Ayurveda considers several crucial physical and mental factors for treatment of various diseases, disorders, and ailments. The primary factors that Ayurveda practitioners look into are dosha, rasa, Vipaka, Veerya, Prabhava Guna and Pathya. Let us understand a few important details about each one of these factors in this article.
The biological process of all living organisms is controlled and governed by three major factors, known as Tridosha. They have been termed as Pitta, Vata, and Sleshma or Kapha. Ayurveda holds that all physical and mental disorders occur when these three doshas lose their normal balance in the body.
Pitta is the manifestation of Tejas or internal energy in our body. The Pitta energy is the cause for several internal activities in all living organisms like assimilation and digestion of food, heat production, blood pigmentation, healthy state of endocrine glands, and tissue building.
Vata is the function of our nervous systems. It includes both the central nervous system and all other automatic nervous systems present in our body.
Sleshma or Kapha
Sleshma or Kapha is the level of heat regulation or thermostatic function in our body. Further, this factor also influences the secretion or formation of several body fluids, such as mucus and synovial. Kapha plays a key role in regulating all our biological processes, in providing nutrition to our body tissues and in coordinating all our body systems.
When one of these doshas become either high or low, disorders begin to occur. For example, a sharp drop in Vata level can lead to paralysis in an individual due to a severe breakdown of the nervous systems. When pitta becomes high, diseases like jaundice, hepatitis, etc. begin to form. When Kapha is higher, we catch a cold, which leads to several other disorders like a headache, body ache, fever, etc.
Rasa is nothing but taste. Taste is classified into six types in Ayurveda, namely, Madhura or sweet,Amla or sour, Lavana or salty, Katu or pungent, Tikta or bitter, and Kasaya or astringent. When we consume food with each type of taste, certain changes occur in our body functions.
Madhura or sweet taste is usually pleasant, and it is an excellent tonic for heart and brain if consumed in correct quantities. It is also galactagogue, promoting secretion of milk as well as a few other important fluids in our body. Madhura pacifies Pitta and Vata but aggravates Kapha.
Amla or sour taste is sialagogue, and it is an excellent appetizer, improving the digestive system if consumed within limits. Amla aggravates Pitta and Kapha but pacifies Vata.
Lavana or salty taste is diuretic, and it works as digestive expectorant and appetizer. It is easily soluble and acts as softening and water retaining agent. Lavana also aggravates Pitta and Kapha but pacifies Vata.
Katu or pungent taste is also a sialagogue and lacrimatory. It is an appetizer. The tingling sensation produced by Katu taste on the tongue is useful in dyspepsia. Katu aggravates pitta and Vata but pacifies Kapha.
Tikta or bitter taste produces dryness in our mouths, but it is a good appetizer. Tikta pacifies Pitta and Kapha but aggravates Vata.
Kasaya or astringent taste also causes dryness in the mouth and leads to soreness and stiffness in the throat. However, it is diuretic and helps in healing of wounds. Kasaya also pacifies Pitta and Kapha but aggravates Vata.
Vipaka is the metabolism of various organs that arises due to biochemical changes brought about by foods and drugs when the gastro-intestinal digestion occurs. Vipaka is directly related to rasa but the actions of these two vary considerably. The action of Vipaka is delayed, systemic, physiological and inferable but not-perceivable. The action of rasa is immediate, local, physiological and psychological and quite perceivable.
Veerya is the potency of food or a drug. Veerya usually denotes the clinical efficacy of a particular drug. Veerya is classified into two categories, namely, Sheeta or cold and Ushna or hot. Sheeta diminishes secretions, stabilizes our excretory functions, stops bleeding, promotes vigour and vitality and aggravates Vata and Kapha, while pacifying pitta. On the other hand, Ushna helps in storing up of internal energy, leads to easy digestion, causes thirst and aggravates Pitta, while pacifying Vata and Kapha.
Prabhava is the specific characteristic influence of each drug. It is the empirical action of a drug and cannot be easily explained in lay terms.
Guna denotes the actual physical properties of any drug. Ayurveda recognises 20 Gunas that act in various ways during treatment with a drug.
- Guru or heavy properties induces feelings of heaviness, fatigue and dullness. It impairs digestion but promotes the quantity of waste products.
- Laghu or light properties helps in easy digestion and promotes body fitness.
- Sheeta or cold properties provides a cooling effect. It impedes blood flow. It pacifies Pitta, while aggravating Vata and Kapha.
- Ushna or hot properties increases body temperature, improves blood circulation, enhances urine and sweat, causes thirst and stimulates both appetite and digestion. Ushna aggravates pitta.
- Snigdha or unctuous properties produces a soothing effect on our bodies and eliminates waste products. It aggravates Kapha but pacifies Vata.
- Ruksha or dry properties provides uncomfortable feeling and reduces vitality, vigour, and libido.
- Manda or dull properties acts slowly. This properties pacifies deranged Doshas.
- Teeksha or sharp properties is potent and rapid-acting. It clears body channels and removes morbidity. It aggravates pitta.
- Sthira or immobile properties stabilises all physiological functions.
- Sara or spreading properties is quite penetrative and stimulates the excretory system.
- Mrudu or soft properties makes all body tissues loose and soft. It aggravates Kapha while pacifying pitta and Vata.
- Kathina or hard properties causes firmness and stiffness in the body. It aggravates Vata.
- Vishada or clear properties removes sliminess and heals ulcers. It aggravates Vata.
- Picchila or slim properties increases body weight and stimulates excretory organs. It also promotes healing of fractures and wounds.
- Slakshna or smooth properties promotes tissue synthesis. It aggravates pitta and Kahpa.
- Khara leads to emaciation. It aggravates Vata.
- Sthula or bulky properties obstructs vessels, channels, and tubes in our bodies. It is not easily digestible.
- Sukshma or minute properties penetrates all part of our bodies easily. It aggravates Vataa.
- Sandra or solid properties nourishes the body.
- Drava or fluid properties is able to pervade entire body.
Pathya is the study of food-to-drug and drug-to-drug interactions. Ayurveda terms the food-drug theory as pathya-apathya. When a patient follows a specific drug regimen, certain food items or drugs must be completely avoided during Ayurveda treatment, since they can reduce the absorption of essential ingredients of the drugs, leading to ineffectiveness of the entire treatment process. Further, certain drugs can lead to irritation, injury or other side effects when they interact with other drugs. Hence, this pathya-apathya principle is strictly followed in Ayurveda.
All herbals and other Ayurveda remedies exhibit their individual actions only on the basis of the above essential factors. We shall continue with individual profiles of each herb and its usage in our subsequent articles.