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Traditional healing

On salt

Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy

Editor’s note:

Our body chemistry comprises nearly sixty-five percent of water, almost the proportion of sea upon the earth. Given the fact that life evolved first in the sea, it is understandable that a subtle link exists between the two. Body chemistry is one such aspect. This article explores the many uses of salt, especially medicinal, its various types and formulations etc. This type of pharmacopoeia, though almost unknown to our modern generation, has helped many of the previous ones to pass through the ups and downs of physical health. A systematic study of some of these formulations may well yield fruitful results and we may rediscover some simple cures for complicated diseases.

Saline substances used in medicine are of two kinds: salts and saline earths. And among the salts, there are two types — those that exist as such which are known as natural salts and those prepared artificially by man. There are three natural salts: saindhava (born in Sindh, samudra (of the sea) and sambhar found in the deserts.

Suśruta described eight salts: (i) saindhava, (ii) Sāmudra, (iii) vi lavaa (smelling like faecal matter), (iv) Suvarcala, (v) romaka, (vi) audbhida (meaning ‘breaking out’) and (vii) guika (globular in form). The first five, the pañca lavaa, constitute a group or pentad of salts and are often used as a combine in medicine. They are carminative (expelling gases from the digestive tract), laxative (i.e. mildly purgative), stomachic (good for the stomach) and a tonic. They are used in traditional medicine for colicky pains of the stomach and intestine, indigestion and enlargement of the liver and spleen.

1. Saindhava lavaṇa

Is procured from Sindh, along the banks of the river Indus or Sindhu. This is a rock salt or mineral halite. Medicinally, it is considered the best among salts. There occur three varieties here — white, red and crystalline. The pure white crystalline salt is what physicians prefer. It is considered superior to all other salts in treating alimentary disorders.

2. Sāmudra lavaṇa

Is obtained from evaporation of seawater in salt pans, through the action of the sun. Such a sun-dried salt, which can be obtained from any saline water is laxative and somewhat bitter in taste. Its properties are the same as those of rock salt, though some people still consider it impure and therefore prefer rock salt. Cloth pieces boiled in 120 tolās of water containing 1 tolā of this salt are good for dressing and washing wounds, abscess and ulcers.

3. Viṭ lavaṇa

Is an artificially prepared salt with reddish-brown shining granules. It is commercially manufactured in north India, chiefly at the Bhiwani district in Haryana. It is also called Kṛṣṇa lavaṇa or sañcal in Sanskrit and black salt in English, kalanimak in Hindi, kale num in Bengali and kalamith in Marathi. This has a mild saline and somewhat sulphurous taste. It is reddish-brown in colour and consists mostly of sodium chloride with traces of sodium sulphate (chiefly responsible for the smell), aluminium, magnesium, ferric oxide and iron sulphide. When treated with acid, it gives rise to minute quantities of sulphurated hydrogen. The taste of this gas can be distinctly felt when placed in the mouth. There are a few methods of manufacturing this salt.

(i) 56 pounds of sambhar salt are mixed with 29 ounces of dried emblic myrobhan (Terminalia chebula) or harada. One fourth of this material is put into a round earthen pot with a narrow mouth. This is then placed on a clay fireplace (chulah) which has an opening at the base for inserting firewood. When the fire has been burning for an hour and the materials inside the pot have become hot, the rest of the mixture is added by degrees. The entire contents are then exposed to a strong red heat for about six hours, after which the fire is allowed to die away and the pot cool down. Upon breaking open, the pot will contain about 48 pounds of the viṭ lavaṇa.

(ii) 82 pounds of common salt, one pound of the fruits of Terminalia chebula, one pound of the fruit of Emblica officinalis (āmalaka) and one pound of impure carbonate of soda are mixed and heated in an earthen pot till they are well-mixed. The pot is then taken out and allowed to cool down completely. The result is a hard cellular mass which is the viṭ lavaṇa.

Medicinally, it is carminative, laxative, a tonic and stomachic. It is beneficially employed against many diseases, such as enlargement of the liver and spleen, flatulence, colic, indigestion and complaints of the bowels.

4. Suvarcala lavaṇa

It is called sanchal in Hindi, saurasthira mirithik in Bengali and turai mannu in Kannada. Unlike the two above, this salt is reddish-grey due to trace minerals and iron. It is not agreeable as a table salt due to its distinctive flavour. It is prepared by dissolving common salt in a solution of sajji matti or crude natural soda and evaporating it. It contains sodium sulphate with sodium chloride. This salt is stomachic, digestive, purgative, demulcent (soothing and allaying irritation) and bilious. In case of colicky pains, a powder of nitre, black pepper and suvarcala salt in equal proportions are recommended in doses of 10 grains in lime juice. It improves the eyesight. It can be used by people with hypertension where common salt cannot be given because unlike common salt it does not increase the sodium content of the blood.

5. Romaka lavaṇa

Is also called śākambhari, sambhar lavaṇa and goda lavaṇa in Sanskrit. In Hindi, it is known as savara mith; in Marathi, sambar mith. It is obtained from evaporating saline water from the river Sambhar in Rajasthan, India to form clear rhomboidal crystals similar to alum or fitkari. This salt has a pungent taste. It is laxative and diuretic in action apart from the other usual properties of salts. Among the evaporated salts, this is considered the best.

6. Audbhida lavaṇa

Or pearl ash is a natural efflorescence, made by ‘breaking open’ plants, rocks or waters to release the salts of potassium carbonate, sodium chloride, sodium sulphate and frequently magnesium sulphate. They are alkaline, bitter, pungent in taste and nauseating. In some areas of Punjab they are so abundant in the soil that the whole land has now become barren.

The term yavakṣāra as audbhida lavaṇa is applied to the impure carbonate of potash which is also called salt of tartar, pearl ash and potash in English. Sanskrit has another name, dāru lavaṇa, for it. In Arabic and Hindi, it is javakhar or khar; in Gujarati, kharo; in Marathi, jadichamitha; in Konkani, papad khar (an alkali used for preparing papads); in Tamil, marauppu (tree salt) or sambaluppu, gayacharam; in Kannada, marada uppu (salt from a tree) and in Malayalam, kharam (the alkali) and papataka mora uppu (a tree salt used in preparing papad).

It is found in all the three kingdoms of nature — plant, animal and mineral. In the vegetable kingdom, it is found either as carbonate of potash or as potash in combination with other organic acids. Plants absorb it from the soil and when burnt or incinerated, their ashes yield yavakṣāra. Succulent (i.e. fleshy and watery) plants contain greater proportions of this salt than woody plants or woody parts of plants. The knowledge about impure potassium carbonate and its value in medicine has been handed down from ancient times.

The main source of this salt in India is from wood ashes that are rich with potash since it is an indispensable element for the growth of most plants. However, all plants are not equally valuable as yielders of potash. For instance, if a plant is mostly composed of silica and phosphoric acid, the ashes do not serve for manufacturing potash, as happens in straw-ash. The value of any wood as a prospective yielder of potash is directly dependent upon the potassium carbonate it contains plus the abundance of the wood itself and the cost of the labour involved. Some of the woods used for this purpose and the amount of potash they yield in 1000 parts are as follows: Pine 0.45, Oak 1.53, Willow 2.85, Wheat straw 3.90, Barley straw 5.80, stems of Maize 6.5 and Dried wheat plant before blooming 47.00. Barley or yava has been a traditional source of this salt, which is why the salt itself has been called yavakṣāra. Green spikes of barley are burnt to ash and then separated from the salts.

There is also a mineral source of this salt. In some rocks, it exists as sulphates, nitrates, carbonates and silicates and appears in felspar of granite. It is also obtained from fusing rock salt. In addition, it happens to be an ingredient of several mineral waters and hot springs, which is one of the reasons for their medicinal properties.

In the bodies of animals too, this is an essential constituent. It is found in the milk, flesh and urine of animals that consume citrate or tartrate of potassium. It is prepared by reducing to ashes the green spikes of barley, dissolving them in water, straining the resultant solution through a thick cloth and evaporating it over a fire. The resultant salt is a clear amorphous powder with a salty and partly acidic taste. Chemically it is a carbonate of potash mixed with some impurities.

This salt is used medicinally as a stomachic, laxative, diuretic antacid, resolvent (bringing about a melting or causing a break-up) and alterative (capable of altering many vital functions of the body along desirable lines). It finds extensive use in the systems of Eyurveda and Siddha medicine, both of which regard it as bitter and salty in taste; hot in potency; bitter in post-assimilation; strong and acute in action; dry in quality and light on digestion. It is effectively used for ascites due to vāta, urinary difficulties and stones, enlargement of spleen, plethora (or rakta pitta) and as a heart tonic.

Many types of afflictions of the urinary tract react very well and beneficially to the use of this salt. Some of them are urinary stones, gravel and cases of uric acid diathesis or predisposition to gout and rheumatism. It is also beneficial for any irritability of the uterus, piles, shooting pains, colic pains, pain in the heart, acid eructation or belching, indigestion, enlargement of lymphatic and secreting glands such as the breasts, testicles, mesenteric and scrophulous glands as well as the liver, spleen and salivary glands.

Sharangadhara, a classical Āyurvedic author of mediaeval times, has commended its use with long pepper for treating an enlarged spleen and liver and in tumours of the abdomen called gulma. It also proves to be an excellent medicine for urinary stones if given with sugar. It is also quite effective against dropsy. Those who indulge in excessive eating and drinking are advised to keep taking this salt. yavakṣāra forms an important ingredient for many compound preparations.

Uses in traditional medicine

i. Bronchitis

10 grains of this salt, 10 drops of the juice of the Adhatoda vasaka (vasaka) leaf, and 5 grains of clove powder mixed together and chewed with betel leaves are helpful for bronchitis.

ii. Dysentery and colic

5 parts each of yavakṣāra, saindhava lavaṇa and dry ginger mixed with 10 parts of harad (Terminalia chebula) taken in doses of 10 grains with buttermilk, conjee or hot tea give great relief against piles, dysentery and colic.

iii. A purgative

A modak or confection of ½ tolā of yavakṣāra,1 ½ tolā of trivrit and triphalā each, ½ tolā each of the seeds of vaya vidaOga (Emblia ribes) and round pepper, all mixed well with sugar and treacle, makes a good purgative. It is very effective at mitigating abdominal cysts, pelvic cellulitis, loss of appetite, intestinal worms and many other diseases due to the aggravation of kapha and vāta.

iv. Glandular swellings

Potassium carbonate, or yavakṣāra, mixed well with sesame oil and boiled to a thick consistency, is applied as a coating covered with betel leaves on glandular swellings in plague. A ball of cotton is then heated over the fire and applied on the covered glands repeatedly to maintain an adequate degree of warmth. This is recommended as an excellent remedy.

v. Skin diseases

A solution of this salt applied locally on chronic skin diseases such as leprosy, filariasis, acne, urticaria and lichen relieves itching and also effects a cure. Its solution is soothing when added to the bath of gout and rheumatic patients. It also helps to release eruptions that are still suppressed in cases of measles, smallpox, scarlatina and so on.

7. Gutika lavaKa

Or globular salt is mentioned by Suśruta and a few other ancient Āyurvedic authors, but this salt cannot be identified at present.

Saline earths

The saline earths are : 1. Javakar, or yavakṣāra (impure nitrate of potash), 2. Navasar or navasagara (ammonium chloride), 3. Sajjikhara (carbonate of soda) and 4. Tankana or Rasa-shodhan ( Sodium borate or crude borax).

1. Javakar or yavakṣāra or potassium nitrate

yavakṣāra is found naturally and extensively in the red-coloured soils of Bengal, Punjab and upper India and is an effervescence of the soil. The samples procurable from the bazaars are generally very impure. To be rendered fit for medicinal use, the earth containing this crude salt is dissolved in water, strained and re-crystallised by boiling and evaporating the solution. It is also collected from the saline earth after the rains, from the lands flooded during the rains, from mud heaps, from mud buildings and so on and then subjected to solution and filtration. Such an impure nitre called dhoah contains about 45-75 percent of the actual salt, the rest being sodium sulphate, sodium chloride and other insoluble matter. This is again dissolved, crystallised and then sold under the name shora kalmi (refined alkali) to druggists.


Saltpetre or nitre or nitrate of potash or purified nitre in English; it is called yavakṣāra in Sanskrit; shora or shorakhar in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Punjabi; shora mith in Marathi; patlu uppu in Telugu; pottil uppu in Tamil; patluppu, sendur lavana in Kannada; veti uppu in Malayalam; abkar in Arabic and by Yunani physicians.


yavakṣāra in solution form is cooling and refreshing, an efficient diuretic and diaphoretic (it induces profuse sweating). It acts on the vascular system, reducing the pulse rate. It is an irritant in solid form or strong solution, but in a weak solution of 1-2 drachms per litre, in warm rice conjee, it forms a very welcome and refreshing drink for patients with fever with a hot, dry skin, parched tongue, excessive thirst and scanty high-coloured urine. If any further flavouring is needed to make it more palatable, it can be sweetened with sugar candy and honey. Alternatively, tamarind or lime juice may be added. This salt is useful in early stages of dropsy. Other diseases where it is beneficial are smallpox, measles, influenza, common cold, gonorrhoea, acute rheumatism, bleeding from internal organs, especially when such a condition is associated with fever.

Uses in traditional medicine


a. For bronchitis in children above 5 years of age, a powder of nitre mixed with sulphate of iron, ammonium chloride and sulphur is given in a dose of one grain.

b. Inhalation of the fumes from burning nitre papers, previously soaked in saturated solution of nitrite and dried, sometimes combined with other similarly useful drugs like datura, give great relief in cases of asthma, chronic bronchitis and spasmodic coughs. Moderately thick blotting papers may be used for this purpose. One or two such papers may be burnt in the patient’s bedroom, but not too near the individual as the fumes can be an irritant. However, their escape outside should also be prevented for some time in order to be more effective.

Liver problems

Āyurvedic physicians strongly recommend the use of a compound preparation called laghu śaaṅkha dravakam for relief in all liver complaints. It smells strongly of nitrous fumes and consists of country nitre, alum or fitkari, yavakṣāra, ammonium chloride, borax, viṭ lavaṇa , gandhaka vadiuppu (a variety of nitre), soda carbonate, ferrous sulphate, copper sulphate and black salt (suvarchala lavaKa), all powdered together and distilled.


a. A mixture of 10 grains of nitre and a glassful of the decoction of Abelmoschus esculentus or okra or bhindi two or three times a day is a good remedy for gonorrhoea.

b. For the same complaint, Zad-garib, a famous Yunani work, recommends a powder constituted by equal parts of saltpetre, cardamom, cubebs, soapstone, olibanum (frankincense) and turmeric. The dosage advised is 3 māṣās or 35 grains, three times a day.


For obstinate cases of leucorrhoea, a combination of 10 grains of saltpetre and 5 grains of alum or fitkari is recommended three times a day. Giving this in an infusion of moringa or drumstick roots, is more beneficial.

Sore throat

For an inflammatory sore throat in its early stages, a popular remedy is to let a small piece of saltpetre dissolve slowly in the mouth.

Skin problems

A solution of yavakṣāra is very useful as a local application for bruises, abrasions and freckles on the surface of the skin.


A lotion made by dissolving two ounces each of saltpetre and salt ammonia in a big bottle of water is applied through pieces of cloth soaked in the solution to relieve headache and delirium in fevers.

Joint pains

For cases of acute and painful rheumatism, a strong solution of saltpetre — three ounces in a pint of water — forms a soothing application for swollen and painful joints. Here also, when pieces of cloth saturated in this solution are constantly kept over the affected areas, the relief secured is quite considerable. This may also be given internally in a dose of 40 grains, increased gradually to 60, 90 or even 120 grains, in half a pint of warm rice conjee, twice a day. The amount of saltpetre may be reduced as the severity of the symptoms — the pain and swelling — subside.

2. Navasāra

Navasāra, as obtained in the bazaars, is generally very impure in dirty white or brownish translucent cakes. It is manufactured from a kind of clay found at Karnal in the Punjab. It is also obtained by the combustion of excretions of various animals or of animal matters or by burning coals or common salt. It is a secondary product in the manufacture of coal gas. It is generally obtained in India from unburnt extremities of brick-kilns in which manure of animals, especially camel dung is used as fuel. To this, coal and common salt are added and sublimed. It is thus obtained in white granular crystals or transparent masses.


Sanskrit — Navasāra; navasāgara, chulikā lavaṇa. English — sal ammoniac. Arabic — armina, milbunnar. Punjabi and Persian — noshadar. Bengali — navasagara, nishadal. Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Konkanese — navsagar. Tamil — nava-charam, nava-charum. Malayalam, Telugu — navasaram.


It is readily soluble in water and is highly deliquescent. It has a saline, disagreeable, nauseous and pungent taste. It can be purified and made into a powder by dissolving in hot water and evaporating to dryness and then bottling. It is alterative, expectorant and cholagogue in small doses; in large doses purgative. It has a marked stimulating action on the mucous membranes, increasing their secretion and on gland structures. It relieves hepatic congestion and modifies hepatic secretions.

Uses in traditional medicine

Liver problems

It is useful in cases of hepatic abscess, chronic hepatic congestion and in dropsy connected with the liver and ovarian diseases, in cirrhosis and in jaundice from catarrh of the bile ducts.

a. For hepatitis, salammoniac 8 to 15 grains, mixed with 105 grains of absinthium (worm wood), rubbed well in a mortar with a little water and given in a single dose will give relief.

b. For hysteria, nervousness, jaundice and other liver complaints and gastric catarrh, doses of 10-20 grains three times daily are beneficial. It is often prescribed as a stimulating expectorant for chronic bronchitis and at pneumonia in the stage of resolution.

c. In case of dropsy due to liver disease and following fevers, it is administered with infusion of moringa or decoction of Asteracantha longifolia.


a. For gastric catarrh and biliousness with coated tongue, foetid breath, flatulence etc. in bronchial and vesical catarrh and for chronic pharyngitis with glairy mucous secretions and whooping cough it is valuable, combined with liquid extract of glycyrrhiza or syrup of country liquorice with a few grains of powdered cinnamon, in cases of whooping cough.

b. In cases of amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, gleet, leucorrhoea, chronic dysentery and other similar chronic discharges from the lungs, stomach and other internal organs it is given dissolved in conjee water (2 drachms to a pint) in wine glassful doses every second or third hour.

Joint problems

For rheumatic affections it is given in an infusion of Indian Sarsaparilla.


In case of intermittent fever, in sick or nervous headaches, acute alcoholism and in delirium tremens its action is very marked, given dissolved in camphor julep.

Chronic inflammatory diseases

a. It is a useful agent in chronic inflammatory diseases of the glands such as thyroid body, liver and spleen and in induration of the uterus, ovaries and the prostate and externally for fomentation in the form of a lotion (1 in 80).


b. Externally its solution combined with nitre is a nice cooling and stimulative application to the head for headache, sprains, rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica , mania and apoplexy, and for inflamed erysipelas and hernial tumours; in inflamed hydrocele, indolent tumours, in enlarged glands, in milk abscesses occurring after confinement and abscesses in other parts of the body before formation of matter, in chronic skin diseases and as a dressing for bruises and blows on the eye (black eye).

c. For milk abscesses etc., it is used as lotion with arrak and rose-water (1 in 8 and 160 parts respectively).

Scorpion bites

Mixed with sulphide of arsenic, it is used as an application to scorpion bites.


Ammonium chloride is recommended for local application in cases of cataract.

3. Sajjikhar

Crude carbonate or sulphate of soda is an alkaline earth found in large quantities where white granite forms the subsoil. It is usually found in hot weather as an efflorescent sandy deposit covering large tracts of open country. The soil surface is scraped off to about three inches deep and then boiled with a little quicklime and made into cubes for sale.

Sajjikhar or carbonate of soda comes in three varieties, easily distinguishable by their own unique characteristics: (i) sajjikhar or barilla, (ii) sajjikhar-nappul or washing soda or soda crystals, and (iii) bangada khara or very impure carbonate of soda, which has a very large quantity of silica.

All of these varieties are obtained from the ashes of a family of plants called Chenopodiaceae, a species of saltworts growing abundantly near the sea. Kelps or large seaweeds or basilla also yield this salt on incineration or burning to ashes. Quicklime added to Dhobi’s earth and boiled repeatedly in water also yields this material. This contains 25 percent of sodium carbonate, along with some impurities of organic matter, sulphate of soda, potash and so on.

It has the physical characteristic of a porous, granular mass, greyish-white in colour or in the form of heavy hard pieces having a strong alkaline taste of soda.


Sanskrit calls it sarjikakṣāra, troṇa or natroṇa. In English, it has many names: Dhobi’s earth, washing soda, sal soda, crude carbonate of soda or sulphate of soda. In Hindi, Marathi, Konkani and Gujarati, it is called sajjikhar, sajikhar; in Tamil, sanchikaram.

Uses in traditional medicine

Most properties are similar to that seen in yavakṣāra but of a rather inferior quality.

It is beneficially used against indigestion accompanied by vomiting, diarrhoea and flatulence. It forms an efficient remedy for urinary diseases. If used regularly, it is useful in glomerulonephritis of the kidney with abundant sediment in the urine and also against diabetes. Given internally, it proves effective for rheumatism and gout. Medicinally, it counteracts the acidity of the stomach; it desirably alters many vital functions of the body.

Gastrointestinal problems

a. Sajjikādya cūrṇa is a powder made up of equal parts of sajjikhara, yavakṣāra and pañca lavaṇa. This is soaked in lemon juice or the juice of pomegranate fruits and dried in the sun. It cures dyspepsia which is followed with severe pains after meals, ascites and loss of appetite. The advised dosage is 10 grains. It is a recommendation of Sharangadhara.

b. A powder of 5 parts each of sajjikhara and yavakṣāra, 4 parts each of dry ginger and suvarcala lavaṇa and 3 parts of pippali is given in hot tea in cases of colic, indigestion, constipation, stomach pain, etc.

Skin problems

a. In cases of herpes of the scalp and in scaly diseases of the skin, its solution is an efficient application.

b. Its saturated solution can be applied to burn injuries, scalding and rheumatic joints. If the burn is of the first degree, a crystal of soda dipped in water and then applied gently over the burnt spot. This gives instant relief. If the burn is of the second and third degree, a compressed wet cloth with a 10 percent solution of the soda is similarly applied.

c. A useful ointment for itching is prepared by mixing 4 parts of sajjikhar, slaked lime and seeds of Psoralea corylifolia (babchi), 1 part of copper sulphate, and 4 parts of ghee.


A weak solution can be injected into the vagina in cases of leucorrhoea.


Yavakṣāra and sajjikhara mixed in equal parts, made into a paste with water and applied to abscesses opens them up and also palliates local inflammation.

4. Tankana khara

Tankana khara occurs as a natural deposit along the banks of dried-up lakes in India and Tibet and also in the mud from the lakes of Nepal. In this crude state, it is called sohago or tinkala. On purification by dissolving in water, straining and filtering through a cloth and evaporation into a crystallised state, it forms the borax or the tankana khara.


In Sanskrit it is also called rasaśodana. In English, it is known as crude borax and is biborate, pyroborate or tetraborate of sodium; in Hindi, Punjabi and Bengali, tinkal, sohaga; in Gujarati, tinkanakhara; in Konkani and Marathi, kankana khara; in Telugu, velligaram; in Tamil, venkaram, vengaram and in Kannada, biligara.


Chemically, borax is composed of boric acid and soda. When it occurs as a natural deposit, it is an impure saline incrustation of a dirty white colour. It is a crystalline, tough mass or an irregular translucent mass to start with but exposure to weather makes it opaque and dirty looking. A variety, called telio tankana, also exists as an impure salt but in small pieces or smooth translucent six-sided prisms. To start with, its colour is a greyish-white but it also becomes a dirty white on exposure to the weather. This has a faint odour of balsam and tastes much like papad khara.

Purification of borax is done by steeping it overnight in conjee or whey and then drying it in the sun.


Medicinally, borax is diuretic, an emmenagogue (rectifying defects in menstruation and its rhythm) and astringent. It counteracts the acidity of the stomach, acts as a local sedative and is also an antiseptic as it kills bacteria.

Tankana khara has many important uses in medicine. It is given internally as well as applied externally.

Uses in traditional medicine

Internal applications

Gynaecological problems

a. Tankana khara is given internally in varying doses up to 10.3 grains, in acidity, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, menorrhagia, puerperal convulsions and to promote uterine pains during labour.

b. In case of prolonged and tedious labour due to want of action or power in the uterus to expel the foetus, and in abortion under the same circumstances, 30 grains of tankana khara with 10 grains of powdered cinnamon in a little warm conjee may be given every one or two hours for three or four doses. This may also be given in convulsions attendant on labour.

c. In cases of absent or irregular menses and in some chronic uterine affections, doses of 10 grains with 10 grains of cinnamon occasionally prove useful.


It is given in uric acid diathesis as a solution in doses from 20 to 40 grains for an adult.


a. In case of the kaphaja type of fevers, a pill called Kapha-ketu rasa made of aconite, tankana khara and reduced conch shells in equal parts, powdered, mixed well and soaked over three times in the juice of fresh ginger and made into pills of two grains each is given with honey and ginger juice. This is used in all sorts of phlegmatic complaints from common catarrh to bronchitis and pneumonia even attended with discharges from the ears and nose.

b. It acts with betel juice in 4 to 8 grain doses as preventive of fever with chills.

Gastrointestinal problems

a. In small doses it is given to children as a laxative.

b. As an antiseptic, it destroys amoebae and giardia, hence is given in the event of foetid stools of diarrhoea of children.

c. Glycerine of borax in 10 to 20 drop-doses is very beneficial in the treatment of summer diarrhoea in infants. It checks the griping pain, deodorises the offensive motions, and stops the diarrhoea.

d. Five-grain doses with treacle has been employed for tumours in the abdomen.

Respiratory problems

a. Due to its sedative action on the mucous membranes, it is beneficial in irritability of the pharynx, in chronic bronchitis of children, in cystitis, etc. A few grains of borax of boric acid will sometimes remove an obstinate cough in a young child, and especially if this be associated with an irritable condition of the pharynx.

b. Five grains of borax and three grains of pepper with a teaspoonful of honey, given thrice a day is very effective for bronchitis and asthma in adults. For children the dose is proportionate to their age. Five grains of borax eaten with betel leaves has been found to be effective.

c. Take some tankana khara, aconite, aplotaxis auriculata, alum, long pepper, embelia ribes, cloves, nutmeg and helleborus niger. Mix and make a pill mass in honey. The dosage is 2 to 5 grains, given with betel leaves, against cough.

d. Take tankana khara 4, pinus longifolia 3, black pepper 2, anacylus pyrethrum 2, datura seeds 3 and aconite 2 parts. Mix, add honey and make a pill mass. This is very effective against asthma.

e. Take tankana khara 2 parts, triphala, dry ginger, long pepper, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, sonchala salt, each 1 part, cinnabar (red mercury), Ferri peroxidum, sulphur, and black pepper each 2 parts and honey 5 parts. Mix and make a pill mass. The dosage is 5 grains for chronic bronchitis with profuse expectoration.


It is used by hakims and vaids in case of convulsions in infants and children in doses of 1 to 5 grains, given in mother’s milk, according to the age of the child. The administration of the drug may be continued for years in doses of 15 to 30 grains thrice a day after meals, without any ill-effects beyond a possible eruption of psoriasis amenable to arsenic. Gastro-intestinal disturbance usually occurs at the beginning of the treatment, but diminution of the dose is said to be all that is necessary to correct this.

b. Take tankana khara, impure carbonate of potash, trikatu, triphala, Curcuma longa, pancha lavana, Cassia lanceolata powder, embelia ribes and aconitum heterophyllum equal parts and balsamodendron mukul equal in weight and add all together. Mix and make a pill mass. The dosage is 3 to 5 grains, given in milk or conjee for gonorrhoea, rheumatism, heart disease, epilepsy, hysteria, etc.

Tankana khara enters into the composition of numerous formulae for dyspepsia, loss of appetite and indigestion, such as the amritakalpa rasa, tankanadi vati, etc.

External applications

a. Externally borax is used in lotion (1 in 40 of water) for acne, freckles, chloasma etc., to allay itching in urticaria, psoriasis, pruritus pudenda, vulvi, scroti and ani, in gangrenous buboes, and sloughing ulcers. It is applied on rags thoroughly over the whole sore and renewed frequently by night and day.

b. For dressing syphilitic sores and other ulcers, and for stimulating them to heal, a favourite application is an ointment of a mixture of tankana khara, sulphur and catechu — a drachm each in fine powder and an ounce of ghee.

c. On sore nipples and in prickly heat and other forms of skin eruptions, a solution of tankana khara (1 in 8) is applied before and after suckling an infant or in the form of an ointment (1 in 8) in ghee. These applications are also serviceable in the events of inflamed and painful piles.

d. For the distressing irritation of the genital organs both in males and females, cloths saturated with a strong solution of tankana khara (1 in 16) kept to the parts afford much relief. In the case of women, the solution should be used in the form of vaginal injection.

e. The solution (1in 5) proves very useful as an injection in cystitis, leucorrhoea and gonorrhoea and in lithic acid deposits.

f. For ringworm, a solution of tankana khar in distilled vinegar (1 in 16) is an effective application.

g. In case of aphthae or thrush and soreness of the mouth or throat, in urethritis, in glossitis, a mixture of one drachm of powdered tankana khara and one ounce of honey or another suitable vehicle, is an excellent application, especially for infants and young children. It should be applied with the finger to the spot twice or thrice daily.

h. For hoarseness of the throat to which singers are liable, it is locally applied with benefit.

i. Boroglycerine (1in 45) is useful as an antiseptic lotion in purulent ophthalmia and diphtheria.

Thus the various salts and their uses in tradition have been enumerated to show how even in ancient times physicians could handle serious ailments with natural medicine.

Another important salt is the common salt. This will be taken up in the next issue of NAMAH.

Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy wrote about medicinal plants as used in the Indian context with deep interest.

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