Guest Post by Nathan Platt
When ancient people started picking through the topmost layer of earth to find what was buried underneath the soil, the first metal that they came across and started using with purpose was copper. The soft metal was easy to work into useful shapes, and although it was not strong enough to withstand heavy impacts without reforming its shape, it was perfectly suitable for making simple objects such as containers.
Thus began the first practical uses of metal by ancient civilizations some eight thousand years ago, followed quickly by the realization that copper was a particularly good material for holding and storing drinking water. Ancient copper containers dating back thousands of years have been found in civilizations around the world from ancient Egypt, Hindustan, and Central and South America.
Observations From Nature
Long before ancient people began using copper to form basic cups, vases, and storage tanks, other natural substances such as wood and stone were the materials of choice for storing water. They were relatively easy to work into useable shapes and were readily available in practically every region of the planet. But copper soon became the preferred material for holding and storing water, for reasons that modern science has now made clear. For ancient people, the absence of laboratories and precision scientific equipment meant that simply observing the health results of storing water in a copper vessel would have led them to the conclusion that copper was the superior material.
Just as ancient people concluded that copper is a good material for storing water, many of ayurveda's basic tenants of health and wellness are as ancient as humanity's use of copper and come from simple observations about nature's resources and our ability to form a healthy relationship with them. Ayuveda has recorded the natural health benefits of plants, exercises, and behavior patterns for thousands of years, and these tenants are still alive in the ayurvedic practices of today.
In the case of copper, ancient ayurvedic practitioners might have made the observation that people who drank from a copper container or drank water that was stored in a copper container were sick less often than people who drank from containers made from wood, stone, or drank directly from a natural water source. Today we know that this is due to copper's naturally anti-pathogenic properties: copper is particularly effective at reducing and eliminating bacteria, viruses and fungi just by simple contact. In fact, copper can completely eliminate even the most drug-resistant strains of bacteria such as MRSA which traditional antibiotic treatments have trouble dealing with.
An ayurvedic practitioner might also have observed that people using copper vessels to drink water were more likely to have healthy skin and hair, or recover from an injury faster and more completely than expected. This is a result of the critical role that copper plays in the formation of keratin and collagen, two of the key ingredients that make hair thick, strong skin, and build connective tissues that hold our bodies together.
Or the practitioner might have observed a boost in the mental clarity of a person who switched to a copper drinking vessel. Because copper is crucial for transmitting sensory data throughout the central nervous system and facilitates the movement of electrical energy in our brains, this observation would have some basis in fact. These observations, and many more like them, probably formed the ancient practitioner's understanding of the relationship between copper, water, and human health. (https://coppervedics.com/copper-water-drinking-vessels-health)
The Old and The New
As a result of these observations, copper was most likely the first metal to be used as a trace mineral supplement, even thousands of years ago and long before the roles of minerals in the body were understood with any scientific precision. Ayurvedic practitioners used pieces of purified copper as ingredients in hot tea infusions along with herbs as remedies for various ailments. The copper piece was added to the infusion for some time and then removed, the effect being a trace amount of copper depositing into the water along with the medicinal ingredients in the herbs.
We are fortunate in modern times to understand this science with actual data to back it up. (https://coppervedics.com/copper-and-health-resources-page-the-definitive-list/) Of course, the ancient ayurvedic practitioner did not have access to microscopes and brain scanners. He or she simply observed whatever changes took place in and among his or her people and tried to draw a correlation between changes in the community's interactions with nature and changes in the community's health.
Despite increasing scientific understanding of the health benefits of copper, the metal slowly faded out of popular use as more economical materials such as aluminum, plastic and glass gained in popularity. This is true more or less everywhere with the exception of India, where copper water vessels are still common items.
More recently copper cups have made a return in popularity both with Moscow Mule style mugs (http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/drink/5-things-you-didn-t-know-about-moscow-mule-and-where-get-original-copper-mugs) and with leak-proof copper water bottles that are well suited for modern lifestyles. This is a positive trend because whether all of the people using these containers know it or not, they are receiving the simple ayurvedic benefits of copper while using their mugs and bottles.
As with so many other basic principles of health, Ayurveda has been pointing to the benefits of using copper vessels for a long time and now modern science is finally getting around to providing the data that verifies what Ayurvedic practitioners have known for centuries. It's a good reminder to listen to ancient wisdom; it's quite often all we need.
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