Metals in Ayurvedic Medicine:

Swarna (Gold)

Swarna, the Sara Lauha[6] is an important, noble metal known to Indians since antiquity. References can be traced back to Charaka and Sushruta Samhita where the noble metal has been attributed with a wide range of applications. The ‘Bhasma’ form of Gold is in metallic state. Quantitatively it is a combination of metallic Gold (96.76%), silica (1.14%), ferric oxide (0.14%), phosphates (0.78%), potash (0.16%), salt (0.078%), and traces of copper and magnesium.[7]

In its elemental form, Gold has been employed for centuries as an anti-pruritic agent to relieve itching palms. In 1980, Robert Koch observed that gold inhibits Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vitro. This led to trials on arthritis and lupus erythematosus. Also, previous studies carried out in 1973 on gold and its compounds observed beneficial activities at different levels. Gold compounds have the ability to decrease concentrations of rheumatic factors and influences the immunological responses.[53] It has also been established[54] that gold suppresses the anaphylactic release of histamine more effectively than gluco-corticoids. Sodium aurothio malate (water soluble preparation) was introduced around 25 years ago to treat arthritis, and is administered through IM injections. Its pharmacokinetics were not established but, its effects are probably due to its antimicrobial effects and stimulatIon of the Reticulo Endothelial system.[8]

Various formulations of ‘Swarna’ are useful: Vrishya, Balya, Rasayana, Medhya, Ayushya, Ojo Vardhaka, Vayah sthapaka etc.[9] and disease alleviators particularly in chronic debilitating diseases like Raja Yakshma, Swasa, Kasa, Pandu etc.[10] Normal dose levels given for ‘Swarna Bhasma’ is 15 mg. to 30 mg.

Rajata (Silver):

Rajata (Silver), another noble metal like gold, also attracted the attention of the ancient Acharyas. The use of silver in therapeutics dates back to the period of Charaka and his contempories. Though, its therapeutic applications are not as extensive as other metals like Tamra or Loha, the ancient classics reveal that silver also enjoyed an important place in Ayurveda therapeutics.

Classics of alchemy say s that, samples of Rajata which are clear, lustrous (Swachha), heavy (Guru), and with metallic sheen (Snigdham), and which also become bright white on heating or cutting (Dahe Chede Samaprabham), without any ridges or furrows (Sphota rahitam), is genuine, and can be considered acceptable for therapeutic purposes.[11] Quantitatively ‘Rajata Bhasma’ is a combination of metallic silver (52 to 59%), free sulphur (0.675%), ferric oxide (14.33%), calcium (10.769%), silver chloride (0.479%), and traces of sodium, potassium and aluminium.[13] Various useful formulations of ‘Rajata’ are: Balya, Rasayana, Medhya, Ayushya, Ojo Vardhaka, Vayah sthapaka etc. The normal dosage range given for ‘Rajata Bhasma’ is 30 mg. to 120 mg.

CopperTamra (Copper)

Tamra (Copper) is another ancient metal known to human civilization. During pre-Vedic times, the metal was part of day-today livelihood functions. Further, it is the earlier known metal for the preparation of the stronger alloy metals brass and bronze of which it is a component. Charaka uses the term Arka in a few places which Chakrapani clarifies as synonymous with Tamra.[15] According to the descriptions of Rasa in Vagbhata Ref. there are two forms of Tamra viz. Nepaliya and Mlechha, only the former being acceptable. Samples with characteristic metallic sheen (Snigdham), soft (Mridulam), bright reddish in color (Shonam), having high tensile strength (Ghanaghata Ksamam), heavy (Guru), and devoid of impurities (Nirvikaram) are identified as best used for medicinal purposes.[16]

Formulations of ‘Tamra’ are useful in a wide range of diseases like Krimi, Sthaulya, Arsha, Ksaya, Pandu, Kusta, Swasa, Kasa, Amlapitta, Sotha, Sula, Yakrit Roga and Grahani dosha etc.[17] In addition, Charaka advocates the use of Tamra Patra (copper vessels) in several pharmaceutical procedures.[18] Normal doses mentioned for ‘Tamra Bhasma’ is 15 mg to 60 mg.

Aayasa or Loha (Iron)

Next to Swarna, Rajata and Tamra, Loha or Ayasa is another metal known to ancient civilizations. During the period of Charaka, it was used in different dosage forms named Curna, Vati, Avaleha, Varti, Asavarishta etc. either for external or internal administration in a number of pathological manifestations. Iron compounds were particularly employed in diseases suchas anaemia and other debilitating conditions, where functions of hemopoitic systems are disturbed and the blood has consequently become deficient in iron. Rasa Shastra classics explain that Loha is par excellence a rejuvenator as it stimulates functional activity of all the organs, promotes life, strength, destroys a number of diseases, and acts as a restorative.[20] The utility of this metal in therapeutics was only identified modern medicine in the first half of the 17th century, when its salts were recognized as the best haematenics. According to descriptions in Rasa Vagbhata, there are three varieties of Loha viz. Munda, Teekshna and Kanta, the latter being the best variety to use.[21]

As preparations of Loha are of foremost importance in Ayurveda therapeutics, proper care should be taken during procedures for its purification and incineration. Chakrapani stresses the need to take care when administering it.[22] Charaka emphasizes a special Ayaskriti procedure, which converts thin leaves of metal into a fine absorbable form.[23] In addition to these uses, iron vessels were specifically recommended to be used in certain pharmaceutical procedures (Chikitsa 1-3/43, 15/187, 16/83, 26/250, 26/274 etc.) Quantitatively, it is a combination of ferric oxide (96.5%), ferrous oxide (2.5%), magnesium oxide (0.8%), calcium oxide (0.3%), together with traces of phosphorus and potassium. Different formulations of ‘Loha’ are useful in a wide range of diseases: Sula, Arsha, Gulma, Pliha Roga, Yakrit Roga, Ksaya, Pandu, Kamala etc.[24] Normal dose levels given for ‘Loha Bhasma’ are 30 mg. to 240 mg

Mandura

Mandura, the second form of Iron, has been used for a wide range of therapeutic procedures in classical Ayurveda since antiquity. It is defined by Madhava Upadhyaya in the Ayurveda Prakasha as the debris collected after heating and beating processes of Iron around a blacksmith’s anvil.[26] Generally, mandura is collected from sources like old anvils, and is considered to be very useful, if they are about 100 years old. Samples of ages 80 years and 60 years old are respectively considered moderately and least efficacious for therapeutic purposes.[27] According to the literature Mandura, which is smooth to touch (Snigdha / Masruna), heavy (Guru), strong (Dridham), without any fissures or furrows (Kotaravarjitam), and taken from age old constructions (Jirna nasta purastham) is genuine and can be used for therapeutic purposes.[28]

Purified mandura, when administered with proper justification is beneficial in inflammations, edematous conditions, jaundice etc. It is the drug of choice in cases of anaemia (Pandu), and Charaka refers to a number of its preparations. Chemically, Mandura is a combination of ferric oxide (59.14%), ferrous oxide (26.7%), chlorides (4.4%), magnesium (3.9%), sodium (1.7%) and a few other elements in trace quantities. Its unique constitution plays a pivotal role in therapeutics of anaemia and other associated disorders.[29] The normal dose given for ‘Mandura Bhasma’ is 30 mg. to 240 mg.

Naga/Sisaka (Lead)

Naga is an important Puti Loha known since ancient times, also identified by other terms like Sisaka or Sisa. Charak emphasizes that medicinal uses of this metal should be external, partiicular in cases of Mandala Kusta. The Brihad Rasa Raja Sundara describes two varieties of Naga viz. Kumara and Samala the former being the acceptable variety for therapeutic applications. Samples which melt easily (Drutadravam), and are heavy (Mahabharam), externally black in color (Bahihkrishnam), and when incised shine with bright black luster (Chede Krishna Samujwalam) should be considered genuine and preferred for therapeutic purposes.[31] Quantitatively Naga Bhasma is a combination of lead oxide (75.6%), ferric oxide (7.5%), together with traces of calcium and magnesium chlorides and carbonates.

Different formulations of ‘Naga’ are beneficial in diseases like Prameha, Gulma, Arsha, Sweta Pradara, Grahani roga, Antra sotha etc.[32] Therapeutic dosages given for ‘Naga Bhasma’ range from 30 mg. to 120 mg.

Vanga/Trapu (Tin)

Vanga, one of the Puti Lohas was known to ancient Indian physicians by the name of Trapu. In Charaka Samhita, the metal is categorized under Parthiva Dravyas. According to descriptions in Rasa Vagbhata, there are two varieties of Vanga viz. Khuraka and Mishraka, the former being acceptable for therapeutic applications. Samples with the characteristics, bright white in color (Dhavalam), soft (Mridulam), shiny, smooth (Snigdham), easily melts (Drutadravam), and heavy (Guru) are identified as Khura Vanga and should be preferred for therapeutic purposes.34 Quantitatively Vanga Bhasma is a combination of stannic oxide (i.e. of tin) (91.4%), ferric oxide (2.9%), potassium (2.9%), calcium oxide (2%), aluminium (2%) and magnesium (0.6%) oxides.

Formulations of ‘Vanga’ are variously beneficial in diseases such as: Prameha, Kasa, Shwasa, Krimi, Ksaya, Pandu, Pradara, Garbhashaya Chyuti etc.[35] Singly or in combination with other puti lohas, it is beneficial in disorders of the Genito Urinary Tract. It has also been said that, Vanga Bhasma is the drug of choice in the case of Prameha.[36] Therapeutic doses given for ‘Vanga Bhasma’ range from 120 mg. to 240 mg.

Pittala (Brass)

Pittala is an important Misra Loha, an alloy of Copper and Zinc, known since the period of Samhita Kala. Charaka used this metal to prepare Vasti netra. It is known as Brass. As per the descriptions available in Rasa Ratna Samuchaya, there are two varieties of Pittala viz. Ritika and Kakatundi.

Formulations of ‘Pittala’ are beneficial in diseases like Krimi, Kusta, Pandu etc.[38] The therapeutic doses given for ‘Pittala Bhasma’ range from 60 mg. to 120 mg.

Kamsya (Bronze)

Kamsya is another important Misra Loha, an alloy of Copper and Tin known since the period of Samhita Kala. Charaka used this metal to prepare Vasti netra. It is known as Bell Metal or Bronze. According to the descriptions given in Ayurveda Prakasha, there are two varieties of Kamsya viz. Pushpa and Tailika, only the former being acceptable for therapeutic applications. Samples giving a sharp sound (Teekshna Shabdam), soft (Mridu), smooth to touch (Snigdha), slightly grayish (Eshat Shyamalam), clear from impurities (Shubhram/Nirmalam) and turning red on heating (Dahe Raktam) possess the characteristic features of the material preferred for therapeutic purposes.[40]

Formulations of ‘Kamsya’ are beneficial in diseases like Krimi, Kusta etc.[41] Therapeutic doses iven for ‘Kamsya Bhasma’ range from 60 mg. to 120 mg.

Disclaimer:
This is for information purposes only. Please consult your health practitioner or medical doctor before embarking on any new health regime or alternate health therapy.

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