Rasa shastra is a process by which various metals and other substances,
including mercury, are purified and combined with herbs in an attempt to treat illnesses.

Rasa Shastra means the “science of mercury” but also refers to the science of making minerals usable for the body so they can be used as medicines. The science of Ayurveda believes that nothing is good for everybody and everything is good for somebody. Many minerals, such as mercury are considered toxic, but by proper procedures be made into medicines. In India, the Ayurvedic doctor uses 20% pure herbal preparations, 30% pure mineral preparations and 50% herbal and mineral preparations. This percentage of usage illustrates that there is much value to using mineral preparations.

In the Vedas, gold and silver had a ritualistic use. Rasa Shastra is believed to have come about in the 6th and 7th century. The Buddhist sage, known as Nagarjuna, is considered the first to use mercury and is believed to have done much in the creation of Rasa Shastra.

The science of working with minerals is named after Rasa (mercury). This is because mercury is considered to be a very powerful medicine. When mercury is properly prepared, it balances all three doshas (humours of the body), has a soothing effect on the body, prevents disease and old age. It nourishes all the vital parts of the body and increases the strength of the eyes. It is a vrisya (aphrodisiac), balya (tonic), snigdha (anointing), rasayana (rejuvenative), vrana sodhana and ropana (wound cleaner and healer), and krimighna (antimicrobial). When it is compounded with any herb it heightens the medicinal properties. Mercury is said to give a firm physique, a stable mind, and to be the best destroyer of disease. Furthermore, It is considered holy because it is the semen of Lord Shiva.

Categories and Properties of Minerals

There are two main categories of Rasa Shastra, Alchemy and Rasayana. Alchemy involves turning mercury into gold. Rasayana is the rejuvenation of the mind and body. It is said in rasa texts that metallurgy is a science which was taught by god Himself. Furthermore, it is also stated that mercurial operations are successful by the grace of God. Consequently, Rasa Shastra is a very spiritual science with many facets to see and understand.
Just as herbs have their Rasa so do minerals. For example, gold is madhura (sweet) and kasaya (astringent) in rasa, snigdha (oily) and laghu (light) in guna, sita (cold) in virya, and madhura in vipak. It’s actions are visanga, varnya, rasayana, brimhana, rucikara, dipana, medhya, smriti vardhana, and it is the best aphrodisiac. It checks wasting of the body tissue, improves body complexion, and acts as an antimicrobial, and antipyretic. Silver is kasaya (astringent) and amla (sour). It gives strength to the brain, heart and stomache. It is indicated for bhrama (vertigo) and unmade (insanity), palpitations, pre-ejaculation, and mada (intoxication).

Gold is an effective antimicrobial and antipyretic

Many minerals have a more magical type of properties. Charaka says that no poison can be sustained in the body of people who have ingested gold because the presence of gold destroys the effects of all types of poisons especially Garavisa. One of many minerals used is Lapis lazuli, which produces feelings of well being while expelling all doshas (the 3 human humors) from the body.
Purification

Mercury and other minerals have to go through purification before they can be made into medicine. The procedures are called samskaras for purification and assimilation. For mercury, there are 18 samskaras in the extreme method. Shodana removes the harmful substances or impurities present minerals or drugs that would cause toxic effects or diseases in the body. Listed in rasa literature are disorders associated with impurities in each substance. For example, “unpurified and not properly purified incinerated silver if used internally may cause sariratapa (burning sensation in the body), vidbandhata (constipation), sukranasa (loose of semen), balanasa (loss of strength and longevity), destroys sariapusti (growth of body tissues), and produces many diseases. Improperly purified shilajit gives rise to inflammation, hysteric fits, giddiness, loss ofappetite, hemorrhage, and constipation.
Importance of Rasa Shastra in Ayurveda

Modern medicine deals with modern diseases through heavy usage of steroids. The prolonged use of such medicines and the lifestyle related problems make these diseases chronic in nature and decreases the immunity levels of those inflicted. Recent studies have shown that herbal preparations alone are not capable to deal with the complicated and chronic nature of diseases. It is for this very reason that Rasa Shastra has been placed with so much importance in modern Ayurveda.

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Nagarjuna’s Contribution to Rasashastra