After therapeutics comes the subject of Medical Botany. Sushruta divides the whole vegetable kingdom into Vriksha, Gulma, Vanaspati and Virudha. This classification has been minutely worked out in works on Hindu Botany where we find such nice subdivisions as Agravija (whose toplings are only planted), Mulaja (whose roots only are planted), Parnayoni, Skandaja, Vijaruha (germinated from seeds) and Sannurudhaja. But the botany of Sushruta is more of the nature of a" Materia Medica than a work on Botany proper, though sometimes he mentions the habitat and describes the foliage of certain plants so that they may be distinguished from others of a cognate species.
Charaka Samhita, Chikitsa Sthanam. Ch. VI. 23.
† The efficacy of such exclusion has been lately demonstrated by the researches of Dr. Benjamin Horniman (Lectures, Sanitarium, Park st. London.)
Charaka Chikitsha. Sthanam Ch, XIII.
1bid Chap. 13.
Charaka Chikitsha Sthanam Chap. l2.
The uses of metals and minerals for therapeutical purposes in India are as old as the Rigveda * itself. Sushruta describes the methods of preparing oxides, sulphates or chlorides of the six metals as the case may be. Mercury has been only once mentioned in the Samhita and then very vaguely too. Processes for the preparation of alkalis and the lixiviation of ashes are very elaborately described. Beyond these the chemical knowledge of Sushruta scarcely extends.
As a writer of Hygiene and public health, Sushruta emphasises the importance of cleanliness of both spirit and body. Water whose disinfecting virtues have so often been hymnised in the Vedas † forms the subject of discussion of an entire chapter of the Samhita. Outbreaks of epidemic have been attributed to contrary seasons, to the floating of minute particles of poisonous flower pollen in the air, and to the sin or unrighteous conduct of the community. Earthquakes, famines, and physical phenomena, which are at present attributed to magnetic disturbances of the earth have been described by Sushruta as the usual precursors of devastating epidemics such as plague etc. Mortality among birds and an unusual death among rats and other burrowing rodents have been included among other presaging indications of a visitation by Providence. Interrogated as to the cause of such outbreaks, Dhanvantari observes that, the Vayu (molecular energy) of the soil is disturbed or affected by earthquakes, and seasons of unnatural drought or deluge, deranging their Pittam (kinetic energy) and Shleshma (humidity) which produce morbific factors that affect a whole community. Sushruta, as a true physician, has elaborately dealt with the regimen of diet and conduct during the different seasons of the year (Ch. 24 - U. T. 64) which, strictly followed, should act as a good prophylaxis against attacks of many epidemic diseases, being framed with a most careful regard to the conditions of life which obtain in it, and ward off those sad breakdowns in health, which are, in many instances, the result of an unsuitable mode of living in this country.
* Lead crystals (including diamond) gold and mineral poisons are mentioned in the I. 16. I. 29. I 55. and IV 10. of the Atharva Samhita.
Rik Samhita I. 23 s. 19.