and food or water is not the same as toxicity. These elements are present in many of our everyday foods and as shown in this study, Ayurvedic dietary supplements. In the case of foods and herbal products their presence can occur because:
- they are naturally occurring in the soil, water and air,
- from pollution as a result of human activity where in both cases theses elements are taken up by the plants,
- from contamination in the manufacturing process, and
- these elements are intentionally added.
Toxicity is the result of too much of the specific form of metal being ingested over time. But the most important point is, in Ayurveda or Rasashashtra, any metal is never prescribed as raw or virgin metal. It has always been processed with the procedures like Shodhana, Marana, Jarana, Amritikarana, Bhasmikarana, Satvapatana, Lauhitikarana etc. and most of them are used in sulphide form which is most suitable to the body.
Some times these procedures may need 5 years! Moreover there are many standards or parameters, to check it before consumption like Rekhapurnatva, Unnamatva, desired color etc. But I really doubt how many pharmaceutical companies follow these procedures and the standard protocols even after getting the license of good manufacturing practices, as many a times it happens with the pharmaceutical companies.
So for Indian patients, here are few tips, when they consume Rasashashtra or Ayurveda products.
- Read the label carefully of the product you are using.
- If there is a drug named as Nag Bhasma, Parada Bhasma or Somala Bhasma, then don't use it for more than 21 days.
- Regular use of Harde or Haritaki is contra indicated during pregnancy for longer period by Ayurveda.
- Long term use of Drugs containing Bhallataka, Lasun, Karen are contra indicated for the patients with Pitta Prakriti.
- Long term use of Drugs like Vasa (ardusi), Neem, are contra indicated for Vaata Prakriti.
- Long term use of Drugs like Shatavari is contraindicated for the patients with chronic cough.
- Long term use of Drugs like shatavari, may cause constipation.
- Long term and much use of Milk of buffalo is contra indicated in patients with constipation, diabetes, asthma and skin diseases.
- Regular and long term use of Isabgul may cause loss of appetite and digestive problems.
- Long term use of Suvarna patri (sonamukhi) can weaken the intestine's natural movements and may cause habit. (many drugs sold in market like Kayamchurna contains such habit forming drugs)
According to the guidance of government of India drugs containing following ingredients must be consumed under strict medical supervision of Ayurveda expert.
Drugs of vegetable origin
- Ahipena Papaver somniferurn Linn.
- Arka Colotropis gigantean (linn.) R. Br. Ex. Ait.
- Bhallataka Semecarpus anacardium Linn. f.
- Bhanga Cannabis eativa Linn.
- Danti Baliospermum montanum Mall. Arg.
- Dhattura Datura metal Linn.
- Gunj Abrus
- Jaipala (Jayapala) Croton tiglium Linn.
- Karaveera Rerium indicum Mill.
- Langali Gloriosa superba Linn.
- Parasilka Yavani Hyocyamus inibar Linn.
- Snuhi Euphorbia neriifolia Linn.
- Vatsanabha Acontium chasmanthum Stapfex Holm.
- Vishmushti Strychnox nuxvolnica Linn.
- Shringivisha Acontium chasmanthum Stapfex Holm.
Drugs of Animal Origin
- Sarpa Visha Snake poison.
Drugs of Mineral Origin
- Gauripashna Arsenic
- Hartala Arseno sulphide
- Manahashila Arseno sulphide
- Parada Mercury
- Rasa Karpura Hydragyri subchloridum
- Tuttha Copper sulphate
- Hingula Cinnabar
- Sindura Red oxide of lead
- Girisindura Red oxide of mercury.
Following list is examples of few popular drugs which are being taken as self medication by the patients but it must be consumed under medical supervision of a qualified Vaidya:
- Vaat vidhvamsana Rasa
- Aarogyavardhini Rasa
- Yogaraja guggulu
- Mahayograj Guggulu
- Tribhuvan Kirti Rasa
- Bruhad or Laghu Suvarna Vasant Malini Rasa
- Laxmivilas Rasa
- Panchamrita Parpati
- Trivanga Bhasma
- Simhanada Guggulu
- SamirPannaga Rasa
- Chandraprabha vati
- Swasakuthar Rasa
- Makardhwaja Rasa etc.
The patients who are consuming any Bhasma regularly they should analyse the Bhasma before consuming it. Followings are few easy methods to check the qualities of Bhasmas,
Varitarattwa is that specialty in which the Bhasma of some substances floats on the surface of the water and does not sink in the water. According to the Rasa Tantraic concepts, a perfectly prepared Bhasma when sprinkled in a beaker full of water, floats upon the surface and does not sink in the water, it is known as Varitara. According to the Rasa Shastric every metal or other substances are to be converted into Bhasma form. They all are heavy in comparison to water, and when they come into contact of the fire and get converted into Bhasma form, they become light and the heaviness is destroyed. They attain a fine state of division and on account of the surface tension they float on the water. Ideally bhasmas like Suvarna, Rajata, Tamra, Lauha, Nag or Vanga should float on the water. If it sunk in the water, then it is not properly prepared.
Rekhapurnatva: This is one of the important criterions of the examination of the perfect ness of the Bhasmas. The filling of the thread grooves of the surfaces of the first finger and the thumb is known as Rekha Purnattwa. When a small quantity of the Bhasma is picked up between the first finger and thumb and on rubbing, if the thready grooves allow penetrating that Bhasma, it is said that the Bhasma is having Rekha Purnattwa.
Unam is also an adjective attached to a perfectly prepared Bhasma Though basically, the test of Unattwa is similar to the test of Varitarattwa, and there is a little modification. After examining the Varitarattwa of a Bhasma, when small food grains are delicately placed over the layer of the Bhasma, which is floating over the water level and if the food grains do not sink and continue to float, the Bhasma is supposed to be Una i.e. very less in gravity, and as such it is just an advance test of Varitarattwa and to decide comparatively more Laghuta.
Nirdhumattwa is the next criterion for the assessment of the perfectness of the Bhasma. Nirdhumattwa refers to a special in which anything put on burning fire and non-observance of the smoke thereof. The same meaning is applied in the context of Bhasma Pariksha. A small quantity of the Bhasma to be tested after subjecting to specific number of Putas, is put on the fire and when no smoke of any type is observed, it is inferred that the Bhasma is prepared perfectly. If the Bhasma is not prepared completely, the Apakwa substances will remit yellow or white colored smoke.
Gatarasatva: One of the criteria of assessing the perfect Bhasma has been considered to be the absence of taste in the Bhasma and that will be free from all the side effects.
Ishtavarnattwa: Ishta Varnattwa means the attainment of an appropriate colour. In the context of Bhasmas also the attainment of the specific color corresponding to the basic metals or substances has been considered as a quality of the Bhasma. It has been expounded that whatever method of Bhasma preparation is adopted, with a little modification the Bhasma will have a specific type of colour. In Yoga Ratnakara, the standard colors of the Bhasma have been discussed extensively. It has been stated that the Bhasma of gold attains the color resembling to the Champaka flower; the Bhasma of silver and copper are attaining the black color, while the Bhasma of Naga attains the color resembling to the pigeon neck while Vanga covers into white color if the Bhasma is prepared perfectly and correctly. Generally the Bhasma of iron, or iron containing ores acquires a red colour and as such the Loha Bhasma, Kanta Bhasma and Kashisa Bhasma, Vimala Bhasma or Makshika Bhasma, on account of their iron content, attain the red colour. The Abhraka Bhasma attains brick red color on account of its iron content. Similarly, Swarna Makshika which has about 30% iron component attains the Jamun fruit color. Similarly, other Bhasmas are also having different colors and on account of those colors, their perfection is decided.
Chandrika is the metallic luster and its absence is considered as a criterion for assessing the perfection of a Bhasma. Various Rasa Tantric substances are having a natural luster or shine and after conversion into Bhasma form that luster should go. This absence of natural luster is an indication that the specific metal or the metallic ore has converted into Bhasma form. A small quantity of the Bhasma is taken in between the thumb and the index finger and rubbed vigorously. Then the portion stuck in the grooves of these fingers is exposed to the sunlight and viewed very carefully. If very tiny shining particles are observed on the fingers, it is presumed that the metal or the mineral or the Ore has not converted into the Bhasma form perfectly whereas its absence indicates about the perfection of the Bhasma.
Mriduttwa: The softness is denoted by the adjective Mriduttwa. This is perception through the touch sense. All the minerals, metals etc. are Bhoomija or Parthiva Dravyas and the ancient scholars have said that the Parthiva Dravyas contain Guru, Kathin, Khara etc. qualities. When these substances attain a Mrita state or Bhasma form, they loss their physical characteristics and as such the Kharasparsha of metals gets lost and the Bhasmas are felt soft and smooth.
Information provided in this article is for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, please consult your physician.