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Ayurveda > Agad Tantra

By Dr. Satish Kulkarni

Ayurved provides us with detailed information and treatment for sthavar (non animal) and jangam (animal) visha (poisons). We can obtain valuable information about toxins and their management in Charak Sanhita, Sushruta Sanhita and Sharangdhar Sanhita. The sixth section of Ashtang Ayurved, a mega book written by the famous sage Vagbhata Rishi is Uttar Sthana which has a total of 40 adhyaya (chapters.) Out of these 40 adhyaya, 4 adhyaya describe agad tantra or visha tantra (toxicology and forensic medicine). It can be said that these 4 adhyaya are the essence of all ancestral sanhitas and they are sufficient to give us an over all idea about this particular branch of ayurved.

Agad tantra is that branch of ayurved which describes various poisons and methods of purging these poisons out of the body. It specifically recommends different antidotes for substances which are poisonous to the human body. Agad tantra deals with a wide range of natural poisons or toxins originating from the animal kingdom (mammals, reptiles, insects, etc.) and poisonous substances from plants or herbs (belladonna, aconite etc.) Ayurved also includes information on management of poisonous substances derived from minerals and metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, copper, etc.) and artificial poisoning from drugs. Ayurved essentially talks about substances which are ‘drugs’ if taken in the prescribed dose but ‘poisons’ if taken in overdose.

This branch also deals with the toxic effects of different substances from air, water and food. Polluted air, contaminated water and contaminated/ stale/ spoilt food can be a cause of poisoning in the human body. In addition, they may cause epidemics in society according to ayurved. Ayurved has a detailed description of the causes and treatment for food poisoning. It lists foods that act as poison when consumed together. The agad tantra says that meat from animals, birds and aquatic animals turns into poison if cooked or consumed with phaseolus radiatus, honey, milk, sprouted legumes or jaggery. Chicken and curd act as poison when eaten together according to ayurved. There are also a few foods that act as poison if consumed in large amount. Over use of chilies, spices and mustard oil irritates the digestive tract which ultimately shows effects similar to that of toxin.

Few foods prepared or kept in iron or copper utensils turn into poison. For example, buttermilk or other sour substances kept in a copper container for a long time, turn into a substance injurious to health according to ayurved. Thus ayurved lists food substances causing acute or chronic poisoning if the method of preparation or preservation is faulty.

In the end, agad tantra states, certain potentially poisonous substances such as mercury and lead can be used as medicines if properly processed under the supervision of ayurvedic scholars and used in the recommended dose. Today, there are many medicines available in combination with mercury. This branch of ayurvedic medicine and pharmacology is well known by the name rasa shastra and parad kalpa. Ayurveda also indicates that precious stones like diamonds and precious metals that are not palatable to humans and thus otherwise toxic to health can be processed and used in powdered form in certain emergency situations.

 To summarize, agad tantra or visha tantra is that branch of Ashtang Ayurved which describes different natural and artificial toxic substances and poisons in detail, along with their antidotes and treatment.


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