Medicine And Alchemy In Indian Culture
By S. Mahdihassan, Ph.D.
In ancient times the Aryans excommunicated the aged to solitary existence in a forest. The ascetic prayed for freedom from diseases and for longevity, the prayers being
called Bhaisbajyani and Ayushyani respectively. Though aged, the exile needed robust health, which in effect meant his rejuvenation. Giving practical expressions to Ayushyani prayers, he discovered Rasayana medicaments to which he assigned priority over those curing ailments. This feature is unique and compared itself only with the aim of alchemy
in China. The Indian ascetic developed herbal drugs of rejuvenation, the Chinese ascetics mercurials. When Chinese alchemy was introduced into India, mercurials superseded herbal medicines; but, since they also promised rejuvenation. Rasayana today signifies, as meddicaments-mercurial, and as art-alchemy.
I. - The importance of social history many an author has rightly affirmed that the history of medicine is as old as the history of mankind. Moreover, Virchow, one of the makers of modern medical science, has further pointed out "medicine is a social science in its very bone and marrow." Hence, to know the past of medicine is to know the past social history upon which it depends. In ancient times. life's struggles were most severe. To reduce the number of feeders in a family. infanticide of girls was practiced, since women were poor bread earners. Then, every male member had to partake in hunting. cut do-om forest trees, and engage in feudal attacks. The aged, being ill-suited for such strenuous duties, were felt as a burden and ex-communicated to live like a solitary deer of a forest. Thus, asceticism arose from an unavoidable social evil.
To be able to exist, he had to collect foodstuffs as forest produce. Vishnu Purana , a sacred scripture of the Hindus, informs us that "the anchorites live upon leaves, roots, and (wild) fruits." As a recent observer, Dr. Rock [21 noted that "the religious recluses of Radja Monastry (in Tibet). at an elevation of 10,700 feet, subsist on barley flour in winter, (but) on boiled nettles in summer." Above all, Heraclitus had lived like a typical ascetic. About him we read in Enfield  that "he made a choice of a mountainous retreat and lived upon the natural products of the earth. His diet and manner of life brought him dropsy." We can now realize that to be able to roam all over the forest, in search of food plants, the ascetic had to depend upon his bodily strength. A day's rest would be fasting and a long sick leave premature ~leath from starvation. The aged exile needed robust health and could not but pine for the good old days when he was young. Thus, we can pinpoint the ascetic as the one who conceived of rejuvenation, for it was he who needed it most.
II. - The two kinds of prayers of the ascetics: The history of medicine reveals that man's earliest treatment depended upon prayers. These served like "invisible drugs." The prayers of the Aryan ascetic have been recorded in Atharva Veda as pertaining to two categories. Sir P. C. Ray  .. Vol. 1, p. VIII) points out "one is called Bhaishajyani for curing diseases and driving away demons (which in those days were supposed to cause ailments). The other had for its object the securing of long life and health (and) is known as Avuslivani. a term which later gave place to Rasayana, the Sanskrit equivalent of Alchemy," The word Ayushyani has been translated by Monier-Williams  as "giving long life." But one pining for youth, in the first instance. would pray for long life as retaining the vigour of youth. In fact, the ascetic would rather live a shorter life enjoying health than a long lingering one with the infirmities of old age. Thus, his Avushyani prayers implied prayers for a long "rejuvenated life," which virtually meant "eternal Youth." It is obvious that if one can recall youth one can also retain it forever. Thus developed the idea of immortality as eternal youth. It is therefore more comprehensive and also complimentary, to speak of immortality rather than of eternal youth. We can than paraphrase Avushyani prayers as pertaining not merely to long life but to immortality, which fully incorporates rejuvenation.
III. - Energizing drugs: The ascetic's demands were urgent. While he would pray for longevity, he had also to do everything possible to overcome depression, due to his exile. and infirmity, due to his superannuation. What he needed was a real energizer, making him overwork, exhaustion proof, and yet happy. Any intoxicant, hallucinogen, or narcotic would not put him on his legs to be able to serve as his own grocer and his own cook. He had to collect his daily ration in the form of food-plants as forest produce. There are at least three such herbs as real energizers. One is the ephedra plant of which the freshly extracted juice was Soma, the famous drink of immortality among the Aryans. Strange enough, even those who were convinced that Soma, as plant, is ephedra never went deeper to inquire into its active principle or into the properties of ephedrine. Like a typical energizer, it produces insomnia and is a habit former. This has been duly established by Panse and Klages. Ephedra is not found in the mainland of India and the Hindu ascetic later took to Cannabis indica instead. Hence, we can interpret Soma best in the light of other energizers which are in use today.
Lloyd [ 7 ] refers to laborers recruited from the Incas tribe of Red Indians, engaged in the mines of Peru and Bolivia. They work the wholle day, practically without food, chewing the leaves of Erythroxylon Coca, which "yields abundance of vital strength," so much so that it not only makes them exhaustion-proof, but also keeps them amiable. Finding it to be a boon, they have made coca "the Divine Plant.
The third energizer is Catha edulis, the Khat of Yemeni Arabs. Moser reports that chewing fresh leaves the laborer "performs prodigies of strength and energy. (The drug) exalts the spirits and supports bodily strength (making) the gloomiest man cheerful." For such benefits, theYemeni, as a Moslem, though he could not deify the plant, nevertheless calls it the Flower of Paradise. The Aryan ascetic also lived a most miserable existence and prayed, as in a hymn in Atharva Veda, translated by Griffith[g] that "the many plants that Soma rules deliver (us), the suppliants, from grief and woe." We know that the Coca herb and the Khat phant can make their users feel happy and energetic; and ephedra, the Soma plant, obviously did the same. Max Muller has shown that the ordinary kitchen fire was so useful to the Aryan nomads that it finally became the god, Agni, an important member of the Hindu pantheon. We can now understand that if Khat became the Flower of Paradise to Yemeni Muslims and Coca the Divine Plant to Incas Indians Ephedra became god Soma to the Aryan ascetics.
IV. - Rejuvenation of primary interest to the asetic: By now, we are in position to realize that the actual need of the ascetic was robust health. He therefore felt that if he could rejuvenate himself it would be a permanent cure of his "grief and woe." Hence. it waQ; most natural on his part to dream of rejuvenation as well as to crive practical expressions to his dream. Since there have been two kinds of prayers on his, part. Bliaishajyani and Ayushyani. interpreted as curing diseases and as conferring rejuvenation-cum-immortality. we wish to turn to the materialized resultants of the same. Out looking for food plants, he could not miss herbs likely to cure ailments. but more than that. those which he believed could rejuvenate him. The discovery of ephedra belongs to this latter class. Searching for the impossible., the ascetic came to learn the therapeutic properties of so many plants that he is virtually the founder of herbalism. not only in India but also in China. Later on, such knowledge was codified and the earliest Codex is the compilation by Charaka, who figures in Indian Medicine like Hippocrates in that of Greek. Charaka is supposed to have been the court physician of the Scythian King, Kanislika. and lived about 200 A.D. Sir. P. C. Ray[41; 32), however, assigns him an earlier date. Ray quotes Charaka statin., that "Medicines are also of two kinds. the one promotes strength and vitalitv. the other cures diseases. Whatever promotes longevity and virility is called Rasayana." Corresponding to Avushyani prayers. we now have Rasavana medicine. The unique feature that faces us here is that drugs of rejuvenation are given priority over rugs curing diseases. Thus, Rasayana. having no counterpart in Greek medicine. cannot be translated in that language. nor is there an identical word of Latin origin. Rasayana, the art of rejuvenation, considered as a branch of Indian Medicine, had the same objective as Alchemy in China. Even in China, there were ascetics and they founded alchemy primarily to rejuvenate themselves.
V. - The stamp of the ascetic on Indian Medicine: Charaka's works  have been translated and annotated in six sumptuous volumes. In Vol. V a whole chapter (on p. 473) begins admitting only "two kinds of medicine, one as promotive of vigour in the healthy, the other as destructive of disease in the ailing." The former division is called Rasavana, which is not to be mistaken for aphrodisiacs which are known as xajikarana. Rasayanas are specifically meant for the aged. Charaka mentions the preparation "Cyavana Prasa," as conceived and tried upon himself, by the sage Cyavana. "It is celebrated as the highest Rasayana. By its use Cyavana, though grown very old, became young once again. By recourse to this vitalization, the great sages. such as Cyavana and others, regained their youth, became most attractive to women, and acquired the capacity to bear all hardships," the last virtue being quite indispensable to the lonely ascetic.
Charaka gives several recipes of such medicaments. These are mixtures of herbal ingredients and also calcined metals. Calcination was invariably done by means of plants, According to its makeup, a calcined metal has a herbo-metallic preparation. This is so important as to require due confirmation. The Maharaja of Gonda , academically qualified as a graduate of medicine from the Edinburgh University, writes that the ancient Hindus "have described the method of transferring the properties of vegetable cures to certain metals, which intensify their efficacy and retain it a long time." It is beyond common sense to conceive herbs passing their therapeutic properties to metals. This is really an unsuccessful attempt to rationalize ideas demanding specialized reasoning.
VI. - The significance of calcined metals: When herbalism arose,
it was part of herbal-magic. It was the days of Animism. Even a
plant and a metal was endowed with soul. This was the real
active principle which passed from a herb to its consumer, like a vitamin
from food into the body of man. Some herbs carried a larger quantum of soul and ephedra was one of them. Taking its juice daily, life would be prolonged on every potion consumed. Later on came Dualism, when everything became dual-natured. including the soul. We can call one sub-soul. Yang-soul, or male-soul, or Spirit; and the other Yin-soul, or male-soul. or the Soul, or Soul-specific. Plants were rich in Spirit for they grow fast enough, but poor in Soul-specific as they are delicate and easily scorched by heat. Reverse is the case with a metal. It is solid, hard, and heat-resistant. As such, its Soul-specific is greater in ratio than its Spirit; a metal hardly shows any power of growth. If we calcine a metal with a herb at a certain temperature, the metal is killed. or merely deprived its Spirit, leaving its body intact as a corpse. The same heat would totally destroy the herb and set its Spirit hovering. The impact of herbal Spirit on the body of the dead metal would resurrect the latter ld the calcined metal would revive as a Resurrected Body, or Soul-incorporate., where body and soul constitute two-as-one. Gold is a fossil metal; but, if we calcine it with a herb, it will become a herbo-auric entity, with body already everlasting, now owning a soul which is evergrowing, like a plant. For such reasons, calcined gold must have been amongst the first preparations, as I  ventured to explain. It must be mentioned that Charaka does refer to calcined gold amongst the Rasavanas.
VII - Mercurials as alchemical preparations: Indian Rasayana was an off-shoot of herbalism, or of herbal-magic. The Chinese developed mineral-magic. They started with the archaic idea if Blood = Soul, then Redness = Soul; and, since nothing approaches blood in its coloration better than cinnabar, Cinnabar = Soul. Dualism expected two sub-souls of cinnabar., and these proved to be sulphur and mercury, which alchemy recognized as the fundamental elements of all metals. Only when we understand cinnabar as soul of minerals can we appreciate how sulphur and mercury become important as sub-souls. Cinnabar was not everlasting; its sub-souls constituted a loose mixture. To recondition cinnabar, or so unite sulphur and mercury that these remain in perfect balance, as also in a nascent or activated condition, would yield an entity which confers immortality, or makes everything grow forever. This would be Elixir, a mercurial preparation, first conceived in China. There is no cinnabar in India. Hence, there was no mercurial Rasavana until alchemy was introduced there from China. But theoretically. calcined metals, as herbometallic preparations, were equal to sulpho-mercurials,. and, when the latter were introduced, the ideal Rasayana became a preparation of vermilion or synthetic cinnabar called Makara-Dhwaja, which is still sold in India. Thus, drugs of rejuvenation in India were always called Rasavanas. First they were herbal, next herbo-metallic, and lastly sulpho-mercurial. Inasmuch as alchemy in China recognized rejuvenation-cumimmortality as its primary aim, mercurial alchemy was easily assimilated by the corresponding branch of Indian medicine or Rasayana. It is to this later stage that Sir. P. C. Ray's remark applies, stating that Ayushyani (prayers for longevity) later gave place to Rasayana (which finally became) the Sanskrit equivalent of alchemy." Briefly stated, Rasayana medicaments were first herbal, next herbo-mineral, finally mercurial.
[11 BALLANTYNE, J. C. (1898), Quotes Vishnu Purana in his Vedanta Sara, p. 6 Pub.
Christ. Lit. Soc. for India, Madras.
 ENFIELD, W. (1819), History of Philosophy. Vol. 1, p. 443. London.
[41 RAY, PROPHULLA CHANDRA (1903), A History of Hindu Chemistry, Vol. I. Calcutta.
 MONIER-WILLIAMS, SIR. M. (1899), A Sanskrit - English Dictionary.
 PANSE. F. and W. KLAGES (1964), Becbachtungen bei chronischen, Missbranch von Ephedrin. Arch. Psycht. U. Neurologic; 206: 69.
 LlOYD, J. U. (1921), History of Vegetable drugs. Vol. I, p. 85-88.
[81 MOSES, C. (1917). The Flower of Paradise, Nat. Geog. Mag.; Aug. 1917, p. 173.
 GRIFFITH. R. T. H. (1897), Atharva Veda, abridged edition, Vol. 1, p. 252, Pub. Christ
Lit. Soc. for India, Madras.
 CHARAKA SAMHITA, Edited by Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society. Janinager, India, 1949, Vol. V.
[111 BHAGAVAT SINHJEE, His Highness (1937), A short history of Aryan Medical Science, Gondal, p. 137.
 MAHDIHASSAN, S. (1972), Colloidal gold as an alchemical preparation, Janus, 58: 112.
One of nature's products looked at with mixed feelings is snow. Some have pleasant thoughts when witnessing the flakes floating down, covering the countryside with a pure white blanket on a Christmas morning. For a skier it can cause exciting and pleasurable thoughts of anticipation, as he pictures himself swishing down the slopes. A researcher may see beauty in the shape of a magnified and photographed snowflake. Others may feel disdain when inconvenienced by the build-up of snow on the pathways and roads, which delays or restricts their movements and interferes with their daily activities and comforts. Such are but some of the effects caused by the physical appearance of snow. But what of the inner concept-the virtue found within the manifestation of POWDER SNOW and the effects of this gift from the heavens.
There are those who are working with snow in a most unusual way, seeking to find and to use the beneficial energy that is to be found within it. Several beneficial uses for snow have been found. The application does not require an extensive education nor special equipment but does involve an awareness, a knowledge, of the natural laws and their use. One such fundamental or natural law is "Wherever an affliction occurs, thereabouts may be found a cure."
This principle was applied while on a family vacation at a ski resort at Mount Bulla in Victoria, Australia, during school term holidays, which commenced August 25th of 1972. Mount Bulla is situated some one-hundred miles from any industrial area, so the air was crisp and pure, which is significant to those who are using the fundamental laws. The first day, there was much activity, as there was a clear, blue sky and the sun shone brightly upon the freshly fallen snow. There were skiers about who were inexperienced and many of these newcomers were not protected from the snow's glare. They suffered inflamed eyes, burnt faces, and cracked lips. Aid, in the way of pharmaceutical products and protective equipment, was available for the prevention of this type of injury. However, there was no evidence of snow itself being used as an aid, even by the experienced exponent of the slopes, simple as the application is.
For the prevention or the cure of snow blindness, several drops of water thawed from snow at body temperature and used as an eyewash at regular intervals will give protection against snow blindness or relieve the inflammation caused by it. An eyedropper may be used to insert the fluid. If the water has not been denatured before using, there will be a reaction; and this should be anticipated. For, as soon as the fluid comes in contact with the eye, there will be experienced a stinging sensation, similar to when an eyelash has been displaced, causing the closing of the eyelid firmly. Within
seconds, however, this disappears and the soothing sensation of the eye having been oiled will be experienced; along with relief, should this be used for the suffering of inflammation. This application may be repeated as often as required. When the smarting sensation no longer occurs, it is a sign that sufficient has been used for the present, either as a preventative or as a cure.
The effects of burning during outdoor activities may be avoided without the use of cosmetics, which prevent the skin from becoming naturally accustomed to exposure, by simply scooping up some snow in the hand and rubbing it onto the unprotected areas, including the eyes. This will give the complexion that wonderful tanned glow, so much sought after by lovers of the outdoors.
There is one important detail to be noted by those attempting to verify these facts. Only the powdered snow, thawed at about body temperature, will have this therapeutic effect.
First falls of snow that are in contact with the ground soon loose the virtuous quality contained within. The use of such snow as this may cause some to discard the thesis without further investigation. The dedicated seeker will find that snow, having the virtue described. may be found at any time in the snow fields. To find it, one may have to leave the paths and ski runs, which are packed or iced, and seek for it where a subsequent snowfall occured. This new snow may be sealed by a frozen crust. BY breaking through this crust to the powdered snow beneath it, a virtuous water may be had from it. Frozen snow or ice is of no avail. Some falls of snow will contain more virtue than others, but within all powdered snow there is found the beneficial virtue described. This may be tested by application to the normal healthy eye, as the reaction previously described will occur if the water from the powdered snow retains its virtue.
It has proven worth the effort to collect and store a quart (litre) for the home apothecary as an eye wash, which can be used for all discomforts of the eye throughout all seasons. It stores well in a stoppered glass bottle.
It is demonstrable that the crippling effects of frostbite, causing on occasions the removal of limbs, can in most cases be completely avoided. All practitioners involved in treating this injury should be instructed in snowpacking the afflicted parts, and thereby restore the limb back to normal healthy circulation. This is not an ice pack procedure. It involves encasing the injured area and beyond in a cocoon of this powdered snow until the circulation recommences to flow through the affected area. The rest of the body needs to be properly clothed to keep the body temperature within the normal range. Judge not in haste, for through experience new portals will open. Those who may have suffered injury through exposure and become aware of this application will shudder at their ignorance in time of need.
For the hardy one or those who wish to be, the therapeutic value of the snow walk should be tested. The body should be clothed so as not to become chilled, while the feet are to be bare. Walk barefoot in the fresh
snow until the feet are chilled. Without drying or rubbing the feet, only brush off the loose snow before pulling on dry woollen socks and shoes. Then, gently exercise, (indoors if preferred) until the feet regain their normal temperature. This takes some will power the first time it is tried. but, after only several outings, one will be surprised at the length of time it is possible to walk in the snow barefoot. This should be done on consecutive days. One will be pleased at the feeling of exhilaration. obtained.
The beneficial effects of the snow walk give an improved functioning of the circulation and the metabolism as well as the ability to easily adapt to changes in temperature during ordinary daily activities-yet another joy
to be had by such an effort. One or two weeks will acclimatize a normal healthy body.
Chillblains and other circulatory disorders have been corrected by the above applications.
Your Spa At Home
People of means who could afford to travel to famous European Spas did so because of the health-giving effects of the waters, Some such mineral waters, as they are called, have very tonic effects on the skin which in turn relates this exhilarating effect through the capillaries. When such tonic waters are drunk, the effect from inside the body with the outer stimulus are most beneficial for the entire circulatory system. Specific organs, low on minerals for their proper functions, may thus be helped with such mineral waters.
There is much pro and con about the effect of these mineral waters due to the many substances found in them. It has been proven for thousands of years as the records left us indicate, that bathing in waters rich in minerals is helfful to the body as a whole, and some organs or parts of the body especially. It needs only a verification by those who have made such test. Better still. by, testing it personally.
As everyone cannot afford to travel to those places which are endowed by nature with mineral waters, the next best thing is to find out what these waters contain and then to reproduce their mineral consistency as closely as possible. One such factor observed is that most of these waters come very warm. even hot, out of the ground. Some of the minerals that otherwise would not be soluble in cold water are brought to the surface and become in this way useful to the body. Thermal (hot) spring effects can now be produced at home with whirlbaths. whereby the water is agitated and minerals added to the water are circulated in the bathtub and actually massage the skin. This does not mean so-called bubble baths or scented waters, or bath salts, which have practically no other purpose than to soften hard water.
Prepared minerals used in such a manner are of a therapeutic nature, as they have a similarity to minerals contained in natural spring waters, and are of an additional benefit to the user as he has the choice of several mineral mixtures that relate to different physical conditions. Flabby tissues, poor circulation under the skin, which causes dermatological disorders' or rheumatic conditions, which are not always relieved by warm water alone, do respond to the penetrating effects of minerals in solution, even to those insoluble in water but which do come in contact with the skin causing physical reactions.
Research and observations have brought to light that mineral combinations, when added to the water, do bring about effects similar to those of natural origin. This does not mean that such effects are producing the same results under any conditions, just as not everyone taking the baths in natural springs is in every case relieved from their former symptoms. Those seeking additional help in physical therapy with minerals added to the water in which they bathe-which should not be confused with a strict cleansing procedure of personal hygiene-may add mineral baths to other means of therapy employed.
No claim is made that such mineral additions are a cure-all for physical discomforts, but the beneficial effects observed by those who have used them are sufficient to encourage their use where applicable and so desired.
A refreshing and exhilarating mineral bath is well worth its first try to establish whether or not personal effects on the body are noticed. It is very unlikely that immediate results will be observed in all cases, especially in those cases where a prolonged and perhaps even a systematic bathing with minerals may be required. In such cases, your doctor is the best source for professional information.
Where there is no whirlbath mechanism available, minerals are added to the water while the bathtub is filled. Vigorous agitation of the water, with the hands or other available means is recommended to dissolve the minerals.
Usual duration of immersion in water is about 10-15 minutes. Care
should be exercised to avoid all drafts while taking the bath. Vigorous
rubbing with a good towel should follow before dressing. Where applicable,
a good rub down or massage with either a beneficial liniment or lotion will
enhance the effect of mineral baths.