The Unaccounted Consumption of Gold for Health
Kerala is known since ancient times for its spices which brought traders from across the globe and riches to this tiny strip of land in south India. The medicinal, cosmetic and culinary value of spices were well known even in those times.
Kerala is also known for its love for gold with gold jewellery stores small and big in every nook and corner of the state. But for a commodity journalist, their staple areas of coverage continues to be plantations and spices.
But Kerala like most other states also consume a good quantity of gold mainly for ornamental purposes. But a little known aspect of gold is its medicinal use. The Malayala Manorama daily (6th June 2021) in a tribute to Dr P K Warrier, the chief of Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala celebrating his 100th birthday pointed out that the ayurvedic firm consumes 2 kg of gold every month as it is an ingriedient in ayurvedic formulations.
The medicinal value of gold or other precious metals or its consumption are seldom documented properly in market reports. The World Gold Council in its latest update has given the breakup of gold consumption across various sectors on a 10 year average ending 2020 as follows- Investment demand (42%), Jewellery (34%). technology (7%) and central banks (17%) and no mention of consumption in making of medicine. It is also a known fact that small quantities of gold go into computers from small PCs to giant supercomputers. I remember meeting a public sector bank technology head in Trivandrum way back in 2000 who showed the large mainframe systems installed in the head office that was becoming redundant due to networking and shared computing. He said that if the mainframes are dismantled a good quantity of gold can be extracted or recycled from it.
Gold's Own Country
The huge reserves of gold in Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum whose value is not yet fully assessed, gold plating of idols in temples, jewellery demand have all made people wonder why the green state holds a fascination for gold. While there could be cultural, historical or economic reasons for families to invest in gold, it may also be helping people maintain good health. One study reported in an international scientific journal pointed out that gold rings may help in protecting a patient from developing arthritis in the fingers. One 49 year old woman patient suffering from Polyarticular psoriatic arthritis which affected the joints of both hands did not affect the left ring finger PIP joint. The wearing of gold ring seems to have protected the finger from the damaging effect of inflammatory arthritis. There is also a practice of writing 'Om' in the tongue of a new born after 28 days using a gold or silver coin or ring.
Perhaps, it may be true that gold consumption for medical use is not yet accounted for in market data. Hence, the gold industry needs to further study the use of gold for medical purposes and indirect health benefits of a person wearing gold ornaments even though the medicinal use of gold is not significant enough as jewellery or investment demand but may come close to technology demand if properly accounted for. It is possible that tiny quantities of other metals may also be going into medicinal production as ayurveda has recognised the medicinal value of metals from ancient times.
Gold demand fell sharply in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic effect to 3,675.5 tonnes the lowest since 2009, World Gold Council estimated. The Q1, 2021 demand for gold at 815.7 tonnes was lower by 23% year-on-year basis