The arsenic and mercury-containing Tanjore pills used in treating snake bites in the 18th century

Ramya Raman, Anantanarayanan Raman, P. Ram Manohar

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Abstract

Information on animal venoms and plant and mineral-based poisons along with remedial procedures is available plentifully in ancient Indian texts, such as the Atharva Véda. As early as the 4th Century BC, poison therapists known as the Agandankarãs existed in India. Arthasãstra (2nd century AD?) includes references to protecting the King from being poisoned. Sušruŧa Samhitã and Çaraka Samhitã include hints on poisoning army animals and royal families. Nearly 40,000 human fatalities occurred annually due to half a million snake bites until the early years of the 20th century. Until the knowledge of using anti-venom - based on immunological principles - came into effect, venomous snakes were a major threat to humanity. At this point, we need to remember the trail blazing work of the French physician-microbiologist Léon Charles Albert Calmette (1863-1933), a protégé of Louis Pasteur, on antivenins with gratitude.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1759-1763
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Science
Volume106
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

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