The Making Of Drugs And Herbal Compounds
As India is the home of Ayurveda, the herbal system of medicine, it is but natural that many herbal compounds, drugs, antidotes, etc., should have existed in ancient India. Many foreign commentators like Megasthanes, Strabo, Xenophon and Ktesias have referred to the various drugs and medical compounds that were extracted by ancient Indians.
According to Ktesias, "Writers on India inform us that, that country produces many drugs, and is astonishingly prolific of those plants which yield them. Many of these drugs are medicinal and cure snakebites, which are so dangerous to life, but others are deleterious and quickly destroy life." 'ARRACK: In ancient India the technique of surgery was well developed. Shusruta who lived in the 8th century B.C. is recorded to have performed operations like extracting cataracts, extracting teeth, transplanting flesh (plastic surgery), etc. There also were other practitioners of medicine like Charaka, Atreya, Agnivesa, Jeevaka, etc.
The practice of surgery required that the patient be made unconscious, but in the absence of chloroform or any other drug to administer anesthesia, special liquors were used. The use of liquors as anaesthetic media has been referred to in the ancient treatises on medicine. These liquors were extracted from fruits, sugarcane and even some types of roots. The generic name for these liquors was Arka which in Sanskrit means 'essence'. Such liquors were even consumed in normal times apart from their medicinal usage. In India we had liquors like Soma and Sura since Vedic times.
Liquors were also exported to foreign countries since very early times. The Arabs who carried Indian commodities to western countries in ancient and medieval ages, called the Indian liquor Arak from the Sanskrit term Arka. From the Arabic term we have the English word Arrack, this is corroborated by the Oxford Dictionary.
This unfamiliar word means an aromatic gum which is the basic input into many Ayurvedic medicines. This word was transmitted to the west through the export of Ayurvedic medicines to the Roman Empire. The word is used even today in Indian medicines as in Yograj Guggul for instance.
This is the name of a plant which yields a bitter serum used as medicine by Ayurveda. The export of this item in ancient times has led to the inclusion of the word Chiretta in the medical vocabularies of western languages today. The word Chiretta is derived from the Sanskrit term, Kirata-tikta which means 'bitter plant' from Kirata'. Kirata, incidentally was the name of a province in ancient India.
Bachnag or Bish is another word which has found its way into the medical vocabularies of many western languages through trade with India in ancient times. This serum was extracted from a calf's-navel and was called Vatsa-nabha (i.e. calfs navel) in Sanskrit. It is from the term Vatsa-nabha that the term Bachnag is derived.
The use of snake's venom as an antidote for snakebite was recognised in India since ancient times. The word Biscobra which is one of the terms used for snake's venom in western medical lexicon is derived from the Sanskrit term Vishakapra.
This is the name of a tree whose seeds were used for extracting oil which was used in the treatment of leprosy in ancient India. This remedy was transmitted to foreign countries alongwith the name of the oil. The English word Chaulmoogra originates from the Indian term for it. This is corroborated by the Oxford Dictionary.