For effective use of minerals in traditional medicine, research and database development of minerals should be enhanced and herbo-mineral preparations standardised.

These were some of the recommendations that were made in the fourth annual health conference in Thimphu last week.

Speaking about exploring the rare minerals in traditional medicines, a teacher of Wangbama Central School, Karma Yeshi, said that there were 120 minerals that were identified in the Sowa Rigpa medical textbook. “However, it was found that only 28 of these minerals are currently used in the country.”

Of the 120 minerals, maximum were oxides and carbonates.

Karma Yeshi said that most of the minerals were not found in the country. “Of the 28 minerals used in the country, one had to be imported from the neighbouring countries such as India, and Nepal.”

These 28 ingredients have to date created about 108 herbo-medical formulations. These formulations are used to treat about 135 bio-medically defined illnesses.

One of the challenges in usage of minerals as ingredients in traditional medicines was the rarity of minerals.

He said that almost 75 percent of these minerals were imported. “Of the 28 mineral ingredients, five are from precious metal and stone, 10 from earth, mud and rocks, while eight are extracted from salts, and five from essences and exudates.”

He said that another challenge was that minerals were expensive. “An agate, for example, cost about USD 39,000, which would make the medicines expensive. Controlling the quality of medicines was also difficult.”

He said that minerals were geo-hazardous due to harmful radiation. “While minerals in correct dose are beneficial, consumption of high dosage of minerals needs to be monitored. Its use needs to be careful.”

Some of the recommendations made were to focus on research, to document and to develop database of minerals used in traditional Bhutanese medicine. Karma Yeshi said, “We also need to standardise the herbo-mineral preparations to ensure productivity and scientific validity.”

He said that existing quality control laboratories require both expertise and advanced quality testing technologies. “Studies on medical mineral ingredients whether available in the country needs to be conducted.”

He said the import of low quality or contaminated minerals needed to be controlled. “More comprehensive quality control parameters need to be established.”

Opportunities to conduct research on minerals detoxification, methods, use, dosage and effects in herbo-mineral formulations were also discussed.

Rinchen Zangmo