Metals and Minerals in Ancient Indian Literature (A Review Through Caraka Samhita)

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Item Code: NAG594
Author: Dr. Galib
Publisher: Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788121803465
Pages: 96
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9 inch X 7 inch
Weight 150 gm
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Book Description



Ayurveda as presented in Charaka Samhita is cent percent devoid of any toxicity, contrary to the contemporary situation. Charaka classified the drugs into Oudhbhida (Vegetable), Jangama (Animal) and Parthiva (metals and minerals) categories with certain principles of application like Dosha, Prakriti, Agni, Strotasa etc for prescribing in the management of various disorders. He has made a thorough exercise to identify the poisonous symptoms produced by certain poisons (animal and other substances) and developed management strategies. It may not be hyperbolic to make that Charaka's Ayurvedic therapeutics were promulgated with highest safety profiles. Charaka has not mentioned the drug Parada (mercury) in his treatise. Acharya Priyavrata Sharma opines that the word "Rosa" mentioned in the prescription for the management of Kushtaroga (skin diseases) should be interpreted as Jati Swarasa (herbal in origin). Rasa word is also used to refer Visha and this could be the reason that the literature of Rasashastra has included various poisonous medicinal plants along with mercurial group of drugs.


Alchemy - a science which deals with transmutation of metals into Gold with the help of mercury was developed in China and spread into Indian soil over a period of time. In the process of owning this art, Vaidyas of Ayurveda might have met with an unsuccessful story which finally lead to the adaptation of the mercurial drugs into the therapeutics. The adage reflect the same events leading to amalgamation of Rasashastra during medieval period with the materia medica of Ayurvedic classics which contains safest drugs. One has to agree that the incorporation of Rasaushadhis has paved the way for a criticism that Ayurvedic drugs are not safe and may strain the kidney. Very recently, UN Environment Programme released its report 'Mercury - Time To Act' hosted by 140 countries to finalize the treaty. This may hinder manufacturing and marketing of formulations containing mercury-and other heavy metals. This manifesto has come like a Bolt from the Blue threatening the very existence of Rasashastra. Ayurvedic fraternity has to briskly react and absolutely halt this move.




I am happy to introduce the work entitled "Rasa Shastrokta Dravyas in Charaka Samhita - A Review' to the fraternity of Ayurveda. In this present work, a synoptic survey of the Samhita has been made. This is a culmination of five years of efforts meticulously done by screening the classic and Chakrapani's commentary on it. The references pertaining to the metals and minerals that occur in the classic in a scattered manner have been systematized to the possible extent and arranged in tabular forms for ready references and rapid survey. It reveals a fairly advanced state of the art of Rasa Shastra during the period of Charaka Samhita which may not be evident from just reading scattered references and provides an insight to assume the frequency of usage of metals, minerals and other substances.


This is a unique compilation of all references to Rasa Dravyas and is possibly the first comprehensive work of its kind. Only three earlier works have been done in this direction. The first one was published by Gulab Kunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar (1949) in Gujarati. Second one was by Vaidya Yadavji Trikamji Acharya (1951) in Hindi. Charaka Samhita CA Scientific Synopsis), published by Indian National Science Academy (1965) was the third one. All these were brief attempts limited to 4 - 6 pages unlike this comprehensive review.


The information presented herewith is expected to be useful to both Under- Graduates and Post-Graduate scholars of different specialties particularly of Rasa shastra & Bhaishajya kalpana. It also serves as a handy index of the references to metals and minerals in Charaka Samhita to the reviewers, readers, and researchers of Ayurveda. It is anticipated that, this compilation provides a strong factual basis for debating issues being raised about the safety of Ayurvedic metallic preparations by the western scientific community.


In spite of all precautions, I anticipate possibilities of mistakes and errors still I, occurring in the work and will be grateful to the readers for bringing them to our notice, a if happen so.


At the completion of the work, I am grateful to all the individuals who helped It and played a key role in finalizing the draft.


My words of gratitude for Prof ML Sharma, Hon Vice Chancellor and Shri RM Jhala, Registrar, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar would be insufficient to express the care and concern they have showed towards me at Jamnagar.


I feel it to be my proud privilege to express heartfelt gratitude, indebtedness and reverence towards Prof SS Savrikar, Ex-Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar and Prof LK Dwivedi, Ex-Head, Dept. of Rasa shastra & Bhaishajya kalpana, National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur who took great pain with patience in screening and providing technical inputs in the work.


I am extremely grateful to Prof MS Baghel, Director, IPGT & RA for his warm hearted support, constant encouragement. I take this opportunity to express thanks to Prof PK Prajapati, Head of the Department with whom I exchanged views about the subject at different instances.


I would like to appreciate my beloved students Dr Mayur Barve, Dr Mayur Mashru, Dr Chandrashekhar Jagtap, (Late) Dr Himanshi, and Dr Shraddha Dhundi who actually initiated this job a few years back. Special thanks to Dr Naveena K, PhD scholar of the department for his ungrudging assistance in reading the proofs and checking the contents. I cannot miss to thank Dr Ashok Jethanandani for helping and refining the language of the draft.

I sincerely express thanks to my first teacher in Ayurveda, Dr Suresh Babu, Retired Professor of Kaya chikitsa, Govt. Ayurveda College, Hyderabad and Dr Ravishankar B, Director, Research & Development, SDM College of Ayurveda, Udupi for their guidance, inspiration and encouragement in finalizing this work.


I am grateful to my seniors and colleagues in the department Dr BJ Patgiri, and Dr Prashanth B for their timely inputs and clarifying certain controversial issues. Support, suggestions, and valuable advices provided by Prof CB Jha, Dr Neeraj, Dr Anand Chaudhary, Dr KRC Reddy, Dr Shankar Rao, Dr Suresh P, Dr Nageshwar Rao, Dr Rajender, Dr PHC Murthy, Prof Shobha G Hiremath, and Dr Asmita Wele are unparallel to me. I am highly obliged to all these senior faculty members of Rasashastra. I take this opportunity to express thanks to my senior faculty members Prof RR Dwivedi, Prof HM Chandola, Prof K Nishteshwar, Prof KS Dhiman, Dr AB Thakar, Dr RN Acharya, Dr TS Dudhamal, Dr Rajagopala, and Dr VK Kori for their warm hearted support and blessings in the accomplishment of the work.


No endeavor is complete without the blessings of parents. It is impossible to adequately thank my parents for everything they have done for me since day one of my life. I am grateful for their unconditional love. I would like to acknowledge all my family members at this moment for their encouragement.


I owe my gratitude to Mr Kamalesh Gupta and his team of Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy, Varanasi for considering and publishing this work.




The Ayurveda system of medicine has great antiquity and dates back to about 5,000 years B.C. The Materia Medica of Ayurveda comprises of resources of plant, animal, metal and mineral origin which have been advocated for use in different pathologies. Often, these resources have been used as ingredients of poly-herbal, herbo-mineral and metallic compound formulations by the seers, who have documented their clinical experiences and passed on the knowledge to further generations.


During the medieval period, with the advent of Rasashastra, use of certain heavy metals and minerals increased in Ayurvedic therapeutics. Rasashastra, an integral part of Ayurveda, exclusively deals with drugs of mineral origin, their varieties, characteristics, processing techniques, properties, therapeutic uses, possibilities of developing adverse effects and their management in a comprehensive way. Though the roots of the science (Rasashastra) exist in the ancient scriptures of Indian civilization, actual development of it as an independent system of learning and therapy started around 8th century A.D. However, the Ayurvedic classics before this period, like Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, had already discussed a good deal about metals and minerals, their processing techniques and utilization in therapeutics.


In due course of time, herbo-mineral and metallic preparations occupied a significant place in Ayurvedic therapeutics. Since then, they have been routinely prescribed in different parts of India for centuries. The preparations are attributed to be safe and efficacious even in minute doses.!


Clearly, the pioneers of Ayurveda were well aware of the toxicity or untoward effects that can occur with the improper usage of metals or minerals. They have documented specific processing techniques, therapeutic dosage and concurrent diet advice to avoid any ill effects. Even so, if some complications are noticed due to faulty processing, improper administration or non-compliance of code of conduct, treatment procedures for such complications have also been prescribed. This implies that, the seers were well versed with the kinetics and dynamics of metallic preparations.


The main objective of the current attempt is to screen Charaka Samhita meticulously and compile all the references pertaining to utilization of metals and minerals for medicinal and other purposes. This screening has revealed frequent use of metals and minerals for different purposes including medicinal and non-medicinal ones. All the references to metals and minerals that were found in the classic have been categorized according to the Rasa Dravya classification detailed below.


Classification of Rasa Dravya

The characteristic feature of Rasashastra is its exclusive use of processed mineral and metallic resources in healthcare. These minerals and metals are processed with specific herbal and animal resources to neutralize their toxicity and convert them into bio-assimilable forms.








Preface & Acknowledgement












Dhatu varga


Sudha & Sikata varga


Ksara varga


Lavana varga


Mani varga


Miscellaneous substances




Sample Pages


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