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Ayurveda Pharmacology of Food & Medicines
The basic elements in food ,medicines & Humans in view of ayurveda are five mahabhutas. These mahabhutas get manifested in more stable forms of active principles known as Rasas (tastes). These tastes are six depending upon concentration gradient of mahabhutas present in particular nutrient / drug – Madhura, Amla, Lavana, Katu, Tikta, Kashaya.
These tastes are six categories of pharmacological active principles, which work in body /, provide nutrient after digestion. After digestive state of Rasas is known as Vipaka ,these are three – Madhura, Amla& Katu. The potency of these Rasas is of two types – Sheeta and Ushna. The food products provide nutrition through either working through Rasa or Vipaka.
The medicines works mainly through Virya potentiated with rasa or vipaka or virya or prabhava depending upon nature of medicine, state of agni of the person using, prakriti of the person, desha/ kala (habitat / season) of collection& use of medicine and method / dosage form of medicine used. On the basis of the characteristics of these fundamental entities we can understand the mechanism of utilization of food and drug.
The physical-biochemical-nutritional / pharmacological properties of doshas-dhatus-life style regimen-food products-drugs are explained on the basis of 20 gunas (properties), which are present in all the existable entities ; a brief review of these gunas & rasas:
Guru (heavy): increases bulk, heaviness, compactness, creates dullness, lethargy, increases kapha, decrease vata-pitta. Laghu (light): helps digestion, reduce weight, bulk, creates freshness, alertness, increases vata, pitta, decreases kapha. Manda (slow): creates sluggishness, relaxation, dullness, increases kapha decreases vata & pitta. Tikshna (sharp): promotes sharpness, quick understanding, creates ulcer, perforation, and increases vata-pitta, decrease kapha Shita (cold): creates coldness, numbness, unconsciousness, insensitivity, increases vata and kapha, decreases pitta. Ushna (hot): promotes heat, digestion, cleansing, expansion, inflammation, anger, increases pitta, decreases vata and kapha Snigdha (oily): creates lubrication, smoothness, vigor, promotes passion and love. It increases pitta and kapha, decreases vata. Ruksha (dry): creates dryness, absorption, constipation and nervousness, increases vata, and decreases pitta and kapha Slakshna (slimy): decreases roughness creates smoothness, love, care, increases pitta and kapha, decreases vata. Khara (brittle): causes cracking of skin, bones, create rigidity, carelessness; increases vata decreases pitta and kapha. Sandra (dense): promotes solidity, density and strength; increases kapha, decreases vata and pitta. Drava (liquid): promotes salivation, sweating, urination, compassion, cohesiveness, increases pita and kapha, decreases vata. Mridu (soft): creates softness, delicacy, relaxation, tenderness, love and care, increases pitta and kapha, and decreases vata. Kathina (Hard): increases hardness, strength, inertia of body and mind, insensitivity, increases vata and kapha, decreases pitta. Sthira (static): promotes stability, obstruction, constipation, faith, increases kapha decreases vata and pitta. Chala (mobile): promotes motion, shakiness, restlessness, and lack of faith, increases vata and pitta, decreases kapha. Sukshma (subtle): promotes penetration power, emotion and feeling at mental level; increases vata and pitta, decreases kapha. Sthula (gross): causes obesity, heaviness, lethargies, increases kapha. Vishada (Transparent): promotes transparency at physical & mental level, clears various obstruction in transport systems of body. Pichchala (Gelatinous): promotes cementing activities in between two cell/ tissues; form a protective layer on various bodily structures.
1. Madhura (Sweet): It contains earth and water elements. It increases kapha, decreases vata and pitta. Its proper use promotes strength (physical- mental & resistance power), stimulates anabolic activities & nourishes the bodily organs, relieves thirst, burning sensation.
If used excessively it causes obesity, excessive sleep, heaviness, lethargy, causes loss of appetite, cough, diabetes and abnormal growth of muscles.
Examples: wheat, rice, milk, candy, sugar, dates, licorice, roots.
2. Amla (Sour): It contains earth and fire elements. It increases kapha, pitta, and decreases vata. Its proper use stimulates anabolic activities & improves appetite, taste, digestive sensations, and salivation. It sharpens the mind& strengthens the sense organs.
If used excessively it causes excessive thirst, hypersensitiveness of teeth, impurities of blood, edema, ulceration, heartburn and acidity.
Examples – Yoghurt, cheese, green grapes, lemon, mango, rose& hips etc.
3. Lavana (Salty): It contains water and fire elements. It decreases vata, & increases pitta -kapha. Its proper use promotes anabolic activities, helps in proper digestion, salivation and digestive enzymes secretion. It is antispasmodic and laxative. It nullifies the effect of all other tastes.
If used excessively it causes cellulitis, water retention, disturbs blood, cause fainting, heating of body, graying and falling of hair, inflammation, peptic ulcer, pimples, hypertension etc.
Examples – Sea salt, rock- salt
4. Katu (Pungent): It contains fire and air elements. It decreases kapha and increases vata, pitta.Its proper use promotes catabolic activities. Keeps mouth clean, promotes digestion and absorption of food, and purifies the blood. Detoxify the body.
If used excessively it causes excessive hot, sweating, fainting, burning sensation, in throat, stomach and heart. It decreases the weight, can cause peptic ulcer, dizziness and unconsciousness.
Examples – Onion, reddish, chili, ginger, asafetida, black pepper.
5. Tikta (Bitter): It contains air and space elements. It decreases pitta and kapha increases vata. Its proper use promotes catabolic activities. It improves taste perception for other tastes; it is germicidal, anti-toxic, anti- allergic& provides coolness to body and mind.
If used excessively it causes roughness, emaciation, dryness, reduces bone marrow and semen.
Examples – Fresh Turmeric root, fenugreek, Neem.
6. Kashaya (Astringent): It contains air and earth elements. It decreases pitta and kapha, increases vata. It is used to enhance catabolic activities, causes constriction of blood vessels, coagulation of blood, constipation, dryness, roughness and cooling effects.
If used excessively it causes dryness of mouth, obstruction of speech, constipation, and cause clotting of blood, heart disorder.
Examples – Unripe banana, pomegranate, turmeric& alum.
Ayurveda pharmacology is based upon the concept of rasa, virya, vipaka and prabhava , and gunas is not only applicable to foods and herbs but also to everything including gems, stones, minerals, metals, color but also on lifestyle activities like quantity -quality-timings of exercises, yoga ,vital & mental activities.