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Gandhaka or Sulphur is a non-metallic solid element found in nature. It is a yellow crystalline element found free in beds of gypsum and in a state of sublimation in extinct volcanoes. It is also found in combined form with other metal ores. In India, it is mainly found in Jammu and Kashmir.
Gandhak or Sulphur is required in human body for proper functioning. It is the third most abundant mineral (after calcium and phosphorus) based on percentage of total body weight. It is the sixth most abundant macro mineral in breast milk. It is present in saliva, bile, protein, amino acids, and insulin. Sulphur is mainly present in sulfur containing amino acids like cystine. Gandhak in the body purifies blood, aids healthy digestion, and prevents toxic build-up.
In Ayurveda, Gandhak is used in the treatment of variety of diseases since time immemorial. It as a free element cannot be utilized by the body. So in Ayurveda, first it is detoxified to get Shuddha Gandhak, and then given Bhavana of herbal ingredients that make it suitable for use. Shuddha Gandhak is combined with Shuddha Parad or purified mercury to form Kajjali which is further used to prepare Ras-Aushadhy. In combination with mercury it is used in almost all diseases.
- Sanskrit: Gandhak
- Hindi: Gandhak
- English: Brimstone, Sublimed Sulphur
- Bengali: Gandrak, Gandhak
- Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam: Gendagum
- Tamil: Gandakam
- Arab: Kibrika
- Tehran: Gugird-i-zard, Gugird-i-akhmar
- Persia: Gowgird, Gangird
- Malay: Balirang
What is Gandhak?
Gandhak is an Ayurvedic name of Sulfur or Sulphur. Its atomic number is 16. It is denoted by symbol ‘S’. It is a non-metal with chemical formula S8.
Sulphur is found in the craters and crevices of extinct volcanoes where it has been deposited as a direct sublimation product from volcanic gases.
Sulphur also occurs around thermal springs, in salt dome cap-rocks and in sedimentary sequences that contain sulphates along with organic materials like bituminous limestone. Sulphur is frequently found associated with gypsum and limestone.
Sulphur which is found naturally is contaminated with sand, clay, bitumen, foreign matter, and it must be purified by melting in oven or by distilling in closed vessels to use it therapeutically.
There are huge deposits of elemental Sulphur in certain parts of the world especially Poland, Mexico and USA.
In our country, Sulphur is found in very limited amount. The only known natural occurrence is in Tsokar Lake, Leh district in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no mining for Gandhaka in India. Elemental Gandhaka, however, is recovered commercially as a by-product from fertilizer plants at Panipat in Haryana, Naya Nangal and Bhatinda in Punjab and Oil Refinery at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh.
- Nature: Crystalline lumps
- Colour: Sulphur yellow
- Streak: Yellowish white
- Effect of Heat: Gandhaka melts at about 110 degree celcius and burns at 270 degree celcius in air with a bluish flame yielding sulfur-di-oxide (SO2).
Varieties of Sulphur
There are four kind of Sulphur available:
Yellow: Yellow variety is also known as ‘Amlasar gandhaka’. It is semi-transparent crystals resembling fruits of Amla or Indian Gooseberry. Yellow variety is used for internal use.
White: It is also known as ‘Roll sulfur’. It is bitter, astringent and have foul smell. It is mainly used for external use. It is sticky and very brittle.
Red: Rad variety or Lal Gandhak has small irregular crystalline structure with orange-red, purple or brick colour.
Black: Black Sulphur is sublimed Sulphur. It is a purified form of Sulphur prepared by washingGandhaka in milk.
Ayurvedic Properties and Action
Sulphur has bitter astringent taste with a peculiar strong smell. It increases bile, acts as a laxative and alterative. The medicine containing Sulphur are also alterative, laxative, diuretic and insecticide.
Rasa (taste on the tongue): Kashaya (Astringent), Madhura (Sweet), Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
Guna (Pharmacological Action): Ushna (Hot), Snigdha (Unctuous), Sara (Unstable)
Virya: Ushna (Heating)
Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)
Action: Rasayana, Dipana, Pachana, Vatahara, Kaphahara, Balya, Medhya, Pittala, Chakchuya, Krimihara, Sutajit, Kushtha-hara, Ama-shotahara, Sutendraviryaprada, Vatahara.
Gandhak is a stimulant to the secreting organs such as the skin and the bronchial mucous membranes. It has a specific action on the rectum and it increases the haemorrhoidal secretions.
What is Shuddha Gandhak?
Shodhan of Gandhak or Sulphur is always done with ancient process mentioned in Rasa Shastra text to reduce the irritant and toxic effects. Shodhan is the process which removes the impurities to some extent and helps in increasing the therapeutic values of the drugs. The detoxified Sulphur is known as Shuddha Gandhak.
Gandhaka 1 Part
Godugdha Q.S. or Bhringaraja svarasa Pl. Q.S.
Melt small pieces of Gandhaka in an iron pan smeared with Ghrita and pour in to a pot containing Godugdha or Bhringaraja svarasa. Collect after cooling. Repeat the process for seven times. At the end of the seventh process, wash and dry the material.
Shuddha Gandhaka is used in Ayurveda for treatment of wide varieties of diseases including
- Kandu (itching), Kushtha (diseases of the skin)
- Visarpa (erysepales), Dadru (taeniasis)
- Amavata (rheumatism)
- Kapha roga (disease due to kapha dota)
- Garavisha (slow/accumulated poison)
- Pliha roga (splenic disease)
- Kshaya (pthisis), Kasa (cough), shvasa (Asthma)
- Netra roga (diseases of eyes)
- Vata roga (diseases due to Vata dosha)
The Dosage of Shuddha Gandhaka
125 mg – 1 g of Shuddha Gandhaka.
Medicinal Uses of Shuddha Gandhaka
Purified Sulphur is useful in cough, asthma, consumption, general debility, enlargement of the liver and spleen, chronic fevers etc. It is well known medicine for diseases of skin.
In combination with jaggery or cream of milk, it is given in diseases like hemorrhoids, prolapses and stricture, and chronic skin diseases.
In chronic skin diseases Gandhaka Rasayan is used as an alternative.
Gandhak and Yavkakshara, mixed with mustard oil is applied in psoriasis. The ointment of Sulphur is used for the skin complaints and for secondary syphilis. The ointment is useful in fungal infections of skin, scabies, eczema, and for application over chronic infective lesions.
Gandhaka has antibacterial and antifungal activity (Krimighna). It is effective both internally and topically as a microbicide agent.
External use of Sulphur kills bacteria and fungus due to the formation of hydrogen sulphide and pentatonic acid.
Shuddha Gandhak Churna is given in dosage of 500 mg with honey twice a day in the treatment scabies and Kandu (pruritus).
Important Formulations containing Gandhak
Tarunarka rasa, Rasa parpati and many more (it is the main ingredient of Ras aushadhi).
- Impure Gandhak or Sulphur must not be used for internal purpose.
- The internal use of Shuddha Gandhaka/Purified Sulphur, causes smelly urine and sweat.
- In large doses Purified Sulphur is purgative.
- Topical use may cause skin dryness, itching and peeling. Person who is sensitives to Sulphur should not use it.
- Gandhaka ointment should not be used on open wounds and lesions.