Sri Lankan Ayurveda

Dominik Wujastyk d.wujastyk at UCL.AC.UK
Sat Aug 15 13:31:07 UTC 2009

On Fri, 14 Aug 2009, Dipak Bhattacharya wrote:

> This is very useful and encourages me to put a question. A student of 
> mine working on Atharvavedic herbal plants says that he has some 
> evidence for the currency of opium or a drug producing similar effects 
> in the Atharvaveda. That, he thinks, was not marijuana. The existing 
> theory is that opium was introduced in India much later. Is there any 
> study or theory that opium was developed independently in India? I will 
> see to it that any information given to us on this is gratefully 
> acknowledged . Best DB

Personally, I am certain that Papaver somniferum L. is not known before 
the second millennium AD in India.  One can see how confused 
medical authors are about it, even as late as the commentators on 
Sarngadhara's Sarngadharasamhita (ca 1400).  The Sanskrit name is a 
transparent borrowing from Greek.

To establish earlier existence in S. Asia, one would have to
tick several boxes, including,
1. convincing physical description of the plant
2. plausible account of it's effects on the human body (constipation, 
3. plus the quality of being vyaapin.

Cf my essay on cannabis, that is relevant in terms of methodology for this 
kind of study, and cites important earlier landmark studies, including one 
by Meulenbeld:

Wujastyk, D. "Cannabis in Traditional Indian Herbal Medicine"
Salema, A. (ed.) Ayurveda at the Crossroads of Care and Cure. Proceedings 
of the Indo-European Seminar on Ayurveda held at Arrábida, Portugal, in 
November 2001 Centro de História del Além-Mar, Universidade Nova de 
Lisboa, 2002 pp. 45-73.

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