Iron Tonics

Tracing the Development from Classical to Iatrochemical Formulations in Ayurveda

  • Dagmar Wujastyk
Keywords: Rasaśāstra, Ayurveda, alchemy, rāsayana, tonics


Around the eleventh century CE, Sanskrit medical texts began to record profound changes in the methods used for drug manufacture. New substances, especially metallic and non-metallic minerals, were added to the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia or were given new prominence. More significantly, however, new ways of processing raw materials were introduced that were thought to make them fit for medical use. Most of the new, but also many of the traditional substances were now put through a series of complicated, multistage processes before they were used as components of compound medicines. In this article, I will use the example of recipes for iron-based medicines, which describe the processing of iron and other substances to trace the evolution of these changes and to query whether the changes in drug production flow from earlier developments, or whether they represent a more fundamental shift in the theory and practice of medicine. I also consider whether the introduction of new substances and the new methods of drug production can be related to notions concerning the potency of substances and formulations.

How to Cite
Wujastyk, D. (2019). Iron Tonics. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 39(1), 74-90.
Special Section Research Article