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What is Kshara?

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  • Written By: M. Haskins
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Kshara, or kshar, is an alternative medical treatment developed within traditional Ayurvedic medicine for disorder management. It involves the use of an alkaline mixture of herbs and ashes, sometimes called kshara powder, that has caustic properties. In India, this treatment is quite commonly used to treat skin conditions like abscesses, warts, tumors and ulcers. Kshar is also involved in an Ayurveda treatment called kshara sutra, commonly used in India to treat anal fistulas and hemorrhoids. In this treatment, the caustic mixture is applied to a thread or string, which is then tied around the unwanted tissue to remove it.

Ayurvedic medicine, or Ayurveda, is a form of traditional medicine developed in India. The Ayurvedic texts were written in Sanskrit, and in this language, "kshar" means a caustic or alkaline substance. Kshara is based on medical practices mentioned in old Ayurvedic texts, but has been developed further by Ayurvedic practitioners in the past century.

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To prepare this Ayurveda treatment, various whole plants and herbs are burned and the ashes are then treated and mixed with various other medicinal ingredients before being applied to the body. Two common plants used are Euphorbia nerrifolia, a species of tree, and Achyranthes aspera, a medicinal herb. The ashes contain various chemicals like sodium, potassium, sulfur and phosphorous. Apart from its caustic properties, kshara powder is thought to have antimicrobial, healing and cleansing properties. The powder is made in three different strengths depending on the patient's physical state, and the medical condition being treated: mridu, or diluted; madhyam, or medium; and tikshane, or strong.

Kshara sutra is Sanskrit for "caustic thread," and in this treatment, the kshar mixture is used to coat a linen thread several times. This thread is then allowed to dry before it is tied around the affected area, usually a fistula, tumor or hemorrhoid. The caustic materials on the thread slowly cut through unwanted tissue until it is removed. It can take one to three weeks and repeated applications of kshara sutra to complete the treatment. Studies show that the treated thread usually cuts through tissue at a rate of 0.4 inches (1 cm) per week.

Proponents of this treatment claim it is preferable over surgery and other mainstream medical treatments because there is no bleeding, faster healing and no scarring. Clinical studies have been done, supporting some of these claims, but this remains an alternative medical treatment. Kshara is not recommended for pregnant women, children or older people. It is advisable to consult a physician before using this treatment.

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