Talk:/Medical Institutions in ancient india/Pharmacy/The Field of Pharmacology

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The Field of Pharmacology


�And of that material this is the test: that it is of such and such nature, of such quality, of such efficacy, is born of such a season, gathered in such a manner, preserved in such a way, medica�ted thus, and in such dosage, administered in such and such a dise�ase, to such a person, either eliminates or allays such and such a humor. And if there be any other administered medication m similar manner, should it also be examined." (Caraka Vimana VIII-87)


Caraka classifies medicine into two kinds:

"Now medicine is of two kinds: one kind is promotive of vigour in the healthy, the other destructive of disease in the ailing.'


Thus the drugs are of two kinds; one that goes for positive health and the other belongs to the curative group. The group of drugs for positive health are sub-divided into two kinds:


�One is or the viriific and the other is or the vitalizer."


On going through the description of these two processes, we are surprised to know how high the ideals and the practical life of men of those days were.


While explaining the word (Rasayana), Atreya describes the properties of a Rasayana drug.


�Long life, heightened memory and intelligence, freedom from disease, youth, excellence of lustre, complexion and of voice optimum strength of body and senses, utterances that always get fulfilled, the reverence of people, body-glow, all these does a man obtain by the use of vitalizes. The vitalizers are so called because they help to replenish the vital 'fluids of health." (Caraka Cikitsa I, 7-8)


What a noble conception of health! The virilifics were used for the purpose of producing progeny of the highest calibre. Progeny was considered to be the preserver of the traditions of ideals and aspirations of men. The use of virilifics was recommended solely for this purpose. Moreover, they gave positive health, immunity against inroads of diseases and retarded aging.

These two superb concepts of Ayurveda were held in such a high esteem that these obtained recognition as two special branches of the octopartite Ayurveda.


Atreya has classified the drugs into fifty classes according to their properties and each class contains ten drugs (Caraka Sutra IV, 8) and this is the simplest, easiest and most systematic classification.


Among the four requisites for curing a disease, drug3 occupy a place second only to the physician


�The physician, the drugs, the attendant and the patient constitute the four basic factors of treatment� (Caraka Sutra IX, 3).


Caraka enumerates the necessary qualifications of a good drug as under:-

Abundance, applicability, usability in multifarious modes and richness of quality these four are said to be the tetrad of desiderata in drugs." (Caraka Sutra. IX, 7


Drug action is fully described in Caraka. For instance in Caraka Samhita. Vimana-sthana, chapter I, 16 we find concise but full description of long pepper.


'�Long pepper, pungent though in taste, is sweet in post�digestion, heavy, neither overmuch unctuous nor overmuch hot, is deliquescent and esteemed as medicine. It is at once productive of beneficial and baneful effects. If administered in the proper time and measure, its action is at once beneficial. But if continued for over a long period, it results in morbid cumulative effect, as due to its heavy and deliquescent qualities it arouses Kapha. It aggra�vates Pitta on account of its hot property and is not able to allay Vata because of its meagreness of unctuous and hot qualities. Nevertheless it makes a good vehicle. In view of these considerations long pepper should not be used in excess. (Vimana 1,16).

Similar descriptions of salts and alkali are given. We find detailed actions and properties of various kinds of milk in Caraka Satra-sthana. Chapter I, 105-113 A lengthy but apt description of actions of wines is given in Caraka Cikitsa sthana chapter XXIV, verses 29 to 73.


Speaking about the preparations as regards their properties and actions, Caraka says:


That should be known as the proper medication which requires to be taken in small dose which is quick in action and is curative of even an excessive degree of morbidity, which is easy to take, which is light in digestion, palatable, pleasing, curative of the particular disease, not harmful even if complications arise, not very depressant and is possessed of the most agreeable smell, color and taste.� (Caraka, Siddhi sthana, VI, 15*16)


The prescriptions of drugs were arranged in such a way as to contain the above qualities. The processes for these preparations were explained and rules for nomenclature of these preparations also were framed in order to bring about a certain uniformity. Rules were also framed regarding the use of drugs containing just the opposite properties in these preparations, if it was found necessary to add such a drug for the sake of taste, appearance or smell.


�It has been laid down that a compound preparation is named after the basic drug which forms its principal active ingredient.


In the prescription of a compound where the emetic nut etc. form the basic or principal drug, wines etc., occupy the secondary role as constituents, vehicles or excipients. They followed the main drug in the prescription, even as the attendants follow the king.

Even the antagonism of this potency does not vitally impair the mam effects of the principal drugs, while admixture of drugs of similar potency intensifies its action.


As laid down, the use of articles that are of antagonistic potency to the disease is allowed for the purpose of imparting to the medication pleasant colour, taste, touch and odour suitable to the conditions of a disease.� (Caraka Kalpa XII, 43-46)


In the modern method of writing a prescription the letter �R', a symbol for 'recipe', is always found at the beginning; This sign or symbol is called superscription. As a matter of fact the symbol 'R' is the symbol of the planet 'Jupiter'. Ayurveda enjoins on the patient to chant some sacred hymn while taking the medicine. The sacred hymn as given in Caraka, Kalpa-sthana I, 14 is as under:


It is better to use symbols rationally than blindly. The chanting of a hymn would seem ridiculous to us is this modern age, but we must probe behind the apparently absurd practice and try to find out the concept on which such a chant is based. This can be understood only if we study the other ideologies of the period.


Minuteness and singleness are the two qualities of mind. Mind cannot work at two places at a time. So one must concentrate on the work on hand otherwise the work cannot be a success. On this reasoning the chanting of a hymn becomes helpful in transferring the attention of the mind busy in other affairs to concentrate on the medicinal dose. Therefore Atreya says:-


"If a person after cleansing his mind of its impurities like passion and other inauspicious sentiments and concentrating his mind on the treatment, takes this dose, it brings about the most desirable results."

The second stage or step in a prescription is the writing of it, it consists of the basis or the chief ingredient, adjuvant and corrigent. The nomenclature of the prescriptions is based on the names of the chief ingredient followed by the word or and others" to suggest the compounding of other ingredients, e g In English, 'Co', the shortened form of � compound is used for this e. g 'Pulvis glycyrrhiza co'. This similarity in the nomenclature of prescriptions both in the East and the West show that science is one but ignorance can lead to manifold differences.


In therapeutics, the mere knowledge of the properties and actions of the drugs in the prescription is not the end in itself. Therapeutics is an art or more properly it is an artistic science Caraka says

� The art of prescription depends upon the knowledge of dosage and time, and on this art, in return, depends success; hence the skilful physician stands ever superior to those possessing merely a theoretical knowledge of drugs.� (Caraka Sutra. II, 16)


He further adds:

�Though treating with the right prescriptions yet if the physician be ignorant of the knowledge of place etc , he cannot achieve success in treatment. There exist many differences in the nature of men as regards age, vitality, constitution etc. (Caraka Cikitsa XXX, 320)


The preparations should be made in accordance with the doses. We generally believe that standardization is the last word in modern medical science, but we must not forget that accuracy in measurement is the first step in scientific progress. '�Logical reasons for everything and accuracy� was the motto of the scientific age of India which began about "600 B C, and it is for this very love for accuracy that the science of logic and Sankhya (snag) came to be written. In an age when even the sequence of words in a sentence was strictly regulated and the words could not be used without a definite purpose, the laxity in accuracy of measurement is unthinkable. Let alone the accuracy and exact measure of medicinal doses, even food was to be taken in measured quantities. While narrating the principle of hygiene, the first chapter on the subject begins with ________ �you shall eat food in measured quantities.� The word "matra" is derived from i. e. �by which it is measured," while the English word "dose" is derived from 57 to give. The English word simply "gives" while the Sanskrit word �measures�. This proves that accuracy in measuring is emphasized more in the Ayurvedic term.


A few quotations pertaining to this accuracy of measurement from various Ayurvedic treatises will not be out of place here.


"You shall eat food in measured quantities."


�All treatment depends on dosage."


�There can be no compounding of drugs without taking into view their measure of dosage.�


�The dosage of medicines is dependent upon individual patient."


"An under-dose of medication cannot cure the disease just as a small quantity of water cannot quench a great fire, and medicine given in over-dose will prove harmful just as excessive watering harms the crops. So, after carefully considering the security of the disease and the strength of the medication, the physician should administer it, neither m too large a dose nor in too small a dose.�


�The dosage of drugs given in the section is with reference to moderate-bowelled persons and of average age and strength. This should be regarded as the standard for pharmaceutical purposes and larger or smaller doses have to be prepared keeping that standard in view.�


" ( . should be administered) after a full investigation of the morbid humors, the medications, clime and season, homologation of the patient, his digestive power, psychic conditions, age and vitality."


The _________or after-potion concept of Ayurveda is in accord

with the theory of humors. The dose of medicine was to be followed by some after-potion prescribed as a corrective to the medication in accordance with the constitutional tendency of the patient or the humoral imbalance of the disease-condition.


Toxicology is one of the chief branches of Ayurveda. We need not reiterate that the knowledge of toxicology in India was far superior to that of other countries. When Alexander invaded India ( 323 B C ), he had ordered that whenever any treatment for poison�ing was necessary, only an Indian physician should be called. This is but one proof of the superiority of toxicology in India or poison girls are no fable. They were reared to be used against enemies It was the practical application of the theory of immunization in the body by gradual and constant administration of poison India abounded in poisonous animals and vegetation. Kings were always under constant vigilance against poisoning, and so a physician was always in attendance to protect the king against food poisoning etc.

During wars, poisoning was resorted to for killing individuals as well as for mass murders. The knowledge of snake poison was also profound. The snakes were, and still are, plenty in India and hence the knowledge about snakes and toxicology came to be special branches of study. The classification, recognition, description etc, of serpents is astonishing. Snake poison was used as a medicine also Atreya has prescribed it for the incurable condition of Tridosa Udara, mostly a malignant growth.


The science of toxicology was the result of varied experi�ments. The poisonous drug or poisoned food was tasted by the senses, fire, by mixing them with water and other substances, and also by administering it to beasts and birds. We find that about 25 beasts and birds were thus made use of in such experiments.


The list of terms describing actions of drugs surprises us even today We find more than 500 terms used in this connection.


Atreya, while fully recognising the physical, pharmaceutical and physiological incompatibilities, goes further and describes the following 18 points which should be considered in deciding the incompatibility or otherwise of a drug.


"That substance is unwholesome which is incompatible from the point of view of country, season, gastric fire, measure, homologations, Vata and other body humours, preparation, potency, bowel tendency state of the patient, rules of eating, things to be avoided or observe, cookery combination, palatability, richness of quality and rules of eating." Food as well as medicine should not be incompatible wit eighteen points.