Category : Immortality Medicine

Chinese alchemical elixir poisoning – Wikipedia

In Chinese alchemy, elixir poisoning refers to the toxic effects from elixirs of immortality that contained metals and minerals such as mercury and arsenic. The official Twenty-Four Histories record numerous Chinese emperors, nobles, and officials who died from taking elixirs in order to prolong their lifespans. The first emperor to die from elixir poisoning was likely Qin Shi Huang (d. 210 BCE) and the last was Yongzheng (d. 1735). Despite common knowledge that immortality potions could be deadly, fangshi and Daoist alchemists continued the elixir-making practice for two millennia.

The etymology of English elixir derives from Medieval Latin elixir, from Arabic (al-iksr), probably from Ancient Greek (xrion "a desiccative powder for wounds"). Elixir originated in medieval European alchemy meaning "A preparation by the use of which it was sought to change metals into gold" (elixir stone or philosopher's stone) or "A supposed drug or essence with the property of indefinitely prolonging life" (elixir of life). The word was figuratively extended to mean "A sovereign remedy for disease. Hence adopted as a name for quack medicines" (e.g., Daffy's Elixir) and "The quintessence or soul of a thing; its kernel or secret principle". In modern usage, elixir is a pharmaceutical term for "A sweetened aromatic solution of alcohol and water, serving as a vehicle for medicine" (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 2009). Outside of Chinese cultural contexts, English elixir poisoning usually refers to accidental contamination, such as the 1937 elixir sulfanilamide mass poisoning in the United States.

Dn "cinnabar; vermillion; elixir; alchemy" is the keyword for Chinese immortality elixirs. The red mineral cinnabar (dnsh lit. "cinnabar sand") was anciently used to produce the pigment vermilion (zhhng ) and the element mercury (shuyn "watery silver" or gng ).

According to the ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, the etymology of Modern Standard Chinese dn from Old Chinese *tn (< *tlan?) "red; vermillion; cinnabar", gn in dngn from *tn-kn (< *tlan-klan?) "cinnabar; vermillion ore", and zhn from *tan "a red flag" derive from Proto-Kam-Sui *h-lan "red" or Proto-Sino-Tibetan *tja-n or *tya-n "red". The *t- initial and *t- or *k- doublets indicate that Old Chinese borrowed this item. (Schuessler 2007: 204).

Although the word dan "cinnabar; red" frequently occurs in oracle script from the late Shang Dynasty (c. 16001046 BCE) and bronzeware script and seal script from the Zhou Dynasty (1045256 BCE), paleographers disagree about the graphic origins of the logograph and its ancient variants and . Early scripts combine a dot or stroke (depicting a piece of cinnabar) in the middle of a surrounding frame, which is said to represent:

Many Chinese elixir names are compounds of dan, such as jndn (with "gold") meaning "golden elixir; elixir of immortality; potable gold" and xindn (with "Daoist immortal") "elixir of immortality; panacea", and shndn (with "spirit; god") "divine elixir". Bs zh yo "drug of deathlessness" was another early name for the elixir of immortality. Chinese alchemists would lindn (with "smelt; refine") "concoct pills of immortality" using a dndng (with "tripod cooking vessel; cauldron") "furnace for concocting pills of immortality". In addition, the ancient Chinese believed that other substances provided longevity and immortality, notably the lngzh "Ganoderma mushroom".

The transformation from chemistry-based waidan "external elixir/alchemy" to physiology-based neidan "internal elixir/alchemy" gave new analogous meanings to old terms. The human body metaphorically becomes a ding "cauldron" in which the adept forges the Three Treasures (essence, life-force, and spirit) within the jindan Golden Elixir within the dntin (with "field") "lower part of the abdomen".

In early China, alchemists and pharmacists were one and the same. Traditional Chinese medicine also used less concentrated cinnabar and mercury preparations, and dan means "pill; medicine" in general, for example, dnfng semantically changed from "prescription for elixir of immortality" to "medical prescription". Dan was lexicalized into medical terms such as dnj "pill preparation" and dnyo "pill medicine".

The Chinese names for immortality elixirs have parallels in other cultures and languages, for example, Indo-Iranian soma or haoma, Sanskrit amrita, and Greek ambrosia.

In Chinese history, the alchemical practice of concocting elixirs of immortality from metallic and mineral substances began circa the 4th century BCE in the late Warring states period, reached a peak in the 9th century CE Tang dynasty when five emperors died, and, despite common knowledge of the dangers, elixir poisoning continued until the 18th century Qing dynasty.

The earliest mention of alchemy in China occurs in connection with fangshi ("masters of the methods") specialists in cosmological and esoteric arts employed by rulers from the 4th century BCE (De Woskin 1981: 19).

The 3rd-century BCE Zhanguo Ce and Han Feizi both record a story about King Qingxiang of Chu (r. 298263 BCE) being presented a busi zhi yao "immortality medicine". As the chamberlain was taking the elixir into the palace, a guard asked if it was edible and when he answered yes, the guard grabbed and ate it. The king was angered and condemned the guard to death. A friend of the guard tried to persuade the king, saying, "After all the guard did ask the chamberlain whether it could be eaten before he ate it. Hence the blame attaches to the chamberlain and not to him. Besides what the guest presented was an elixir of life, but if you now execute your servant after eating it, it will be an elixir of death (and the guest will be a liar). Now rather than killing an innocent officer in order to demonstrate a guest's false claim, it would be better to release the guard." This logic convinced the king to let the guard live (Needham and Ho 1970: 316).

Qin Shi Huang, the founder of the Qin dynasty (221206 BCE), feared death and spent the last part of his life seeking the elixir of life. He reportedly died from elixir poisoning (Wright 2001: 49). The first emperor also sent Xu Fu to sail an expeditionary fleet into the Pacific seeking the legendary Mount Penglai where the busi zhi shu "tree of deathlessness" grew, but they never returned.

Interest in elixirs of immortality increased during the Han dynasty (206 BC220 AD). Emperor Wu (15687 BCE) employed many fangshi alchemists who claimed they could produce the legendary substance. The Book of Han says that around 133 BCE the fangshi Li Shaojun said to Emperor Wu, "Sacrifice to the stove [zao ] and you will be able to summon ' things ' [i.e. spirits]. Summon spirits and you will be able to change cinnabar powder into yellow gold. With this yellow gold you may make vessels to eat and drink out of. You will then increase your span of life. Having increased your span of life, you will be able to see the [xian ] of [Penglai] that is in the midst of the sea. Then you may perform the sacrifices feng [] and shan [], and escape death." (tr. Waley 1930: 2).

Wei Boyang's c. 142 Cantong qi, which is regarded as the oldest complete alchemical book extant in any culture, influenced developments in elixir alchemy. It listed mercury and lead as the prime ingredients for elixirs, which limited later potential experiments and resulted in numerous cases of poisoning. It is quite possible that "many of the most brilliant and creative alchemists fell victim to their own experiments by taking dangerous elixirs" (Needham et al. 1976: 74). There is a famous story about animal testing of elixirs by Wei Boyang. Wei entered the mountains to prepare the elixir of immortality, accompanied by three disciples, two of whom were skeptical. When the alchemy was completed he said, "Although the gold elixir is now accomplished we ought first to test it by feeding it to a white dog. If the dog can fly after taking it then it is edible for man; if the dog dies then it is not." The dog fell over and died, but Wei and his disciple Yu took the medicine and immediately died, after which the two cautious disciples fled. Wei and Yu later revived, rejoiced in their faith, took more of the elixir and became immortals (Needham and Ho 1970: 322).

Elixir ingestion is first mentioned in the c. 81 BCE Discourses on Salt and Iron (Pregadio 2000: 166).

During the turbulent Six dynasties period (220589), self-experimentation with drugs became commonplace, and many people tried taking poisonous elixirs of immortality as well as the psychoactive drug Cold-Food Powder. At this time, Daoist alchemists began to record the often fatal side effects of elixirs. In an unusual case of involuntary elixir poisoning, Empress Jia Nanfeng (257300) was forced to commit suicide by drinking "jinxiaojiu" "wine with gold fragments" (Needham and Ho 1970: 326).

The Daoist scholar Ge Hong's c. 320 Baopuzi lists 56 chemical preparations and elixirs, 8 of which were poisonous, with visions from mercury poisoning the most commonly reported symptom (Needham et al. 1976: 8996).

The individuals who experimented with Six Dynasties alchemy often had different understandings and intentions. A single alchemical formula could be interpreted as being "suicidal, therapeutic, or symbolic and contemplative", and its implementation might be "a unique, decisive event or a repeated, ritual phantasmagoria" (Strickmann 1979: 192).

Emperor Ai of Jin (r. 361365) died at the age of twenty-five, as the result of his desire to avoid growing old. The Book of Jin says the emperor practiced bigu "grain avoidance" and consumed alchemical elixirs, but was poisoned from an overdose and "no longer knew what was going on around him" (Needham and Ho 1970: 317). In a sardonic sense, the emperor fulfilled his desire since the elixir "did actually prevent him from growing any older" (Ho 2000: 184).

Emperor Daowu (r. 371409), founder of the Northern Wei dynasty, was cautiously interested in alchemy and used condemned criminals for clinical trials of immortality elixirs (like Mithridates VI of Pontus r. 12063 BCE) . The Book of Wei records that in 400, he instituted the office of the Royal Alchemist, built an imperial laboratory for the preparation of drugs and elixirs, and reserved the Western mountains for the supply of firewood (used in the alchemical furnaces). "Furthermore, he ordered criminals who had been sentenced to death to test (the products) against their will. Many of them died and (the experiments gave) no decisive result." (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 321).

Many texts from the Six dynasties period specifically warned about the toxicity of elixirs. For instance, the Shangqing School Daoist pharmacologist Tao Hongjing's 499 Zhen'gao (, Declarations of the Perfected) describes taking a White Powder elixir.

When you have taken a spatulaful of it, you will feel an intense pain in your heart, as if you had been stabbed there with a knife. After three days you will want to drink, and when you have drunk a full hu [about 50 liters] your breath will be cut off. When that happens, it will mean that you are dead. When your body has been laid out, it will suddenly disappear, and only your clothing will remain. Thus you will be an immortal released in broad daylight by means of his waistband. If one knows the name of the drug [or, perhaps, the secret names of its ingredients] he will not feel the pain in his heart, but after he has drunk a full hu he will still die. When he is dead, he will become aware that he has left his corpse below him on the ground. At the proper time, jade youths and maidens will come with an azure carriage to take it away. If one wishes to linger on in the world, he should strictly regulate his drinking during the three days when he feels the pain in his heart. This formula may be used by the whole family. (tr. Strickmann 1979: 137138)

Within this context, Strickmann says a prospective Daoist alchemist must have been strongly motivated by faith and a firm confidence in his posthumous destiny, in effect, "he would be committing suicide by consecrated means." Tao Hongjing's disciple Zhou Ziliang (497516) had repeated visions of Maoshan divinities who said his destiny was to become an immortal, and instructed him to commit ritual suicide with a poisonous elixir composed of mushrooms and cinnabar (Strickmann 1994: 40). In 517, Tao edited the Zhoushi mingtong ji (Records of Mr. Zhou's Communications with the Unseen) detailing his disciples visions.

The Liang dynasty founder Emperor Wu (r. 502549) was cautious about taking elixirs of immortality. He and Tao Hongjing were old friends, and the History of the Southern Dynasties says the emperor requested him to study elixir alchemy. After Tao had learned the secret art of making elixirs, he was worried about the shortage of materials. "So the emperor supplied him with gold, cinnabar, copper sulphate, realgar, and so forth. When the process was accomplished the elixirs had the appearance of frost and snow and really did make the body feel lighter. The emperor took an elixir and found it effective." (tr. Needham et al. 1976: 120). Tao spent his last years working on different elixirs and presented three to the emperor, who had refused immortality elixirs from Deng Yu (who claimed to have lived 30 years without food, only consuming pieces of mica in stream water).

Emperor Wenxuan (r. 550559) of the Northern Qi dynasty was an early skeptic about immortality elixirs. He ordered alchemists to make the jiuhuan jindan (Ninefold Cyclically Transformed Elixir), which he kept in a jade box, and explained, "I am still too fond of the pleasures of the world to take flight to the heavens immediatelyI intend to consume the elixir only when I am about to die." (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 320).

At least five Tang dynasty (618907) emperors were incapacitated and killed by immortality elixirs. In the 9th century Tang imperial order of succession, two father-son emperor pairs died from elixirs: first Xianzong (r. 805820) and Muzong (r. 820824), then Wuzong (r. 840846) and Xuanzong (r. 847859). In historic recurrences, the newly enthroned emperor understandably executed the Daoist alchemists whose elixirs had killed his father, and then subsequently came to believe in other charlatans enough to consume their poisonous elixirs (Ho 2000: 184).

Emperor Xianzong (r. 805820) indirectly lost his life due to elixir poisoning. The Xu Tongzhi (Supplement to the Historical Collections) says, "Deluded by the sayings of the alchemists, [Xianzong] ingested gold elixirs and his behaviour became very abnormal. He was easily offended by those officials whom he daily met, and thus the prisons were left with little vacant space." (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 317). In response, an official wrote an 819 memorial to the throne that said:

Of late years, however, (the capital) has been overrun by a host of pharmacists and alchemists ... recommending one another right and left with ever wilder and more extravagant claims. Now if there really were immortals, and scholars possessing the Tao, would they not conceal their names and hide themselves in mountain recesses far from the ken of man? ... The medicines of the sages of old were meant to cure bodily illnesses, and were not meant to be taken constantly like food. How much less so these metallic and mineral substances which are full of burning poison! ... Of old, as the Li Chi says, when the prince took physic, his minister tasted it first, and when a parent was sick, his son did likewise. Ministers and sons are in the same position. I humbly pray that all those persons who have elixirs made from transformed metals and minerals, and also those who recommend them, may be compelled to consume (their own elixirs) first for the space of one year. Such an investigation will distinguish truth from falsehood, and automatically clarify the matter by experiment. (abridged, tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 318)

After the emperor rejected this appeal, the palace eunuchs Wang Shoucheng and Chen Hongzhi assassinated him in 820.

When Xianzong's son and successor Emperor Muzong (r. 820824) came to the throne, he executed the alchemists who had poisoned his father, but later began to take immortality elixirs himself. An official wrote Muzong an 823 memorial that warned:

Medicines are for use against illnesses, and should not be taken as food. ... Even when one is ill medicines must be used with great circumspection; how much more so when one is not ill. If this is true for the common people how much more so will it be for the emperor! Your imperial predecessor believed the nonsense of the alchemists and thus became ill; this your majesty already knows only too well. How could your majesty still repeat the same mistake? (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 319)

The emperor appreciated this reasoning but soon afterwards fell ill and died from poisoning. Palace eunuchs supposedly used poisonous elixirs to assassinate Muzong's young successor Emperor Jingzong (r. 824827) (Needham et al. 1976: 151, 182).

The next Tang emperor to die from elixir poisoning was Wuzong (r. 840846). According to the Old Book of Tang, "The emperor [Wuzong] favoured alchemists, took some of their elixirs, cultivated the arts of longevity and personally accepted (Taoist) talismans. The medicines made him very irritable, losing all normal self-control in joy or anger; finally when his illness took a turn for the worse he could not speak for ten days at a time." Chancellor Li Deyu and others requested audiences with the emperor, but he refused and subsequently died in 846 (Needham and Ho 1970: 319).

Wuzong's successor Emperor Xunzong (r. 846849) astonishingly also died of elixir poisoning. Xunzong made himself the patron of some Daoists who concocted immortality elixirs of vegetable origin, possibly because his father Wuzong had died from metallic and mineral elixir poisoning (Needham et al. 1976: 146). The New Book of Tang records that the emperor received a wine tincture of ivy (, Hedera helix) that the Daoist adept Jiang Lu claimed would turn white hair black and provide longevity. However, when the emperor heard that many people died a violent death after drinking ivy tincture, he stopped taking it. Jiang was publicly shamed and the emperor granted his request to search in the mountains for the right plant, but he never appeared again (Needham et al. 1976: 147). According to the 890 Dongguan zuoji (Record of Memorials from the Eastern Library), "A medical official, Li [Xuanbo], presented to the emperor [Xuanzong] cinnabar which had been heated and subdued by fire, in order to gain favour from him. Thus the ulcerous disease of the emperor was all attributable to his crime." (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 319).

Besides emperors, many Tang literati were interested in alchemy. Both Li Bai (Waley 1950: 5556) and Bai Juyi (Ho, Goh, and Parker 1974) wrote poems about the Cantong qi and alchemical elixirs. Other poets, including Meng Haoran, Liu Yuxi, and Liu Zongyuan also referred to elixir compounding in their works (Pregadio 2000: 171).

The influential Tang physician and alchemist Sun Simiao's c. 640 alchemical Taiqing zhenren dadan (Great Purity Essentials of Elixir Manuals for Oral Transmission) recommends 14 elixir formulas he found successful, most of which seem poisonous, containing mercury and lead, if not arsenic, as ingredients (Needham et al. 1976: 133). Sun's medical c. 659 Qianjin yifang (Supplement to the Thousand Golden Remedies) categorically states that mercury, realgar, orpiment, sulphur, gold, silver, and vitriol are poisonous, but prescribed them in much larger amounts for elixirs than for medicines. In contrast to drinking soluble arsenic (as in groundwater), when powdered arsenic is eaten "astonishing degrees of tolerance can be achieved", and Sun Simiao might have thought that when human beings reached to a level "approaching that of the immortals their bodies would no longer be susceptible to poison" (Needham et al. 1976: 135).

Tang alchemists were well aware of elixir poisoning. The c. 8th9th century Zhenyuan miaodao yaole (Synopsis of the Essentials of the Mysterious Dao of the True Origin) lists 35 common mistakes in elixir preparation: cases where people died from eating elixirs made from cinnabar, mercury, lead, and silver; cases where people suffered from boils on the head and sores on the back by ingesting cinnabar prepared by roasting together mercury and sulphur, and cases where people became seriously ill through drinking melted "liquid lead" (Needham and Ho 1970: 330). The c. 850 Xuanjie lu (Record of Mysterious Antidotes)which is notable as the world's oldest printed book on a scientific subjectrecommends a potent herbal composition that serves both as an elixir and as an antidote for common elixir poisoning (Needham and Ho 1970: 335). The procedure to make Shouxian wuzi wan (Five-herbs Immortality-safeguarding Pills) is to take 5 ounces each of Indian gooseberry, wild raspberry, dodder, five-flavor berry, and broadleaf plantain and pound them into flour. Mix it with boxthorn juice and false daisy juice and dry. Heat almonds and good wine in a silver vessel, and add foxglove, tofu, and "deer glue". Combine this with the five herbs, and dry into small pills. The usual dosage is 30 pills a day taken with wine, but one should avoid eating pork, garlic, mustard, and turnips when taking the medicine (Needham and Ho 1970: 335).

During the Tang period, Chinese alchemists divided into two schools of thought about elixir poisoning. The first altogether ignored the poison danger and considered the unpleasant symptoms after taking an elixir as signs of its efficacy. The c. 6th century Taiqing shibi ji (Records of the Rock Chamber) described away the side effects and recommended methods of bringing relief.

After taking an elixir, if your face and body itch as though insects were crawling over them, if your hands and feet swell dropsically, if you cannot stand the smell of food and bring it up after you have eaten it, if you feel as though you were going to be sick most of the time, if you experience weakness in the four limbs, if you have to go often to the latrine, or if your head or stomach violently achedo not be alarmed or disturbed. All these effects are merely proofs that the elixir you are taking is successfully dispelling your latent disorders. (tr. Needham and Lu 1974: 283)

Many of these symptoms are characteristic of metallic poisoning: formication, edema, and weakness of the extremities, later leading to infected boils and ulcers, nausea, vomiting, gastric and abdominal pain, diarrhea, and headaches (Needham and Lu 1974: 283). For relieving the side-effects when the elixir takes effect, the Taiqing shibi ji recommends that one should take hot and cold baths, and drink a mixture of scallion, soy sauce, and wine. If that does not bring relief, then one should combine and boil a hornets' nest, spurge, Solomon's seal, and ephedra into a medicine and take one dose (Needham and Ho 1970: 331).

The second school of alchemists, admitted that some metal and mineral elixir constituents were poisonous and tried either to neutralize them or to replace them with less dangerous herbal substances (Needham et al. 1976: 182). For instance, the 8th-century Zhang zhenren jinshi lingsha lun (The Adept Zhang's Discourse on Metals, Minerals, and Cinnabar) emphasized the poisonous nature of gold, silver, lead, mercury, and arsenic, and described witnessing many cases of premature death brought about by consuming cinnabar. Zhang believed however that the poisons could be rendered harmless by properly choosing and combining adjuvant and complimentary ingredients; for example gold should always be used together with mercury, while silver can only be used when combined with gold, copper carbonate, and realgar for the preparation of the jindan Golden Elixir (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 331). Many Tang alchemical writers returned to the fashion of using obscure synonyms for ingredients, perhaps because of the alarming number of elixir poisonings, and the desire to dissuade amateur alchemists from experimenting on themselves (Needham et al. 1976: 138). By the end of the Yuan dynasty (12711368), the more cautious alchemists had generally changed the elixirs ingredients from minerals and metals to plants and animals (Ho and Lisowski 1997: 39).

The late Tang or early Song Huangdi jiuding shendan jingjue (Explanation of the Yellow Emperor's Manual of the Nine-Vessel Magical Elixir) says, "The ancient masters (lit. sages) all attained longevity and preserved their lives (lit. bones) by consuming elixirs. But later disciples (lit. scholars) have suffered loss of life and decay of their bones as the result of taking them." The treatise explains the secret ancient methods for rendering elixir ingredients harmless by treating them with wine made from chastetree leaves and roots, or with saltpeter and vinegar. Another method of supposedly removing the poison from mercury was to put it in three-year-old wine, add sal ammoniac and boil it for 100 days (Needham and Ho 1970: 3323).

Two rulers died from elixir poisoning during the Five Dynasties period (907979) of political turmoil after the overthrow of the Tang dynasty. Zhu Wen or Emperor Taizu (r. 907912), the founder of the Later Liang dynasty, became seriously incapacitated as a result of elixir poisoning, and fell victim to an assassination plot. Li Bian or Emperor Liezu (r. 937943), the founder of the Southern Tang kingdom, took immortality elixirs that made him irritable and deathly ill (Needham et al. 1976: 180).

The Daoist adept Chen Tuan (d. 989) advised two emperors that they should not worry about elixirs but direct their minds to improving the state administration, Chai Rong or Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou in 956, and then Emperor Taizu of Song in 976 (Needham et al. 1976: 194).

After its heyday in the Tang dynasty Daoist alchemy continued to flourish during the Song dynasty (9601279) period. However, since six Tang emperors and many court officials died from elixir poisoning, Song alchemists exercised more caution, not only in the composition of the elixirs themselves, but also in attempts to find pharmaceutical methods of counteracting the toxic effects. The number of ingredients used in elixir formulas was reduced and there was a tendency to return to the ancient and difficult terminology of the Cantongqi, perhaps to conceal the processes from rash and ignorant operators. Psycho-physiological neidan alchemy became steadily more popular than laboratory waidan alchemy (Needham et al. 1976: 208).

During the Song dynasty, the practice of consuming metallic elixirs was not confined to the imperial court and expanded to anyone wealthy enough to pay. The author and official Ye Mengde (10771148) described how two of his friends had died from elixirs of immortality in one decade. First, Lin Yanzhen, who boasted about his health and muscular strength, took an elixir for three years, "Whereupon ulcers developed in his chest, first near the hairs as large as rice-grains, then after a couple of days his neck swelled up so that chin and chest seemed continuous." Lin died after ten months of suffering, and his doctors discovered cinnabar powder had accumulated in his pus and blood. Second, whenever Xie Renbo "heard of anyone who had some cinnabar subdued by fire he went after it, caring nothing about the distance, and his only fear was that he would not have enough." He also developed ulcers on the chest. Although his friends noticed changes in his appearance and behavior, Xie did not recognize that he had been poisoned, "till suddenly it came upon him like a storm of wind and rain, and he died in a single night." (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 320)

The scientist and statesman Shen Kuo's 1088 Dream Pool Essays suggested that mercury compounds might be medicinally valuable and needed further studyforeshadowing the use of metallic compounds in modern medicine, such as mercury in salvarsan for syphilis or antimony for visceral leishmaniasis. Shen says his cousin once transformed cinnabar into an elixir, but one of his students mistakenly ate a leftover piece, became delirious, and died the next day.

Now cinnabar is an extremely good drug and can be taken even by a newborn baby, but once it has been changed by heat it can kill an (adult) person. If we consider the change and transformation of opposites into one another, since (cinnabar) can be changed into a deadly poison why should it not also be changed into something of extreme benefit? Since it can change into something which kills, there is good reason to believe that it may have the pattern-principle [li] of saving life; it is simply that we have not yet found out the art (of doing this). Thus we cannot deny the possibility of the existence of methods for transforming people into feathered immortals, but we have to be very careful about what we do. (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 327).

Su Shi (10371101), the Song dynasty scholar and pharmacologist, was familiar with the life-prolonging claims of alchemists, but wrote in a letter that, "I have recently received some cinnabar (elixir) which shows a most remarkable colour, but I cannot summon up enough courage to try it." (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 320).

The forensic medical expert Song Ci was familiar with the effects of metal poisoning, and his c. 1235 Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified handbook for coroners gives a test for mercury poisoning: plunge a piece of gold into the intestine or tissues and see if a superficial amalgam forms. He also describes the colic, cramps, and discharge of blood from arsenic poisoning, and gives several antidotes including emetics.

Ming dynasty (13681644) authorities strongly disapproved of immortality elixirs, but the Jiajing Emperor (r. 15211567) supposedly died from consuming them. The emperor was interested in the art of immortality and put great confidence in Daoist physicians, magicians, and alchemists. One named Wang Jin , who was appointed a Physician-in-Attendance in the Imperial Academy of Medicine, convinced the emperor that eating and drinking from vessels made of alchemical gold and silver would bring about immortality, but it only resulted in his death. Wang fled but was caught and exiled to the frontiers in 1570 (Needham et al. 1976: 212).

Li Shizhen's classic 1578 Compendium of Materia Medica discusses the historical tradition of producing gold and cinnabar elixirs, and concludes, "(the alchemists) will never realise that the human body, which thrives on water and the cereals, is unable to sustain such heavy substances as gold and other minerals within the stomach and intestines for any length of time. How blind it is, in the pursuit of longevity, to lose one's life instead!" (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 325326). In another section, Li criticizes alchemists and pharmacologists for perpetuating the belief in mercury elixirs.

I am not able to tell the number of people who since the Six Dynasties period (3rd to 6th centuries) so coveted life that they took (mercury), but all that happened was that they impaired their health permanently or lost their lives. I need not bother to mention the alchemists, but I cannot bear to see these false statements made in pharmacopoeias. However, while mercury is not to be taken orally, its use as a medicine must not be ignored. (tr. Needham and Ho 1970: 325326)

The Qing dynasty Yongzheng Emperor (r. 17221735) was the last Chinese ruler known to die from elixir poisoning. He was a superstitious man, affected by portents and omens, and a firm believer in Daoist longevity techniques. Taking immortality elixirs is thought to have caused his sudden death in 1735 (Zelin 2002: 229).

The Chinese tradition of using toxic heavy metals in elixirs of immortality has historical parallels in Ayurvedic medicine. Rasa shastra is the practice of adding metals and minerals to herbal medicines, rasayana is an alchemical tradition that used mercury and cinnabar for lengthening lifespan, rasevara is a tradition that advocated the use of mercury to make the body immortal, and samskara is a process said to detoxify heavy metals and toxic herbs.

The historians of Chinese science Joseph Needham and Ho Peng-Yoke wrote a seminal article about poisonous alchemical elixirs (1959, 1970). Based upon early Chinese descriptions of elixir poisoning, they decisively demonstrated a close correspondence with the known medical symptoms of mercury poisoning, lead poisoning, and arsenic poisoning. Compare the historical descriptions of Jin Emperor Ai (d. 365) who "no longer knew what was going on around him" and Tang Emperor Wuzong (d. 846) who was "very irritable, losing all normal self-control in joy or anger ... he could not speak for ten days at a time" with the distinctive psychological effects of mercury poisoning: progressing from "abnormal irritability to idiotic, melancholic, or manic conditions" (1970: 327). Needham and his collaborators further discussed elixir poisoning in the Science and Civilisation in China series, particularly Needham and Lu Gwei-djen (1974), and Needham, Ho, and Lu (1976).

Although Chinese elixir poisoning may lead some to dismiss Chinese alchemy as another example of human follies in history, Ho Peng-Yoke and F. Peter Lisowski note its positive aspect upon Chinese medicine. The caution given to elixir poisoning later led Chinese alchemy to "shade imperceptibly" into iatrochemistry, the preparation of medicine by chemical methods, "in other words chemotherapy" (1997: 39).

A recent study found that Chinese emperors lived comparatively short lives, with a mean age at death of emperors at 41.3, which was significantly lower than that of Buddhist monks at 66.9 and traditional Chinese doctors at 75.1. Causes of imperial death were natural disease (66.4%), homicide (28.2%), drug toxicity (3.3%), and suicide (2.1%). Homicide resulted in a significantly lower age of death (mean age 31.1) than disease (45.6), suicide (38.8), or drug toxicity (43.1, mentioning Qin Shi Huang taking mercury pills of immortality). Lifestyles seem to have been a determining factor, and 93.2% of the emperors studied were overindulgent in drinking alcohol, sexual activity, or both (Zhao et al. 2006: 1295). The study does not refer to the Chinese belief that the arsenic sulphides realgar and orpiment, frequently used in immortality elixirs, had aphrodisiac properties (Needham and Lu 1974: 285).

A significant question remains unanswered. If the insidious dangers of alchemical elixir poisoning were common knowledge, why did people continue to consume them for centuries? Joseph Needham and his collaborators suggested three hypothetical explanations, and Michel Strickmann proposed another.

Needham and Lu's first explanation is that many alchemical mineral preparations were capable of giving an "initial exhilaration" or transient sense of well-being, usually involving weight loss and increased libido. These preliminary tonic effects could have acted as a kind of "bait" inveigling an elixir-taker deeper into substance intoxication, even to the point of death (1974: 282). Chinese medical texts recorded that realgar (arsenic disulphide) and orpiment (arsenic trisulphide) were aphrodisiacs and stimulated fertility, while cinnabar and sulphur elixirs increased longevity, averted hunger, and "lightened the body" (namely, qngshn , which is a common description of elixir effects) (1974: 285).

Wine, as mentioned above, was both prescribed to be drunk when taking elixir pills and to relieve the unpleasant side-effects of elixir poisoning. Needham and Lu further suggest the possibility that elixir alchemy included hallucinogenic drugs, tentatively identifying the busi zhi yao "drug of deathlessness" as fly-agaric and busi zhi shu "tree of deathlessness" as birch (1974: 117). The elixir that Tao Hongjing's disciple Zhou Ziliang took to commit suicide "probably had hallucinogenic and toxic mushrooms" (1974: 296). In the present day, realgar wine is traditionally consumed as part of the Dragon Boat Festival.

The apparent incorruptibility of an elixir-taker's corpse is Needham and Lu's second explanation for the persistent belief in immortality elixirs. They suggest that in some cases a body did not decompose because the deceased had died from mercury or arsenic poisoning, which is forensically known to often preserve a corpse from decay. For a believer in Daoist immortality drugs, even when an elixir-taker had unmistakably died, if the corpse was comparatively undecomposed, that could be interpreted as proof that the adept had become a xian immortal, as well as evidence for the alchemical elixir's efficacy. (1974: 298).

Terminal incorruptibility was an ancient Chinese belief associated with jade, gold, and cinnabar. The Baopuzi says, "When gold and jade are inserted into the nine orifices, corpses do not decay. When salt and brine are absorbed into flesh and marrow, dried meats do not spoil. So when men ingest substances which are able to benefit their bodies and lengthen their days, why should it be strange that (some of these) should confer life perpetual?" The abolition of decay was believed to demonstrate the power of elixirs, "the corruptible had put on incorruptibility" (Needham and Lu 1974: 284). Chinese jade burial suits are a better known example of using a mineral to preserve corpses.

There is a possibility that Sun Simiao (above) died from taking mercury elixirs (Needham and Ho 1970: 330). According to Sun's hagiography in the 10th-century Xuxian zhuan (Further Biographies of the Immortals), after his death in 682 there was no visible sign of putrefaction, "After more than a month had passed there was no change in his appearance, and when the corpse was raised to be placed in the coffin it was as light as (a bundle of) empty clothes." (tr. Needham and Lu 1974:298).

The incorruptibility stories about elixir users were not all myth, and recent archeological evidence showed that the ancient Chinese knew how "to achieve an almost perpetual conservation". The 1972 excavation of a tomb at Mawangdui discovered the extremely well-preserved body of Xin Zhui or Lady Dai, which resembled that of "a person who had died only a week or two before" (Needham and Lu 1974: 303304). A subsequent autopsy on her corpse found "abnormally high levels" of mercury and lead in her internal organs (Brown 2002: 213).

Needham and Lu's third justification for taking poisonous elixirs is a drug-induced "temporary death", possibly a trance or coma. In the classic legend (above) about Wei Boyang drinking an elixir of immortality, he appears to die, subsequently revives, and takes more elixir to achieve immortality.

The Baopuzi describes a Five Mineral-based multicolored Ninefold Radiance Elixir that can bring a corpse back to life: "If you wish to raise a body that has not been dead for fully three days, bathe the corpse with a solution of one spatula of the blue elixir, open its mouth, and insert another spatula full; it will revive immediately." (tr. Ware 1966:82).

A Tang Daoist text prescribes taking an elixir in doses half the size of a millet grain, but adds, "If one is sincerely determined, and dares to take a whole spatula-full all at once, one will temporarily die [zns ] for half a day or so, and then be restored to life like someone waking from sleep. This however is perilous in the extreme." (tr. Needham and Lu 1974: 295).

Michel Strickmann, a scholar of Daoist and Buddhist studies, analyzed the well-documented Shangqing School's alchemy in the Maoshan revelations and in the life of Tao Hongjing, and concluded that scholars need to reexamine the Western stereotype of "accidental elixir poisoning" that supposedly applied to "misguided alchemists and their unwitting imperial patrons". Since Six Dynasties and Tang period Daoist literature thoroughly, "even rapturously", described the deadly toxic qualities of many elixirs, and Strickmann proposed that some of the recorded alchemical deaths were intentional ritual suicide (1979: 191). Two reviewers disagreed about Strickmann's conclusions. The first questions why he defends the logic of alchemical suicide rather than simply accepting the idea of accidental elixir poisoning, and says Tao Hongjing never experimented with alchemy seriously enough to achieve suicide himselfbut fails to mention Strickmann's prime example: Tao's disciple Zhou Ziliang whom Shangqing deities reportedly instructed to prepare a poisonous elixir and commit suicide in order to achieve immortality (Chen 1981: 547). The second describes Strickmann's chapter as "one of the most thorough and useful" in the volume, and says he proves that it is "almost ludicrous to assume that a Taoist (commoner or emperor) could have died from accidental elixir poisoning" (Cass 1982: 9293).

Read more here:
Chinese alchemical elixir poisoning - Wikipedia

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Immortality Medicine – euvolution.com

Humans have wanted to live forever for as long as weve lived at all. Its an obsession that stretches back so far that it feels like its somehow hard-coded into our DNA. Over the years, immortality (to a greater or lesser extent) has been promised by everyone from religions and cults to the cosmetics industry, big tech companies and questionable food blogs.

Its also a staple of fiction, all the way back to the earliest surviving great work of literature. The Epic of Gilgamesh, carved onto stone tablets in 2100 BC, depicts its titular king hunting for the secret of eternal life, which he finds in a plant that lives at at the bottom of the sea. He collects the plant by roping stones to his feet, but then a snake steals it while hes having a pre-immortality bath. Gilgamesh has a little cry, then gives up.

A cuneiform tablet containing part of The Epic of Gilgamesh.

The reason why we age is still the subject of major scientific debate, but it basically boils down to damage accumulating in our cells throughout our lives, which eventually kills us. By slowing that damage first by making tools, then controlling fire, inventing writing, trade, agriculture, logic, the scientific method, the industrial revolution, democracy and so on, weve managed to massively increase human life expectancy.

Theres a common misconception that to live forever we need to somehow pause the ageing process. We dont. We just need to increase the rate at which our lifespans are lengthening. Human lifespan has been lengthening at a constant rate of about two years per decade for the last 200 years. If we can speed that up past the rate at which we age then we hit what futurist Aubrey de Grey calls longevity escape velocity the point we become immortal.

Theres a common misconception that to live forever we need to somehow pause the ageing process. We dont. We just need to increase the rate at which our lifespans are lengthening.

That all sounds rather easy, and of course its not quite that simple. Its all we can do at the moment to keep up with the Moores Law of increasing lifespans. But with a major research effort, coordinated around the world, who knows? Scientific history is filled with fields that ticked along slowly and then suddenly, massively, accelerated. Computer science is one. Genetics is another recent example.

To understand what we need to do to hit longevity escape velocity, its worth looking at how life expectancy has increased in recent history. The late statistician Hans Rosling made a powerful case that average lifespans rise alongside per capita income. Take a couple of minutes to watch this video and youll be convinced:

Reducing the gap between the global rich and poor, therefore, is probably the fastest way to boost the world average life expectancy figure, but its limited. And it wont do much for people in rich countries.

To boost the lifespans of the people living in countries that are already pretty wealthy, we need to look closer at the countries that are forecast to have the highest life expectancies in the coming years. A study published earlier this year in the Lancet shows what life expectancy might look like in 2030 in 35 industrialised countries, using an amalgamation of 21 different forecasting models.

South Korea tops the chart with women living on average beyond 90, while France, Japan, Switzerland and Australia are not far behind. Most of the countries at the top of the chart have high-quality healthcare provision, low infant deaths, and low smoking and road traffic injury rates. Fewer people are overweight or obese. The US, meanwhile, is projected to see only a modest rise due to a lack of healthcare access, and high rates of obesity, child mortality and homicides.

The study results are interesting, not only because theyre the best possible guess at our future but because they clearly show how social policies make a massive difference to how long people live. There are unknowns, of course no-one could have predicted the 80s AIDS epidemic, for example, and no doubt further pandemics lurk in humanitys future. But ban smoking, fight obesity, and introduce autonomous cars and personalised medicine, and youll see lifespans rise.

The US is projected to see only a modest rise in lifespan due to a lack of healthcare access, and high rates of obesity, child mortality and homicides.

The other interesting thing is that the studys results are a shot across the bows of scientists who claim that there are hard limits to human lifespan.

As recently as the turn of the century, many researchers believed that life expectancy would never surpass 90 years, lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London told the Guardian back in February.

That prediction mirrors another, published in Nature in October 2016, that concluded that the upper limit of human age is stuck at about 115 years.

By analysing global demographic data, we show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the worlds oldest person has not increased since the 1990s, wrote the authors Xiao Dong, Brandon Milholland & Jan Vijg.

Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints.

The maximum length of a human lifespan remains up for debate.

Other researchers, however, disagree. Bryan G. Hughes & Siegfried Hekimi wrote in the same journal a few months later that their analysis showed that there are many possible maximum lifespan trajectories.

We just dont know what the age limit might be. In fact, by extending trend lines, we can show that maximum and average lifespans, could continue to increase far into the foreseeable future, Hekimi said.

Three hundred years ago, many people lived only short lives. If we would have told them that one day most humans might live up to 100, they would have said we were crazy.

Thats all big-picture stuff, so lets dive down to a more personal level. Assuming that you cant change your genetics or your life up until the point that youre currently at, what can you personally do to live longer?

Heres the list: Dont smoke. Exercise your body and mind on a daily basis. Eat foods rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and unsaturated fat. Dont drink too much alcohol. Get your blood pressure checked. Chop out sources of stress and anxiety in your life. Travel by train. Stay in school. Think positive. Cultivate a strong social group. Dont sit for long periods of time. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. Keep your weight at a healthy level. And dont go to hospital if you can help it hospitals are dangerous places.

All of those things have been correlated with increased lifespan in scientific studies. And theyre all pretty easy and cheap to do. If you want to maximise your longevity, then thats your to-do list. But there are also strategies that have a little less scientific merit. The ones that people with too much money pursue when they realise they havent been following any of the above for most of their life.

Inside the Cryonics Institute.

Cryonics is probably the most popular. First proposed in the 1960s by US academic Robert Ettinger in his book The Prospect of Immortality, it involves freezing the body as soon as possible after death in a tube kept at -196C, along with detailed notes of what they died of. The idea is that when medicine has invented a cure for that ailment, the corpse can be thawed and reanimated.

Calling someone dead is merely medicines way of excusing itself from resuscitation problems it cannot fix today, reads the website of top cryogenics firm Alcor.

The problem is the brain. First, its so dense and well-protected that its extremely difficult for the cryonics chemicals to penetrate it. Its almost impossible that it doesnt get damaged in the freezing process.

The 21,000,000,000 neurons and ~1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses in the human brain means that itll be a while until we have the computational resources to map it.

Secondly, your neurons die quickly even if youre immersed within minutes of death, youre still likely to suffer substantial brain damage. To which cryonics proponents argue: What do I have to lose? If the choice is between probably never waking up again and never waking up again, and its your money to spend, then why not give it a shot?

An alternative to deep freeze is storing your brain in a computer. Not literally a lump of grey matter, but a database detailing in full all of the connections between the neurons in your brain that make you you (known as your connectome). Future doctors could then either rewire a real or artificial brain to match that data, resurrecting you in a new body (or perhaps even as an artificial intelligence).

A close look at a slice of mouse brain. Credit: Robert Cudmore

So far, weve only managed to map the full connectome of one animal the roundworm C. elegans. Despite the worms mere 302 neurons and 7,500 or so synapses, the resulting data is about 12GB in size you can download it in full at the Open Connectome Project, and even install it in a robot, which will then act like a worm.

Unfortunately the human brain is a somewhat larger undertaking. The Human Connectome Project is making a start, and AI is helping, but the 21,000,000,000 neurons and ~1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses in the human brain means that itll be a while until we have the computational resources to get it done. Its worth noting that this isnt an unassailable goal, especially if we can somehow figure out which bits are actually important to our personality and who we are as individuals and which bits are just used to remember the lyrics of Spice Girls songs.

For now, though, my recommendation would be to stick to the list of simple life extension strategies above. Its probable that in time well have new ways of augmenting our bodies that will extend our lifespans (weve already started with cyborg technology just look at pacemakers and artificial hips).

But if you want to be at the front of the waiting list then youll need to arrive at that point with as youthful a body as possible.

Continue reading here:How to live forever TechRadar

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Immortality Medicine - euvolution.com

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Immortality Medicine | Prometheism Transhumanism Post …

Aging in Aspen is different than in other places.

Walk the malls or the streets, and youll see people of a certain age, call it 60-plus, who glow with life. Take to the steep roads or trails just after dawn and you will be passed by geriatric joggers and cyclists, mixed in with the millennials and Gen-Xers, riding or running up the substantial hills, getting miles in before breakfast.

Aspenites of all ages embrace their physicality. They are in shape and they are either living the later years of their lives to the fullest, on their own terms, or actively pursuing healthy practices so that their futures will also be bright.

At a plethora of events like last weeks Aspen Brain Lab and the Aspen Institutes Spotlight Health, presented earlier this summer, Aspenites engage with each other and with new, sometimes revolutionary ideas in health care. Make no mistake, the outsized financial resources of the community allow many to benefit from the best health care that money can buy.

Human Longevitys intentions, if successful, would transform the status quo of the medical, pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

Lets face it, this is an amazing place to grow old.

A POTENTIALLY NEW PARADIGM

Last week, in a lovely private home at the base of Smuggler Mountain, a small group of Aspenites gathered to hear of a budding revolution in health care. As the assembled, ranging in age from late 30s to their mid 70s, relaxed in chairs and on sofas in the well-appointed living room, sipping wine and sampling spring rolls, they listened to a presentation that proposed the potential to change the way they look at their own health. And their future, as well.

While the first nourishing rain in months pelted the roof and shrouded the Aspen Mountain views from the house, J. Craig Venter, who gained fame, acclaim and fortune in the early 2000s for his role in the quest to sequence the human genome, explained how his latest creation, Human Longevity, Inc., in La Jolla, California, is working to turn the world of health care upside down.

Venter, a vibrant 70-year-old, co-founded Human Longevity to provide people with the most complete and intensive genetic and physical assessments of their health that has ever existed. These road maps show clients, in intimate detail, the exact condition of their bodies at a given moment in time, and what pitfalls may exist for the future based upon their genetic makeup.

Sitting comfortably with his toy poodle, Darwin, on his lap, the bearded Venter detailed his vision for the company that has raised over $300 million in capital from investors, including Celgene and GE Ventures. The goal is to give people, and eventually health care companies, advance information about pre-existing health issues so that the focus can be on prevention as a health care option, rather than continuing the long entrenched tradition of fixing people after they have already developed maladies or life threatening diseases.

Perhaps because of Venters earlier success with the human genome, his project is receiving much attention. Last year he was here in Aspen to address the Ideas Festival and speak at the Charlie Rose Weekend event. This spring he was the subject of a Forbes Magazine cover story on the project and has also been featured in documentaries produced by production companies as disparate as NOVA and Red Bull TV. Though he is not without his detractors, some of whom find him arrogant and infused with an outsized disrespect for established medical conventions, Venter is once again on a quest for change.

Like Amazon revolutionizing shopping, Tesla challenging the automotive industry and Uber disrupting transportation, Human Longevitys intentions, if successful, would transform the status quo of the medical, pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

THE HEALTH NUCLEUS PROGRAM

The product of the Human Longevity is knowledge on a disk.

Clients currently come to a luxurious facility in La Jolla for a physical assessment unlike any that has previously been available to human beings. Called the Health Nucleus, the procedure calls for a complete review and analysis of a clients physical health. When completed, clients walk away with a disk that details both their DNA and their current state of health.

The first element of the Health Nucleus, and perhaps most revolutionary, is the process of a whole genome sequencing of each client, the actual mapping of their personal genetic code, or their DNA. Every cell of a person has 23 pairs of chromosomes. In each chromosome there are millions of pieces of information. Think of these as individual words or letters that are unique to any and every individual. This is the genetic story of our lives. Add it all up and there are 6.4 billion characters of code in each of us, Venter said.

This data tells us everything about our physical makeup. The color of our eyes and hair, how tall we will grow, whether we are right-handed or left-handed. And it also tells us what diseases we may be susceptible to, or even pre-ordained for. From cancers to cardiovascular issues, which combined account for two-thirds of all deaths in this country, to metabolic and neurological issues, the genome sequencing provides insights into what potential health issues we should be aware of.

At the completion of the whole genome sequencing, the information is analyzed and cross-referenced with the largest database of full genotypic information that currently exists. A 500-page report is prepared, including with a short summation, for each client. When we did the first genome sequencing in 2000 we built a $50 million computer and the cost of the process was $100 million. Today, thanks to the progress in computing power, we are able to do a sequence in 12 minutes at a cost of closer to $1,000, Venter said to the intrigued group. The computing power we have today is 1,350 times greater than when we first started sequencing the genome.

The second component of the Health Nucleus is a full body and brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI. This state of the art technology uses high frequency radio waves to produce vivid, vibrant and previously unimaginably clear images of internal organs. And, in contrast to previous technologies like cat scans, it requires no radiation.

This MRI will show, with a multitude of cross sections, what is inside your body and the state of health it is in. Ever want to see the size of your hippocampus in full Technicolor? How about your kidney in 3-D? At the conclusion of the session, as many as 18,000 images of the clients body can be accessed.

These exams are not just for the aged. In fact, the ability for the Health Nucleus examinations to offer a base line of health information can change the way younger people plan for their health care throughout their lives. We have performed assessments on people from 18 to 99 years old, Venter said. He recommended that the procedures are appropriate for people, beginning in their 20s and 30s.

REAL LIFE MEANING

But beyond just the novelty and wonder of seeing what the inside of your body looks like, the MRI has the capability of identifying real life-threatening issues that may go undetected in other types of physicals. Forty percent of the people who undergo the assessments have something to address. Two-and-a-half percent who come in have cancers, Venter said. We see lots of aneurysms that are treatable and incidents of prostate cancers in men.

Early detections are extremely rewarding, Venter said with a degree of irony, before explaining his own experience with the assessments. Last year I underwent a physical with my doctor and showed no indications of any issues. I then went through our Health Nucleus assessment and discovered, to my shock, that I had high-grade prostate cancer. After undergoing treatment last November, Venter is now cancer free.

Choking up in front of the group, Venter also told the story of his science mentor, partner and friend, Nobel laureate in medicine Hamilton Smith, 85, who found he had a deadly lymphoma while undergoing an evaluation using the Health Nucleus assessment. He, too, underwent treatment and is doing well. Ham would likely not be alive today if we had not begun this project.

The Health Nucleus project is still in its development stages and there are issues to be reckoned with. Colon cancers, for example, cannot be identified reliably as of yet, so colonoscopies are still recommended. Stat News, an online health journalism site produced by Boston Globe Media, recently presented an article stating that there are components of the human genome that have yet to be decoded that could affect the accuracy of current sequencing. Finding physicians who have the capability to review the data properly can be a challenge. And the costs of the Health Nucleus screenings are not currently covered by insurance and must be paid out of pocket.

But Venter is aggressively moving forward. It was announced that Human Longevity will be opening 10 new clinics throughout the nation; unfortunately Aspen is not currently on the docket. And perhaps most importantly, HLI has introduced two new versions of its consumer assessments at price points of $4,900 or $7,500, considerably less than the original Health Nucleus Platinum program that costs $25,000. Expectations are those costs will come down in the future as the program scales up.

While immortality may never be an option, increasing ones life span by a number of years by predicting and preventing treatable disease may well be the wave of the future. When I asked J. Craig Venter how long he wants to live, he looked wistfully across the room toward his wife, Heather. Well, Id like to see this project through, he said with a stiff upper lip. Then, in a much softer voice, And Id like to spend as much time with my wife as I possibly can.

For those who can afford it and are interested in knowing as much about their health options as is possible, and potentially reducing the onset of preventable disease, the Health Nucleus testing may be very attractive. As Aspenite Joe Nevin, who hosted the gathering, asked, Why wouldnt you want to know?

Original post:Aspen Times Weekly: How Long Do You Want to Live? Aspen Times

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Immortality Medicine | Prometheism Transhumanism Post ...

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Immortality Medicine | Prometheism.net – Part 2

Aging in Aspen is different than in other places.

Walk the malls or the streets, and youll see people of a certain age, call it 60-plus, who glow with life. Take to the steep roads or trails just after dawn and you will be passed by geriatric joggers and cyclists, mixed in with the millennials and Gen-Xers, riding or running up the substantial hills, getting miles in before breakfast.

Aspenites of all ages embrace their physicality. They are in shape and they are either living the later years of their lives to the fullest, on their own terms, or actively pursuing healthy practices so that their futures will also be bright.

At a plethora of events like last weeks Aspen Brain Lab and the Aspen Institutes Spotlight Health, presented earlier this summer, Aspenites engage with each other and with new, sometimes revolutionary ideas in health care. Make no mistake, the outsized financial resources of the community allow many to benefit from the best health care that money can buy.

Human Longevitys intentions, if successful, would transform the status quo of the medical, pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

Lets face it, this is an amazing place to grow old.

A POTENTIALLY NEW PARADIGM

Last week, in a lovely private home at the base of Smuggler Mountain, a small group of Aspenites gathered to hear of a budding revolution in health care. As the assembled, ranging in age from late 30s to their mid 70s, relaxed in chairs and on sofas in the well-appointed living room, sipping wine and sampling spring rolls, they listened to a presentation that proposed the potential to change the way they look at their own health. And their future, as well.

While the first nourishing rain in months pelted the roof and shrouded the Aspen Mountain views from the house, J. Craig Venter, who gained fame, acclaim and fortune in the early 2000s for his role in the quest to sequence the human genome, explained how his latest creation, Human Longevity, Inc., in La Jolla, California, is working to turn the world of health care upside down.

Venter, a vibrant 70-year-old, co-founded Human Longevity to provide people with the most complete and intensive genetic and physical assessments of their health that has ever existed. These road maps show clients, in intimate detail, the exact condition of their bodies at a given moment in time, and what pitfalls may exist for the future based upon their genetic makeup.

Sitting comfortably with his toy poodle, Darwin, on his lap, the bearded Venter detailed his vision for the company that has raised over $300 million in capital from investors, including Celgene and GE Ventures. The goal is to give people, and eventually health care companies, advance information about pre-existing health issues so that the focus can be on prevention as a health care option, rather than continuing the long entrenched tradition of fixing people after they have already developed maladies or life threatening diseases.

Perhaps because of Venters earlier success with the human genome, his project is receiving much attention. Last year he was here in Aspen to address the Ideas Festival and speak at the Charlie Rose Weekend event. This spring he was the subject of a Forbes Magazine cover story on the project and has also been featured in documentaries produced by production companies as disparate as NOVA and Red Bull TV. Though he is not without his detractors, some of whom find him arrogant and infused with an outsized disrespect for established medical conventions, Venter is once again on a quest for change.

Like Amazon revolutionizing shopping, Tesla challenging the automotive industry and Uber disrupting transportation, Human Longevitys intentions, if successful, would transform the status quo of the medical, pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

THE HEALTH NUCLEUS PROGRAM

The product of the Human Longevity is knowledge on a disk.

Clients currently come to a luxurious facility in La Jolla for a physical assessment unlike any that has previously been available to human beings. Called the Health Nucleus, the procedure calls for a complete review and analysis of a clients physical health. When completed, clients walk away with a disk that details both their DNA and their current state of health.

The first element of the Health Nucleus, and perhaps most revolutionary, is the process of a whole genome sequencing of each client, the actual mapping of their personal genetic code, or their DNA. Every cell of a person has 23 pairs of chromosomes. In each chromosome there are millions of pieces of information. Think of these as individual words or letters that are unique to any and every individual. This is the genetic story of our lives. Add it all up and there are 6.4 billion characters of code in each of us, Venter said.

This data tells us everything about our physical makeup. The color of our eyes and hair, how tall we will grow, whether we are right-handed or left-handed. And it also tells us what diseases we may be susceptible to, or even pre-ordained for. From cancers to cardiovascular issues, which combined account for two-thirds of all deaths in this country, to metabolic and neurological issues, the genome sequencing provides insights into what potential health issues we should be aware of.

At the completion of the whole genome sequencing, the information is analyzed and cross-referenced with the largest database of full genotypic information that currently exists. A 500-page report is prepared, including with a short summation, for each client. When we did the first genome sequencing in 2000 we built a $50 million computer and the cost of the process was $100 million. Today, thanks to the progress in computing power, we are able to do a sequence in 12 minutes at a cost of closer to $1,000, Venter said to the intrigued group. The computing power we have today is 1,350 times greater than when we first started sequencing the genome.

The second component of the Health Nucleus is a full body and brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI. This state of the art technology uses high frequency radio waves to produce vivid, vibrant and previously unimaginably clear images of internal organs. And, in contrast to previous technologies like cat scans, it requires no radiation.

This MRI will show, with a multitude of cross sections, what is inside your body and the state of health it is in. Ever want to see the size of your hippocampus in full Technicolor? How about your kidney in 3-D? At the conclusion of the session, as many as 18,000 images of the clients body can be accessed.

These exams are not just for the aged. In fact, the ability for the Health Nucleus examinations to offer a base line of health information can change the way younger people plan for their health care throughout their lives. We have performed assessments on people from 18 to 99 years old, Venter said. He recommended that the procedures are appropriate for people, beginning in their 20s and 30s.

REAL LIFE MEANING

But beyond just the novelty and wonder of seeing what the inside of your body looks like, the MRI has the capability of identifying real life-threatening issues that may go undetected in other types of physicals. Forty percent of the people who undergo the assessments have something to address. Two-and-a-half percent who come in have cancers, Venter said. We see lots of aneurysms that are treatable and incidents of prostate cancers in men.

Early detections are extremely rewarding, Venter said with a degree of irony, before explaining his own experience with the assessments. Last year I underwent a physical with my doctor and showed no indications of any issues. I then went through our Health Nucleus assessment and discovered, to my shock, that I had high-grade prostate cancer. After undergoing treatment last November, Venter is now cancer free.

Choking up in front of the group, Venter also told the story of his science mentor, partner and friend, Nobel laureate in medicine Hamilton Smith, 85, who found he had a deadly lymphoma while undergoing an evaluation using the Health Nucleus assessment. He, too, underwent treatment and is doing well. Ham would likely not be alive today if we had not begun this project.

The Health Nucleus project is still in its development stages and there are issues to be reckoned with. Colon cancers, for example, cannot be identified reliably as of yet, so colonoscopies are still recommended. Stat News, an online health journalism site produced by Boston Globe Media, recently presented an article stating that there are components of the human genome that have yet to be decoded that could affect the accuracy of current sequencing. Finding physicians who have the capability to review the data properly can be a challenge. And the costs of the Health Nucleus screenings are not currently covered by insurance and must be paid out of pocket.

But Venter is aggressively moving forward. It was announced that Human Longevity will be opening 10 new clinics throughout the nation; unfortunately Aspen is not currently on the docket. And perhaps most importantly, HLI has introduced two new versions of its consumer assessments at price points of $4,900 or $7,500, considerably less than the original Health Nucleus Platinum program that costs $25,000. Expectations are those costs will come down in the future as the program scales up.

While immortality may never be an option, increasing ones life span by a number of years by predicting and preventing treatable disease may well be the wave of the future. When I asked J. Craig Venter how long he wants to live, he looked wistfully across the room toward his wife, Heather. Well, Id like to see this project through, he said with a stiff upper lip. Then, in a much softer voice, And Id like to spend as much time with my wife as I possibly can.

For those who can afford it and are interested in knowing as much about their health options as is possible, and potentially reducing the onset of preventable disease, the Health Nucleus testing may be very attractive. As Aspenite Joe Nevin, who hosted the gathering, asked, Why wouldnt you want to know?

Original post:Aspen Times Weekly: How Long Do You Want to Live? Aspen Times

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Immortality Medicine | Prometheism.net - Part 2

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Immortality Medicine | Prometheism.net – Part 29

Posted: October 1, 2012 at 10:24 am

Natures Elements, an online vitamin and herbal supplement retailer, has just released Reishi Mushroom (also know as Ling Zhi or Ganoderma Lucidum). This powerful Red Reishi Mushroom is often referred to as the mushroom of immortality because of all its amazing benefits.

Lindenhurst, NY (PRWEB) September 29, 2012

Reishi mushroom has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years making it one of the oldest mushrooms used medicinally as well as one of the most scientifically researched herbs on the planet. Because of all the presumed health benefits and apparent absence of side effects, Reishi Mushroom has attained the reputation of being the ultimate longevity herb.

Not all Reishi Mushroom products are created equal. As with any new product, Natures Elements strives to offer the best and most potent supplements for the consumers maximum results. This is of course true with the new Reishi Mushroom. Natures Elements continues to stress the importance of reading and understanding the supplement facts. Any product can be labeled Reishi Mushroom, but there are at least 3 things to know when buying Reishi Mushroom.

First and foremost, observe the label. Now that the benefits of what Reishi Mushroom provides is clear, it is important to check that the Reishi Mushroom being offered contains a powerful enough dosage to ensure real results. A concentrated 10:1 extract of Reishi Mushroom offers the purest and most potent form.

Secondly, make sure there is enough 10:1 extract of Reishi Mushroom in each dose. The dosage should be at least 1,000 mg, which is usually split between two 500 mg tablets. Lastly the product should have enough supply to last one month, this is important when comparing price.

Natures Elements is one of the few companies around that makes is easy for customers to feel safe and securing by knowing what they are getting. They also offer the convenience of Auto-Ship, which provides automatic monthly shipping with the advantage of receiving 20% off.

Natures Elements is committed to delivering high quality vitamin and herbal supplements and providing real results through dedicated research and superior formulas.

Marketing Department Natures Elements, Inc. 877-223-2626 Email Information

See the article here:Natures Elements Releases New Product: Reishi Mushroom This Chinese Longevity Mushroom Has Miraculous Health Benefits

Posted: September 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Age management medicine believes that by following a plan of health strategies and lifestyle changes, you can achieve the goal of optimising your healthspan.

WE used to talk about staying young forever, but now we know that this is a pipe dream, even with the most sophisticated medical advances.

Instead, people have come to accept that they will inevitably grow older. But ageing does not have to mean that your health will deteriorate, or that you will become physically weaker. It does not mean you have to be hunched and wrinkly, or depressed and ill all the time.

Instead, you can delay these effects by managing the ageing process well. Some centres are now talking about age management medicine, or anti-ageing medicine, or advanced preventive and regenerative medicine, which is a new specialty that looks at preventing the medical effects of ageing by treating diseases, conditions and risk factors, as early as the age of 30 years.

Age management medicine believes that by following a plan of health strategies and lifestyle changes, you can decrease these risk factors and eventually achieve the goal of optimising your healthspan (staying healthy for as long as possible) and avoiding diseases.

Age is just a number

Recent medical approaches to ageing are becoming increasingly radical, and the possibilities are exciting.

Underscoring these approaches are a completely new understanding about the process of ageing.

When science replaced myth and magic, we no longer believed in immortality or turning back the hands of time. But we started looking into what happens in the body when we get older.

When we discovered the presence of degeneration in our cells, we assumed that this was a natural process that occured as the years passed by, as if there was a switch that suddenly turned on once we hit the age of 50.

Read more from the original source:Managing the ageing process

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Immortality Medicine | Prometheism.net - Part 29

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

Immortality Medicine | Prometheism.net – Transhuman …

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Immortality Medicine | Prometheism.net - Transhuman ...

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson