Allow me to share a recent polite exchange of correspondence, apparently on the subject of black salt. It is about much more than black salt however, and sheds some light on the limitations of blind faith.
BW writes: “Namaste,
I have been looking at your site, and noticed an article about black salt. I notice that you mention that in Ayurvedic medicine, black salt (kala namak) is thought to contain less sodium that ordinary (sea) salt. Last year I bought packets of kala namak in India, and after seeing the original article on Wikipedia decided to analyse the salt myself (I am an analytical chemist (35 years experience)). I found the kala namak to be almost entirely sodium chloride, with only minute traces of potassium and other elements.
It would appear that the Ayurvedic beliefs are incorrect in this case (as in many cases), but more imporantly people are taking kala namak in the ignorance that it is low salt. I urge you to point this out, please.
Thanks, B W”
“Hello B, thanks for your letter.
I presume the quote you are referring to is:
… “Black salt is considered a cooling spice in ayurvedic medicine and is used as a laxative and digestive aid. It is also believed to relieve intestinal gas and heartburn. It is sometimes used by people with high blood pressure or on low-salt diets because it is lower in sodium and purportedly does not increase sodium content in the blood.”
It is well known to be cooling, a digestive and a laxative. I have experienced all these benefits on many occasions.
I am not a physician, so the ability of kala namak to not increase sodium in the blood is beyond the scope of my experimentation.
Please note this: I went shopping to an Indian food emporium the other day and asked for black salt. They offered me something which resembled normal cooking salt with a pink colour (rather than the pink powdered black salt pictured above). It was obviously not the real thing. I asked for the whole black salt, large squarish dark purple crystalline rocks. This is real black salt.
I presumed you analysed the real thing and not the common cheap substitute? There is little regulation in the Indian food industry, so one has to be careful what one buys.
I am not a scientist, but allow me to make these observations:
The amount of sodium something physically contains may or may not account for a proportionate increase of sodium content in the blood when it is ingested. There are other famous salts like Celtic Salt which also does not apparently increase sodium levels anywhere near as much as cheap and nasty cooking salt.
And…lemon, for instance, is acidic, but when ingested has an alkaline effect on the body, as opposed to vinegar which has an acidic effect.
Food science and absorbtion of nutrients is a very subtle science.
Allow me to humbly suggest: perhaps it is a bit unfair of you to presume to dismiss Ayurveda on the strength of one lab observation on one product you picked up in an Indian market. Ayurveda is not belief. Many reputable western-trained doctors would agree that real Ayurveda (not ‘pop’ ayurveda) is as much a highly respected science as your chemistry.
Offered with respects,
B W responds “Hello Kurma,
I thank you for your kind reply, and the spirit with which it was sent, and received. However, I would like to take issue with its contents, not to be argumentative, but because I believe people could be under a grave misconception, and could endanger their life.
The black salt I analysed (and I admit it was only one sample, so may be I was unlucky, but there is no way of knowing without resampling many examples, however, if I found it once, that makes me worry!) contained nearly pure sodium chloride, and very little else. The only way you could have experienced what you did, (cooling, etc.) is either that it was not black salt or from a different source which may in fact be completely different (it would have to be to give you your apparent relief) or it is that you only believe it affected you. I would tend to think it was the latter. Black salt has never had any affect that you suggest, and I don’t believe it would!
My common sense is based on modern science, not pre-science beliefs which are harmful to mankind. I know I will not convince you of this, and can only hope you live a long and happy life, but you are also in a position to influence others, I hope you will sleep peacefully.
The point about the pink powder you were offered as black salt. Kala namak is composed of deep violet crystals (the form I brought from India), smells of hydrogen sulphide, and contains black specks of heavy metals and iron. When ground, the violet crystals provide a pink powder. This is expected.
As to the salt not increasing the amount of sodium in the blood, from a scientific point of view (and the only one I am prepare to accept) there is no foundation for this whatsoever. And I ask you again to reconsider your advice to others.
As for lemon having an ‘alkali’ effect on the body, this is pure fairy story stuff I’m afraid.
Let me assure you that there is nothing scientific about Ayurvedic medicine, just google ‘Ayurveda and heavy metals’ to see how toxic some of the ‘medicines’ really are. Things that are supposed to help with health seem to be doing the opposite, clinically, if not psychologically.
I respond: “Hello B,
Thanks for your letter.
I appreciate and accept it in the concerned spirit it was offered.
If I was a debating man, which I am not, I would bother to respond to some of your points, many of which I found to be arrogant, patronising and presumptious.
But I will refrain because it seems you have a stubborn, perjorative and unbudging predilection to what appears to me a very narrow sense of ‘western-biased’ empiricism, one which presumes anything from ‘the east’ is childish, primitive and unscientific; or in your words, ‘pre-science’. This term of yours really sums up an unfortunate state of affairs: The arrogant, closed-mindedness of modern medical science.
B says: “Hello Kurma,
I am sorry you have reacted this way. You will believe what you want to believe. In my ‘Western’ way, I believe what can be proven.
I am sorry that I have upset you.
Kindest regards, B W ( M.Sc. F.R.S.C.)”
I reply: “Hello Bryan,
I am not at all upset. Just stating what I see as ‘facts’, not belief, just as you are. I enjoyed our cyber Tête à Tête .
Vive la Différence!
Bryan concludes: “Dear Kurma,
Great philosophers (Western and Eastern) will say there are no such things as facts, only beliefs; I’m prepared to accept their wisdom.
I wish you a happy and long life.
I conclude: “Dear Bryan,
Not sure I entirely agree on that perspective about ‘no such thing as facts’. But I do know that what you call science is also based on a great deal of faith.
Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful benediction. I return your blessings!
Posted by Kurma on 30/8/07; 7:41:21 AM