Exploring The Usage Of Minerals In Traditional Bhutanese Medicine

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One of the challenges in the usage of minerals as ingredients in traditional medicine is the rarity of minerals.

Representative mineral ingredients in the Sowa Rigpa medicine (photo courtesy: PW). (A) dorji-phalam (diamond); (B) d.ngul (silver); (C) nal (morganite); (D) g.yu (turquoise); (E) byi-ru (red coral); (F) g.zi (Tibetan agate); (G) mu-men (lazurite); (H) spang-ma (malachite); (I) smug-po-sbal-rgyab (hematite); (J) ain-dra-ni-la (sapphire); (K) sin-dhu-ra (limonite); (L) ldong-ros (realgar). (Source: Research Gate/ Karma Yeshi)

 

By Rinchen Zangmo | Kuensel

For the effective usage of minerals in traditional medicine, research and database development of minerals should be enhanced and herbo-mineral preparations standardised.

These were some of the recommendations that were made in the fourth annual health conference in Thimphu in early November.

Speaking about exploring the usage of rare minerals in traditional medicine, a teacher of Wangbama Central School, Karma Yeshi, said that there were 120 minerals that were identified in the Sowa Rigpa medical textbook.

 

Sowa Rigpa (Tib. གསོ་བ་རིག་པ་) the ‘Science of Healing’

Source: Skypressbooks/sowa-rigpa

 

“However, it was found that only 28 of these minerals are currently used in the country.”

Karma Yeshi said that most of the minerals are not found in the country. “Of the 28 minerals used in the country, one had to be imported from the neighbouring countries such as India and Nepal.”

These 28 ingredients have to date been used to create about 108 herbo-medical formulations to treat about 135 bio-medically defined illnesses.

Challenges faced in the usage of minerals in Bhutanese traditional medicine

One of the challenges in the usage of minerals as ingredients in traditional medicine is the rarity of minerals.

Karma Yeshi revealed that almost 75 percent of these minerals were imported.

“Of the 28 mineral ingredients, five are from precious metal and stone, 10 from earth, mud and rocks, while eight are extracted from salts, and five from essences and exudates.”

 

 

Source: Sciencedirect

 

He added that another challenge is that minerals were expensive.

“An agate, for example, cost about USD 39,000, which would make the medicine expensive. Controlling the quality of medicine was also difficult.”

Karma Yeshi explained that minerals can be geo-hazards due to the harmful radiation they emit.

“While minerals in correct doses are beneficial, the consumption of high dosage of minerals needs to be monitored. Its use needs to be careful.”

Suggestions made during the fourth annual health conference in Thimphu

Some of the recommendations made during the conference were: to focus on research, to document and to develop a database of minerals used in traditional Bhutanese medicine.

Karma Yeshi said, “We also need to standardise the herbo-mineral preparations to ensure productivity and scientific validity.”

He added that the existing quality control laboratories require both expertise and advanced quality testing technologies and the import of low quality or contaminated minerals also needed to be monitored closely.

“Studies on medical mineral ingredients in the country needs to be conducted and more comprehensive quality control parameters need to be established.”

 

This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.

 


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