ANTHRAX IN AYURVEDA
By Dr. Gauri Junnarkar.
Anthrax is a disease of domestic animals where domestic animals get infected first by bacillus
anthraces and this disease then spreads in humans by inhaling and ingesting spores of bacillius anthracis.
This disease is mainly found in farmers, butchers and dealers in hides. Inoculation of spores is usually subcutaneously. The incubation period of the disease is 1-3 days. The symptoms described in modern medicine are as follows.
• Sub cutaneous
- cutaneous lesion formation as itching, papule, which enlarges and forms a vesicle filled with sero-sanguineous fluid surrounded by gross edema. The legion is painless accompanied by slight enlargement of regional lymph nodes. The vesicle dries to form a thick Escher surrounded by blebs. It is accompanied by symptoms of fever, toxemia and fatal septicemia.
Ingestion - Ulcer with surrounding edema develops in pharynx and gastro-enteritis on ingestion of meat of infected cattle.
Inhalation - Symptoms of acute laryngitis, virulent hemorrhagic bronchopneumonia, meningitis, i.e. fever, headache, cough dyspnoea, chest pain develops on inhalation of spores.
After going through the description of this deadly disease given in modern medicine, a question arises whether our ancestors knew about this disease, have they described a similar disease in their classical texts. To find a solution to this disease we shift our attention to ‘Ayurveda’ the ‘Indian system of traditional medicine’. We come across a lot of references in classical Ayurvedic texts which can be compared to ‘Anthrax.’
In charak Samhita a chapter called ‘ Janopadhodhwansa’ (chapter on epidemics) is dedicated to diseases causing epidemics. It says that when air, water, country and time get polluted, they cause diseases in animals. The root cause of an epidemic is unreligious behavior like engaging in war. War leads to use of chemical and biological weapons, which pollute the atmosphere and cause diseases in man.
A reference on infectious diseases is also found in ‘Ayurveda’. The cause for infectious diseases (Agantuk Roga ) is given as microscopic organisms (bhutas), cutaneous contact, and polluted air. According to Sushrut Samhita (Su/slutra/24/7) infection spreads by contact with infected persons and articles. Charak Samhita says that infectious disease develops in man due to ingestion of decayed and infected meat. Charak Samhita that disease-causing microbes are so minute that they cannot be seen by naked eye, are round and usually found in blood.
The symptoms found in Anthrax infection can be compared to the various symptoms found in the ‘imbalance of strotasas’ (Strotodushti).
In Pranwaha strotas imbalance, symptoms like prolonged inhalation, dyspnoea, pain while inhalation creeps, ronchi on inhalation, can be compared to the symptoms in broncho-pneumonia, which occurs in pulmonary anthrax.
In Raktawaha strotas imbalance, eating stale purified food is given as the main causes for pustules and skin diseases.
In Mansawaha strotas imbalance, heavy and not easily digestible food ingestion is given as the main reason for development of mansawaha strotas diseases. Laryngitis, Tonsillitis, enlargement of cervical lymph nodes can be cited as the diseases caused by imbalance of mansawaha strotas.
Manifestation of fever due to ingestion of heavy and indigestible food is given as the major disease of Rasawaha strotas.
A reference in ‘Bhel Samhita’ describes that cows and buffalos get infected with a special type of disease, which affects their legs and throats ultimately leading to their death. The microbes of these diseases enter humans causing the same disease in them. This can be compared to Anthrax.
Other comparable references are given below
Abhishangaj Jwar - (Su/uttar/39/38)
Abhishangaj Jwar is caused by minute living organisms which are called ‘bhutas’ because they are invisible to the naked eye.
Vishesh Sannipataj Jwar - (Su/uttar/39)
Dryness of throat, difficulty in speaking, Dyspnoea, anorexia are the symptoms of Vishesh Sannipataj Jwar comparable to pulmonary anthrax.
Sannipataj Jwar - (Charak/chikitsa-3/90-94)
Charak has described a type of ‘Asadhya Sannipataj Jwar’ which has symptoms similar to anthrax. It is described as incurable and death causing. The symptoms are pain in the throat, cough, dyspnoea, chest pain and fever.
• Asadhya Jwar - (Madhav Nidan /Jwar Nidan/72)
Madhav Nidan also describes a disease called Asadhya Jwar similar to anthrax. The symptoms are described as unconsciousness, watering of eyes, dyspnoea, hiccough, and thirst which are comparable to Anthrax.
In modern medicine Anthrax patients are treated by giving antibiotics like penicillin, Tetracycline and ciprofloxacin .
According to Ayurveda Sanjeevani Vati, Mahamrutyunjaya Rasa, Arogyawardhini, along with Amritarishta can be given as natural antibiotic drugs supporting the modern drug therapy. These Ayurvedic drugs act as immune system boosters, can be useful to improve the immune system and also as preventive medicine.
Herbs like Tulsi (Oscimum Sanctum), Neem (Azadarichta indica), Punarnava (Boerhava diffusa), Amrita (Tinosporacordifolia), and Harida (Currucuma longa) act as natural anti-microbial agents and can be used in combination.
Vaccination against Anthrax is an important preventive measure. According to Ayurveda to refresh the atmosphere and reduce air-borne infection Guggul (Commiphora Mukul) and Ral (Raisins) should be burnt. The above mentioned Ayurvedic herbs act as ‘Rakshoghna’ i.e. protecting against the ‘bhutas’ (micro-organisms). The fumes of these herbs kill the microbes present in the air thereby purifying the atmosphere.