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Mercury as an Antisyphilitic in Ayurvedic Medicine


Wujastyk, Dagmar (2015). Mercury as an Antisyphilitic in Ayurvedic Medicine. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 69(4):1043-1067.

Abstract

In the sixteenth century, a new disease appeared in India. Described for the first time in the ayurvedic classic Bhāvaprakāśa by Bhāvamiśra, it was called phiraṅgaroga, “disease of the Franks”. Given the name and what we know from contemporary reports of European observers in India, this was very likely the correlate to the so-called “French disease” or “Morbus Gallicus”, i.e., syphilis. The Bhāvaprakāśa describes the symptoms and various stages of phiraṅgaroga and presents seven different cures. Five of these prescribe the use of mercury: Three recipes for the ingestion of mercury, one recipe for using mercury as a fumigant and one in which mercury is rubbed into the patient’s hands. In this chapter, I will discuss Bhāvamiśṛa’s representation of the disease and the therapies he proposes for it. I will in particular analyze the use of mercury in the anti-phiraṅgaroga medicines, contextualising them within the history of the use of mercury in ayurvedic medicine and exploring possible links with antisyphilitic therapies in European, Persian, Arabic and Chinese medicine.

Abstract

In the sixteenth century, a new disease appeared in India. Described for the first time in the ayurvedic classic Bhāvaprakāśa by Bhāvamiśra, it was called phiraṅgaroga, “disease of the Franks”. Given the name and what we know from contemporary reports of European observers in India, this was very likely the correlate to the so-called “French disease” or “Morbus Gallicus”, i.e., syphilis. The Bhāvaprakāśa describes the symptoms and various stages of phiraṅgaroga and presents seven different cures. Five of these prescribe the use of mercury: Three recipes for the ingestion of mercury, one recipe for using mercury as a fumigant and one in which mercury is rubbed into the patient’s hands. In this chapter, I will discuss Bhāvamiśṛa’s representation of the disease and the therapies he proposes for it. I will in particular analyze the use of mercury in the anti-phiraṅgaroga medicines, contextualising them within the history of the use of mercury in ayurvedic medicine and exploring possible links with antisyphilitic therapies in European, Persian, Arabic and Chinese medicine.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 69 (2015) > 4
08 Research Priority Programs > Asia and Europe
Dewey Decimal Classification:950 History of Asia
180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:25 Feb 2016 11:35
Last Modified:14 Feb 2018 11:23
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2015-1046

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