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2006, Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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First published 2006

ISBN 0 443 10090 X
ISBN-13 978-0-443-10090-1

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Knowledge and best practice in this field are constantly changing. As new research and experience
broaden our knowledge, changes in practice, treatment and drug therapy may become necessary or
appropriate. Readers are advised to check the most current information provided (i) on procedures fea-
tured or (ii) by the manufacturer of each product to be administered, to verify the recommended dose or
formula, the method and duration of administration, and contraindications. It is the responsibility of the
practitioner, relying on their own experience and knowledge of the patient, to make diagnoses, to deter-
mine dosages and the best treatment for each individual patient, and to take all appropriate safety pre-
cautions. To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the Author assumes any liability for any
injury and/or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of the material contained
in this book.

The Publisher

policy is to use
paper manufactured
from sustainable forests

Printed in China

Sebastian Pole, Lic OHM, Ayur HC, is an the health of the individual and the living Earth.
Ayurvedic Practitioner and Chinese Herbalist The awakening of the link between our ecological
working in Bath, UK, and is also a passionate awareness and our consciousness is at the heart of
ecologist. Sebastian is a member of the Ayurvedic his work, hence using organic herbs and
Practitioners Association and Director of the ayurvedic techniques to help patients heal them-
Pharmacopoeia Committee as well as a member selves is at the centre of his practice. Sebastian is
of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine. He the Herbal Director and founding partner of
has spent many years living in India studying Pukka Herbs, The Organic Ayurvedic Herb
Ayurveda and Yoga, has a degree in Hindi and Specialists, planting over 1 million plants a year
Indian Religions and is a qualified yoga teacher. to benefit the land, the integrity of Ayurveda
He has dedicated the last 15 years of his life to and the health of society. You can contact him at
promoting awareness of the connection between Sebastian@pukkaherbs.com


Creation is the expression of cosmic consciousness. site regulates or nullifies. These principles are used
It is a journey of energy into matter. The five great quite often in ayurvedic pharmacology. Using
elements are uniquely expressed both in mankind these principles in herbal combinations helps to
and plants. Originating in universal consciousness, restore balance to the persons whole system.
the five elements manifest successively into Space,
Air, Fire, Water and Earth. From Earth arise the While making individualistic formulas one has to
plants that become food for mankind. think about the constitution and current altered
state (prakrti/vikrti paradigm) of the patient or
Every human cell is a centre of awareness. Each client. Charaka gives the gunas of herbal medi-
cell has intelligence and choice (mind). The flow cines required to fulfill the indications of treatment
of intelligence for communication within and according to the proper direction of samprapti
between cells is the flow of prana. These factors (pathogenesis) and the prakrti/vikrti paradigm.
are present in plant cells as well. The cellular One can make formulas in several ways: specific to
intelligence of plants when consumed is trans- the dosa, specific to disease, specific to both dosa
formed into the cellular intelligence of the human and disease, specific to the tissue or to the channels
body by rasa (taste), virya (energy), vipaka (post- affected. While making formulas one has to think
digestive effect) and prabhava (the unique specific about samprapti, the vector or direction of the dosa,
action of the herb). Use of two, three or many dif- the pathways of disease, and the organ affected.
ferent herbs that share similar rasa, virya and With all this in mind, specific substances are used
vipaka will promote each others action and have as a vehicle to carry the herbs other qualities
a synergetic effect on the persons constitutional rasa, virya, vipaka and prabhava to the specific tis-
makeup, the functioning of the bodys tissues and sue or organ.
Ayurveda has a vast range of preparation methods
In Ayurveda, the herbal substances (dravya), their of both the substances themselves and delivery
potential energy and qualities (guna(s)) and their methods of the herbs to the body. For example,
ultimate action within the system (karma) are anupana (the media through which the medicine is
regarded as an inseparable biochemical combina- given) carries the medicinal properties of herbs to
tion. The karmas are actions and suggest various the deep tissues without changing them. Ghee,
methods of treatment depending upon the gunas. milk, aloe vera juice or gel is the anupana for pitta
The gunas are not merely attributes or qualities; dosa. Warm water, dashamula tea or ginger tea is
ayurvedic herbal formulas take into consideration the best anupana for vata dosa. While hot water,
the effects of these qualities such as langhana (light- honey or pomegranate juice can be used for kapha
ening), brmhana (nutritive), ruksana (drying), snehana dosa. Ayurveda also uses yogavah-, catalytic agents
(oleating), svedana (diaphoretic) and sthambhana such as ghee or honey. Ayurvedic pharmacology
(constipating), etc. Substances are classified as uses herbal remedies in many forms like fresh juice
sendriya (organic) and nirindriya (inorganic). Like form, powder form, decoction, concoction, pastes,
attracts like or like promotes like, while the oppo- teas, tablets, pills, asava (fermented juice), arista


(fermented decoction), herbal medicated oil, ghee, their actions on the dosas and dhatus. Paired with
milk and even soups. his deep concern for sustainable practices, this
book is an excellent guide for practical application
The soul of ayurvedic pharmacology is dravyaguna of herbs in our daily healing.
and karma with rasa, virya, vipaka and prabhava. Love and light,
Mr Sebastian Pole has illuminated ancient Dr Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc.
ayurvedic wisdom with his clear explanations of Albuquerque, New Mexico
the basic principles of rasa, virya and vipaka and July 2005



Om tryambakam yajamahe
sugandhim pustivardhanam
urvarukam iva bandhanan
mrtyor muksiya mamrtat

Om we supplicate the three-eyed lord of the universe (Shiva)

Who is fragrant and nourishes all beings.
Please liberate us from the repetitive cycles of rebirth and suffering
That we may be led to immortality.

I dedicate this book to everyone involved in harvesting herbs and making herbal remedies.
I also honour all Ayurvedic Practitioners and herbalists who have committed their lives
to healing. You all preserve the essence of this priceless tradition. This book is for you.


This book has grown out of my love for herbal knowledge and compassion are perhaps her
medicine, Ayurveda and India. I am deeply greatest gift.
indebted to India for many things. For introducing
me to Ayurveda, yoga, vegetarianism, to delicious Ayurveda has many exciting opportunities over the
food, to healing plants, to the beautiful Himalaya, next few years but it also faces many challenges. If
the sanctity of all life, the beauty of life-giving Ayurveda is going to receive the recognition it
water and the majesty of nature and for showing deserves and be in a position to help heal those
me that spirituality and daily life can coexist in people that need it there is a great need for more
perfect harmony. In some ways, a large part of my maturity and growth within our community. There
life is dedicated to returning some of the favours needs to be more professional cohesion among
that have been bestowed on me by Indias wise practitioners the world over, better standards of
culture and friendly people. Ayurvedic Medicine ayurvedic education, higher levels of teaching, a
is a part of this reciprocation and I offer it with all higher volume of practical reference literature pub-
my humble thanks. lished, more active herbal conservation, stronger
defence of our pharmacopoeia and more clinical
It is Ayurvedas ability to empower individuals based research. Luckily for those of us who love
with the ability to understand and care for and benefit from her wisdom (and also for those
themselves and others that has most interested who are yet to do so) Ayurveda is in the midst of a
me. The classification of nature according to renaissance, a genuine rasayana that will see her
elemental energetic principles is so subtle and flourish the world over.
profound. It is also very accessible, tangible and
effective. The depth of insight into different To all of you who read this book I hope that it
disease causes, patterns and differentiations is offers the inspiration that writing it has given me.
one of Ayurvedas greatest healing strengths. Nature is the inspiration; watch her, feel her,
Combining this understanding of nature with a breathe her, taste her, hear her and then offer this
clear understanding of disease empowers us to inspiration back to all who can benefit.
offer personalised and individual treatments that
effectively remove the cause of a disease as well Hari om tat sat.
as treat any uncomfortable symptoms. Sebastian Pole
Ayurvedas ability to instil discrimination, Bath, UK, 2004


I have written this book with huge amounts of yoga and tantra has been enlightening, and Edward
help. Berger and Edward Thompsons deep understand-
ing of energetic herbalism and modern science so
Firstly, my teachers have fed me with words of often steered me in the right direction. Ben Joliffe,
wisdom and truth. Shri Kamal Das ji, Bal Yogi Claudia Mallinson and Susanna Hawkins gener-
Balak Das ji, Vedantananda Saraswati, Dr Michael ously gave their time to read the manuscript and
Tierra, Lesley Tierra, Annie McIntyre, Pierre showed me the way to clarity. All of my herbalist
Cousins, Dr Yogesh Bendale, Dr Avinash Lele, friends have been a continual inspiration and I
Alan Treharne, Anne-Marie Lavin, Dr Jin, Mike thank you for your priceless wisdom and inspiring
Brook, and my mother and father. Herbs of praise. discussions. My deepest thanks to Susie for your
continual insight, inspiration and love.
Secondly, my erudite friends who have read, com-
mented and helped to enhance the quality of this Lastly, warm thanks to all at Elsevier for trusting
book. Dr Dominik Wujastyks specialist knowledge me to come up with the goods.
of the history of Indian medicine has been invalu-
able, Sir Dr James Mallinsons unique knowledge of Om Santi

Sources for photographs used in the Plant Profiles section are as follows. Please note that for each Plant
Profile, the dry plant is featured in the left-hand photograph, and the fresh plant is on the right.

Ajmoda (fresh), Aloe (fresh), Bhringaraja (fresh), Cardamom (fresh), Chiretta (fresh), Chitraka (fresh),
Chrysanthemum (fresh), Cinnamon (fresh), Cloves (fresh), Coriander (fresh), Damanaka (fresh), Dhattura
(fresh), Ephedra (fresh), Fennel (fresh), Garlic (fresh), Ginger (fresh), Gotu Kola (fresh), Hemp seed
(fresh), Hingu (fresh), Jasmine (fresh), Karavella (fresh), Lemon and lime (fresh), Lemon Grass (fresh),
Licorice (fresh), Lotus (fresh), Manjishta (fresh), Mint (fresh), Mustaka (fresh), Neem (fresh),
Pomegranate (fresh), Psyllium (fresh), Rhubarb (fresh), Senna (fresh), Vacha (fresh), Vamsa Lochana
(fresh): 2006 Steven Foster

Anthrapachaka (fresh), Bakuchi (fresh), Bala (fresh), Bilva (fresh), Kapikacchu (fresh), Pit Shirisha (fresh),
Pushkaramoola (fresh), Tila (fresh), Trivrut (fresh): Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health
Traditions, Bangalore, India


I have written this book with huge amounts of yoga and tantra has been enlightening, and Edward
help. Berger and Edward Thompsons deep understand-
ing of energetic herbalism and modern science so
Firstly, my teachers have fed me with words of often steered me in the right direction. Ben Joliffe,
wisdom and truth. Shri Kamal Das ji, Bal Yogi Claudia Mallinson and Susanna Hawkins gener-
Balak Das ji, Vedantananda Saraswati, Dr Michael ously gave their time to read the manuscript and
Tierra, Lesley Tierra, Annie McIntyre, Pierre showed me the way to clarity. All of my herbalist
Cousins, Dr Yogesh Bendale, Dr Avinash Lele, friends have been a continual inspiration and I
Alan Treharne, Anne-Marie Lavin, Dr Jin, Mike thank you for your priceless wisdom and inspiring
Brook, and my mother and father. Herbs of praise. discussions. My deepest thanks to Susie for your
continual insight, inspiration and love.
Secondly, my erudite friends who have read, com-
mented and helped to enhance the quality of this Lastly, warm thanks to all at Elsevier for trusting
book. Dr Dominik Wujastyks specialist knowledge me to come up with the goods.
of the history of Indian medicine has been invalu-
able, Sir Dr James Mallinsons unique knowledge of Om Santi

Sources for photographs used in the Plant Profiles section are as follows. Please note that for each Plant
Profile, the dry plant is featured in the left-hand photograph, and the fresh plant is on the right.

Ajmoda (fresh), Aloe (fresh), Bhringaraja (fresh), Cardamom (fresh), Chiretta (fresh), Chitraka (fresh),
Chrysanthemum (fresh), Cinnamon (fresh), Cloves (fresh), Coriander (fresh), Damanaka (fresh), Dhattura
(fresh), Ephedra (fresh), Fennel (fresh), Garlic (fresh), Ginger (fresh), Gotu Kola (fresh), Hemp seed
(fresh), Hingu (fresh), Jasmine (fresh), Karavella (fresh), Lemon and lime (fresh), Lemon Grass (fresh),
Licorice (fresh), Lotus (fresh), Manjishta (fresh), Mint (fresh), Mustaka (fresh), Neem (fresh),
Pomegranate (fresh), Psyllium (fresh), Rhubarb (fresh), Senna (fresh), Vacha (fresh), Vamsa Lochana
(fresh): 2006 Steven Foster

Anthrapachaka (fresh), Bakuchi (fresh), Bala (fresh), Bilva (fresh), Kapikacchu (fresh), Pit Shirisha (fresh),
Pushkaramoola (fresh), Tila (fresh), Trivrut (fresh): Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health
Traditions, Bangalore, India


ADHD Attention deficit and hyperactivity IUCN International Union for the
disorder Conservation of Nature
ALT Serum alanine aminotransferase LDL Low-density lipoprotein
AST Serum aspartate aminotransferase MAO Monoamine oxidase
ATP Adenosine triphosphate ME Myalgic encephalomyelitis
CAMP Cyclic adenosine monophosphate MNIMH Member of the National Institute of
Medical Herbalists
CFS Chronic fatigue syndrome
NO Nitric oxide
CITES Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and NSAIDs Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
PCOS Polycystic ovary syndrome
CNS Central nervous system
SSRIs Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
COX Cyclooxygenase
STDs Sexually transmitted diseases
FDA Food and Drink Administration (USA)
TCM Traditional Chinese medicine
GIT Gastrointestinal tract
WHO World Health Organisation


Nowhere on earth is there any creature which is immortal. Yet, although death is unavoidable, a man
may avoid many diseases
Health brings happiness
Sa-rngadhara sam.hita- Section 1.5

This ayurvedic herbal is an overview of the won- It is called Ayurveda because it tells us which
ders of ayurvedic pharmacology: how Ayurveda substances, qualities and actions are life enhancing,
understands plants, how it prepares them and how and which are not
these preparations are used. I have written it for Su-trastha-na 30.23
ayurvedic specialists, herbal practitioners and
interested herbal enthusiasts alike. I hope that (Quotes are translated by D Wujastyk and
these Ayurvedic insights give you the inspiration reprinted with his kind permission from his most
to incorporate some of its deep understanding of poetic translation of ayurvedic texts The Roots of
herbal medicine into your life and practice. It is Ayurveda.)
also relevant to note that as Ayurveda receives
official recognition as a bone fide medical system Broadly speaking, Ayurveda is understood to
in its own right its educational standards are also be the generic term for traditional Indian medicine.
becoming more standardised. Ayurvedic But as well as being a medical system it includes
Medicine attempts to meet these broader curricu- aspects of philosophy, mythology, diet and yoga as
lum standards that require students to cross cul- well as mental and spiritual refinement as part of
tural boundaries and understand traditional its teachings.
medical models as well as modern sciences. In line
with this I have followed the proposed core cur- Ayurvedas medical branch uses herbal medicines,
riculum standards presented by the Department minerals, animal products, food, massage, air,
of Indian Systems of Medicine as well as the water, heat, earth, surgery, detoxification and toni-
European Herbal Practitioners Association in rela- fication to bring about health. Ayurveda focuses
tion to studying the ayurvedic materia medica and on preventing disease and optimising vitality as
pharmacology. much as on removing an illness. Thus it has a
holistic approach to health that includes every
Ayurveda is literally translated as science of life aspect of life in a philosophy where mind, body
but it can also be described as the way of living and spirit are considered to be an integrated
with awareness and promoting longevity. An early whole. Nothing in the world is considered to be
description given in the Caraka Sam . hita written separate from anything else. Everything is inter-
c.150BCE100CE says: connected. Practising Ayurveda is as much about

on the nature of the humours (dos.a), variations on

understanding your own inner nature and fulfill-

ing your own potential as it is about helping the effects of the tastes, new diseases and numer-
your patients to understand their nature and fulfil ous ways of treating the same disease are
their potential. discussed. These adjustments reveal an evolving
medical system, steeped in a tradition that is
To achieve this end Ayurveda cultivates an inti- respectful of its divine origins yet open to
mate understanding of and relationship with experiential truth.
nature and thus observing her tastes, aromas, tex-
tures and qualities is a central part of learning The wisdom of Ayurveda is expressed as a way of
Ayurveda. If we are not aware of what our nature life that flows with the changes of the seasons,
is and what the qualities of nature are, or we weather, time and place. It teaches dietary and
choose to ignore them, then we will certainly behavioural adjustments that should be adopted as
become ill. We will look at the causes of illness later you mature from childhood to adulthood to old age.
but surely a large part of the cause of the modern It gives perennial advice on how to prevent illness
malaise must be our separation and distance from as one season becomes another and specific recom-
nature and her natural rhythms. Ayurveda offers mendations on how to adjust your daily habits. This
the potential to reconnect this disassociation. way of wholesome living prescribes a routine for all
the different climates and geographical regions of
Ayurveda understands that disease is due to a the world. It offers particular insights for men and
dysfunction in the inner processes of the body and women, children and adults. It is a universal system
mind. It is a disassociation within the whole sys- applicable to every individual living thing/being in
tem. This is different from our modern functional any part of the world, and at the root of Ayurveda
view of disease that regards organs in isolation is its focus on the uniqueness of each individual. In
and bacteria as causes of disease. Although ayurvedic practice no one has the same constitution
Ayurveda understands the potential of invading or disease (even if the names are the same) and
organisms (and refers to them as worms [krmi]) its certainly no one gets the same medicine just
primary understanding of disease is systemic because they have the same disease.
rather than reductionist. Many of the causes of dis-
ease are seen as originating from within us as are Ayurvedic Medicine is an attempt to bring some
many of the preventative measures that can keep of these unique theories alive so that they can be
us at optimum health. For Ayurveda, health is used in your daily life as much as in the clinic. My
more than the absence of disease, it is the whole focus on the nature of the plants is inspired by the
reason of living because without health you cannot tradition of energetic herbalism; a tradition full of
enjoy or pursue the goals of your life. Therefore insight, intuition and excellence. Understanding
Ayurveda gives insight into both the causes of dis- herbal energetics means that you can read a
ease and the means to obtain the best health. plants tastes, temperament and qualities with
your senses. Hence you are well equipped to help
Ayurveda has grown out of the accumulated both your patients and yourself whatever the situ-
knowledge and experience of hundreds of thou- ation, name of the disease and with whatever
sands of ayurvedic doctors. The main texts are tools you have. As nature holds the answers what
actually named after renowned doctors, such else is there to study?
as the Caraka Samhita, The Treatise of Caraka
or the Bhavaprakasa, The Light of Bhava. To find out more about energetic herbalism I rec-
Following the ayurvedic teachings, these doctors ommend reading all that you can by Jeremy Ross,
have developed their insights by applying the Peter Holmes, Dr Michael Tierra, Alan Tillotson,
theory of Ayurveda to clinical practice and then Nicholas Culpepper, Dr Vasant Lad, Dr David
being flexible enough to adjust this theory as their Frawley, Dr Robert Svoboda, Atreya, Avicenna,
experience dictates. The texts clearly reveal this Galen, Paracelsus, John Gerard, the ayurvedic
flexibility; they are full of adaptations and inquisi- canon, the Shen Nong Ben Cao, the Chinese mate-
tive questioning which reflect a deep commitment ria medica, Dan Bensky, Giovanni Macioca, Bob
to learn and apply the truth. Different perspectives Flaws, Phillipe Sionneau, James Duke, The

Eclectics and Christopher Hobbs. I am indebted to Whereas western philosophy focuses on

the above for the inspirational and insightful liter- philosophising, Indian philosophy concentrates on
ature that has nourished my understanding and practice. It directs all its attention to putting the
practice of herbal medicine. theory into practice. This is also what Ayurveda
does. It applies a medical theory to a living person
PART ONE by diagnosing the cause and imbalance of disease,
creating a treatment strategy and prescribing a mix
The first part of the book covers some of the
of herbs unique to that person. The Plant Profiles
aspects of Ayurveda that are essential to under-
are a true kicharee, as the classical teachings of
stand before using the herbal remedies in an
ayurvedic pharmacology (dravygunasastra) are
ayurvedic way. In the first chapter, A History of
drawn together with modern phytotherapy,
Ayurveda and the Growth of the Materia Medica,
herbalism and biomedicine. In each Profile there is
I have tried to draw a picture of the culture in
a heavy emphasis on what the herbs do and when
which Ayurveda has developed. I have discussed
they should be used.
some of the controversial areas that have arisen
within its evolution, as well as looked at the
growth of the pharmacopoeia. Chapter 2, The
This point is close to my heart; it is very important
Basic Principles of Ayurveda, is a collection from
that you buy your herbs from reputable distribu-
much of the excellent ayurvedic literature and I
tors. I encourage you to buy organically certified
encourage you to refer to these books as well (see
herbs or wild crafted herbs that are grown and
bibliography). I have tried to collate and clarify.
harvested with a sustainable attitude to our
Chapter 3, on Ayurvedic Herbal Pharmacology
precious world. There are thankfully a lot of
and Pharmacy, looks at ayurvedic energetics and
people using herbs these days, but the irony of
includes the traditional prescriptions for using the
this is that the destruction of the natural world
herbs in an energetic manner. This chapter also
may be hastened by those trying to lead a more
includes a discussion of the sustainable harvesting
natural life. Please check the resource guide for
of herbs and quality control methods for consistent
reliable suppliers.
production, as well as a brief discussion of current
safety issues regarding using herbs and pharma-
The Formulas
ceuticals concurrently. Chapter 4, Ayurvedic
The final section is on traditional formulas. They
Therapy and Treatment, looks at how to decide
are the fruits of the combined wisdom of
when to use the herbs and how to treat certain dis-
ayurvedic pharmacology. Ayurvedic treatment
ease categories. The treatment of specific diseases
thrives on formulas and here I have introduced
is a whole book in itself and so I have concentrated
some of the most popular ones. This is only a snip-
on the fundamental treatment principles of the
pet of a massive pharmacopoeia. Because of the
dosa, dhatu, agni and ama. Chapter 5, on The
restriction on the use of minerals in the west I have
Scientific Basis of Ayurveda, is my attempt to
primarily kept to the herbal repertoire.
show that the universality of ayurvedic thought is
confirmed by scientific understanding. This intro-
We do not live in the agrarian culture that
duction to ayurvedic pharmacology will enable
Ayurveda grew up in nor do we live in isolation
you to successfully use the Plant Profiles.
from the effects of the rhythms of nature. Today
we live in a world based on the scientific model
PART TWO where herbs are commonly used alongside modern
The Plant Profiles medication. As everything has its place I strongly
Plants are the heart of the book, as it is with these believe that it is time to integrate these practices
valuable herbs that the poetic theories of Ayurveda and to consciously use the wisdom of traditional
can be applied. As healing is at the heart of natural medicine within mainstream medical prac-
Ayurveda so these healing plants are at the heart tice. For the benefit of people all over the world it
of this book. Please read the template at the front is time natural medicine received the respect,
of the Plant Profile section to understand this sec- support and acceptance that it deserves.
tion more fully. Ayurvedic Medicine is an attempt to further this

same trials that Ayurveda has always faced; how

integration. It is a part of the impetus that is taking

place within the natural medicine community, to remain true to the tradition while assimilating
working to preserve traditional knowledge while new insights and also progressing with successful
also benefiting from and adding to the vast knowl- treatments within the changing social and medical
edge of modern science. Today we are facing the climate.

Chapter One



Ayurveda in context 3 Ayurveda and Yoga 10

How the ayurvedic tradition Modern times 11
became a system of empirical The primary ayurvedic
medicine 4 texts and treatises on
What is Ayurveda? 5 medicinal substances
History of Ayurveda 5 (Dravyagun.asa-stra) 12
The struggle between References 14
tradition and innovation in Further reading 14
Ayurveda 9

Ayurveda is declared to be eternal, because it has no beginning, because it deals with such things that
are inherent in nature and because the nature of matter is eternal. For at no time was there a break either
in the continuity of life or in the continuity of intelligence
Caraka Samhita Su-trastha-na 30.27

cohesiveness and collection of ideas within

AYURVEDA IN CONTEXT mainstream Indian culture. This integrative
This chapter gives a broad overview of ancient tendency of absorbing diverse cultural elements
Indian culture and ayurvedic history. It discusses is a recurrent theme throughout Indian history.
some of the original concepts that developed out And so it is with Ayurveda, which is the result of
of this ancient culture and have had such a pro- assimilating different cultural strands and med-
found influence on Ayurveda. Modern Indian ical insights.
culture appears to be a unified tradition and
many sources claim that it has always been so, Culturally speaking, in India there has always
but searching deeper reveals layers of different been a competitive atmosphere between an ortho-
cultural influences woven together. For example, dox religious tradition and a heterodox religious
it appears today that Ayurveda and Yoga have tradition. Everything in India had a relationship
always been a part of the same system, but his- with religion and Ayurveda developed within this
torical and textual evidence does not back this cultural friction. Early in Ayurvedas evolution
up. They may now be inextricably linked and there was tension between the superiority of ritual
even work very well together but, as we shall practices versus the scientific use of herbs. Which
see, this link has not always been in place. It is was the most effective medicine, ritual or science,
an error to claim that they have always been a the past tradition or new experience? The
part of the same system. Some authors and pro- Ayurveda practised today is a result of this devel-
moters of Ayurveda today claim that Ayurveda opment in a paradoxically conservative yet
has always been a part of mainstream Indian progressive culture. These cultural tensions are
culture. This is not the case. The one continual clearly expressed in the texts as well as experi-
thread in Indian culture is the trait of absorption, enced in the clinic. Modern Ayurveda is also the

many herbs and minerals? How was it discovered,

result of scientific research into and experience of

nature. The defining context is that Ayurveda is a for example, that brahmi (Bacopa monniera) is so
medical tradition steeped in religious tradition as effective at improving the intellect and guggulu
well as natural medicine, and it is based on both (Commiphora mukul) so useful at reducing tumours?
tradition and experience. How did the pioneers of Ayurveda learn to
diagnose illness with only the five senses at their
disposal? Having said this, the idea of human
HOW THE AYURVEDIC TRADITION BECAME A SYSTEM knowledge growing through experience, logic and
OF EMPIRICAL MEDICINE insight has great value. Human development is
Any history of ayurvedic development requires firmly grounded in endeavour. For Indian minds
discussing two different perspectives; a linear this duality causes no conflict as Ayurveda can be
religio-historical approach and a circular organic two things at the same time: both divinely inspired
expansion. The first perceives Ayurveda as a and open to human adaptation. This is a powerful
timeless system of medicine where its knowledge medium for expression of the truth as it is both
is perfect and divinely inspired; the second view reductionist and holistic.
is that ayurvedic medical knowledge has devel-
oped out of ritualistic healing into an empirical Taking the first paradigm, while there is nothing
medicine system that is grounded in clinical inherently wrong with the claim of eternal divine
experience. origins there are some potential problems with
this perspective. It could potentially stifle new
The introductory verses of ayurvedic texts reflect ideas within Ayurveda as, in order to gain valid-
the perspective that Ayurveda is an eternal reve- ity, there is a tendency for clinical experience to
lation. They all start with a mythological account be referenced back to a divine eternal source.
of the gods passing ayurvedic knowledge down Humble that this approach is, new ideas are not
to humans. This divine stamp is a well-known easily propagated. There is an element of this
Indian method of authenticating a text and mak- attitude displayed by the core theoretical ground
ing it orthodox (Wujastyk 2003). It is a way of of Ayurveda, having remained very similar over
bringing formerly untraditional and perhaps the last 2000 years. The relative lack of modern
unaccepted ideas into mainstream culture. Much innovative ayurvedic literature generating
of the secondary and modern ayurvedic literature improved methods of treatment, in comparison
also implies a consistent tradition that is divinely to Chinese and Western herbal medicine, is per-
inspired and eternal (see, for example, Frawleys haps partially a result of this. It may be that the
and Svobodas insightful books on Ayurveda). inherent theories of Ayurveda are already com-
But, as you untangle the web of influences that plete, but effective clinical insights are always of
have affected Ayurveda the evidence clearly benefit as new diseases and cultural habits arise.
reveals an expanding tradition that has accumula- The insistence on divine origins has stagnated
ted knowledge over time and through experience. this process of valuing both clinical experience
This latter organic perspective, first introduced by and theory.
Jan Meulenbeld (Reflections on the basic con-
cepts of Indian pharmacology, see Meulenbeld It is not therefore surprising that as Ayurveda has
1987), holds that Ayurveda is a science of been under continual threat from certain Moghul,
unfolding truth and as a path of discovery it has British and, currently, allopathic forces in the last
not and will not remain static. These develop- 400 years, it has in some quarters been necessary
ments are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but to fall back on its ancient roots in order to vali-
it is useful to understand the roots of different date and justify its presence. This has protected
ayurvedic traits. but also weakened Ayurveda. Its strength is really
in its present clinical excellence and the ayurvedic
The concept of a timeless tradition has great community should be harnessing powerful social
appeal, for the insights of Ayurveda are incredible forces and speaking with confidence about its
and they do appear to be divinely inspired. How ability to help our society. However, this is made
else have we learnt about the properties of so difficult when Ayurveda is presently only

recognised as an adjunctive medical system, Holding onto the primacy of either of these two

where ayurvedic doctors can only hold the posi- paradigms means that the complete picture is
tion of a third medical officer at primary health missed. As we shall see, Ayurveda can offer a
centres in India, and complementary medicine the balance to these extremes as it contains both
world over holds a similarly lowly position in the paradigms within it.
medical hierarchy. As a literature base of over
2000 years, hundreds of thousands of expert I think this inner debate between tradition and
physicians, millions of healed patients and progression is mirrored in our everyday lives and
numerous positive clinical trials attest, ayurvedic specifically experienced when using natural medi-
treatment works and practitioners and profes- cine. The question is how to respect tradition while
sional registers should promote this, researchers integrating personal experience. Internally it is a
should publish clinical data and governments case of communication between heart and head
should support it enthusiastically. Although where intuition and intellect are both valid. As we
Ayurveda has its roots in the past, its practition- shall see, intuition and intellect are both essential
ers must embrace the present. Ayurveda and for medicine to be, as Ayurveda is, truly holistic.
ayurvedic physicians deserve greater recognition
than they receive today.
Another, and potentially more serious, problem of The term Ayurveda is used today as a generic term
relying on a doctrine that holds its origins as for traditional Indian medicine. By combining
divinely and infallibly inspired, is that it can and organoleptic (sense-based) empirical medicine
has resulted in right-wing fundamental political with religious ritual perspectives, Ayurveda is a
groups utilising it to their own ends. This is clearly complete medical system. It deals with health in all
the case in India today with the current rise in its aspects; physical health, mental balance, spiri-
popularity of right-wing fundamental Hindu tual well-being, social welfare, environmental
groups, and shows how the struggle for political considerations, dietary and lifestyle habits, daily
supremacy can infect religion (and vice versa). living trends, and seasonal variations in lifestyle,
This insistence of the divine origins of Ayurveda as well as treating and managing specific diseases.
may unwittingly reinforce this political doctrine if Ayurveda teaches respect for nature, appreciation
it continues to ignore modern Indological historical of life and the means to empower the individual. It
knowledge. By this, I refer to certain quarters of is holistic medicine at its best.
the academic community promoting this ideology
as though Vedic knowledge has remained eternally
and statically predominant in all aspects of Indian HISTORY OF AYURVEDA (BOX 1.1)
culture for all time. The point is that while religion, Indian culture and medicine before
medicine and politics are interrelated, the potential Ayurveda
repercussions of an ideology must be considered; To see the world from which Ayurveda developed it
in this case, pandering to extreme political causes is necessary to go back 4000 years. Ayurveda had
that oppose the central tenet of Ayurvedacaring not yet been established. People lived close to the
for all humanity. cycles of nature in a thriving agrarian society on the
banks of the River Indus, dependent on the abun-
The second paradigm, the scientific dependence on dance of the harvest and the bounty of water for its
empirical evidence, can also be taken too far to the survival. It was also a world in which the people
extreme, with similar detriment. This has occurred were subjected to the full force of the power of
within the modern medical paradigm of evidence- nature; torrents of rain and the fierce heat of the
based medicine requiring ethically dubious sun, as well as the reassurance of spring returning
double-blind clinical trials and animal experiments and the joy of reaping a mature harvest. Sub-
with a heavy dependence on single active ingredi- servience to the power that controls these natural
ents, synthesised medicines, separate chemical extremes was at the centre of everyday life in a reli-
pathways and a reductionist methodology that has gious world full of rituals. Regular fire sacrifices
lost the holistic view. were carried out to supplicate the deities upon


Box 1.1
Historical Timetable of Ayurveda work linking early ayurvedic thought with new tantric
1500BCE Vedic religion Rg, Yajur, Sa-ma & Atharva Vedas: alchemical techniques

125 herbal medicines mentioned in Atharva Veda 1449/50 Laksmanotsava: a text describing pulse-taking

c.600BCE Rise of heterodox traditions of Jainism, 14741538 Jvaratimirabha-skara of Ca-mun.d.a. The
Buddhism. Also growth of what is now called Hinduism first mention of astasthanaparksa, the eight methods

150BCE100CE Caraka Samhita-: The earliest complete of diagnosis (pulse, tongue, urine, eyes, face, faeces,

ayurvedic treatise. Herbs are here classified by action voice and skin)
and morphology. Again reformatted by Drdhabala 1596 Bhavaprakasa Nighantu by Bhavamisra: the

circa 400CE most important ayurvedic materia medica treatise
c.100500 Susruta Samhita: detailed surgical text -
c.1600 Ayurvedasutra: a text mixing ayurvedic, yogic

Bhela Samhita- and tantric thought Rasaratnsamuccaya: a pivotal

500 Dhanvantari Nighantu: an early compilation of alchemical text compiling much earlier thought and

herbs into certain functional groups based on the theory
property of the herbs 1676 Yogaratna-kara: a pivotal work reflecting the
c.600 Astangahrdaya Samhita- by Vagbhata: a collated assimilative trait of Unani and European influences on

work on the essence of Ayurveda Ayurveda
- -
c.650950 Madhava Nidana (aka Rogaviniscaya): the 1760 Rajavallabha Nighantu: progressive materia

first text committed solely to pathology medica
c.875 Siddhayoga by Vrnda. Early ayurvedic text of 1815 Samgraha Nighantu

the same type as Cakradatta 1893 Bhaisajya Ratnaval: Govindadasas work listing

9001400 Goraksa Samhita-: early hat.hayoga text numerous medical preparations and introducing

where many ayurvedic concepts are fused with different European diseases
tantric yogic practice c.1900 Nadprakasana: Sankara Sen

1075 Cikitsasamgraha/Cakradatta by Cakrapani: 1924 Nighantu Ratnakara

professional ayurvedic handbook of the medieval era
1100 Dravyagunasamgraha: the first Nighantu written Note: I have relied heavily on Jan Meulenbelds works for
categorising dates, notably A History of Indian Medical
by Cakrapani
Literature (19992002). While the dates that I have given
c.1300 Anandakanda: an early alchemical treatise
are the commonly-decreed historical dates of authorship,
1374 Madanaphala Nighantu: a further compilation
Indian Indologists often place the dates of the early
of herbs and minerals ayurvedic texts significantly earlier (c.40001000BCE). This is a
13001400 Sarngadhara Samhita: collected work on contentious issue and reflects some of the different

ayurvedic formulas and preparations. First record of perspectives on history, origins and tradition that exist
pulse-taking as a diagnostic method. A pivotal between certain European and Indian medical historians.

whose favour the world depended. Ritual perform- It was out of such a cultural context that Ayurveda
ance was as central to maintaining health as eating developed. Here was a fast-changing society that
enough food; both were needed to live and flourish. was exploring its ideals of religion, royalty, leader-
To treat disease, herbs and potions were used along- ship, law, medicine, and family. Philosophical
side the incantations of the priests. In fact the priests insight expanded as agrarian culture flourished.
were both doctors and religious specialists. Disease This is now known as the Vedic period
spread fast in these warm and humid climes. Fear (c.1500500BCE) (Jamieson & Witzel 1992).
of illness and of the death of loved ones was an
everyday reality. According to their belief system The orthodox and heterodox traditions
disease could be imposed from the spiritual world, With hindsight we can see that an orthodox reli-
from an accident, or from the natural world. Here is gious tradition (astika darsana) and a heterodox reli-
the world in which the eternal tradition and the gious tradition (nastika darsana) developed out of
empirical experience of everyday life could meet this milieu. In Indological terms orthodox means
and intermingle. adhering to the Vedas and heterodox means not

following the Vedas (e.g. Buddhism). The Vedas, An example of these two patterns and how they

including the Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas are were connected can be found in an ancient Vedic
the receptacles of traditional wisdom whose oral prayer. It includes both the ritual and the experien-
tradition goes back at least 4000 years. They codify tial approach where the priest-doctor is praying to
ritual hymns, sacrificial rules, poetic metres and the plant and the disease:
medical incantations. As we will see, Indian medi-
cine faced many challenges to become a part of the He through whom you plants creep limb by limb,
orthodox culture. joint by joint, you banish disease from him like a
huge man coming between fighters. Fly away
Vedic medicine and the origins of disease along with the blue jay; disappear with the
Ayurveda howl of the wind, with the rain storm R.g Veda
It is very difficult to place the exact origins of 10.97 (Trans. Wendy Doniger OFlaherty)
Ayurveda. Our first meeting with Ayurveda
proper in a fully coherent and documented format Here the invocator is both priest and doctor. Both
is in the texts of Caraka, Susruta and Bhela the prayer and plant seem to play the same healing
(150BCE500CE). These texts were clearly codified role.
long after Ayurveda was fully established and was
thriving as an oral tradition. An earlier text is Imagine the priest-doctor standing by the side of a
known to have been compiled by Agnivesa, the patient racked with fever. The room is full of the
Agnivesa Samhita-, but it no longer exists, although heady smell of incense. The priest-doctor is chant-
the Caraka Samhita- is said to be a revised edition of ing and praying. The smells and sounds waft
this work. There are of course medical facts found towards the delirious patient. The priest-doctors
in earlier texts, but they are not classical incantation is directed at the healing of the bed-
Ayurveda with dosa, dhatu and mala at the heart ridden patient. He is also preparing a medicinal
of their teaching. brew of special herbs that are empirically known
to cure fever. While feeding the infusion to the
Prior to this codification of Ayurveda as a com- patient he is also praying to the gods that the herbs
plete medical system it seems as though two pat- cure the patient. This is ritual medicine; prayer,
terns emerged as Indian medicine developed. One invocation, sound, smell and intention. It is inter-
represented the worship of and subordination to mingled with the empirical human-based medicine
the supernatural forces, while the other pattern as well as specific disease-based herbal knowledge.
was the development of ideas based purely on
empirical experience. Two concurrent and inter- Medicine falls out of favour with the orthodox
linked medical traditions appeared from within the This harmony was short lived and the role of the
Vedic literature: priest as doctor changed. At some time after the
Atharva Vedic period (c.1000BCE), medical practice
The orthodox Vedic tradition, full of elaborate
fell out with religious ritual practice. As the
religious rituals dedicated to the powerful
medical experience and perhaps the clinical
nature divinities; Surya, the sun god, Agni, the
results of the physician started to supersede the
lord of fire, Indra, the lord of heaven and thun-
authority of the priest the priest became superflu-
derstorms. This was the ritual tradition where
ous to the healing rite as it then was. The so-called
the gods were appeased through prayer, chant-
priest-doctor occupation divided into two roles of
ing, amulets and ritual offerings. These were
priest and doctor. Societys dependence on the
also the healing tools used to treat disease.
priests for maintaining the cosmic and social
The heterodox tradition that was outside this rit-
well-being guaranteed their position at the top of
ual fold and was based on the direct experience
the social ladder. The doctors ideas and methods
of medical physicians where herbs, minerals
were pushed away from the centre to the outside.
and surgery were the healing tools.
There was an evident paradigm shift from reli-
These patterns, like two rivers running through gious supernatural medicine being the modus
the same Vedic land, later converged to form operandi to a scientific observation-based practice
Ayurveda. being the primary medical model. There were

self. This had a profound influence on develop-

social and cultural reasons for this as well as

empirical. ments within Ayurveda by establishing its
growth in the bed of empiricism and its acceptance
It must be remembered that Indian society was by the orthodox. It is at about this time that
strictly class based, dependent on a caste system Ayurveda as a complete medical system became
with a clear division of labour and with rank deter- codified.
mined by birth. It was a society governed by a sys-
tem of ritual purity that was loosely governed by Empirical medicine
physical contact with people, wastes, food and Much of the evidence from this time points to the
water. Any transgression of the rules caused pollu- fact that the empirical-based medical science of
tion and led to a state of ritual impurity; a state that Ayurveda and the Indian ascetical tradition both
excluded the transgressor from experiencing Vedic grew up outside the orthodox religious hierarchy.
healing rites and authority. As the higher priestly Beyond the confines of ritual and convention,
caste sought to enforce their identity as the holders physicians explored the energetics of the natural
of ritual power and this ritual purity became a more world; the taste (rasa), energy (virya) and the spe-
rigid definition of caste hierarchy it started to cause cific action (prabhava) of plants and minerals.
problems for the medical profession. Meanwhile, the ascetics explored the inner realms
of consciousness; the layers of the mind (buddhi,
Because of the requirements of their job, physicians manas, citta), energy centres (cakra) and supernatu-
touched people from any caste, performed surgery ral powers (siddhi). These two traditions met in the
and came into contact with bodily fluids. The heterodox realm as they were united by their sepa-
higher castes started to consider them to be extre- ration from the mainstream culture. It seems evi-
mely polluted. Physicians were finally excluded dent that early ascetics used plant medicine and
from the soma sacrifice (an essential religious rite) possibly were among some of the pioneers of
and not recognised in the social hierarchy Ayurveda. There is some evidence for this;
(Taittiriya Sam -
. hita The Manu Smrti, a Brahmajalasuttanta of the Dighanikaya 1.1.27 and
text codifying Hindu custom, was positively 1.12 confirms that the sramanas (wandering
aggressive in its exclusion of the physician from mendicants) used various medical techniques to
the sacrifices and asserted that food accepted from earn a livelihood. A Greek writer, Strabo
a physician was like pus and blood (Manu Smrti (c.64BCE21CE), in his Geography, refers to
3.108,152; 4.212,220). Physicians were out of favour Megasthenes comments that these sramanas were
and out of the orthodox fold. They were still doc- known as physicians (see Zysks works on Indian
tors but, at this point, not included within the cen- medicine). Later, these new developments were
tral social hierarchy. absorbed into mainstream culture as ayurvedic
physicians and ascetic yogis became accepted by
Around this time (1000600BCE) the Vedic religion the orthodox traditions. The Sanskritisation of
moved into a further period of transformation as early hathayoga texts, i.e. Goraksasataka (c.1300CE), is
the authority of the priests was called into ques- a good example of this.
tion. The growth in the influence of the wandering
ascetic (parivrajaka) tradition, the Upanishadic Despite being heavily influenced by Buddhism,
awareness of the possibility of liberation from the Ayurvedas primary reference point for the last
perpetual cycles of birth and rebirth, and a grow- 2500 years has been Hinduism (Zysk 1991). The
ing disillusionment with the excessively elaborate two have evolved within the same cultural frame-
Vedic ritual sacrifices led to branches of knowledge work. To summarise the Hindu worldview, ortho-
splintering from Vedic practice. These movements dox Hindu culture perceives reality as an existence
resulted in the growth of Jainism, Buddhism and in which the nature of the self (atman) is obscured
Hinduism. These were dynamic and progressive by a veil of ignorance (avidya). Individuals are
traditions not content to rest on the conventions destined to play out the effects of their karma in a
of the past. They sought explanations about life perpetual cycle of rebirths. Karma, the causal
and the universe through direct experience, and relationship that effects every action, has a reac-
especially through knowledge of nature and the tion; the results of previous actions determine our

present condition and, in effect, trap the self in

Poignant throughout later and more classical
this physical world. This is seen as pure suffering. Indian philosophy is the theory of duality pro-
But, from torment by three-fold misery (endoge- pounded through the Upanisads and Vedanta
nous, exogenous and supernatural) arises the philosophy. What we perceive as reality is really
inquiry into the means of terminating it (Samkhya just an illusion or maya. We experience reality as
Karika 1.1, see Radhakrishnan & Moore 1957). separate from ourselves and it is our ego nature
From this developed the purpose of finding a way that causes this duality. This representation of
out of this misery. In order to fulfil this purpose of duality is seen in the mythology of Siva and Sakti,
life, to be liberated from ensnarement, the ortho- the two poles of masculine and feminine energy
dox Hindu must pursue the four ends of life; these that together hold all the opposites of life together.
are wealth (artha), sensual fulfilment (kama), reli- Our self-identity fragments this unconditional
gious observances (dharma), and liberation (moksa). unity of Brahman into segmented parts. Hence we
To ensure that these ends can be achieved feel separate from the whole and as a result lead a
Ayurveda embraces the health (arogya) of the body life in self-perpetuating ignorance that results in us
as its main aim. accruing numerous karmic bonds that tie us to
endless lives of rebirth in the wheel of life, known
Ayurveda is absorbed by the orthodox culture as samsara. Taking steps to alter this worldview
What is now known as Ayurveda is the blending and unify our individual consciousness with the
of a tradition that has contained elements of purely universal consciousness is the goal of all Indian
ritual medicine as well as empirical practice. philosophical systems. They offer the path to
Ayurveda becomes Ayurveda proper through its enlightenment and the means to get there.
association with the respected philosophical sys-
tems of Nyaya-Vaisesika, Samkhya-Yoga and to a This experience of indivisible unity is meditated
lesser extent with Vedanta-Mimamsa. The Nyaya- on as tat tvam asi meaning that art thou. It can-
Vaisesika philosophy is concerned with perspec- not be described as it is neti, neti or not this,
tives of logic and analysis, Samkhya is an not that.
ontological system that deals with the metaphysi-
cal nature of being, Yoga deals with the soteriologi- The Isa Upanisad says
cal methods to attain liberation, Mimamsa deals
It moves, It moves not,
with the knowledge of Vedic rituals and Vedanta
It is far and It is near.
deals with the esoteric nature of reality and its
It is within all this,
expression as an experience of both unity and
And it is outside all of this.
duality or what is known as non-dual.
The result is a tension between the individual
Ayurveda has the classical philosophies of Indian experience and the ritual experience, between indi-
culture at the root of its principles. These philoso- vidual consciousness and social hierarchy. The
phies infuse Ayurveda with a solid theoretical journey through Indian philosophical literature
structure that shape its practical framework; the mirrors our own journey through our perception
ideas behind the development of matter (prakrti), of our experiences; a deep search for truth, peace
the formation of the five elements (pancamahabhuta), of mind and undivided bliss.
how consciousness (purusa) pervades reality and
the various methods of gaining knowledge
(pramana), so essential to diagnosis, are all found in THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN TRADITION AND INNOVATION
the Indian philosophical tradition (sat darsana). In IN AYURVEDA
fact Ayurveda is an embodiment of these philoso- This tension that occurred in a broad sense within
phies; it makes the theory real. Its codification in Indian culture also occurred in the development of
Sanskrit in the Caraka and Susruta Samhitas con- Ayurveda as a whole. This is shown in the earliest
firms its absorption by conventional tradition. extant sources of ayurvedic theory and practice,
the Caraka Samhita, Susruta Samhita and
The philosophical view of Ayurveda is infused Astangahrdaya Samhita. Their content clearly dis-
with this culture of attempting to understand reality. plays the continual efforts to assimilate empirical

This is the difficulty in determining the meaning of

experience within the divinely revealed Vedic tra-

dition. This creates theoretical tension as well as the texts: on one hand they are divinely-inspired
confusion over some ayurvedic principles. knowledge and on the other they are evolving
human debates that are seeking to unravel the
For example, the Caraka Samhita starts with nature of nature and develop a medical system
revered salutations to the divine propounders that is accurate and effective. What emerges later is
of Ayurveda, Lord Brahma, the Asvins and Lord a collective opinion drawn together by commenta-
Indra. The tradition says that when Brahma awoke tors and practitioners.
to create the universe he also generated the wis-
dom that is Ayurveda. He passed this onto Lord
Daksa-Prajapati (the protector) who then taught it AYURVEDA AND YOGA
to the Asvin twins (the physicians to the gods) The development of Ayurveda continued alongside
who taught it to Lord Indra (the lord of the uni- the growth of the mystical tantric and yogic tradi-
verse). When human suffering had become so tions, each fulfilling their different roles. While
unbearable Lord Indra met with the great Ayurveda concentrated on the health of the body,
Himalayan sages and through his student Yoga was mindful of the state of consciousness
Bharadvaja passed this knowledge onto these and tantra with the deification and immortality of
enlightened beings. Hence the great student the body. Yoga is a tradition of mental and spiritual
Agnivesa came to study Ayurveda, under Atreya, refinement; the art of joining the individual-self
and eventually to compile this wisdom in the (atman) with the universal-self (Brahman). It rejects
now lost Agnivesa Samhita that is said to be con- the first three goals of Hinduism (wealth, sensual
tained in the Caraka Samhita. This marks pleasure, and religious duties) in preference of
Ayurvedas claim to divine origins and its connec- seeking the ultimate goal of life, spiritual emanci-
tion to an eternal tradition for, as we pation (moksa).
know, all Indian traditions that have sought
recognition by the orthodox have invoked the As with many Indian traditions, philosophical
authority of the Vedic deities as an expression differences were often overcome by a broadening
of their allegiance. of perspective on either side. Hathayoga, growing
out of the tantric yogic tradition, seems to have
But as you compare the Caraka Samhita with the adopted many ayurvedic principles, notably
other texts clear inconsistencies in this premise the purification of the body. The Hathayoga-
arise. Divergent theoretical opinions appear, thus pradipika is full of references to the dosa and
disqualifying this attempt to seek an eternal and techniques to remove phlegm, bile or the winds
divine foundation. For example, Caraka and (Box 1.2). With hathayoga becoming filled with
Susruta (Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 26.5758, ayurvedic practices and Ayurveda adopting
Susruta Samhita Sutrasthana 50.1012) differ in their yogic attitudes, the two traditions connected. The
opinions of the post-digestive effect of the flavours body became a priority in order to attain the goals
(see Chapter 3 on Ayurvedic Pharmacology); of liberation and health. Yoga, after centuries of
Susruta only lists sweet and pungent as the interest in the mind and self, became fascinated
flavours that remain after the process of digestion with the body. Hathayoga adopted an ayurvedic
whereas Caraka also includes sour. There were also language, as well as similar practices, to facilitate
differences in the understanding of human physi- this new focus on the body. There is a very close
ology; were there three or four humours (dosa)? Is similarity, in activity and intention, between the
blood a dosa or not? (Meulenbeld 1992). Another cleansing practices of the yogic satkarma and the
example is the discussion over the energetic nature purification of ayurvedic pancakarma. This
(virya) of herbs; are there two primary energetic movement from yogic spiritual practice to
classifications of herbs or eight? Is it just hot and physical purification of the body has been termed,
cold or hotcold, unctuousdry, heavylight and significantly, corporealisation (Mallinson 2002).
softsharp? The texts seem to differ (Caraka Samhita The body, as it became the terrain of spiritual
26.6465; Astangahrdaya Samhita 9.1213 from experience, became the focus of spiritual
Meulenbeld 1987). interest.

Modern-day Ayurveda, as practised in India today,
The Hat.hayogaprad-pika- is a seminal work on hat.ha-
is based on a resurgence that occurred around the
yoga that represents the contemporary approach
17th century. One cause of this may be the
to spiritual liberation using physical, breath and
increased competition that Ayurveda faced by the
meditative techniques.
coming of the Moghuls and the rise in use of
He in whom fat and phlegm are predominant should Unani medicine. Another may be the new energy
perform the six cleansing practices before pra-n.a-ya-ma. in Ayurveda from the synthesis that occurred
Because their dosas are in equilibrium other aspirants between Ayurveda and yogic-tantric thought. Two

need not practise them. fundamental new techniques that arose from this
Hathayogaprad-pika- 2.21 synthesis were the introduction of pulse diagnosis

Nauli is the foremost hat.hayogic technique. It kindles and the use of new mineral remedies. They are
a sluggish digestive fire, it strengthens the digestive both central to the practice of contemporary
and other functions, it produces bliss and it cures all Ayurveda. Pulse-taking seems to have arisen from
imbalances of the dosas. the Shaiva yogic tradition that thrived in South
India under the guidance of the Tamil Siddhas. It
Hat.hayogaprad-pika- 2.34
later arose in North India, with such works as the
Inhaling and exhaling quickly like a blacksmiths

Sarngadhara Samhita, Nadivijana and Nadicakra

bellows is called kapa-labha-ti. It cures imbalances of adding to this theoretical base (Meulenbeld 2001).
the kapha dosa. The Unani hakims were also useful teachers in the

Hat.hayogaprad-pika- 2.35 art of pulse-taking. The mineral remedies
This excellent Suryabheda should be performed over (mercury, gold, silver ashes) are very potent and
and over again. It cleanses the skull, destroys revolutionised the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia.
imbalances of the vata dosa and removes problems These additional techniques greatly enhanced the
efficacy of Ayurveda and this gave impetus to its
caused by worms.
Hat.hayogaprad-pika- 2.50 resurgence.

Translated by James Mallinson The 19th and 20th centuries saw a further revival
with the building of new ayurvedic colleges
(approximately 100 in 1983), the creation of the
Central Council for Ayurveda in 1970 to oversee
Ayurveda also adopted insights from this yogic standards and practice, and the establishment of
realm. It began to incorporate the tantric practice ayurvedic pharmaceutical companies. Its patron-
of using various mineral substances (notably mer- age by the Indian government now gives
cury, gold, and silver) and re-emphasised its objec- Ayurveda some form of nationally recognised
tives from merely maintaining a long and healthy status but this really needs to be more proactive
life to that of virilisation (vajikarana) and rejuvena- and supportive. The 21st century really is a
tion (rasayana), which is, potentially, immortality. time of challenges and opportunities for
These concepts essentially oppose the mortification Ayurveda. As Ayurveda spreads throughout
of the body and seek a long life filled with rejuve- the world it is facing many challenges to the tra-
native potential. Thanks to these yogic influences ditional way in which it has been practised.
the body is no longer considered to be mortal! There are legislative, environmental, educational,
Today Ayurveda and Yoga are practically synony- clinical, and cultural challenges that are
mous in the pursuit of good health and a calm facing the ayurvedic community (Box 1.3). It is
mind. a time to act or be acted upon, meaning that the
ayurvedic community must unite and speak up
Here we can see that Ayurveda continued to dis- to express its needs or will face legislation on
play the wonderful Indian trait of absorbing every- which it has had no influence. How Ayurveda
thing around it, even if that meant broadening and meets these challenges will steer its fate in the
modifying its own perspectives. future.


Box 1.3
Challenges faced by the global ayurvedic community
Political patronage
Ayurveda is considered a second-rate medical system herbal medicines from the wild is placing on herbal
by the Indian authorities with a poor professional supplies.
standing given to ayurvedic doctors. This results in a
weak image being projected from its native country
Increased popularity of herbal medicine throughout
to the rest of the world and does not send a support-
the world is resulting in fears about safety issues,
ive message to other national governments looking
leading to further herbal legislation regulating the
to India for guidance.
prescription and sale of herbal remedies. Some
Cultural examples of these are:
The fact that Ayurveda contains certain cultural
The legislative threats to the use of certain
traditions could potentially cause conflict when
medicinal substances such as vidanga (Embelia
meeting other cultures with different agendas. The
ribes) being banned from use in the UK. The
complexities of defining how Ayurveda should be
illegality of using many bhasmas (oxidised metallic
taught and practised outside India reflect this.
and mineral preparations), that are often
Scientific considered to be the mainstay of internal
The competition between western science and the treatments, is another challenge.
traditional medical paradigm practised by Ayurveda. The environmental pressure on many species used

The lack of evidence-based research and clinical trials in ayurvedic remedies is serious. For example,
is hindering its acceptance by mainstream medical chandana (Santalum album) and kushtha (Saussurea
institutions and practitioners. While there are many lappa) face increased demand on the domestic and
respectable research institutes in India many of the international markets while natural populations
clinical trials that are carried out are not available in dwindle.
easily-accessible journals and some do not meet There are also pressures on the educational front as

rigorous research standards. different countries define in law how

complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as
a whole can be practised.
A lack of environmental awareness among ayurvedic
practitioners about the pressures that harvesting

medicines are included in the ayurvedic pharma-

The central works of Ayurveda, The Great Triad One of the difficulties facing ayurvedic pharmacol-
(brhat trayi), are the Caraka Samhita, Susruta Samhita ogy today is the botanical identities of many of the
and Astangahrdaya Samhita, The Lesser Triad Sanskrit-named plants. Many are lost to history.

(laghu trayi) are the Madhava Nidana, Sarngadhara The translation of their Sanskrit name gives a tanta-
Samhita and the Bhavaprakasa Nighantu (or Yoga lising indication of their potential. For example,
Ratnakara according to some authorities). The jivaka, the life giver, still remains unidentified.
growth of the ayurvedic materia medica is clearly The precise identification of many ayurvedic
displayed in these texts. The increase of alchemi- plants has been a source of continual frustration,
cal medicine and developments in chemistry debate and botanical challenge. Having said this,
are included from the 12th century onwards with many do remain in the herbalists realm. Although
the introduction of Rasa Sastra, or alchemical the Vedas mention around 260 plants (Gogte 2000),
literature, in such texts as the Anandakanda, the first insights to the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia
Rasaratnasamuccaya and Ayurvedaprakasa. From are found in the Caraka Samhita. Here we find
here onwards metals, gems and mercurial the beginning of a pharmacopoeial trend of

collating substances (dravyas) into specific classes; guidelines for collecting herbal materials and

herbs, cereals, liquids, fruits, metals, gems, understanding the language of the pharmacopoeia.
vegetables, meats, cow products, flowers, salts, oils, For example, when there is no mention of the part
alcohols, sugarcanes, sources of water and urine. of the plant to be used, the root is to be used.
There are some wonderful descriptions of how to
In the Caraka Samhita herbs are classified into 50 identify herbs, how to collect the fresh plants and
groups (varga) of 10 according to their primary what the ideal growing conditions are. Specific
actions (Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 4). For example, pointers to quality are mentioned; haritaki
herbs that are jivaniya or life-giving include the well (Terminalia chebula) which has a small seed inside,
known licorice or madhuka (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and more fruit and which sinks in water is considered
the group that is brmhaniya or strength-promoting the best form for all purposes. It includes a very
includes Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). useful section on replacing an unobtainable herb
with: In the absence of tagara (Valeriana wallichi)
Susruta has also classified herbs according to kushtha (Saussurea lappa) should be used by the
groups with specific actions (Susruta Samhita wise physician. The text is also full of invaluable
Sutrasthana 38,39). But instead of being titled with insights into the nature of the tastes, gunas and
a specific action they are named after the most rep- pharmacological properties of the herbs. There are
resentative herb. For example, the pippalyadi varga 24 groups of herbs and minerals listed in the
(meaning the pippali, etc. group) describes the Bhavaprakasa and it is actually very systematic as
group of herbs that have a similar action to pippali only the herbs that should be in each group are
or long pepper (Piper longum). This is a digestive, actually listed (not always the case in other phar-
warming, carminative group of herbs that also macopoeias!). For example, only flowers are found
includes black pepper, cardamom, asafoetida and in the flower group (puspavarga) and only aromat-
calamus. Interestingly, there are also groups of ics are in the camphor group (karpuradivarga). It is
herbs classed together because of their cleansing a must for any serious student of Ayurveda.
(sodhana) effects: emetics, purgatives and vata paci-
fying herbs. Sanskrit plant names are sometimes used generi-
cally to cover various botanical species. While the

The Astangahrdaya Samhita also looks at groups of Latin nomenclature that I have used in this book to
foods and herbs. For example it mentions five define the equivalent for the Sanskrit name is
types of liquids; water, milks, oils, sugarcanes, and based on the works of numerous scholars, com-

alcoholic drinks. The Astangahrdaya Samhita follows mon clinical practice, and accepted norms, it can-
the herbal classification of Susruta by grouping the not represent hard and fast scientific certainty. The
substances according to specific actions. discovery of the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia is a
work in progress that will continue for many years
Later texts consolidated this trend of classifying to come.
groups of herbs based on their action. Again the
group title is usually named after the herb that is And so we can clearly see that Ayurveda has
renowned for that groups primary action. The grown out of a dynamic tradition that has sur-
Dhanvantari Nighantu (c.500CE) lists the first group vived and thrived in the face of much intervention,
as guducyadi varga or the Tinospora cordifolia, etc. influence and change. As a medical tradition
group. All the herbs in the group have the dual existing in Indian culture it has faced a complex
action of removing the aggravated dosa from the task: that of fitting into the orthodox fold while
body as well as rejuvenating the system, just as also remaining true to its holistic aspirations and
guduci removes pitta as well as rejuvenating the prioritising its ultimate goal of the health of the
blood and reproductive fluids. patient. These requirements were not always com-
patible but Ayurveda has managed to grow organi-
The Bhavaprakasa is the most commonly used cally into the respected position that it holds today.
materia medica today. Written by Bhavamisra around Ayurveda is now experiencing a worldwide
the 16th century it is a compilation of many earlier revival and it faces many challenges as it blends
texts. The Bhavaprakasa lays out the rules and with the legal, social and climatic conditions of

Zysk K 1991 Asceticism and healing in ancient

different cultures. Ayurvedas main challenge is

whether it can thrive as a global medical system. India: medicine in the Buddhist monastery, Oxford
University Press, Oxford
Further reading
Gogte V 2000 Ayurvedic pharmacology and
therapeutic uses of medicinal plants. Bhavans Frawley D 1989 Ayurvedic healing. Motilal
Book University Banarsidas
Jamieson SW, Witzel M 1992 Vedic Hinduism. Meulenbeld J 1987 Reflections on the basic con-
Online. Available: http://www.people.fas. cepts of Indian pharmacology. In: Meulenbeld J,
harvard.edu/~witzel/vedica.pdf Wujastyk D (eds) Studies on Indian medical his-
tory. Forsten
Mallinson J 2002 The Khecarividya of Adinatha:
a critical edition and annotated translation. D Phil. Meulenbelds contribution to the study of Ayurveda is
Thesis, Balliol College, Oxford University. To be unsurpassed and his massive A History of Indian
published by Routledge Curzon, 2006. Medical Literature is testimony to this. I am indebted
to his work.
Meulenbeld J 1987 Reflections on the basic con-
cepts of Indian pharmacology. In: Meulenbeld J, Radhakrishnan S, Moore C 1957 A sourcebook of
Wujastyk D (eds) Studies on Indian medical Indian philosophy. Princeton University Press,
history. Forsten Princeton
Meulenbeld J 1992 The characteristics of a dosa. Svoboda R 1988 Prakruti: your ayurvedic constitu-
Journal of the European ayurvedic Society 2:15 tion. Geocom
Meulenbeld J 2001 A history of Sanskrit medical Svoboda R 1992 Ayurveda: life, health and
literature. Egbert Forsten longevity. Penguin/Arkana
Wujastyk D 2003 The history of Ayurveda in the Zysk K 1996 Medicine in the Veda. Motilal
science of medicine. OUP. Banarsidas

Chapter Two


The sa-m.khya philosophy and Ayurvedic anatomy:

the pancamaha-bhu-ta: the five sar-raracana- 42
primordial elements 15 The digestive fire: agni 43
The universal constituents: Toxins: a-ma 44
gun.a 17 The ayurvedic mind: manas
The dos.as: the three humours: prakr.ti 46
friend or foe? 20 Seasonal behaviour: r.tucarya- 47
The three dos.as: tridos.a 24 Disease aetiology:
The main characteristics of each roga karan.a 56
dos.a: dos.a laks.an.a 27 Pathology and the six stages
The seven supportive tissues of disease: sam.pra-pti 56
of the body: sapta dha-tu 34 References 58
The channels: srota-m.si 41 Further reading 58

According to Ayurveda all matter is constituted of the five elements (pan~camaha-bhu-ta). Some parts of
matter are animate and others are inanimate.
Caraka Samhita- Su-trastha-na 26.10

It is the opinion of the wise that if an action produces a bad result, now or later, one should not perform it.
Caraka Samhita- Vimanasthana 3.45

This chapter is an introduction to the fundamental Anatomy (sar-raracana)

principles of Ayurveda. It will cover the unique The digestive fire (agni)
theories that give a foundation to the practice of Toxins (ama)
Ayurveda, ranging from ayurvedic cosmology and The ayurvedic mind (manas prakrti)
evolution theory to anatomy, physiology and the Seasonal routines
ayurvedic mind, and to an understanding of the Disease aetiology (roga karana)
cause and progression of disease. Pathology (samprapti)

The fundamental principles introduced here are:


The samkhya philosophy and the five elements
(pacamahabhuta) Ayurvedic cosmology is based on the theory of
The three qualities (guna) of nature: sattva, rajas, natural evolution that is presented in the Samkhya
tamas Karika (Fig 2.1; I svara Krsna 3CE. The concepts
The three humours (dosa) expounded by the sage Kapila were clearly
The seven tissues (dhatu) evident before this and played a role in Indian
The sixteen channels (srotamsi [pl.] and srotas evolutionary thought from c.700BCE.). This philo-
[sing.]) sophical text describes evolution as expanding


out of a state of primordial stillness when Samkhya means enumeration. This refers to the
all-pervading consciousness (purusa) and categorisation of evolution into a set of 24 princi-
manifest nature (prakrti) are in a state of equilib- ples (tattvas). It is a system of duality based on a
rium. The cosmic balance is disturbed by desire, continual dialogue between the dichotomy of the
causing the differentiation of this unity. From this universe. These opposites refer to the pairs of
subtle state of stillness comes the dynamic state of subtlegross, subjectobject, unmanifest (avyakta)
movement. It is out of movement that the natural manifest (vyakta) experiences. Within the avyakta
world evolves. state primordial consciousness (purusa) and

Manifest Nature
Creative expression

Figure 2.1 Samkhya. The evolution of consciousness into material nature

a single purpose, like that of a lamp. That they

matter (prakrti) co-exist; existing in a state of per-
fect equilibrium, they represent the original state possess contradictory properties does not give any
of balance. Purusa is the state of passive aware- one quality priority over another. They come
ness, the saksin, the silent observer. Referred to as together for the single purpose of liberation
a masculine energy, it is formless, colourless, (moksa), the ultimate goal of all darsana(s) and con-
odourless and without discernable qualities. In scious existence. They are one force, with different
line with the Indian Upanisadic approach to aspects unfolding to be mutually supportive,
describing reality it is defined through the nega- productive, and subjugative. They help each
tive of neti, neti; not this, not that. Prakrti in the other and keep each other in check. They are
avyakta state is the unmanifested seed that holds accountable to each other; maintaining, encourag-
the potential for all of phenomenal creation. ing, or restraining. Their varied proportions
Prakrti can be translated as first action; that force explain the variety in nature.
that contains both the spark and expression of
creation. Referred to as a feminine quality she has The disturbance of the primal balance between
form, colour and the attributes of experience. purusa and prakrti, which releases the patterns
More than this, prakrti refers to the capacity for of the guna, is a conceptual pattern. The Samkhya-
experience. This points to an active consciousness karika describes the process: For the perception
that has choice, direction and will. She is both the of nature by the spirit and for the isolation
generator and the generated. [kaivalya, concomitant with moksa] of the spirit,
there is union of both. From this union proceeds
evolution. The analogy of the seer (purusa)
THE UNIVERSAL CONSTITUENTS: GUN. A guiding the active blind (prakrti) is used. From
All experience is based on this duality between this catalyst of seeking enjoyment and isolation
the conscious subject and the active evolutes of comes the seed of all philosophical and mystical
nature. Consciousness needs something to be con- work and debate: Who am I?; What am I doing
scious of and matter needs to be experienced. here?, What is matter and what is spirit?. This
Prakrti is held together in a balanced state of ten- union of purusa and prakrti causes the confusion
sion by three universal constituents (guna). These or avidya of our true nature. We think that we
three aspects combine in variable proportions to are the observable and not the observer. This
create manifest phenomena. They are the causal quandary inspires all soteriologies in Indian
form of nature. They are present in every expres- culture.
sion of prakrti, be it subtle or gross; if it is observ-
able it contains the guna. Sattva refers to qualities The evolution of consciousness
of balance, equality, and stability. It is light (laghu) The imaginative power of rajas and the elements of
and luminous (prakasika) and holds the capacity desire (raga) that this stimulates play a role in the
for happiness. It is conscious and intelligent, mov- initial germ of creation. The first evolute from
ing inwards and upwards. Rajas generates activity, prakrti is called mahat. This is universal intelli-
change, and disturbance. It is mobile (cala) and gence. It is differentiated into buddhi as individual
excitable (upastambhaka). It is the motivator and consciousness. This intellect is determinative and
expressor. It has a centrifugal force causing disper- discriminatory. Because of its close proximity to
sion and disintegration. This movement away purusa in the evolutionary hierarchy buddhi is sen-
from the centre causes pain. Tamas is the immo- tient. Through this faculty we can discriminate
bile, still, and stuck quality. It is heavy (guru) and between eternal and transient, real and unreal. In a
causes obstruction or lack of perception (varana). It state of sattva it is virtuous, wise, detached and
moves down and is responsible for degeneration. powerful. In a state of tamas it holds to the oppo-
Through the force of tamas there is delusion and site of these properties. Here the gunas show how
confusion. the multiple variety in life manifests; sometimes
light and at others dark.
Tamas has a bad reputation for being a negative,
downward-bearing energy. To perceive it nega- As nature differentiates further it creates ahamkara,
tively is to misinterpret its role. The gunas exist for the I-maker. This is individualised awareness

Manas, the mind, is both expressive and receptive.

that operates as a process whereby the ahamkara

owns different aspects of evolution as its own. It It observes, perceives, and projects. It is a condi-
identifies with these aspects. We use the I in lan- tioned mind dependent on the particular modali-
guage to refer to an individual identity that exists ties of ahamkara. The influence of the mind
in its own right. This linguistic misnomer creates comprehends and directs the organs of sense and
an intellectual and experiential inaccuracy as we action.
identify with the I and not the source. Ahamkara
is a process necessary for the individuation that The tamasic aspect of ahamkara, propelled by the
takes place in natures evolution. The fault of dynamism of rajas, generates the tanmatras, the
ignorance (avidya) arises on association of seed elements. They are the primal measure(tat-
ahamkara as a real and separate entity. The matra) and are the causal root energies that hold
I-ness that perceives us as independent from con- the potential of all sensory and elemental manifes-
sciousness and not interdependent is the ahamkara. tation. Sabda is sound, sparsa is touch, rupa is form,
Through this individuation the guna, as different rasa is taste and gandha is smell. That is, sabda is the
aspects of nature, diversify and manifest with proto-element containing the experience and
their own ego-identity. expression known as sound. They define the pen-
tagal structure of the universe having five main
The material world constructive elements. Under a process known as
From the sattvic and rajasic aspect of ahamkara pancikarana, or quintuplication, a tanmatra trans-
evolve the set of eleven senses (indriya); the five forms the causal pancatattvas (that-ness or ele-
sense faculties (jnanendriya), the five organs of ment) into its gross and manifest form
action (karmendriya), and the mind (manas). The (pancamahabhutas). The tattvas first exist in the
jnanendriya are the potential for experience of sphere of consciousness (mahat). They manifest as
nature. We experience the manifest world through an expression of universal intelligence that has
the senses. They are receptive and receive the flow become differentiated and individuated as they
of prakrti in her multiple forms. They operate on a pass through the filter of ahamkara.
subtle and gross level; the ears perceive sound
moving in space, the skin perceives touch carried Each element (bhuta) contains a certain collection
by air, the eyes see light generated by fire, the of atoms (paramanu). They become more dense as
tongue carries taste that manifests through water they evolve through the different states of matter;
and the nose observes smells exuding from earth. ethereal to gaseous to thermal to fluid to solid.
Through these senses we know about the world; Each state of matter contains a special attribute
hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling it. (visesa guna), which is a seed element (tanmatra).
They are the interface between the inner and outer Ethereal akasa has sabda sound, gaseous vayu
world. For the physician they are the tools of has sparsa touch, thermogenic tejas has rupa form,
diagnosis. fluid ap has rasa taste and solid prthivi has gandha
smell. These tanmatra combine in specific configu-
The karmendriyas allow for certain actions which rations resulting in the gross elemental atoms
direct certain experiences. They are pure expres- (bhuta paramanu). This theory combines some
sion and allow the manifestation of ideas. The Vedantic thought. Essentially a Vedantic bhuta
mouth is responsible for expression that is carried (subtle element) relates to a Samkhyan tanmatra
by ether and sound. The hands are instruments of (proto-element).
grasping, utilising air and touch. The feet allow for
motion, requiring the dynamics of heat and direc- This diversity is a variation in density. Ether
tion of sight. The reproductive organs are the (akasa) is the source element, growing out of mind.
potential for reproduction held in water and taste. They both have an expansive and limitless quality.
The anus allows for the expression of elimination Ether is the arena of activity allowing for interac-
relating to earth and smell. How we perform these tion and connection between all phenomena. It is
expressive actions is a product of ahamkara, but the expansive, light, clear, subtle, infinite and all-
inherent quality necessary for their manifestation encompassing. It transforms into air (vayu) through
is everywhere in prakrti. motion. Air is like the wind, light, subtle, clear,

mobile, rough, dry, gives direction and potential for

Box 2.1
change. The continual movement causes friction The pancamahabhuta
that creates fire (tejas). Fire is hot, sharp, penetrat- AKASASPACE/ETHER: the principle of all
ing, fluid, luminous, ascending and dispersing. It pervasiveness
allows for perception and warmth. It creates con- Quality: expansive, light, subtle, clear, infinite and
densation that collects to form water (ap). Water is all-encompassing space.
the moisture necessary for life. It is fluid, heavy, Relates to the sense of sound and the ear. It is the
wet, soft, cool and cohesive. It coagulates to form arena within which life takes place. Sound travels
earth (prthivi). Earth is solid and stable. It has through space.
resistance, is thick, heavy, dense, hard and still.
Each element contains a part of the other elements VAYUAIR: the principle of motion
within itself. Quality: like the wind, light, mobile, clear, rough, dry
and erratic.
Ayurveda develops the 24 tattvas of Samkhya to Relates to the sense of touch, the nerves and the skin.
create a framework for understanding the flow of Sensation travels through the skin and nerves just as
vitality (rajas as prana) in the body and universe. you can feel the wind on your skin.
It explains the anatomy of dhatus (tissues) and TEJASFIRE: the principle of illumination
srotamsi (channels) and the physiology of constitu- Quality: hot, sharp, fluid, penetrating, luminous, light
tion (prakrti) through a humoral (dosa) scheme ascending and dispersing.
derived from combinations of the elements. Relates to the sense of sight and the eyes. Light and
perception travel through the eyes due to the
Samkhya is a scientific philosophy directed at metabolic activity of light-sensitive photons in the
explaining the human predicament of suffering, eyes.
the evolution of consciousness and nature, as well
as being a soteriology, seeking a path to liberation JALA/APWATER: the principle of cohesion
from all the misidentification and misassociation Quality: fluid, heavy, wet, lubricating, cool, soft,
that results in cycles of suffering. It is limited, like cohesive and stable.
any philosophy, by defining set phenomena that Relates to the sense of taste and the tongue. Flavours
describe reality. It benefits from being a part of a and tastes are only perceptible when the tongue
larger philosophical framework that includes other is wet.
perceptions. Ayurveda is magnified and clarified PR THVIEARTH: the principle of cohesion
by this larger perspective. It is given structure
Quality: thick, dense, solid, hard, heavy and stable.
through the evolutionary theory of Samkhya. Relates to the sense of smell and the nose. Earthy and
dense objects give off smells.
As discussed above the material world is com-
prised of building blocks that evolve as increasing
concentrations of density from the subtle to the by chemical intervention. The pancamahabhutas are
gross, from ether to earth. These bricks are known more closely associated with states of matter as
as the five great elements ( pancamahabhuta) or opposed to their reducible molecular elements.
that-ness (tattva). They are the five primordial
elements; space/ether, air/motion, fire/heat, GUN.A: The qualities of nature
water/fluid, earth/solid (Box 2.1). The qualities of nature have a direct effect on the
physical behaviour, mental outlook and emotional
These elements combine in different proportions to balance of every individual (Box 2.2). As a broad
make up the material universe. They are relevant to example the yogic vegetarian is sattvic, the driven
Ayurveda as they form the substrate for the consti- executive is rajasic, and the slothful couch potato is
tutional humours, tissues, channels and wastes, as tamasic. I have heard it explained that a box of
well as the framework for determining tastes and matches is tamas, the striking of the match is rajas
properties of herbs and foods. They are different and the light of the flame is sattva; stillness, move-
from the periodic elements of modern chemistry that ment and light. A healthy balance of all three guna
are the irreducible components of matter, indivisible is required for a healthy existence.


Box 2.2 This description of the different qualities of nature

Sattva, rajas and tamas gives us the language with which to understand
Sattva represents all that is illuminating, intelligent, pathology, physiology and energetic herbalism. It
creative, compassionate and pure is a vital part of this medical system that relates
Rajas represents all that is dynamic, metabolic, hot, the energetic condition of an individual with the
restless and selfish particular remedy that is qualitatively appropri-
Tamas represents all that is inert, still, dull, unconscious, ate for them. Simply put, a cold and wet disease
sluggish and ignorant gets a hot and dry remedy (Table 2.2).

These qualities combine in plants in unique propor-

tions. This results in a certain dominance of one or
The 20 ayurvedic qualities of matter two of the qualities. For example, dry ginger
The ayurvedic guna theory broadens this under- (Zingiber officinale) is hot, light and dry. This tells
standing and expands this subtle tripartite system the practitioner that ginger warms coldness, is easy
into a division of ten pairs of opposite physical to digest and dries wetness. The clinical parameters
qualities (gurvadiguna) (Table 2.1). are clearly guided by the guna and energetics of the
plant. On top of this the ayurvedic materia medica
describes the character of the plant and its effect on
the constitutional principles of vata (V), pitta (P),
TABLE 2.1 The twenty qualities of matter and kapha (K). This is more fully explained in the
(gurvadi guna) Plant Profiles section of the book.
Quality Example
Hot (usna) ginger, garlic, alcohol THE DOS. AS: THE THREE HUMOURS: FRIEND OR FOE?

Light (laghu) gotu kola, popcorn, rice Va-ta, pitta and kapha move in the whole body
producing good or ill effects upon the entire
Dry (ruksa) guggul, honey, millet
system according to their normal or provoked
Penetrating/ calamus, alcohol, salt states. Their normal state is prakr ti and their
sharp (tksna)
abnormal state is vikrti
Smooth (slaksna) sesame oil, ghee
Caraka Samhita- Su-trastha-na 17.62
Stable (sthira) yoghurt, sweets
Soft (mrdu)

porridge oats, ghee, avocado The three dosas: wind, fire, and water are shown in
Liquid/fluid (drava) water, juices Figure 2.2.
Subtle (suksma) brahmi, ghee, honey, alcohol
What is a dosa?
Slimy (picchila) oil, porridge oats
Dosa is the ayurvedic term that generically
Cold (s-ta) neem, mint, wheat describes our inherited traits, individual character-
istics and tendencies. This refers to such things as
Heavy (guru) ashwagandha, yoghurt, meat
the body frame, eye colour, digestive capacity,
Greasy/ oils, nuts, shatavari emotional balance as well as disease tendencies.
unctuous (snigdha)
We all have a different balance of the dosas. For
Dull/sluggish (manda) nutmeg, tofu, yoghurt example, some of us are tall, others short, some
Rough (khara) bibhitaki, popcorn cannot bear the cold and others dislike the damp.
Many of these attributes are genetic while others
Mobile (cala) spices, chilli
are acquired from our diet, climate or living condi-
Hard (kat.hin.a) nuts, coconut, almonds, sesame tions. The constitution is fixed at birth but the
traits have a tendency to accumulate. If this
Solid/dense (sandra) roots, cheese accumulation does not leave the body through the
Gross (sthu-la) bala, meats, mushrooms normal routes (stool, urine, sweat), it increases.
This, according to Ayurveda, is the cause of most
Clear (visada) sprouted beans
disease. Despite this tendency to veer out of

TABLE 2.2 The gunas and their effects on the elements and dosas
Quality (gun.a) Element (tattva) Action (karma) Effect on dosa

Hot (us.n.a) Fire Heating, digestive, moves upwards and outwards, diaphoretic (svedana) VP+K
Light (laghu) Fire, air, space Easy to digest, reduces accumulations, reduces (langhana) VP+K
Dry (ru-ksa) Earth, air Drying, astringing, dehydrating, constipating V+PK+
Penetrating/sharp (t- ks. n.a) Fire Enters deeply into the body and mind, immediate effect V+P+K
Smooth (slaks.n.a) Water Eases tension, brings together, and reduces roughness VP+K+
Stable (sthira) Earth Encourages relaxation, creates sluggishness VPK+
Soft (mr.du) Water Eases tension, increases tenderness, reduces hardness, pacifies (samana) VP+K+
Liquid/fluid (drava) Fire, water Holds together, lubricates and moistens VP+K+
Subtle (suksma) Air, space Penetrates deeply into the tissues, expansive, increases awareness V+P+K
Slimy (picchila) Water Heals broken bones, soothes, creates lack of clarity, plasters (lepana) VP+K+
Cold (s-ta) Water Cooling, slows digestion, contracting, moves inwards and downwards, restrains (stambhana) V+PK+
Heavy (guru) Earth, water Difficult to digest, builds tissues, moves down, creates tiredness, nourishes (brmhana) VPK+

Greasy/unctuous (snigdha) Water Difficult to digest, lubricating, nourishing, increases love, moistening (kledana) VP+K+
Dull/sluggish (manda) Earth, water Increases tissues, causes stagnation, slowness, pacifies (samana) VPK+
Rough (khara) Air Reduces lubrication, causes dry skin, brittle bones, increases inflexibility, scrapes (lekhana) V+PK
Mobile (cala) Air Encourages movement and changeability, releases V+P+K
Hard (kat.hin.a) Earth Difficult to digest, gives strength V+PK+
Solid/dense (sa-ndra) Earth Difficult to digest, increases structural strength, mental fortitude VPK+
Gross (sthu-la) Earth Difficult to digest, causes obstructions VPK+
Clear (visada) Air, space Increases clarity V+P+K



Figure 2.2 The three seats of the dosa: va-ta, pitta, kapha

balance the dosas offer much potential for health when it is used in different situations.
and vitality, if cared for properly. Constitution implies ones fixed and life-long
inherited health, functional principle implies an
The dosas are not physical entities but subtle invisible catalytic active, and humour is often
by-products of the cosmic evolution of the five ele- used because of the European cultural familiarity
ments (pancamahabhuta). They cannot be seen, only with the Greek humoral system of medicine.
known through inference as they manifest through Humour comes from the Latin umere meaning
the products of disease; phlegm, swellings, inflam- moist and again refers to the constitutional make
mation, bleeding, nervous imbalance and dry skin. up as well as something that can increase or
In perfect health they remain out of sight. decrease in volume as well as quality. The dosas
can have all of these tendencies, depending on the
The meaning of dosa context.
translated in many differ-
Dosa is described and
ent ways; constitution, functional principle, There are three dosas (tridosa: vata, pitta, kapha) that
humour. There is no single word that accurately are discussed in detail below. The constitution is
translates the breadth of meaning implied to dosa described in terms of the dosas.

Constitutional make-up means inherent nature

dhatu, or a channel, become corrupted then they
(prakrti). Each individual has a mental nature can also destabilise the other dhatu and channels
(manas prakrti) as well as a physical humoral (Caraka Samhita Vimanasthana 5.1, Meulenbeld
constitution (dosa prakrti). When the humours are 1992). Hence the normally supportive dhatu can
relatively balanced the dosa prakrti brings health also become faults. The digestive fire or agni is
and support. Conversely, when there is an accu- also seen to be a source of imbalance of the dosa
mulation of a particular dosa (or dosas), an aggra- .
(Astanga Samgraha Sarirasthana 6.22). Food is also
vated state of the humours (dosa vikrti) arises. This able to corrupt the dosa and dhatu (Susruta Samhita,
brings ill health. It is important to note that it can Sutrasthana 45.66). Thus health is not just about the
be easy to confuse vikrti with prakrti as many balance of the dosa, it is about an overall vitality
health imbalances appear on the surface. This is and proper functioning of the dosa, dhatu, srotas,
examined further below. mala and agni.

The literal meaning of dosa is fault. This comes The dosas are also arambhakatva; able to generate
from the Sanskrit dus meaning err and relates disease. When the dosas are aggravated they can
to the prefix dys (from the Greek), as in dys- be, in themselves, the beginning of disease.
functional, dysentery or dyslexia. The word dosa Interestingly, Jan Meulenbeld (1992) also points out
is commonly used to refer to the three humours that blood (rakta) can also be a causative factor in
of vata, pitta, and kapha. It is also occasionally disease, as clearly seen in gout (vata rakta).
used to describe other physiological functions
such as disrupted tissues, wastes, as well as spe- The final defining characteristic of a dosa is that of
cific disorders, for example, agnidosa, meaning a prakrtyarambhakatva, the ability to determine the
defective digestive fire (Astan ga Samgraha 6.22), constitution of a subject. A dosa determines the
amapradosa, meaning the defective toxic residue prakrti (Cakrapanidatta; Meulenbeld 1992).
(Caraka Sutrasthana 23.6), and grahanidosa, mean-
ing the disturbance of the small intestines So, when in a healthy qualitative and quantitative
(Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 26.3; Meulenbeld condition, the dosas help manage the physiology of
1992). the psyche and body. They help to support the sys-
tem and facilitate the five elements assimilation
It may seem ironic that the constituents of an indi- into the body. When out of balance they become
viduals physiological constitution should be pathological and act as impurities in the body that
referred to as destructive faults. Yet Ayurveda damage the digestive fire, the tissues and channels.
clarifies this irony through its broad approach to
understanding the processes of the bodymind. When the dosas manifest they are actually the
result of the imperfect digestion of the higher cos-
The defining characteristics of a dosa (Box 2.3) mic forces of prana, tejas and ojas.
they are
The texts define dosas as faults because
dusanatva; they have the ability to corrupt the agni, The essences of nature: pran.a, tejas, ojas
the channels (srotas), and the tissues (dhatu) These cosmic substances are the essences of
(Astangahrdaya Samhita Sutrasthana 1.13). It is also nature. Prana is the breath behind all the vital
relevant to point out that the dosas are not the sole essence of the universe, tejas is the spark behind
causes of corruption. Caraka clearly states that if a all conscious perception and ojas is the seed
behind all nourishment and creativity. Prana
infuses the physicalmentalspiritual realms with
life, tejas gives them clarity, and ojas connects and
Box 2.3
sustains them. Ojas holds a special place in
The functions that define a dosa
Ayurveda as its quality and quantity have a direct
Du-s.an.atva: to have the ability to corrupt the dha-tu
- effect on the quality of life: When ojas is low the
Arambhakatva: to be able to generate disease
person is fearful, weak, worried, has deranged
Prakr. tya-rambhakatva: to have the ability to determine
senses, poor complexion, weak mind, is rough
the constitution of a subject
and thin (Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 17.73). Its


beneficial qualities are seen in the lustre of the

eyes, strength of the body, resistance to disease, The vata dosa is comprised of akasa (ether) and vayu
efficient digestion, potent fertility and lucidity of (wind). Each dosa contains aspects of all the
the mind. pancamahabhuta, but space and wind are predomi-
nant in vata. Vata is the air element that is held
Ojas has an interdependent relationship with agni within the confines of ether. It shares qualities famil-
and tejas. Even though they have some seemingly iar to both elements. So, vata is cold, light, rough,
opposite qualities agni is responsible for the correct mobile, subtle, clear, dry and astringent. When vata
formation of ojas (see How herbs and nutrients manifests these qualities are apparent. The primary
reach the tissues, below). Likewise, appropriate site of vata is the colon. It also resides in the bladder,
quality and quantity of ojas is responsible for the thighs, ears, bones and the sense of touch. The root
generation of healthy agni. They are the perfect va means to spread and it is responsible for all
duality of solar vitality (agni) and lunar nurturing movement in the body; the flow of breath and
(ojas) forces. Prana also plays a vital role in promot- blood, elimination of wastes, expression of speech,
ing ojas and the practice of yogic pranayama and it moves the diaphragm, muscles and limbs, regu-
vital breathing help to build ojas via the inherent lates the nervous system and it also stimulates the
life-force that they bring into the body. It engenders function of the intellect. It is like a current of elec-
tranquillity, so important for the maintenance of tricity and is responsible for regulating all electrical
ojas. When there are poor breathing habits or poor impulses in the bodymind. It is the messenger. In
air quality then ojas can be depleted. Ojas is also fact without vata the other dosas are inert. As it is
depleted by excessive alcohol, fever, ejaculation, said in the Sarngadhara Samhita pitta is lame, kapha is
orgasm (both men and women), overwork, under- lame. They go wherever the wind takes them, just
nourishment, excess sport, depression, sadness, like the clouds (Sarngadhara Samhita 1.5.25). Because
irritability, anger, anxiety, and stress. of this dynamic function an aggravated vata is often
involved in the movement of the other dosas around
Vata is a result of undigested prana. The weakened the body.
digestive fire cannot absorb all the potential prana
and this creates an excess of vata, hence the frenetic There are five subcategories of vata, called the five
rush of excessive vata being burnt off. Pitta is the winds (panca vayu): Prana, Vyana, Udana, Samana,
result of undigested tejas; hence the expression of Apana (Fig. 2.3).
heat and rage. Kapha is the result of undigested ojas;
hence the excessive slothfulness and stagnation that Prana vayu: This is the chief impulse. In its macro-
wallow in the system. Therefore the dosas are mani- aspect, as described above, prana is the life-force
festations of unutilised potential (see Svoboda 1992). and literally means that which moves towards;
i.e. breath, vitality, inspiration. Prana is said to surf
Ojas is the first thing to be created in the on the breath and is more than just oxygen, nitro-
body of all living beings. It is ghee coloured, it gen and material gases. It is inherent within fresh
tastes like honey and smells like roasted air, fresh food, well-prepared medicine and effec-
puffed rice tive healing work. It can be directly experienced as
the tingle or warmth felt in your body after a good
Caraka Samhita- Su-trastha-na 17.74
meditation, yoga session or healing experience. It
brings well-being to every cell and promotes
While the general signs of the dosas are clinically
relevant, understanding their subdivisions adds Prana vayus micro-aspect as a part of the panca
further precision to the clinicians diagnosis. Each vayu has its chief seat in the brain and occupies the
dosa has general characteristics and then five sub- region from the throat to the abdomen; it moves
types that are a more detailed expression of each inwards. It is the chief regulator of interdependent
function. These five subtypes are a later addi- homeostatic physiological functions;
tion, first appearing for all three dosas in the ascendingdescending, inhalingexhaling,
Astangahrdaya Samhita around the 6th century. assimilatingexcreting and stimulatingrelaxing.

Udana vayu: It occupies the head and throat. It is
responsible for controlling the tongue, speech and
moving upwards from its seat in the chest. This
upward movement regulates exhalation and the
removal of carbon dioxide wastes from the body.
It regulates belching, hiccups and communication.
It also carries memories into consciousness and
works as a partner with prana vayu to manage
memory. Problems associated with an inability to
exhale, such as emphysema, certain types of
asthma, hiccups and a croaky voice are udana vayu
problems best treated by demulcent expectorants
such as licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and bala (Sida

Samana vayu: This is the wind that lives in the

stomach and is responsible for all oscillating
movements from side to side within the digestive
system. Its function is to circulate vata in the
centre of the abdomen, promote digestion,
assimilation of nutrients and intestinal peristalsis.
Most digestive disorders involve samana vayu
including bloating, malabsorption, indigestion,
constipation and diarrhoea. These are treated by
regulating vata with digestive herbs such as car-
damom (Elettaria cardamomum) that aromatically
warm and balance vata in the digestive tract.

Apana vayu: This aspect resides below the navel in

the lower abdomen also known as the apanaksetra
Figure 2.3 Movement of the five subtypes of va-ta
or field of the descending wind. It lives in the
bladder and colon. Its function is to move down-
It regulates nerve impulses, swallowing, breathing, wards. It regulates all descending motion; urina-
the heartbeat, the intellect, and memory. It brings tion, bowel movements, flatulence, ejaculation,
life to the body and mind. It expresses itself as the ovulation, menses and giving birth. It plays an
nitrous oxide responsible for the transmission of important part in facilitating conception as the
nerve impulses in the brain. When imbalanced it ovum and sperm join together as well as in
can manifest as nervous disorders that can be encouraging delivery at the end of pregnancy. It is
managed by a vata-regulating lifestyle. Breathing commonly implicated in disease, as any obstruc-
exercises, meditation practice and aware living tion to its natural flow causes it to rebel upwards
heighten the quality of prana vayu. causing all sorts of complications from constipa-
tion and bloating, to heartburn, asthma, menstrual
Vyana vayu: This is the aspect of vata responsible for irregularities and delayed delivery. It is also impli-
spreading outwards from its root in the heart. It is cated in miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, infertil-
responsible for cardiac activity, circulation, oxygen ity, dysmenorrhoea, uterine and colon prolapses,
transportation, delivering nutrients, heat distribu- premature ejaculation, urinary incontinence and
tion and the reflex response. Poor circulation, cold- haemorrhoids. It has a primary place in treatment
ness and coordination problems are caused by a and is often the first and primary vayu that is
vyana vayu imbalance that can be corrected by treated as this can help to recorrect any distur-
appropriate massage, exercise and warming spices bance of the other vayus. Its treatment often
such as ginger (Zingiber officinale). involves using herbs that recorrect the flow of vata


such as gokshura (Tribulus terrestris) and haritaki hypothalamus and the balance of sadhaka pitta is
(Terminalia chebula) or by using softening and lubri- often related to the balance of homeostasis in the
cating laxatives such as psyllium husk (Plantago body. Imbalances manifest as imbalanced hormone
ovata) or oily enemas. production, being excessively critical and inability
to concentrate. Use medhya herbs that nourish the
Vata is aggravated by astringent, bitter and pungent mind such as brahmi (Bacopa monniera) to cool any
flavours (as they all increase dryness), at the end of excess pitta and regulate any imbalance.
a meal, early morning and evening (windiest and
lightest times), by fear and insecurity, in early Ranjaka pitta: Occupies the liver and spleen and gives
Autumn and any change in the season, at the later colour to blood by generating red blood cells from
stage of life (the driest stage), by excessive move- the bone marrow. It is responsible for the colour of
ment, by dry and cold climate, by going to bed after the body and our appreciation of the colour of life,
11pm. Dry foods, such as popcorn, aggravate vata, giving enthusiasm and vigour. Hepatitis, jaundice,
as do foods that are dry in nature such as pulses. anaemia, skin discolorations, myalgic encephalo-
myelitis, gallstones, cirrhosis, and high cholesterol
Pitta are often related to a ranjaka pitta imbalance best
The pitta dosa is made up of tejas (fire) and jala treated on a pattern by pattern basis including
(water). The seemingly contradictory combination of red-yellow-coloured herbs such as manjishtha (Rubia
fire and water to form pitta is actually complemen- cordifolia) and daruharidra (Berberis aristata).
tary. Pitta exists as water or oil in the body, thus pre-
serving the tissues from the destructive aspect of fire. Bhrajaka pitta: Resides in the skin. It keeps the
sweat glands active and maintains complexion by
It is pungent, hot, penetrating, greasy, oily, sharp, regulating pigmentation. It processes the sensation
liquid, spreading and sour. Its primary function is of touch and carries messages of temperature,
transformation. It is the force of metabolic activity texture and pain to the brain. It also metabolises
in the body associated with the endocrine function, the light that touches the skin; this regulates skin
hormone levels, digestion, body temperature, colour, vitamin D production and melatonin levels,
visual perception, hunger, thirst, and skin quality. responsible for sleep and mood patterns. When
Mentally it plays a role in understanding and in imbalanced it causes skin problems such as
digesting sensory impressions. Again, the five eczema, psoriasis, acne and skin cancer which can
aspects of pitta determine its location in the body. be effectively treated using sweet and bitter herbs
It resides in the eyes, blood, sweat glands, the such as aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis).
small intestine, stomach and lymph. Its primary
site is in the small intestine. Pacaka pitta: Occupies the small intestine between
the lower portion of the stomach and the ileocaecal
Alocaka pitta: Resides in the eyes and is responsible valve as the digestive fire of the gastrointestinal
for transforming light. Alocaka pitta gives lustre tract. It helps to break food down into an
and shine to the eyes. It moves inwards and regu- absorbable medium. It is the aspect of pitta
lates the dilation and contraction of the pupil. responsible for digestion and assimilation and is
When aggravated it causes conjunctivitis, styes, ble- regulated by the health of prana vayu, hence weak
pharitis or glaucoma, which are treated using anti- prana causing weak digestion. Being purely hot
inflammatories such as rose petals (Rosa centifolia). and sharp pacaka pitta expresses the inherent
qualities of fire. When in excess it can cause
Sadhaka pitta: Resides in the heart and is the cen- hyperacidity, ulcers, nausea and diarrhoea. When
tre of ayurvedic consciousness. It controls a rhyth- deficient it can cause poor digestion, low appetite,
mical heartbeat and the ability to digest intellectual bloating, constipation and lethargy. Pacaka pitta is
information. It can transform a feeling into emo- the most commonly aggravated of all the five pittas
tion and, when healthy, gives clarity. It functions and is treated by clearing it from the system with
via the neurotransmitters that are responsible for mild purgatives that are bitter and cooling such as
the production of dopamine and serotonin. Its rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum) or the more gentle
regulatory function is seen as controlling the amalaki (Emblica officinalis).

Pitta is aggravated by pungent, salty and sour holds the joints together and is therefore involved

flavours (as they increase heat) in the middle of a in the health of the ligaments and cartilage. When
meal, at midday, by anger and irritation, repressed aggravated there is swelling in the joints as well as
emotions, in summer and late spring, from adoles- degeneration of the bones requiring lubrication
cence to middle age, from excessive ambition and and regeneration.
in a hot and damp climate. Hot and oily foods like
garlic and fried foods disturb pitta. Avalambaka kapha: This is the nourishing component
of the lungs, bronchi, alveoli and heart. It resides
Kapha in the chest in the pleura of the lungs and the peri-
The kapha dosa is a combination of the prthivi (earth) cardium of the heart. It is the great protector. It cir-
and jala (water) elements. As the water element it culates through the heart from where it moistens
is contained within the earthen structures of the and nourishes the other organs and tissues. When
tissues and skin, the dry earth is moistened by the deficient it creates asthma, wheezing, dry cough,
reviving water element. It is slow, heavy, cool, weakness and heart disease, which can be treated
dense, soft, greasy, unctuous, sticky, cloudy, liquid using sweet tonics such as bala (Sida cordifolia).
and sweet. Kapha literally holds the body together. When excessive it results in congestive mucous
It is cohesive, gives shape and form, aids growth symptoms, tiredness and congestive heart disor-
and development, lubricates and protects, helps ders requiring strong anti-kapha herbs such as gug-
smelling and tasting. It relates to phlegm in the gulu (Commiphora mukul).
body. It resides in the chest, throat, head, pancreas,
stomach, lymph, fat, nose and tongue. Its primary Kledaka kapha: This kapha protects the digestive
site is the stomach. tract from the acid pitta enzymes. It primarily lines
the stomach and intestines but also lubricates all
Its five aspects are: the mucous membranes of the body. It plays a
Bodhaka kapha: This is found in the tongue and major part in digestive wellness. As it resides in
gums. It gives perception of flavours. Its presence in the primary kapha site it can easily become aggra-
saliva plays a part in the initial stages of digestion of vated. It is directly linked with the nutrition of the
carbohydrates. When aggravated it causes receding tissues. It mixes with the food essence, the first
gums, lack of taste or strange tastes in the mouth part of rasa that forms the material substrate of
that are often treated with bitter or astringent herbs plasma tissue (rasa dhatu). Kapha is best treated by
as a gargle such as haritaki (Terminalia chebula). focusing on clearing kledaka kapha from the stom-
ach by using expectorants and emetics such as
Tarpaka kapha: This is the mental form of kapha long pepper (Piper longum). If kledaka kapha is defi-
which leads to contentment. It is the fluid that nour- cient it will cause dryness and lack of protection to
ishes the brain as the cerebrospinal fluid and is also the stomach lining. Oppose this dryness with
found in the white matter of the brain (Lad 1996). soothing demulcents like licorice (Glycyrrhiza
All sensual experiences are carried to tarpaka kapha glabra) and shatavari (Asparagus racemosus).
and stored there. It is the bed of mental experience.
If deficient it results in a lack of unctuous mental Kapha is aggravated by sweet, sour and salty
faculties involving loss of memory, insomnia, multi- flavours (as they increase moisture), at the begin-
ple sclerosis, balance problems and dry eyes requir- ning of a meal, morning and afternoon, by greed
ing nourishing tonics such as ashwagandha and possessiveness, in winter and early spring, in
(Withania somnifera). If excessive it can result in childhood, from a damp and cold climate and from
obstructions to the cavities of the head with exces- sleeping in the day.
sive earwax, nasal secretions, eye secretions,
swelling of the brain and tumours requiring strong
reducing therapy with herbs that penetrate deeply THE MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF EACH DOS. A:
into the tissues such as vacha (Acorus calamus). DOS. A LAKS. AN. A
Here is an in-depth look at some of the particular
S lesaka kapha: This lubricating aspect of kapha nour- characteristics of each dosa (Box 2.4). By becoming
ishes the joints as synovial fluid. Its binding aspect familiar with these signs you will be able to


Box 2.4 under your fingertips. It is strongest under the

Va-ta (V): dry, cold, light, mobile, subtle, rough, index finger. Hands, feet and abdomen are often
irregular cold and dry.
Pitta (P): hot, sharp, penetrating, slightly oily, greasy, P The pitta pulse is warm, soft, regular, wiry,
fast, irritable strong and bounding like a frog bouncing up to
Kapha (K): cold, wet, heavy, stable, solid, unctuous, slow your touch. It is strongest under the middle fin-
ger. Circulation is good to the extent that they
may be flushed red in the face and the hands
feel warm and moist.
quickly determine the prevalent dosa. This has K The kapha pulse feels cool, strong, broad, slow,
the purpose of determining whether the dosa is in a rhythmical, regular and flows as gracefully as a
state of increase (vrddhi) or deficiency (kasaya). The swan floats along the river. It is strongest under
clinician looks for symptoms of increase as these the ring finger. Circulation is regular with cool
are usually the patterns manifesting as disease and skin that feels soft and the flesh has depth (Lad
most effectively treated. 1996).

The classifications are divided into the different Sight (Dr.s..ti)

senses (sound, touch, smell, asking and looking) This method of diagnosis is pure perception
that display the character behind the expression. what you can see.

Sound (sabda) Frame (Fig 2.5)

This relates to the quality and nature of the voice V Has an irregular bone structure, unusually tall
and includes all physical noise. or short, thin and out of proportion with slender
fingers, arms and legs. They have predominant
V Dry/hoarse and high-pitched or quiet voice. joints with knobbly knees and elbows. You can
Fast talker, jumps from topic to topic with often see the bones clearly on vata types.
erratic rhythm and focus. The vata predilection P Has a medium, balanced build with defined
to expending energy is reflected in their love of muscles. The energy-efficient pitta has a propor-
speech. Their joints make cracking noises. They tionally balanced frame.
make audible burping noises, have loud flatu- K Often has big bones with a stocky body that is
lence and borborygmus. Their breath may be well built with wide shoulders and hips. Their
audible due to dry, tense and constricted alveoli joints are not easy to see. They have short and
in the lungs producing a wheezing sound. Vata stubby fingers.
is very sensitive to excess noise.
P Loud and sharp voice. Focused, persuasive, domi- Weight
nates conversation, argumentative, challenging, V The dry quality caused by a lack of nourishing
due to their impatience they tend to finish other fluids exacerbates a tendency to low body
peoples sentences. weight. The poor assimilation of nutrients and
K Moist, soft, deep and calm voice. Have to clear continual release of physical and mental energy
phlegm from throat or nose as they talk. The means that they find it difficult to put on
kapha tendency to conserve energy means they weight. Their irregular nature can also lead to
are slow to initiate conversation and when they fluctuations in weight. This is usually caused by
do, they speak slowly. Kapha types have a heavy poor digestion, by overeating or by being
footstep and they commonly snore. extremely stressed or relaxed.
P Pitta types have an average weight for their
Touch (sparsa) build. Their balanced nature tends to spread
Pulse and palpation: circulation excess or deficiency equally around the body.
The three basic pulses are shown in Figure 2.4. There is good muscle definition. Pitta-increasing
meat, alcohol and greasy food can lead to an
V The vata pulse feels cold, hard, thin, fast, vari- overweight condition in pitta types that do not
able, and irregular, and slithers like a snake exercise enough.

Figure 2.4 The three basic pulses

K The dominance of the heavy quality in kapha feet are common. Their variable nature may
types tends towards excessive body weight. lead to some oily areas and other dry ones. The
Kapha people can easily put weight on. The veins are clearly visible through the thin skin.
thighs, abdomen and buttocks hold and store Dry skin problems are a common vata imbal-
this excess weight. They lose weight with great ance. The skin colour is dull, dark and lacking
difficulty as they have a tendency to conserve in lustre. They tan easily and their cold nature
energy draws them towards the sun. The poor circula-
tion may lead to pale lips, nail beds and skin.
Skin: quality and complexion P Pitta is the delicate or mrdu dosa. Their skin is
V Vata types have a tendency to have dry (ruksa) easily aggravated and they cannot tolerate the
skin due to excessive movement burning off all sun. They are prone to inflammations, rashes
lubrication as well as the constitutional defi- and acne. The skin flushes easily and may
ciency of nourishing fluids. The skin looks appear red. The skin is commonly freckled or
rough and chapped. Cracks on the hands and with many moles. As pitta is a by-product of the


Hair: an indicator of overall tissue quality

V Tends to be dry, lustreless, thin, curly, wiry, dark,
frizzy and with split ends. The dry quality man-
ifests as dandruff.
P Usually straight, light blonde, brown or red hair.
High pitta can cause early greying of the hair.
Moderate and fine quality of hair. Early balding
is a pitta quality as it derives from high testos-
terone and pitta secretions.
K Often a brown colour. Abundant hair with a
thick, wavy and heavy quality. It can be oily and
is full of lustre.

Nails: an indicator of mineral assimilation

V Dry, rough and hard with an irregular length
and shape. They may have white spots and
ridges as a reflection of vatas poor nutrient
absorption. Bitten nails indicate a vata nature.
P Soft, strong and pliable. Deep red nail beds due
to effective circulation.
K Large, thick and strong. The kapha balance is dis-
played in their symmetrical regularity. They have
a whitish hue.

Eyes: the gateway to the soul, revealing innate

vitality and spirit
V Grey, dark blue or dark brown. Different-
coloured eyes. Vata eyes are small in relation
to the head size and are at irregular levels or
close together. Dry eyes that itch. The sclera is
often dull. The eyebrows will be thin and
P Any light colour indicates pitta. A yellow or
bloodshot sclera is a common sign when there is
excess pitta in the system. Pitta eyes are light-
sensitive and they often require sunglasses.
They have sharp and piercing eyes. The eye-
brows and eyelashes are balanced.
K Smooth brown colour. Large, oval shaped eyes
with a white sclera. Their eyebrows are lush and
bushy, often joining in the middle. The eye-
lashes are thick, oily and long.
Figure 2.5 Frames of different types. (a) Va-ta; (b) pitta; (c) kapha.
Tongue: reflects digestion, circulation and
blood tissue (rakta dhatu) they have deep red metabolism (Fig 2.6)
lips. A pitta type is easy to spot in an embarrass- Some general signs:
ing situation as they blush very easily.
K Healthy skin that appears thick and oily. They V Thin, dry, quivering, deviated, small, pale,
have smooth skin. It has a slightly pasty look. cracked, thin white coating or black coating.
Their cool nature draws them to the sun. They Imbalances are identified at the back portion of
burn easily but will soon tan. the tongue.

Figure 2.6 Tongue diagnosis

P Moist, medium-sized often with a pointed red to in yogic and ayurvedic models. It is the central
tip, red, orange, purple or bluish, yellow coat- hearth that maintains the warmth of life, that
ing, raised papillae. Pitta imbalances are often transforms and transmutates substances and
found in the middle of the tongue. impressions. A healthy agni is the equivalent of
K Thick, wet, swollen, large, pale, teeth marks, good health.
thick white coating. Kapha conditions can mani-
V The vata digestion is visamagni or variable. In
fest at the front section of the tongue.
line with the typical irregular nature of this dosa
Smell (gandha) their appetite is irregular. There are symptoms
V Little body odour due to the cold metabolism of distension, flatulence and a nervous appetite.
and lack of fat tissue (meda dhatu) from which Their eyes are bigger than their stomach, they
sweat comes as a waste product. Spontaneous are sometimes hungry and at others not. Vata
sweating. types have a krura kostha. This means a hard
P Strong, rotten flesh smell due to the high pitta digestive tract. This rigid astringency means
content in the sebaceous glands. Pitta types that they are prone to constipation that requires
sweat profusely in hot weather. relaxant, oily laxatives (hemp seed or castor oil).
K Moderate and sweet aroma. Kapha types sweat Their bowel movements are irregular; some-
easily with exercise as the increased metabolism times hard and dry, at others, loose. Vata types
releases the excess sweat as a waste product. become spaced out and weakened from fasting
They can be very sensitive to strong smells due due to their inability to store reserves. They do
to the damp condition being stirred up by best with small, unctuous, warm and regular
strong aromas. meals but have a tendency to overdo the heavy
and grounding hard-to-digest foods. Pungent
Asking (prasna) flavours help to regulate the digestive secre-
Digestion: vital reflection of metabolism tions. In a balanced state they will benefit from
The concept of fire or agni is at the centre of Vedic sweet, sour and salty food that is oily and
religious life. This paradigm is frequently referred spiced.

K Kapha types are heavy sleepers who have diffi-

P The pitta person has a tiksnagni that is sharp and

strong. They have a fierce appetite and can digest culty waking up. Kapha people like bed. They
whatever they eat. They become easily irritable if prefer 8+ hours. They have calm and smooth
they are hungry. This may lead to heartburn, as dreams that veer towards the strongly emo-
will too much pitta-aggravating food such as tional. They like a soft bed with soft covers.
spicy chutneys and oily food. Their innate heat
means that they are rarely constipated and a Energy levels
glass of milk will serve as a mild laxative. Their V Erratic energy which comes in bouts. It can be
digestive passage (kostha) is mrdu, which means bountiful and is expended to the point of
that they have a soft alimentary canal. Fasting is exhaustion. Vata types are bad managers of
good for them but they do not tolerate it well vitality and they try to keep going with pungent
due to their desire for more energy and more fuel stimulants when really they need a rest.
to drive them on. Mild sour flavour (buttermilk P Good energy levels that are efficiently managed.
or a few drops of lime) helps to regulate their Expending energy is a buzz for a pitta and they
hypersecretion of digestive juices. Sweet, bitter may become addicted to certain intense forms of
and astringent flavoured food that is cool, raw, energy release.
unspiced and lightly cooked is best for them. Out K Solid and consistent levels of energy. They are
of balance they crave alcohol, pickles and spices. reluctant to release energy and would rather
K The kapha appetite is stable and digestion is drive than walk.
mandagni, a slow system. They have little secre- Sex drive
tion of digestive enzymes, which can be V Vata sexual appetite varies with the wind of
increased with a little bitter and pungent their variable nature. They are avid fantasisers.
flavour. They like food and their need for love Intensely passionate, but they need rest once
may lead them to comfort-eat. The kostha is they have expended their energy.
madhya with regular and medium bowel move- P Their hot temperament gives them a strong sex-
ments. Medium strength laxatives are effective ual appetite. They know what they want and
for them; for example triphala. Their ability to usually get it. If not the heat flares upwards and
store energy means that they can skip meals they can become irritable.
easily. Fasting helps to lighten the tendency to K Their consistent nature gives them a steady sex-
heaviness in kapha types. Pungent, bitter and ual appetite. Their desire to hold onto their
astringent or dry-flavoured foods keep them energy keeps them away from excessive sexual
healthy. When out of balance they will crave desire. They are very loving and compassionate.
sweet and oily food. The fire is slow to burn but once kindled it
burns brightly and for a long time. They have
Sleep excellent fertility.
V Vata types have an irregular pattern of sleep
that is usually light but when extremely tired Thermal quality
will be very deep. They can have difficulty V Vata people easily feel cold; they desire the
getting to sleep and may wake in the night. warmth of the sun or a fire and wear lots of
They average about 47 hours of sleep per clothes in winter to make up for their lack of
night. Sleeptalkers and -walkers have a vata subcutaneous fat. They like hot drinks and food
tendency. Teeth grinding is quite common. to keep them warm.
They dream a lot but can rarely remember P Pitta people feel warm and are averse to excess
them. Dreams are of motion, adventure and of heat. They usually wear thin and light clothes
being chased. They need a soft bed to absorb and seek out cool places in order to stay
their protruding bones. refreshed. They crave cool drinks and raw food.
P Pitta types sleep well and if they do wake up K Kapha types feel cool and wear soft and comfort-
they can fall back to sleep easily. They average able clothes. They like the warmth and warm
about 47 hours per night. Sleep can be dis- drinks to keep them hot and stimulated inside.
turbed by dreams as they have intense dreams
that are colourful and involve action. They pre- Signs of the dosa balance and excess are shown in
fer a hard bed with few covers. Table 2.3.

TABLE 2.3 Signs of the dosa balance and excess Reference: Astangahrdaya Samhita-
Dos a Balanced state (sa-mya) Increased state (vr.ddhi) Decreased state (kas. a-ya) Colour

Va-ta Conveys movement, inspiration, Promotes wasting, thinness, weight loss, weakness, Kapha-like symptoms: sluggish, sloth, lack of Blue, black, brown,
expiration, enthusiasm, desire, aversion to cold, desire for heat, softness and comfort, enthusiasm, no desire to speak, confusion, orange, clear
excretion of wastes experience of piercing pain, mobile pain, numbness, delirious, loss of consciousness
erratic digestion, bloating, constipation, incontinence,
urinary tenesmus, cracking joints, contraction, dry skin,
dehydration, astringent taste in the mouth, spasms,
rigidity, dark complexion, dark discolorations, dizzyness,
fear, anxiety, nervousness, loneliness, insomnia, depression.
Symptoms worse for changes in the seasons, dry and cold
climates, early in the morning, early in the afternoon
and later in life
Pitta Oversees metabolism, digestion, Causes burning, fever, inflammation, redness, bleeding, Increased signs of va-ta and kapha, poor Red, yellow, green,
regulation of appetite and thirst, sweating, septic conditions, necrosis, putrid smells, fainting, digestion, pallor, coldness red
hormones and enzymes, intelligence, aversion to heat, sour or bitter taste in the mouth
courage, flexibility, the quality of the acidity, heartburn, loose stools, dark red urine, burning
complexion and eyesight urine, yellow, green and red discolorations, aversion to
heat, desire for cold, impatience, anger, frustration, critical,
judgemental. Aggravated by hot and humid weather,
middle of the day and night and mid life
Kapha Gives strength, solidity, structure, Causes mucus, sticky phlegm, excess salivation, wet cough, Signs of va-ta increase; emaciation, dizzy, White
endurance, lubrication itching, coldness, heaviness, stagnation, congestion, cracking joints, dryness and anxiety
growths, cysts, tumours, dull pain, obesity, oedema,
sluggish digestion, cloudy urine, excessive desire to sleep,
sweet and salty tastes in the mouth, thick and white
discharges, aversion to wet and cold, greed, apathy,
attachment, depression. Worse for cold and damp weather,
childhood and mid-morning and mid-evening



Mixed constitutions (sam

prakrti ) SAPTA DHATU

The dosas commonly exist as a combination of two
The chief functions of the body tissues are said
or all three together.
to be, in order: nourishing, enlivening,
surrounding, lubricating, supporting, filling, and
. sarga prakrti)
Dual constitutional combinations (sam
Va-takapha giving rise to an embryo.
This seemingly contradictory constitution has Astangahrdaya Samhita- Su-trastha-na 11.4
long bones but is not as stocky or strong as a
pure kapha. The combined elements of cold in The word dhatu is etymologically derived from the
both prakrti make them very sensitive to cold. The root dha meaning to support. It is used in a
kapha influence can cause mucus problems and broad and specific sense. In a broad sense dhatu
digestive sluggishness. The mucus can be dry and refers to the general support any substance or
plug-like secretions that are difficult to expecto- function gives the dosas, dhatus and malas (wastes)
rate. as that alone which supports the body is a dhatu
(Susruta Samhita Sutrasthana 14.18). In a specific
Va-tapitta sense it refers to the seven anatomical tissue-sup-
Filled with determined ambition, this constitu- ports (sapta dhatu) of the body.
tion has a healthy build that is stronger and
more defined than in a pure pitta. The mobile There are two aspects to the sapta dhatu theory as it
nature of vata can cause pitta to be pushed round is both broad and narrow in its perspective.
the body making these types very sensitive to Broadly speaking, the dhatu are structural supports
environmental and emotional changes. Their to the body, and narrowly speaking they are the
digestion has the intensity of a pitta prakrti but nourishment to those supports (Caraka Samhita
can also suffer from vata-prone anxiety causing 8.39). As structural supports they are combinations
irregularity. of the elements (pancamahabhuta) that give the
body form. They are rasa (plasma), rakta (blood),
Pittakapha mamsa (muscle), medas (lipids), asthi (bone), majja
This is a very healthy and resilient constitution (marrow) and sukra (reproductive essence). These
with the strength of a kapha and the power of a seven are referred to as the stable (sthayi) or nour-
pitta. Still maintaining the kapha layer of subcuta- ished (posya) aspect of the dhatu. They are the basic
neous fat they have extra heat signs with a good tissues of the body. The other nourishing aspect of
appetite but can easily put on weight. Fortunately a dhatu is the unstable (asthayi) or potential (posaka)
they are not as sluggish as a pure kapha and regu- nutrient portion. This aspect is the dynamic part
lar exercise can keep them balanced. that nutritionally sustains the stable dhatu. The
understanding of how food and medicine trans-
Triple constitutional combination (sannipa- ta prakrti) form into this unstable portion and then nourish
Va-tapittakapha the stable portion is an important ayurvedic
This balance of all three dosas is less commonly debate.
seen and difficult to diagnose as so many of the
presenting signs are in opposition. Although a How herbs and nutrients reach the tissues
healthy combination they are very sensitive to The unstable portion has to transform into the sta-
change as the relative equality of vata can so ble tissue. Each dhatu has a membrane, known as a
easily tip out of balance. Hence, they tend to kala, that is a vital interface in the development of
manifest with a dominance of vatapitta or a a tissue. This kala houses the metabolic tissue fire
vatakapha constitution and should be treated (dhatu-agni) that is responsible for transforming the
accordingly. unstable potential portion into the stable manifest
portion. Ingested food (ahara) goes to the stomach
All the above combinations require strict dietary and the digestive fire in the stomach (jatharagni)
control that must be adjusted with the seasons if creates an essence of food, known as ahara rasa,
they are to maintain optimum health. which contains the necessary nutrition for each

Figure 2.7 Kala- in relation to dosa. PermissionLad 1996 Secrets of the pulse

dhatu. There are various overlapping theories how 35 days (5 7 dhatu) for sukra to be formed from
this ahara rasa nourishes each individual dhatu food essence. Due to incompatibility between the
(Fig 2.7). Refer to Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 28. theory and actual experience this idea has been
15 for a good commentary on this process. criticised by Cakrapanidatta (a famous commentator
on Caraka and Susruta Samhitas) as some sub-
a) The milk and curd transformation theory (ks.-ra- stances appear to create the tissues more quickly;
dadhi) for example, milk is said to create sukra dhatu after
This is a linear pattern where there is a step-by- just one day (Dwarkanath 1996). Although this
step progression of nutrients transforming from approach is not absolute, this theory is the pre-
rasa dhatu through to sukra dhatu, just as milk trans- dominant paradigm used by ayurvedic physicians
forms into sour milk and then into curds (Fig 2.8). today.
Here rasa is completely converted into rakta, rakta
to mamsa, mamsa to medas etc. Progressively refined There are of course pathological consequences of
tissue densities develop as each dhatu transforms each particular theory. The milk-curd theory con-
into the next. It results in sukra as the most refined siders that nutrient deficiencies happen in a
nutritious substance that creates ojas that then con- sequential fashion. This means that a deficiency of
verts back into rasa. It operates on a time-scale plasma will lead to a deficiency of blood and so
where each kala takes five days to transform the forth. Another example is that an obstruction in
unstable portion (asthayi dhatu) to the stable por- the fat channel leading to obesity will create a defi-
tion (sthayi dhatu). Based on this analysis it takes ciency in the following dhatus of bone, nerve and


5 days at a time each dhatu converts to the next

Figure 2.8 Milk-curd theory (ks.-ra-dadhi)

reproductive tissues. This can actually happen as of the dhatu. In this theory the food essence (ahara
obesity and infertility are frequently linked. The rasa) circulates through these interconnected chan-
next two theories allow for a more general nels nourishing each dhatu in turn. After nourish-
approach to nutrition that is dependent on the ing the rasa dhatu the remaining food essence
functional quality of each tissue. nourishes the rakta dhatu and so on. The dhatus
take what they need from the remaining nutrient
b) The irrigation transmission theory (kedara-kulya) flow.
Another perspective is presented by the irrigation
(kedara-kulya) theory (literally field and channel the- c) The pigeon pecking selective theory (khale-
ory) (Fig 2.9). It is a progressive overflow theory kapota)
using the metaphor of water flowing from a tank The third theory is the pigeon pecking (khale-
into an irrigation channel to water the fields. These kapota) concept (literally land and pigeon theory;
fields are filled consecutively and overflow in con- Fig 2.10). Here each dhatu takes the nutrients it
necting channels into the next field. The field wants from the central pool of nutrition, just as a
(kedara) represents the stable portion of the dhatu. pigeon selects the grains it wants from the land
The channel (kulya) represents the unstable portion (Ranade 2001). This is a very specific approach and

Figure 2.9 Irrigation theory (kedari-kulya-)

assumes some discriminatory faculty of the dhatu;

they have the ability to select what they need from
the pool of the unstable (asthayi) dhatu.

Dha-tu metabolism
The transformation of the food-essence has four
results (Fig 2.11):

1. The unstable portion becomes stable in the form

of another dhatu. This is the beneficial portion
2. A secondary tissue called an upadhatu is created.
3. A waste portion known as a kittapaka is produced.
4. The formative layer or asthayi portion of the next
tissue is formed.
Figure 2.10 Pigeon pecking theory (khale-kapota)
The strength of the digestive fire (dhatu-agni) is
vital to the quality and quantity of tissue pro-
duced. An agni that is too high will result in defi- cept of that particular tissue. For example, rasa is
cient tissues due to hypermetabolism and an agni not just plasma as we understand it but the
that is too low will result in an excess of low qual- whole nutrient transportation system. Every tissue
ity tissue due to lack of use. Agni is the determi- and organ has all five elements, all three dosa as
nant of tissue quality as it has the ability to well as all seven dhatus existing within it; certain
transform ahararasa into the assimilable form for qualities are more dominant than others. This is a
each dhatu to develop from. detailed look at the dhatus:

The seven tissues Rasa dha-tu: plasma tissue (Box 2.5)

The tissues have many vital functions, qualities, Rasa dhatu is the first tissue created from food. The
secondary tissues, wastes and disease tendencies. rasa of something is its essence, juice or sap. It pro-
The dhatus represent the essence of the whole con- vides a zeal or taste for life in its sufficient (sara)


Figure 2.11 The nutrient cycle

state and an apathy or dryness for existence when

Box 2.5
it is insufficient. As the condition of the secondary
Plasma tissue: Rasa dha-tu
tissue (upadhatu) is a reflection of the quality and
Element: water
quantity of the main tissue any weakness in rasa
Secondary tissue (upadha-tu): top layer of skin, breast
dhatu directly affects the flow and quality of breast
milk and menstrual fluid
milk and the menses.
Waste (kit.t.a): Kapha dosa and mucus secretions

Source: heart
Rasa relates to the plasma, interstitial fluid and
Qualities (gun.a): liquid, fluid, opaque, viscous,
lymph. It supports immunity and builds resistance
to disease (vyadhiksamatva). It is tonified by liquid,
Function: giving pleasure (pr-n.ana), nourishing the
unctuous, sweet, sour and salty foods such as
blood, moistening the skin and mucous membranes,
grapes, milk, lemons and licorice. It is regulated
protecting and preserving
by the heart and circulates around the body by

vyana vayu until returning to its source, the heart. Box 2.7
It continues its circulation with blood (rakta) as a Muscle tissue: Ma-m.sa dha-tu
rasa-rakta continuum. The rasa thus carries the Element: earth, and secondarily water and fire
nutritious asthayi portion of food to the remaining Secondary tissue (upadha-tu): ligaments and six layers
dhatu as well as picking up waste products. It also of skin below the top layer
circulates the vitiated humour (prakopa dosa) and Waste (kit.t.a): all wastes found in the cavities of the
plays a part in the spread of disease around the body such as navel lint, ear wax and nasal secretions
body. The like qualities of rasa aid the formation of Qualities (gun.a): gross, solid, heavy, rough, hard,
rakta dhatu. smooth
Function: binding the body together (lepana),
Rakta dha-tu: blood tissue (Box 2.6) strengthening, facilitating movement, nourishing fat
Rakta corresponds to the haemoglobin portion of tissue and waste products
blood. As it is made from both water and fire it is
both a fluid and a catalyst. It carries oxygen and
hormones that regulate metobolic processes and
thus gives vitality (jivana). Rakta literally means and visceral muscle. The root mam means to hold,
that which is red and it gives colour to life; red so mamsa is the holder and it holds the body
blood, lustreful eyes, rosy cheeks, enthusiasm and together by enveloping the ligaments, tendons,
passion. It has a direct affinity with the skin and is organs, muscles, veins, arteries and bones. The
responsible for its growth and health. Hence when stable aspect gives strength to the body and helps
blood is corrupted the skin often manifests signs of to facilitate movement. When it is healthy mamsa
this imbalance. Blood is increased by like qualities dhatu gives you a muscular build and enduring
of a liquid, unctuous, warm, heavy and blood-like strength with the ability to be brave in the face of
nature; iron, Vitamin A, betacarotene, red or adversity. In excess it can lead to growths and in
orange foods, sweet and sour flavoured herbs, deficiency to wasting diseases and fatigue. It is
such as amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and salty herbs increased by like qualities of heavy, hard and
such as shilajit (Asphaltum). Any weakness in rakta solid such as are found in ashwagandha (Withania
is clearly shown in pale skin and tight tendons. Its somnifera).
affinity with the pitta dosa means that it if pitta
become aggravated it easily corrupts the blood and Medas dha-tu: fat tissue (Box 2.8)
causes either haematological diseases or the Medas dhatu means that which supports and nour-
growth or wasting of the other tissues. ishes the oily or lipid tissues. It is responsible for
the protective quality of lubrication as well as stor-
Ma-m -
. sa dhatu: muscle tissue (Box 2.7) ing energy in the reservoir of medas dhatu. It is
Mamsa dhatu is responsible for all the connective increased by oily nuts and herbs, such as sesame
tissue (except for blood and bone) and the skeletal and hemp seed. Snehana means affection and this
dhatu carries love for the other tissues and for

Box 2.6
Blood tissue: Rakta dha-tu Box 2.8
Element: water and fire Fat tissue: Medas dha-tu (correctly written as
Secondary tissue (upadha-tu): blood vessels and medodhatu)
tendons Element: water
Waste (kit.t.a): Pitta dosa and acidic, inflammatory Secondary tissue (upadha-tu): omentum around the

secretions stomach
Source: liver and spleen Waste (kit.t.a): sweat
Qualities (gun. a): liquid, fluid, opaque, unctuous, soft, Qualities (gun.a): unctuous, heavy, soft, liquid, smooth,
viscous, red colour, sweet, sour and salty oily
Function: giving vitality ( j-vana), giving colour, Function: oleating the joints, insulating the body,
nourishing the muscle tissue producing sweat, nourishing the bone tissue


other people. Someone with good-quality fat tissue Box 2.10

(a sara-medas-dhatu type) loves themselves and Nerve tissue: Majja- dha-tu
those around them, has a melodious voice and has Element: water
a joyful nature. As the waste portion is sweat we Secondary tissue (upadha-tu): sclerotic fluid
commonly see how overweight people sweat eas- Waste (kit.t.a): tears and other eye secretions
ily. This displays how the waste portion re-enters Qualities (gun.a): unctuous and soft
the rasa-rakta continuum and is then carried to the Function: giving oleation, filling the bones, feeling,
skin. memory, communicating and nourishing the
reproductive tissue
Asthi dha-tu: bone tissue (Box 2.9)
Asthi dhatu forms bone. Stha means to stand which
is a function of the skeletal system. In a state of bal-
ance it is reflected in peoples confidence, flexibility nifera). A deficiency of majja dhatu easily leads to
and hard working nature. Bone is nourished by feeling ungrounded, unfulfilled and increased vata
hard resinous herbs, such as guggulu (Commiphora signs.
mukul) and frankincense (Boswellia serrata) that
work via the blood to feed the bones. These two Sukra: reproductive tissue (Box 2.11)
herbs are specifics for repairing bone tissue. Asthi Sukra means seed and it is the germinating result
dhatu supports muscle tissues and the body sys- of what has gone before (effective digestion and
tems. Bone is the container of vata dosa. There is appropriate lifestyle) and the cause of what may
evidently some connection between the nourish- be produced, pregnancy and offspring. It is nour-
ment of medas and asthi as diseases of one often ished by seeds, nuts, and milk (all of which hold
affect the other. The evidence for a connection the potential for life) as well as herbs like ashwa-
between obesity and osteoporosis is strong, but an gandha (Withania somnifera), kapikacchu (Mucuna
increase in fat does not lead to an increase in bone pruriens) and shatavari (Asparagus racemosus). It is
(and thus negates the milk/curd hypothesis). The increased by that which is sweet, cold and oily;
excess fat appears to antagonise the asthidhatvagni like ghee. It displays the circular nature of nutri-
leading to a weak supply of transformed potential tion so that eventually a sufficient sukra will create
nutrition from the circulating rasa. ojas, the most refined essence of digestion, and
then overflow back to rasa in the heart and feed
Majja- dha-tu: nerve tissue (Box 2.10) avalambakakapha. In fact rasa and sukra are inti-
Majja dhatu relates to bone marrow and nerve tis- mately connected; both are primarily made from
sue. It fills the empty space in the body (bones, the water element, both relate to immunity: rasa is
brain cavity, spine and nerve channels) and is the the outer circle that purveys inwards and sukra
tissue that carries nervous electrical impulses. Its is the core circle that spreads outwards, rasa means
etymological root is maj which means to sink essence and sukra is the refined essence and most
and this sinking quality keeps us grounded. A sara- potent quality of nutrition. Certain orthodox
majja person is clear thinking and focused and is
filled with compassion. It is nourished by walnuts
(Juglans regia) and ashwagandha (Withania som-
Box 2.11
Reproductive tissue: Sukra dha-tu
Element: water
Box 2.9 Secondary tissue (upadha-tu): ojas
Bone tissue: Asthi dha-tu Waste (kit.t.a): smegma (the secretion of the glands of
Element: earth and wind the foreskin or labia) or none
Secondary tissue (upadha-tu): teeth and cartilage Qualities (gun.a): like a crystal, liquid, unctuous, sweet,
Waste (kit.t.a): nails, head and body hair heavy, sweet smelling and thick
Qualities (gun.a): heavy, rough, hard, solid, static Function: generating reproductive fluids, producing
Function: giving support, protecting internal organs an orgasm, achieving conception, strengthening the
and nourishing the nervous tissue body, generating ojas and creating fondness

schools of Ayurveda and Yoga maintain that the whole body and mind through an intricate net-

preservation of the sukra through the discipline of work of channels.
brahmacarya (celibacy, appropriate sexual activity)
leads to a long and lustrous life. Positive signs of a There are 16 channels that carry air (prana-
healthy reproductive tissue is exuding attractive- vahasrotas), food (annavahasrotas), water (ambuvahas-
ness, self-confidence and having a radiant glow. rotas), faeces (pur-savahasrotas), urine
(mutravahasrotas), sweat (svedavahasrotas), milk
Sukra is often referred to the male aspect of repro- (stanyavahasrotas), menstrum (artavavahasrotas), and
duction and artava to the female aspect. Artava is the mind (manovahasrotas), as well as the seven tis-
really the menstrual blood and more a sign of sue channels that specifically nourish the dhatus.
healthy fertility and egg production as opposed to
reproductive fluid per se. In line with my teaching, They suffer from four main imbalances:
I refer to sukra as the generic term of reproductive 1. Excess flow (atipravrtti): any hyperfunction
fluid for both male and female. causing an overflow, e.g. diarrhoea or vomiting.
2. Deficient flow (sangha): any hypofunction causing
These are the dhatus and, along with the dosas, they accumulation often with ama, e.g. constipation,
are at the centre of ayurvedic diagnosis and treat- blood clots or lymphatic congestion.
ments. I want to discuss briefly the use of the 3. Blockage of flow (sira granthi): any serious stag-
words dosa and dhatu because the ayurvedic nation caused by an internal growth, swelling or
literature uses the words with different meanings. dilation, often with ama, e.g. intestinal obstruc-
tion due to a tumour or stagnation of the breath
due to emphysema.
The dosas and dhatus appear to both create faults
4. Overflow or moving outside of the proper chan-
and act as supports. The three dosas can also be nel (vimarga gamana): this is very serious and
supports (dhatu) when they are in a balanced results in damage to the surrounding tissues,
state and they are even referred to as the three sup- e.g. perforated colon, bleeding conditions,
ports (tristhanam) (Susruta Samhita Sutrasthana fistula or oedema.
21.23). On the other hand the dhatu seem to share
some of the characteristics of the dosa as blood
(rakta) shares many of the qualities of pitta dosa
and, according to Jan Meulenbeld, may even have
been regarded as a dosa by Susruta. A distinctive
factor of a dhatu is that it also nourishes (posana)
the tissue (Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 28.15).
Hence the boundaries between the dosas and the
dhatus blend and part depending on the specific or
broad understanding of the words.

Interestingly, the three wastes (mala) are also per-

ceived to contain dhatuness. When functioning nor-
mally the three wastes support the channels (srotas)
of the body. They help give form to the colon, ure-
thra and sweat channels eliminating the wastes of
faeces (pur-sa), urine (mutra) and sweat (sveda). Too
little of the wastes causes the channels to wither
away (Astangahrdaya Samhita Sutrasthana 11.5, 23).


Another crucial part of the ayurvedic understand-
ing of the body is the channels through which life, Figure 2.12 Channels: normal, constricted, inflamed and
dosas, tissues, wastes, and toxins flow. They link obstructed

follicles and release sweat and carry nutrition

Treatment focuses on restoring normal flow. It can

help to visually perceive the channels (Fig 2.12). (massage oils) back in. They have some similar
functions to some of the channels (srotas) but
Vata constricts and causes tightening, spasm and are not as systemic.
constriction in the channels and tissues; e.g. Siras are the 700 veins spreading from the navel
asthma, where the bronchioles are tight and the bringing blood back to the heart. They also carry
restricted airways cause wheezing, shortness of the three dosa. Susruta writes as a garden or a
breath and coughing. field is irrigated by water-carrying channels, and
each part receives nourishment, so the ducts pro-
Pitta expands and causes inflammation and swelling vide nourishment to the body by means of their
in the channels and tissues; e.g. colitis, where the contraction and dilation. Their branches are just
intestinal lining is inflamed and swollen causing like the veins on a leaf (Sarirasthana 7.3).
digestion to be irritated. Kesikas (lit. hairlike) are the capillaries linking the
arteries and veins. Rasa and serum plasma filter
Kapha accumulates and causes adhesions and through this web to feed the tissues.
wastes to build up in the channels and tissues; e.g. Hrdaya is the heart, intimately connected with rasa
atherosclerosis, where fatty deposits of plaque and rakta, is affected by their state of vitality.
build up on the arterial lining which obstructs and Herbs for the heart often work via rasa and
blocks blood flow. rakta dhatu. Muscle tissue is also essential to the
health of the heart; hence herbs that are good


for the muscles are often beneficial for the
heart. It is also considered to be the seat of
Ayurvedic anatomy is based purely on observa- consciousness.
tion and clinical experience. It traces an intricate Pephra are the lungs responsible for purifying
body that has connecting principles from the blood of impurities and vitalising the system
smallest atom to the interrelationship of the with prana and oxygen.
whole being. Pliha is the spleen that is the seat of blood where
red blood cells are produced.
The body is called sarira, meaning that which Yakrt is the liver, home of ranjaka pitta and channels
decays. carrying blood.
Tvac is the skin. It has seven layers. Kloma is the pancreas.
Grahani is the small intestine where pitta digests
A saya refers to the viscera or hollow organs where food.
food, wastes and liquids are contained, e.g. Pakvasaya is the large intestine.
amasaya (the abode of ama) is the stomach. There Basti is the urinary bladder.
are seven of them. Vrkka is the kidneys.
Nadis are the nerves that spread out from the Sukra is said to pervade the whole body and physi-
brain and spinal cord. Traditionally numbered cally rests in the seminal vesicles (sukrasaya).
at 72 000 they carry the essence of the life-force Yoni is the female genital tract including the uterus.
(prana), sensation and control movements. Garbhasaya is the uterus.
Dhamanis are the arteries carrying blood away from Anda/Antarphala are the ovaries.
the heart. There are said to be 24 of these pipes Siras is the head holding the brain, prana and the
emanating from the navel. Ten of them go up to senses.
the heart where they split into 30 pipes, and ful- Marmas are special junction points (Fig 2.13). There
fil the function of the arteries as well as carrying are 107 described by Susruta and up to 220 by
the dosas, blood and nutrition. Ten go down and other traditions in South India. The marmas are
carry waste substances, sensations, food, water, the subtle energy network of Ayurveda and are
menses and semen. The remaining four pipes similar to the Chinese meridians. They are crucial
move horizontally outwards and mesh the to life and death to the extent that if you are
whole system together. They end at the hair wounded at these points death is caused.

Figure 2.13 Marma points. (Reproduced with kind permission from the Wellcome Library, London, UK)

THE DIGESTIVE FIRE: AGNI Agnideva is the fire god who acts as a messenger
between the mortal world and the heavens. In Vedic
Jat.hara-gni is the root of all the digestive fires in
rituals humans offer oblations to the sacred fire. The
the body. As it causes the increase or decrease
fire takes a portion for himself and then vaporises
of bhu-ta-gni and dha-tvagni it should be treated
the rest for the benefit of the gods. The gods imbibe
with great care.
this nutritious fragrance and in return give life-giv-
Astangahrdaya Samhita- (Sar-rastha-na 3.7172) ing waters and favourable environmental condi-

tions from which crops flourish and humans can
The Indian Vedic culture revered agni or fire. It feed themselves. This benevolent cycle continues as
gave them light, warmth and cooked their food. long as both parties are happy.

Five bhu-ta-gnis

It is a metaphor of our own digestive system. We

eat and offer food into the fire of our bellies. Agni These are the metabolic fires which digest the ele-
digests this food and the control centres in the ments. They act on ahara rasa to release the
brain are nourished by these fragrant vapours. mahabhutas, the five elements which are the build-
This nourishment releases the nervous impulses ing-blocks of the universe; space, air, fire, water,
which release enzymes and hormones. This stimu- earth. The bhutagni exist in the liver.
lates systemic metabolic activity so that the whole
bodymind complex functions efficiently. Hence Seven dha-tu-agnis
eating is seen as a sacred act that should be given These are specific enzymes that help to transform
its full attention away from stress, disturbance and the unstable tissue portion that helps to build the
lack of awareness. dhatus. These are the seven tissues of the body that
give it material structure; skin, blood, muscle, adi-
Agni is seen as the metaphor for all metabolic func- pose tissue, bones, nerve tissue, reproductive tissue.
tions in the body. It includes the digestive function,
sense perception, cellular metabolism and mental TOXINS: A- MA
assimilation. Agni is involved in many functions:
When a-ha-rarasa is undigested because agni is
absorption, assimilation, metabolism, digestion,
low it becomes vitiated and collects in the
perception, taste, touch, hearing, vitality, clarity,
stomach. It is known as a-ma.
alertness, regular appetite, chemical combustion. It
gives ojas or immunity, a sparkle in the eyes and Astangahrdaya Samhita- Su-trastha-na 13.25

lustre to the whole body.
Ama is the unmetabolised waste that is not utilised
Qualities of agni: hot (usna), light (laghu), sharp- by the body. It can be formed from foods that are
penetrating (t-ksna), pungent (katu), luminous-clear absorbed but then not used, or that are undigested
(prakasika-visada). Although these qualities are simi- and create fermentation and imbalance all three
lar to pitta, agni is not the same. Agni represents the dosa.
healthy functioning of the metabolic processes in
the body while pitta represents these qualities in a Ama means unripe, uncooked, immature and undi-
deranged state. gested. It takes the form of kapha: sticky, heavy, vis-
cous, slimy, unctuous, wet, cold and is sweet. It
When it is balanced it causes emotions that are causes blockage of the channels (srotorodha), mucus
beneficial to health: courage, cheerfulness, lucidity, congestion, loss of strength, lack of movement and
optimism, enthusiasm and intelligence. It also pro- reverse flow of vata, accumulation of wastes,
vides energy, vitality and a system able to maintain oedema, low digestive fire, bloating, constipation,
homeostasis. When it is out of balance it causes itchy anus, thick tongue coating, sluggish and slip-
emotions that are destructive to health: fear, anger, pery pulse, lack of enthusiasm and stagnation in
confusion, idiocy. This also leads to low energy, the tissues. While it manifests similar symptoms to
congestion and an accumulation of wastes. kapha the difference between ama and kapha is that
ama causes obstructions to the channels, which
The thirteen agni causes a build-up of vata, pitta and kapha.
Jat.hara- gni Obstructions in the body cause vata to reverse its
This is located from the mouth to the anus and is flow and cause derangements to the flow of the
present throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Its dosa. Astanga Hridaya Sutra (Sutrasthana 13.25)
main function is to help digest complex foods to a states that the impairment of the agni causes a fer-
simple form known as ahara rasa, the food mentation of annarasa, the first part of rasa dhatu.
essence. It is of four types; visamairregular, This fermented food creates ama. When agni is low
t-ksnaintense, mandasluggish and samabal- then ama is created instead of ojas and this leads to
anced. It separates the pure nutritious portion the creation of disease instead of vitality. This
(ahara rasa) from the waste (kitta) portion, which is degenerative cycle becomes mutually reinforcing
further divided into the wastes (mala) of sweat, so that low agni creates more ama and low produc-
urine and faeces. tion of ojas, which in turn does not nourish agni

and the whole cycle is repeated. The opposite is the mouth, blocked sinus, congested and tight

true in good health and benevolent cycles of abun- chest, mucus in stool and urine.
dant agni, healthy tissue creation and vital ojas pro-
duction all coalesce to improve the quality and Treatment
quantity of life, hence creating a literal ayur-veda Use expectorant and emetic herbs; trikat.u, guggulu,
(knowledge of longevity). garlic.

Causes of a-ma Nira-ma kapha

Mandagni (low digestive power), overeating, raw An excess kapha condition with clear, watery dis-
food, heavy food, cold food, contaminated food, charge.
too wet food, incompatible food, irritating foods,
gaseous foods, fried foods, extreme emotions, Treatment
irregular eating habits, dairy products, processed Follow normal dosa-balancing programme.

Sa-ma pitta
foods, yeast, excessive sweet, salty and sour
flavour, sleeping or eating before food is digested,
Indigestion, hyperacidity, diarrhoea, fever, toxic
sleeping in the day as well as lack of exercise.
blood, skin eruptions, greasy yellow tongue coat-
ing, bad breath, little thirst, loss of appetite, bitter
Signs of a-ma or sour flavour in mouth, tight abdomen, mild
Feeling heavy, muzzy-headed, unclear thinking,
burning, yellow urine and faeces.
dull eyes, aches and pains, poor circulation, joint
inflammation and pain, bloating, gas, skin blem- Treatment
ishes, fever, lack of energy, stickiness of stools, Purge using bitter herbs; avipattikara curn.a,
phlegm and urine, foul smells (breath, sweat, rhubarb root, aloe vera.
urine, stools, phlegm), sinking stool, mucus in
stool, turbid urine, lack of appetite or taste, indi- Nira-ma pitta
gestion, tired after eating, a sticky or sweet taste in A red inflamed tongue, excess thirst and appetite,
the mouth, copious phlegm. Pulse: deep, dull, slip- strong burning sensations, overly acute perception
pery; tongue: thick, dirty and greasy coating, and tissue depletion.
swollen body.
All the above symptoms are aggravated by the cold, Follow normal dosa balancing programme.
the wet and at night. The symptoms are also aggra-
vated by eating foods with a similar quality to ama; Sa-ma va-ta
heavy, wet, unctuous, sticky and sweet, cold. A brown tongue coating, bad breath, irregular
appetite, abdominal pain, distention, gas, consti-
Ama mixed with the dosa: sa-ma and pation, dry and flaky skin, cracking joints with
nira-ma pain.
Sama, meaning with ama, occurs when the aggra-
vated dosas, dhatus and malas become mixed with
Purge using softening demulcents, castor oil, hig-
ama. This is also referred to as ama-visa, which liter-
vas.t.aka, trikat. u + aloe vera.
ally means poison toxins and occurs when ama
mixes with the dosa and sub-dosa. It usually only Nira-ma va-ta
occurs after ama has been present in the system for No tongue coating, dry mouth, astringent taste,
a long period of time. thirst, dehydration.

Nirama means without ama, but the dosa is aggra- Treatment

vated. Follow normal dosa balancing programme.

Sa-ma kapha Modern signs of a-ma:

Indigestion, congestion, thick sticky white phlegm, High triglycerides, atherosclerosis, late-onset dia-
thick white tongue coating, sour or salty taste in betes, high blood sugar levels, some forms of


depression, rheumatoid factor, the presence of Each dosa has certain tendencies:
helicopylori bacteria, leukocytosis or leukocy-
topaenia (deficient and excess white blood cells), Vata: Full of creative ideas, good at linking con-
excess antibodies, Candida albicans in the gut and cepts and communicating inspiration. They are
uterus, blood urea, gout, excess platelet count, easily anxious, scatty, the classic space cadet is a
high IgE levels from allergic reactions, excess red vata. They are quick to learn and easily forget. Vata
blood cells, gall stones as a sign of excess bile, kid- cannot hold onto anything. They are predisposed
ney stones as a sign of unmetabolised calcium and towards fear and often expect the worst. The pes-
oxalates, high liver enzymes (serum alanine simist tends to be vata. Their irregular nature
aminotransferase [ALT], serum aspartate amino- means that they often start new projects but
transferase [AST]), intraocular pressure (glau- become easily distracted. They oscillate between
coma), bacterial infection, high temperature, expending enormous amounts of energy into their
tumours. social life and craving total solitude in order to
recharge. They are sound- and word-orientated.
Their emotional background is one of fear and vata
THE AYURVEDIC MIND: MANAS PRAKR.TI people often have to face issues regarding security.
The ayurvedic concept of mind is both broad and
illuminating. Not only does it include mental Pitta: Very intelligent and quick thinking, the pitta
activity but also a consciousness that is housed in mind is the collator of information. They are excel-
the heart, the heart is indispensable for normal lent at organising and bringing information
mental and physical activities as the entire waking together. They will be judgemental and critical in
consciousness rests there (Caraka Samhita their outlook. They are driven by ambition and
Sutrasthana 30.6). Mind is built from different determined to succeed. They are effective managers
aspects. Buddhi is intellect and is really like a mir- of anything; people, time, money, information. Their
ror reflecting universal consciousness as it cog- inherent heat can overbubble into irritability and
nises and clarifies. It is the digestive system of the anger that will be soon forgotten (but not by the
mind as it discriminates between different aspects vata or kapha!). They are focused on their own devel-
of mental nutrition. Sadhaka pitta corresponds to opment, which can make them intolerant of change
buddhi. Manas is that which conceptualises, analy- and impatient with others. They are primarily
ses and interacts between our inner subconscious- visual in their thought processes. When imbalanced
ness and our experience of the outer world. It pitta can manifest as anger and they are often con-
includes memory and the ability to recall (smrti) fronted with the challenge of patience.
events. Tarpaka kapha relates to memory. Ahamkara
is our I maker and identity former that person- Kapha: They have steady minds that can concen-
alises every experience. It makes us identify with trate on a wide number of issues at a time. The
every experience so that we say I am reading a kapha has an excellent memory once the facts have
book about ayurvedic herbs. There is also citta been assimilated. They remember feelings, smells
that is considered to be consciousness and aware- and tastes. Their love of stability makes them
ness. Prana connects these different aspects into ignore signals for change. They are loyal and affec-
something that is known as antahkarana, the tionate friends. They tend to avoid challenging sit-
inner active. uations in order to maintain status quo and protect
their conservative nature. They like a stable and
A peculiarity is that is in contrast to the nature of regular environment. Their thought process is
the physical constitution (deha prakrti) the mental emotive and related to feeling. Kapha types have a
nature (manas prakrti) can be altered through tendency to greed and are often coping with issues
action. The qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas are of attachment.
predominant in the mind and can be altered
according to lifestyle, diet and mental attitudes. The mind is integrally connected with the cause of
Rajas and tamas, passion and lethargy, are consid- disease as psychological experiences are soma-
ered to be the causes of mental disease (Caraka tised. As you will read below, the main causes of
Samhita 1.57). disease have a mental seed.

imbalanced in the following season before it gets

aggravated. Hence follow a pitta-reducing diet in
The winds of change are regularly upon us. The early spring before it gets aggravated in late spring
seasons consistently roll from one into another. with symptoms of spring fevers and hayfever.
Ayurveda recognises that this has a profound Follow a vata-reducing diet in the summer before it
effect on our health and recommends many help- gets aggravated in the autumn with patterns of
ful suggestions for how we can adapt our lifestyle dry skin, flare-ups of dry eczema, dry coughs and
to stay balanced in each season. Ayurveda makes cracked soles of the feet. Follow a kapha-reducing
this person-specific; i.e. there is not just one diet in the winter before it gets aggravated in the
lifestyle or diet that fits everybody. This is because spring with spring colds and allergies to tree
Ayurveda perceives everybody as individuals with pollen. See the recommendations in the treatment
a unique constitutional makeup or dosa. chapter to know how to balance each dosa.

Constitution (dosa prakrti) and the seasons are inti- The central teaching of Ayurveda is that in order
mately related. Health is affected by the qualities to optimise your health you must clear the accu-
of the climate; the inner world is influenced by the mulation of the dosas from your system. Any
outer environment. For example, when the air is increase in the dosas can cause illness. The dosas
damp, cold and wet these qualities are increased in exit via the orifices; primarily the bowel, bladder,
the body. Hence the increase in mucus, catarrh and stomach, lungs (via the mouth), uterus and skin.
colds in winter. The classic herbal laxatives (encouraging bowel
motions), diuretics (encouraging urination), emet-
The ayurvedic understanding of the disease ics (encouraging vomiting), expectorants (encour-
process is that certain doshic qualities accumulate aging clearing of mucus), emmenagogues
in one season and are then aggravated in the next. (encouraging menstrual flow) and diaphoretics
See Table 2.4 for a full explanation. This table is for (encouraging sweating) do this.
the seasons in temperate climates of Europe and
North America. There are different patterns for dif- Specific seasonal daily regimes (dinacarya-)
ferent climates. To understand these patterns you Ayurveda recommends adherence to a strict
have to watch nature and this is at the heart of regime of daily activities (dinacarya) that facilitate
learning how to live ayurvedically. Start to observe clearing accumulated dosas from the body and
the different qualities and patterns of nature and optimising health. It is also called svasthavrtta,
you will start to understand the principles of referring to healthy lifestyle habits.
Lifestyle (svasthavr.tta)
The trick to staying healthy is to stay one step It is important to note that regarding all lifestyle
ahead of the changing seasons causing any accu- recommendations the individual prakrti superceeds
mulation of the dos.as. Reduce the dosa that will be the general rules given below.

TABLE 2.4 Seasonal fluctuations of the dosas

Season Accumulating Aggravating Treatment
Early spring: MarchApril Pitta ++ Kapha+++ Reduce pitta and kapha
Late spring: AprilMay Pitta +++ Pitta ++ Reduce pitta
Summer: JuneSeptember Va-ta++ Pitta +++ Reduce pitta and va-ta
Early autumn: SeptemberOctober Va-ta +++ Va-ta ++ Reduce va-ta
Late autumn: OctoberNovember Kapha ++ Va-ta +++ Reduce va-ta and kapha
Winter: November March Kapha +++ Kapha +++ Reduce kapha

Daily activities (dinacarya- )

with pitta skin inflammations as the unctuous

Rising nature of oil can irritate eczema, acne and rashes.
Rise in accordance with the seasons (see seasonal Tradition suggests starting massage at the feet and
routines below). This is traditionally at a time legs, then progressing to the arms and back and
known as brahma muhurta, between 3 and 7am as it then to the chest and abdomen. This brings lym-
is regarded as a time when we can most easily phatic fluid back to the heart for elimination via
access our consciousness. As it is a vata-predomi- the blood where toxins and wastes are cleared by
nant time kapha problems such as lethargy, mucus, the liver and kidneys.
bowel congestion, sluggish liver, muzzy-headed-
ness can be overcome. Sleeping into kapha time Vata: emphasise the feet, lower back, colon area,
aggravates kapha and causes the above symptoms. neck, shoulders and head using warm organic
People who are ill, pregnant, breast-feeding, sesame oil.
elderly and children do not need to rise during
brahma muhurta. Pitta: emphasise the areas over the chest, liver, stom-
ach and head using organic coconut or brahmi oil.
Evacuate the bowels and bladder. Drink hot water Kapha: emphasise the areas over the lower
to facilitate any sluggishness in the bowel. If fur- abdomen, chest, throat, sinuses using organic
ther stimulation is required Ayurveda recom- sesame or mustard oil. Dry massage using herbal
mends taking some mild laxatives, regulating the powder (udvartana) or a skin brush is also useful
digestive fire and diet. for regulating the lymphatic system, clearing fluid
accumulation and cellulite from the skin.
Oral hygiene
Clean the teeth using astringent/bitter/pungent Complete the massage by applying pleasant aro-
flavours to clear accumulated bacteria from the matic scents of essential oils of rose, sandalwood,
mouth and tongue and stimulate the digestive sys- jasmine or frankincense between the eyebrows and
tem via the gastric reflex stimulus considered to be at the throat.
caused by tongue scraping. Gargle (gandusa) with
warm water, herbal infusions or oil to treat excess Exercise (vya-ya-ma)
kapha, pitta or vata in the mouth and throat. Practise stimulating exercise up to the point of a
mild sweat. Hathayoga postures (asana) are relevant
Physical hygiene as is any metabolic exercise. Do not practise any
Wash the body; eyes using eyedrops (rose water repetitive exercise that stresses any one part of the
or corrylium), nose using nasal oil drops (nasya) or body excessively (jogging, skipping, weight-lift-
wash using a neti pot with a salt-water solution ing). Exercise should not be carried out by anyone
(1 part salt to 100 parts water) to draw kapha suffering from aggravated vata or pitta, young chil-
osmotically from the sinuses, lungs using dren, the elderly and by those suffering from indi-
breathing techniques (pranayama). gestion.

Oil massage (abhyanga) Washing (sna-na)
Massage is a central feature of the daily regime; it Use warm water to wash the body after massage
cleans the body, regulates the dosa, moves dis- and exercise. Pitta types can have a cold bath or
placed dosas back to the digestive tract, emolliates shower.
and nourishes the skin. It specifically protects from
old age and vata diseases while promoting good Meditation (dhya-na)
vision, sound sleep and a long life. Use a small Using meditative techniques can help to raise
amount of warm oil to coat the skin and then wash awareness, instil intention in spiritual practice,
off with warm water after it has been absorbed. remove attachments to the things we like and aver-
Vata types can use more oil but oleating massage sions from the things we dislike and give clarity of
should be avoided in ama conditions and with mind. There are many different practices used for
kapha accumulation. Caution should be observed stilling the mind and releasing it from its continual

infatuation with the sensual and illusory world. Ayurvedic daily cycle of dosas increasing and

Vata types should practise creative visualisation decreasing:
involving order, ritual and regularity to help har- 3am7am 3pm7pm vata early morning until
ness its monkey-mind from swinging from just after sunrise, early afternoon until just after
thought to thought. Yantra meditation on construc- sunset (accounting for seasonal variations)
tive patterns may be an example of this. Pitta types 7am11am 7pm11pm kapha morning, evening
can emphasise regulatory disciplines involving 11am3pm 11pm3am pitta mid-morning, mid-
counting and harmonising the breath or focusing evening
on a sense object to clear irritability and purify sad-
haka pitta. This helps to develop clear thinking. Perform activities that reduce the aggravation of the
Kapha types can practise more dynamic forms of dosa.
meditation involving different sequences to offset
sluggish mental habits or devotional forms of med- The cusp of every season aggravates vata and so a
itation (bhakti yoga) that will enhance their natural vata-pacifying regime should always be followed
tendency for compassion and giving love. during these times. A period of reflection and
dietary adjustment for seven days either side of
Digestive stimulation (agnid-pana) the solstices and equinoxes will promote health
Stimulate the digestive fire by taking digestive during the following season.
spices such as ginger (Zingiber officinale).
It is important to say that the suggestions below
Eating (a-ha-ra) are for seasonal balance and that you must always
Dietary habits should result in satisfaction, nourish- pay attention to any personal needs above and
ment and contentment. Eat until the stomach is half beyond this.
full of food, one quarter full of water and the
remainder left for digestive samana vayu to circulate. An ayurvedic spring (vasanta)
For specific details of the appropriate foods for each The qualities of spring
dosa see the treatment chapter. Spring is a time of growth, ascendancy and new
potential. The fresh leaves unfurl and dormant
Other considerations seeds germinate. Spring is a time of increased
Take a light breakfast of nourishing grains. warmth and wetness from a thawing of the con-
Chew cardamom, fennel, anise to freshen gealed damp of winter. Because of the high
breath. amount of cold and wet qualities of winter and
Do not restrain any of the 13 natural urges. the heavier diet that we take, kapha has also accu-
Have the meal in the middle of day when the mulated by this time. Just as there are spring
solar energy and inner agni is strongest. floods from rivers overflowing so there are inter-
Follow a wholesome occupation that accrues nal floods. The increased heat melts this kapha
good karma. This allows you to fulfil your social accumulation, causing spring colds and hayfever.
and familial duty (dharma), achieve satisfaction This is a common time to cleanse the body and to
and pleasure (kama), accrue wealth for a stable assist the melted kapha to flow out of the body.
life (artha) and attain spiritual realisation This can help kapha imbalances to be removed
(moksa). from the body before they impact negatively on
Observe your local geographical terrain and your health. While vata types like spring with its
climate and adapt your daily lifestyle slightly warmer and wet qualities, it is a time of
accordingly. change and so appropriate attention should be
Live according to your stage of life: given to a vata-balancing lifestyle if you have any
016: kapha stage of life associated vata problems. Pitta is balanced in the
1650: pitta stage of life early part of spring but can accumulate as the
50+: vata stage of life. warmth increases and this needs to be managed
Live according to the times of day to regulate later in the season. As kapha imbalances are the
your lifestyle in accordance with your daily main threat during spring try and follow a kapha-
needs. reducing lifestyle.

Water qualities: wet, cold, fluid, cohesive, slimy,

The Hathayogapradipika also states an interesting

unctuous, heavy. addition to all these cleansing practices, that
Water anatomy: taste, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, pranayama alone can remove the impurities (2.37).
mucous membranes, bladder, blood, synovial
fluid, secretions, lipids, ova, testes, knees to Learn these procedures with a qualified teacher. In
feet. spring cleansing kapha from the lungs and stomach
Water physiology: reproduction, urination, is emphasised. So, if therapeutic emesis does not
breast-feeding, moistens earth to give cohesion appeal or is inappropriate, use pranayama to benefit
to physical system, saliva, mucus, pus, menses, the lungs and seat of kapha.
Water season: most active in winter, spring. Spring routine (vasanta r.tucarya-)
Water flavour: increased by sweet and salty. Wake early, during brahma muhurta (37 am), and
Water asana: to decrease kapha practise more utilise the new-found seasonal vitality. As kapha
vigorous postures, emphasising metabolic is especially aggravated by sleeping in beyond
invigorating sequences and including back 7am rising early is a useful way to reduce kapha
bends and forward bends to warm the kidneys aggravations of fatigue, lethargy, mucus and
and increasing chest opening postures to help muzzy headaches.
clear phlegm. After completing your daily ablutions have an
oil massage using organic sesame or sunflower
With spring being a time of cleansing the body and oil to reduce kapha from the skin.
mind try to practise the yogic satkarmas; the six Have a hot shower to refresh the body.
purificatory practices that facilitate the flow of any Practising skin rubbing can be very valuable at
imbalanced dosa out of the body. The Hathayoga- this time of year for stimulating lymphatic cir-
pradipika (2.21-38), and Gheranda Samhita (1.12-60) culation. Tradition suggests starting massage at
list the satkarma for rebalancing the dosas. If the the feet and legs, then progressing to the arms
humours are in excess it is necessary to reduce and back and then to the chest and abdomen.
them, if they are deficient they should be This brings lymphatic fluid back to the heart for
increased. Performing the cleansing satkarma in a elimination via the blood where toxins and
body that is already deficient will weaken the wastes are cleared by the liver and kidneys.
humours. Evidently, most of us can benefit from Dry massage using herbal powder (udvartana) is
occasional cleansing but it is essential that it is also useful for regulating the lymphatic system,
carried out according to personal constitution, clearing fluid accumulation and cellulite from
seasonal patterns, and stage of life. The 21 types of the skin. Ayurveda recommends using chickpea
cleansing listed in the hathayoga texts are detailed flower or other more fragrant herbs such as san-
and specific instructions of how to maintain health. dalwood or amalaki. Ensure that you do not
They are prerequisites to yogic practice. They are block your plumbing by doing this as the flours
divided as: can congeal into a sticky mass.
If you can have a sauna during this early part of
Dhauti: internal cleansing including therapeutic spring it will help to dry the excessive secretions
emesis (vamana or kunjal) to clean the stomach that occur at this time of year.
and lungs Take a cup of hot ginger and lemon water to
Basti: autoenemas or mild laxatives to clean the stimulate digestion and cut through any mucus
intestines that has accumulated overnight.
Neti: nasal cleansing using neti pot or medici- Yoga practice can include kapha-regulating pos-
ated oils to clear the sinuses tures that are dynamic, expansive and stimulat-
Trataka: steady gazing to cleanse the skull, ing. This is really a continuation of winter
sinuses and eyes practice but with a greater emphasis on elimi-
Nauli: abdominal massage to regulate digestion nation via the lungs. Practise with an increased
and stimulate the digestive fire emphasis on breathing. Perform vigorous sun
Kapalabhati: frontal brain cleansing to clear accu- salutation (suryanamaskara)up to twelve
mulations from the lungs. roundsuntil warm and breathing is deep.

Also include strong backwards and forward lations by using some bitter herbs. Try using

bends that open the chest, such as the fish turmeric (Curcuma longa) or daruharidra
(matsyasana), the wheel (cakrasana), the camel (Berberis aristata) with organic aloe vera juice
(ustrasana), and the tiger (vyagrasana) to (Aloe barbadensis).
stimulate the kidneys and lungs. Also include
the locust (salabhasana), spinal twists such as - ma)
An ayurvedic summer (grs
rotated triangle (trikonasana) and The qualities of summer
matsyendrasana. Summer is a time when the element of fire (tejas) is
During pranayama practice emphasise frontal increased; there is more warmth, dryness and light-
brain cleansing (kapalabhati) as it encourages ness. These are qualities that increase pitta and can
exhalation with a spontaneous inhalation. It also cause vata to accumulate. The digestive agni
greatly encourages the clearing of kapha. becomes easily displaced by the increase in external
The spring diet should emphasise the bitter, environmental heat drawing the internal fire to the
pungent and astringent foods that help to clear surface. The jatharagni in the stomach moves to the
mucus and excess moisture from the body. The exterior of the body reducing appetite and aggra-
bitter and pungent flavours also help to open vating the skin. We often associate summer with
the channels of elimination. Conversely, avoid such problems as the inflammatory symptoms of
the sweet, sour and salty flavours that are heavy hay fever, prickly heat and other skin inflamma-
and cause water stagnation in the body. Your tions. These all have some itchy, hot pitta symptoms
meals should be warm, light and very easy to that come to the surface with the rising heat. Hence
digest. While the nature of most foods is sweet summer is naturally a time of calming and reduc-
it is important to add these other recommended ing pitta. As summer progresses the dry and light
flavours into your diet. qualities increase causing vata to accumulate to
Increase light grains such as rice, quinoa, barley, eventually aggravate in the autumn. Hence, keep-
millet, corn. As pulses are considered to be ing vata in check is also important.
astringent they can be emphasised at this time
of year, with red lentils, aduki beans and chick- Summer qualities: light, warm, dry, penetrating,
peas good for clearing kapha. sharp, transformative, subtle, ascending, expan-
Avoid ice, refrigerated foods eaten cold, eating sive.
too much, eating between meals and sleeping in Fire anatomy: pitta can build up in the digestive
the day, as these will offset the other good work system, liver, eyes, skin and heart at this time of
that you are doing. year.
Assist elimination from the lungs by using mild Fire physiology: sight, digestion, appetite,
expectorants such as organic long pepper (Piper metabolism, assimilation, warmth, thermal con-
longum) every day. Long pepper is a great reju- duction are all affected by the increased warmth
venative to the lungs and also helps to clear of summer.
kapha. 0.5g of this can be mixed with honey and Fire flavour: pitta is increased by pungent, sour,
taken twice a day to help strengthen the lungs. salty and so too much of these flavours in the
Honey is considered to be slightly astringent summer may aggravate people prone to pitta
and warming and is the only sweetener kapha is inflammations.
allowed as it helps to clear mucus.
You will notice a dominance of yellow flowers Summer is a perfect time to apply the wise teach-
in the spring and the doctrine of signatures ing of Swami Satyananda Saraswati and increase
(the idea that God has laid a signature over the viveka and vairagya. These refer to discrimination
earth to guide us to which herbs are good for and non-attachment respectively. By discriminat-
which diseases or parts of the body) states that ing we are choosing what is best for us and not
yellow and the liver are connected. Many of just following the perpetual attractions and revul-
these yellow flowers, such as dandelion sions of our mind. By following the path of non-
(Taraxacum officinalis), benefit the liver. After the attachment we can grow to be free from the
initial course of kapha-clearing move towards pleasures and pain of our experiences and move
cleansing the liver of fatty and hot pitta accumu- towards living in the present moment.

Ayurveda also prescribes that one of the main Breakfast: eat liquid nourishing breakfasts such

causes of illness is inappropriate attachment of as almond milk. Grind some soaked and peeled
our senses to their sense objects. For example, I almonds, mix into some warm milk (cow or
like ice cream, so I eat some. I want some more as rice), add saffron and some sweetener (not
I can remember that delicious sweet creamy honey).
flavour, and so I have some more and the next Lunch: eating at around noon when the sun is at
day my nose feels congested. Now there is its zenith is best.
nothing inherently wrong with ice cream but it Supper: have a light meal of basmati rice,
must be used wisely so that you absorb the sprouted mung beans and green leafy vegeta-
full pleasure and nourishment that it can offer. bles. Do not eat salad at night as it will
If it is abused it will harm you, if it is used aggravate vata.
with viveka and vairagya then it can bring you In the summer it is best to avoid all dark meats
much joy. such as beef, lamb and pork as well as citrus
fruits, tomato, garlic, onion, salt and sour dairy
Summer routine (gr-s.ma .rtucarya- ) products as these all increase pitta.
Start the day by brushing your teeth with some It may be useful to take organic aloe vera juice
cooling tooth powdera dash of neem and (Aloe barbadensis) (50ml/day) throughout the
peppermint on your brush will help clear pitta summer to clear pitta from the digestive system.
from the mouth. Take it first thing in the morning.
A light massage with coconut oil at room tem- A good way of flushing pitta out of the body
perature will nourish the skin and clear any is via the bowel; Ayurveda recommends
heat. Wash this off with lukewarm water. amalaki (Emblica officinalis) as a mild laxative.
Try and walk with bare feet on a cool dewy Triphala can be mildly heating and so it is
lawn for a calming and peaceful start to your best to move over to amalaki in pitta constitu-
day. tions.
Start yoga practice with some cooling and calm- When thirsty try drinking cool herbal teas
ing sitali pranayamathis is an especially of peppermint, licorice, fennel and rose.
calming and soothing practice where the tongue Another delicious delicacy is to collect a glass
is rolled into a tube and then cool air is drawn in of fresh rose petals and cover them in sugar
through this tube and out through the nostrils. overnight (in the moonlight). In the morning
Pitta can accumulate in the digestive system and you will have a delicious rose syrup elixir to
especially the liver and small intestine. Do some mix in your almond milk or just dilute with
abdominal stretch, twist and massage exercises water.
for helping to clear pitta from your belly. Try It is very important to watch out for pitta emo-
. tions arising such as criticism, being judgemen-
trikonasana (triangle series), bhujangasana (cobra),
matsyasana (fish), matsyendrasana (twist), tal, irritation and anger. If you feel a bit hot
ustrasana (camel) to massage pitta out of the under the collar a good trick is to hold a glass
intestines. As pitta can also accumulate in the of water in your mouth as the water cools your
eyes, via the liver, try doing a range of eye exer- pitta and keeps you quiet.
cises to relax the eyes and increase circulation Before going to bed, especially if it has been
that can carry away any excess heat. a hot day, rub the soles of the feet with coconut
It is important to not do too many inverted or castor oil to bring all the heat down to the
poses as these bring heat up to the head if you feet.
are a strongly pitta person. Wash the face in organic rose water and spray it
After yoga anoint yourself with some fragrant in your bedroom. It is important to fill the house
sandalwood or rose oil. Place a drop on your and bedroom with fragrant roses and jasmine in
third eye, throat and navel to keep these centres the summer.
of awareness cool, calm and collected. It is important to get to bed before 11pm as pitta
Diet in the summer should consist of sweet, bit- peaks at around midnight. Sleeping on the right
ter, astringent flavours and be light and easy to side activates ida nadi in the left nostril and
digest. guarantees a blissful nights rest.

An ayurvedic autumn (sarat) should be no withholding the need of thirst,

The qualities of autumn hunger, sneezing, yawning, crying, urinating, defe-
Autumn is a time when the air element (vayu) is cating, breaking wind, burping, orgasm, sleep,
predominant; there is more lightness, dryness waking and breathing due to overexertion (Caraka
(temporarily) and coolness. There is also the ten- Sutrasthana 7.1). This does not mean wanton
dency for the winds of change to blow ever more indulgence of needs but appeals to the individual
erratically. These qualities in nature have a ten- to follow physical needs without letting mental
dency to aggravate vata that has already been accu- attractions and aversions get in the way. A teacher
mulating throughout the end part of the summer. once taught me graze like a cow and let your
As vata regulates the nervous system, levels of spirit soar, meaning live simply according to the
moisture in the body, how relaxed we feel and needs of your body and let your consciousness
how well we digest food, these can easily become flourish. Simple and true. Ayurveda and yoga both
disturbed. As the digestion is disturbed ama can teach us that the practice of observation is the path
also increase and diseases where ama and vata mix to understanding.
together (samavata), such as arthritis, can become
aggravated. Autumn is naturally a time of balanc- Autumn routine (sarat .r tucarya- )
ing vata and reducing any symptoms of wind, Rising early when the world is still and calm
dryness and erratic behaviour. Towards the end of brush your teeth with some nourishing tooth
autumn kapha starts to accumulate with the powder such as licorice, haritaki and mint.
increase in wet and cold qualities. Remember that Hold some warm sesame oil in your mouth for
in Ayurveda dosa means fault so it is important to three minutes. It has a wonderfully nourishing
avoid dosa accumulation. effect on the mouth, strengthens the teeth and
stops bleeding and receding gums.
Autumn qualities: light, dry, cool, erratic, rough, A specific autumnal practice is to then rinse
mobile, subtle and clear. your mouth with haritaki water (1 teaspoon of
Air anatomy: vata can build up in the lungs, haritaki soaked in warm water overnight). After
nervous system, brain, large intestine, hair, rinsing you can swallow some of the haritaki, as
nails, bones, skin, and hands. This can cause dry it is the main rejuvenative for balancing vata
skin, constipation and increased anxiety, which and sending apana vata downwards. Apana vata
may cause nervousness and insomnia. is one of the subtypes of vata that is responsible
Air physiology: breathing, speech, nervous for moving everything downwards. As wind
impulse, touch, muscular movement, thought can aggravate constipation it is a very useful
movement, cellular communication, burps, hic- practice for this time of year.
cups, and flatulence. Massage yourself with warm sesame or maha-
Air flavour: wind is increased by pungent, narayan oil. This can offset the seasonal ten-
astringent, bitter flavours that are found in very dency to dryness, joint cracking, and stiff
hot spices, strong black tea and raw salads. muscle pain. Wash off in a warm shower. Place
Air asana: to decrease an excess of vata practice a drop of oil in your nostrils and ears to offset
grounding, relaxed, opening and slow the damaging effect of the elements. A special
movements using slow and steady breathing oil called nasya nasal oil is prepared with herbs
practices. that protect the nose and ears from infections
and can be useful during the autumn.
One of the main causes of disease in Ayurveda is Start yoga practice with some alternate nostril
crimes against wisdom (prajnaparadha). This breathing (nadi sodhana). The Hathayogapradipika
means violating the inner sense of intuition as well says, By proper practice of pranayama all
as ignoring past experience. Denying this wisdom disease are eradicated. . . . The vayu should be
results in acting inappropriately for who you are. skilfully inhaled, exhaled and retained so that
This gives you great responsibility for your health perfection is retained. (Hathayogapradipika
and is a very empowering tool for taking control of 16, 18). What better time to master the art of
your health. Also classified under this heading is breathing than in autumn when there are such
the restraint of natural urges (vegavarodha); there high levels of prana in the atmosphere? Nadi


sodhana does what it says; it purifies the chan- karma recommendations in the Hathayoga
nels of toxins, and especially vata-toxins that pradipika to clear the phlegm, bile and wind
accumulate from tension and constriction of the from the system. A very simple home cleanse
channels. We all know that breathing helps us to programme would be to follow the above rec-
relax, but it also relaxes the subtle channels that ommendations and to take organic triphala at
can easily become constricted and tight. night to ensure a complete cleansing every
Practise asana that regulate vata and send apana morning. Triphala is the most famous ayurvedic
vayu downwards; this especially includes remedy and is a combination of three fruits that
pavanamuktasana (the wind-relieving poses), all very gently detoxify the body and rejuvenate
inverted poses where the head moves below the the digestive system. Follow this programme
waist (as air moves up and inverting ourselves strictly for two weeks.
can help apana vayu move down), all twists as At the end of a busy day make yourself a deli-
this helps to regulate samana vayu in the intes- cious cup of milk simmered with a pinch of nut-
tines, slow sun salutation with breaths in each meg and cardamom and settle in for a blissful
pose and then lots of savasana (corpse pose) for nights sleep.
proper grounding.
Apply grounding scents such as vetiver or a An ayurvedic winter (hemantasisira)
vata essential oil on the eyebrow centre and The qualities of winter
throat. During winter the earths energy is withdrawn
Autumnal diet should consist of warm foods back into herself. It is a time of rest, storing and
that are sweet, mildly spicy, sour and salty as preparation. Rest from the bounty of the autumnal
these are all flavours that increase moisture and harvest and preparation for the vitality of the com-
encourage feeling nourished and grounded. ing spring. This is a time of being grounded, inter-
Breakfast with a small bowl of porridge of oats, nalised and still. The weather is often cold, wet,
rice or quinoa that can be flavoured with maple cloudy and heavy and is dominated by the water
syrup and cinnamon. element (ap). These are all qualities that aggravate
Take a teaspoon of organic cyavanaprasha in the kapha; remember that kapha means that which
morning to keep your energy and immunity flourishes in water. Because of the ayurvedic rule
intact at this time of change. Cyavanaprasa is a that like attracts like the cold, wet and heavy
great remedy for reducing vata and maintaining qualities of kapha are exacerbated by the similar
inner strength. nature of the climate. In climates where there is a
If you are easily destabilised by the changes in long winter (sisira) this extended period of cold
the autumn season and can suffer from vata- can cause vata to become aggravated and people
imbalanced symptoms such as insomnia, erratic with imbalances in vata can also suffer challenges
digestion, constipation and anxiety then the to their health in winter. Here are some ayurvedic
most appropriate ayurvedic remedy is ashwa- and yogic perspectives on staying healthy and
gandha (Withania somnifera). It is great for calm- warm throughout the winter.
ing while strengthening, giving energy while
also settling the nervous system. It can be taken Winter qualities: wet, cold, fluid, cohesive,
morning and evening. It is a great herb for slimy, unctuous, heavy.
enhancing stability and strength in yoga prac- Water anatomy: kapha can affect the health of the
tice as well. kidneys, lungs, pancreas, mucus membranes,
For lunch and/or supper have more nourishing bladder, blood, synovial fluid, bodily secretions,
foods such as steamed vegetables, soup or lipids, ova and testes. This can lead to swellings
kichadi. and accumulations of mucus.
Avoid too much raw salad, cold drinks, ice, Water physiology: this is responsible for manag-
beans, fermented foods and yeast in autumn as ing reproduction, lactation, saliva, mucus, urina-
they cause gas and may destabilise digestion. tion, pus, menses, lumps.
Autumn is a common time to perform a sea- Water season: most active in winter and spring.
sonal cleanse to prepare for the winter ahead. Water flavour: increased by salt, sour and sweet
These recommendations are similar to the sat foods such as salt, citrus fruits and refined sugars.

Water asana: to decrease kapha practise more vig- Begin yoga practice with some brain-cleansing

orous postures, emphasising metabolic invigor- pranayama (kapalabhati) or bellows breath (bhas-
ating sequences and including back bends and trika); Bhastrika quickly arouses kundalini. It is
forward bends to warm the kidneys and pleasant and beneficial, and removes obstruc-
increasing chest opening postures to help clear tion due to excess mucus (kapha) accumulated at
phlegm. the entrance to brahma nadi, this enables the
three psychic knots to be broken. Thus it is the
One of the main causes of disease in Ayurveda is duty of the yogi to practice bhastrika.
unwholesome attachment of your senses to their (Hathayogapradipika 2.66/7). These practices
sense objects (asatmyendriyarthasamyoga). This invigorate the body with prana and clear excess
includes under-, over- or inappropriate use of the mucus, lethargy and sluggishness.
senses such as desiring something too much, too Practice asana that balance kapha and clear any
little, or when inappropriate for the constitution. It excess water. Do vigorous sun salutation (suryana-
boils down to inappropriate activities of the body maskara) up to 12 rounds until you are warm and
and mind. For example, it is well known that your breathing becomes deep. Also include strong
excessive sweet consumption can cause pancreatic backwards and forward bends that open the chest
enzyme imbalances, blood sugar problems and such as the fish (matsyasana), the wheel
eventually diabetes. This is a kapha problem result- (cakrasana), the camel (ustrasana) and the tiger
ing from an excess of kapha foods and emotions (vyagrasana) to stimulate the kidneys and lungs.
(greed or attachment). If a person regularly lives Put some nasya nasal oil in the nose after finish-
with these habits they will get ill. ing your pranayama. The herbs in it can dissolve
the excessive amount of water that can accumu-
Winter routine (hemanta .r tucarya- ) late in the head in winter. This can help to alle-
Those having a kapha constitution must follow the viate depression and Seasonal Affective
majority of these recommendations; those who are Disorder by bringing lightness and clarity.
vata will also benefit; if pitta then keep clearing Winter diet should consist of warm foods that
heat from the inside of your body while keeping are mildly spicy, slightly salty and nourishing.
the exterior warm. Diet should clear kapha but not aggravate vata.
The digestive fire is usually stronger in winter
Sleeping late is fine in winter. Rise at 7am and as the cooler weather constricts the surface of
wash your teeth with some stimulating cinna- the body and pushes the heat back in to the cen-
mon, clove and haritaki powder. This will pro- tre of the digestive system.
tect your teeth from becoming overly sensitive Breakfast with a small bowl of porridge of oats,
to the cold. cornmeal (polenta), barley or rice. Add some
Hold some warm sesame oil in the mouth for cinnamon, cloves and honey. Although honey is
three minutes. This has a wonderfully nourish- sweet it is considered to be beneficial for kapha
ing effect on the mouth, strengthens the teeth as it can encourage clearing of mucus.
and stops bleeding and receding gums. Give Take a teaspoon of organic cyavanaprasha in the
the gums a good massage with your finger as morning to keep your energy and immunity
well. intact at this time of change. Cyvanaprasha is a
Massage yourself with warm organic sesame oil. great remedy for reducing kapha, reducing colds
Sesame is warming and can be beneficial to and promoting inner strength.
every constitution at this time of year. This can Lunch and supper should be wholesome meals
offset the seasonal tendency to coldness, aching avoiding too many cold, wet and damp foods
joints and frozen shoulder. Wash off in a warm that are excessively sweet, or from the fridge or
shower. freezer. Barley is one of the best grains for kapha
Have a hot shower, rub the oil off your skin as its drying (ruks.a) quality gently clears fluids
with a towel. from the body and can help clear sluggish
Drink a cup of warm water. This relaxes the digestion. Drink spicy teas throughout the day.
digestive system, kindles the appetite and If you are easily disturbed by the cold, wet and
encourages a healthy bowel motion. heavy qualities of winter then you may benefit


from taking trikatu. This is a mixture of ginger, 2. Unwholesome attachment of the senses to
black pepper and long pepper and it will blow their objects (asatmyendriyasamyoga) including
away any colds, coughs, poor circulation and under-, over- or inappropriate use of the senses
nasal drips. such as desiring something too much, too little,
After a day of hard work settle in for a relaxing
or when inappropriate for the constitution
(Caraka Sutrasthana 1.54). It boils down to
evening. Ayurveda suggests that an occasional
unwholesome activities of the body and mind.
glass of dry and warming wine may be benefi-
For example, it is well known that excessive
cial in the winter to encourage circulation and sweet consumption can cause pancreatic
stimulate digestion. Then it is off to bed with a enzyme imbalances, blood sugar problems and
delicious glass of hot spicy milk. Nutmeg is a eventually diabetes. This is a kapha problem
very calming herb that promotes sound sleep resulting from an excess of kapha foods and
and can be added to your milk. emotions (greed or attachment). If a person reg-
ularly lives with these habits they will get ill.
Another famous ayurvedic adage is sarve pi
DISEASE AETIOLOGY: ROGA KARAN.A roga mandagnihetavah, which means that all
The cause of disease involves many different disease is caused by an imbalance of the diges-
tive fire; it is upset by extreme emotions or an
aspects from the imbalance of the dosa, to an imbal-
inappropriate diet.
anced digestive fire (agni), to the accumulation of
3. Seasonal influences (parinama) such as climate
ama, to the obstruction of the channels (srotas) and change, geographic peculiarities or merely the
the deficiency of the dhatu. Internally, the movement annual cycle of seasonal variation can disturb
of disease is from the mind to the body where the the dosa and cause disease.
attitudes of greed, fear, anger, grief, arrogance, jeal-
ousy and hatred become somatised in the tissues. These may involve:
Ayurveda clearly states that desire (raga) is a feel- Atiyoga: excessive indulgence
ing that generates pathological heat in the mind Hinayoga: inadequate indulgence
which generates these other emotions. Desire creates Mithyayoga: inappropriate indulgence.
an obsessive attachment to various objects and this
Other causes are
locks us into a cycle of grasping and unfulfillment.
When stimulated, strong emotions create an agitat- 4. Inherited: these are the tendencies that we are
ing friction that irritates digestion, the nervous born with. It is as though we have a constitu-
system and then the tissues, which can then cause a tional threshold which, depending on various
range of diseases. For example, in the pathology of factors, may or may not manifest; e.g. psoriasis,
fever (jvara), accumulated heat leaves its residence in diabetes or heart disease.
the stomach and invades the rasa tissues and dis- 5. Trauma: accidents affecting the body and
ease-causing heat spreads throughout the system.
6. Divine: intervention on a subtle level from the
divine realm, e.g. magical spells.
Imbalance of the dosa is internally caused by 7. Environmental: availability of food, water and
mithyaharavihara or inappropriate food and activities: shelter have an obvious impact on health.
8. Karmic: disease has resulted from actions in
1. Crimes against wisdom (prajnaparadha) means
another life.
violating your inner sense of intuition as well as
ignoring your past experience. Denying this wis-
dom results in acting inappropriately for who
you are. For example, a pitta prakrti person eating PATHOLOGY AND THE SIX STAGES OF DISEASE:
lots of chillies while knowing that this will lead SAM. PRA-PTI
to inflammation and irritation. Also classified
The progressive stages of each disease are laid out
under this heading is the restraint of natural
urges (vegavarodha); there should be no withhold- in great detail. The health of the system is opti-
ing the need of thirst, hunger, sneezing, yawning, mised when the dosa are flowing out of the body
crying, urinating, defecating, flatulence, burping, and the dhatu are nourished. The stages enumer-
ejaculating, sleep, waking and breathing due to ated below describe how this healthy process
overexertion (Caraka Sam . hita Sutrasthana 7.1). becomes imbalanced:

1. Accumulation (caya)

The dosas are still relatively easy to clear from the
Any of the causes of disease listed above can cause system even at this stage.
the dosa to accumulate at their site:
4. Relocation (stha-na sam
. sraya)
Kapha gathers in the stomach with signs of slug- The irritated dosa now fixes in a set location, usu-
gish digestion, lethargy, paleness, heavy limbs and ally associated with an area of weakness or one of
heavy head. the areas of the body that the particular dosa is
associated with, e.g. kapha in the lungs, stomach,
Pitta accumulates in the small intestine with joints, mucous membranes and fluid parts of the
signs of acidity in the stomach, yellowing of the body; pitta in the liver, eyes, skin, intestinal lining
eyes, urine and stool, sensations of heat, irritabil- or glands; vata in the ears, joints, bones, skin or
ity, bitter taste in the mouth and loose and smelly colon. This is when the premonitory signs of dis-
stools. ease start; the weak cough and slight wheeze that
can develop to full-blown asthma.
Vata collects in the large intestine with signs of
bloating, gas, constipation, pebble-like stool, dry- The dosas are now difficult to clear and require
ness, cramps, coldness, anxiety and insomnia. deep cleansing techniques and pacakarma to be
At this stage the disease is relatively easy to remove.
5. Manifestation (vyakti)
2. Aggravation (prakopa) The disease now manifests as an identifiable dis-
Prakopa is further aggravation of the symptoms ease such as diabetes, asthma or diverticulosis.
mentioned above. The increased severity of doshic
irritation starts to aggravate the viscera (amasaya) The disease is set and cure is often difficult.
that are containing the dosa. The aggravated dosa is
still relatively easy to remove via the digestive 6. Expression of unique characteristics
pathway. of the disease (bheda)
Once a disease is fixed at a site it takes on a life of
3. Spreading (prasara) its own and its dominant features are reflected by
Having reached maximum capacity in their the primary causative dosa. For example eczema
respective sites the accumulated and aggravated caused by vata is dry, fissured and itchy; by pitta is
dosa now cross their threshold and spill over into red, inflamed, bleeding and hot; and that caused by
other parts of the body. They rebel in any direc- kapha is wet, suppurating, itchy and oedematous.
tion that they can force themselves. Via the rasa
and rakta tissues they spread to other associated The disease is now chronic and may have become
locations. incurable.

Kapha spreads to the lungs causing a wet cough, By understanding where a disease is in its evolu-
breathing difficulties and vomiting, to the joints tion it allows you to direct the treatment at the
causing swelling and the bowel causing mucus in right level as well as to give insight as to the
the stool. progress of the disease. One of Ayurvedas
strengths is its prognostic ability. It classifies
Pitta spreads to the skin causing inflammatory diseases as:
skin problems, eyes causing redness, stomach
Easy to cure (sadhya)
causing nausea and bowels causing burning
Difficult to cure (krcchra sadhya)
Incurable but can be alleviated (yapya)
Incurable (asadhya).
Vata spreads to the skin causing dryness, joints
causing cracking and pain, air passages causing a Caraka goes to great lengths to describe various
dry cough and the intestines causing further pain prognostic signs that indicate imminent death,
and obstructed motions. how to promote the birth of a boy or a girl, when


fetal death may have occurred and how to enhance Lad V 1996 Secrets of the pulse: the ancient art of
general health (Caraka Samhita Indriyasthana). ayurvedic pulse diagnosis. Ayurvedic Press
This ability to predict the progression and pathol-
Meulenbeld J 1992 The characteristics of a dosa. The
ogy of a disease is mirrored by Ayurvedas
Journal of the European Ayurvedic Society 2:15
inspirational ability to remove ill health and
promote wellbeing. Ranade S 2001 Natural healing through Ayurveda.
Motilal Banarsidas

Further reading
Dwarkanath C 1996 Introduction to Kayachikitsa.
Svoboda R 1992 Ayurveda: Life, health and
Chaukhambha Press
longevity. Penguin/Arkana

Chapter Three


- -

Rasa: the tastes of nature 60 Herbal carriers (anupa-na) 73

V-rya: the thermal action Quality control 73
of herbs and foods 67 Dosage (ma-tra vica-ra) 73
Vipa-ka: post-digestive effect 68 Ayurvedic plant actions
Gun.a: the qualities of the (dravya karma) 73
herbs 68 Herb sourcing 77
Prabha-va: the unique action Safety and conservation of the
of a plant 69 ayurvedic pharmacopoeia 77
Herb nomenclature: synonyms Safety: using herbs and
and pseudonyms 70 pharmaceutical medications
Ayurvedic pharmacy and together 82
medicinal preparations (rasasa-la- and References 84
bhais.ajya kalpana-) 70 Further reading 85

There is nothing in the world which does not have therapeutic utility when applied in appropriate
conditions and situations.
Drugs act by virtue of their own nature and qualities at the proper time, in a given place, in appropriate
conditions and situations; the effect produced is considered to be their action (karma); the factor responsible
for the effect is their energy (v-rya); where they act is the place (adhis.t.ha-na); when they act is the time (ka-la);
how they act is the mode of action (upa-ya); what they accomplish is the achievement (phala).
Caraka Sam. hita- Su-trastha-na 26.12,13

This chapter is all about the study of the vide the basis for the theory behind the energet-
ayurvedic materia medica. It is a detailed look at the ics of the herbs. These qualities are parameters
energetics of ayurvedic herbs and gives the theory for potential activity; they are not absolute. The
behind the practice of using ayurvedic herbal qualities are indicators of activity, not definitive
medicine. Herb is used to describe any markers of physiological action. Previous
ayurvedic medicinal, be it plant-, animal- experience is an important guide when determin-
or mineral-based. ing the precise therapeutic effect of herbs. The
best way to learn about a herb is to become
In Ayurveda the action of a herb is first consid- intimately acquainted with it: a herbalist must
ered organoleptically. The senses experience the know a plants natural habitat, growing tenden-
qualities of the shape, colour, aroma, flavour and cies, climatic preferences and dislikes, shape,
fracture of the plant. These qualities relate to cer- colour, taste, smell, harvest times, and most
tain pharmacological actions that the herbs may importantly, the herb must be experienced
have on the ayurvedic body. The qualities pro- personally. It is also crucial to understand its


traditional use, dosage range, appropriate Box 3.1

method of administration, modern pharmacol- Energetic qualities used in Ayurveda
ogy, contraindications as well as its potential and Taste (rasa): sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter,
known drugherb interactions. astringent.
Effect on the metabolic thermal body (v-rya):
Ayurveda uses natural metaphors to describe hot, cold and neutral; this category clarifies whether
how natural remedies work in the body. It has herbs warm you up or cool you down, if they
created a materia medica based on a pharmacog- stimulate or reduce the digestive fire, whether they
nosy (the study of medicinal plants in their crude are expansive or contractile by nature, whether they
form) that describes the energetic qualities of increase circulation or reduce it.
plants. This energetic approach tells you what Post-digestive effect (vipa-ka): how the taste of a
the plant does; the taste of a plant, its tempera- natural substance changes after digestion and
ture, its direction, where it goes in the body, what cooking, hence how it influences the dos.as and
effect it has on the whole system and how it physiology in the long-term.
treats disease. These qualities have been deter- Effect on the digestion, fluid system and tissues
mined through direct experience of the natural in the body (gun.a): the herbs have qualities of light,
world. This differs from modern chemical phar- heavy, unctuous, drying, penetrating and soft.
macology which is based on atomic structure and The unique properties of the plant (prabha-va):
the quantity of active ingredients present in a the plants unique activities above and beyond its
given compound. particular energetics.
Tropism (sa-tmya): the affinity a plant has for
Box 3.1 lists the different energetic qualities that a certain organ, tissue or channel (a-saya/
are used in Ayurveda to differentiate the potency dha-tu/srotas).
of each remedy. Here is a brief summary of these Constitutional (dos.a): the effect of the herb on the
fundamental concepts and they will be expanded constitution, i.e. whether it increases, decreases or
throughout the chapter: balances the dos.as.

These energetic descriptions of the herbs are all

based on the different qualities of nature. To use
an artistic metaphor, the theory of energetic phar-
macology is the canvas; this is the basis. The Herb nomenclature
herbs are the paints that the artist uses to paint a Ayurvedic preparations (bhais.ajyakalpana)
picture full of texture, depth, colour and clarity. Herbal carriers (anupana)
How the colours of the paints are blended Quality control in herbal medicine
depends on the artists interpretation of the scene Dosage (matra vicara)
in front of them, just as the energetic qualities of Ayurvedic plant actions (dravya karma)
the herbs are merely guides along the path to Herb sourcing
finding the perfect formula for the patient. They Safety and conservation of the ayurvedic materia
are not absolutes. This is the stroke of the brush medica
that gives the picture its unique quality. The inter- Integrity management planning
pretations of herbal energetics are flexible and Safety: using herbs and pharmaceutical medica-
depend on who is taking how much, of what and tions together.
when. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so
herbal energetics are in the senses of the experi-
encer. The skill of the herbalist lies in uniting the RASA: THE TASTES OF NATURE
theoretical framework of energetic pharmacology Rasa is a potent word; it can mean essence, juice,
(dravya guna) with the reality of the physiological sap, plasma, chyle, mercury flavour and delicious
state of the patient (dosa prakrti and dosa vikr.ti). as well as meaning taste. Our experience of the
taste of life affects our body and mind. If it is
We will also look at the following topics in this sweet we are usually happy, while too many bit-
chapter ter tastes and experiences have less desirable

effects. The flavours of life that we put into our- down. For example, cinnamon is pungent and

selves become our rasa, our essence. hot, which raises temperature while grapes are
sweet and cooling, which can help to cool a
Our bloodstream is filled with the cooked juices fever.
that we eat and drink. Whether a flavour is experi- Quality: the taste also defines whether a herb is
enced as a sensation on the tongue or as an emo- light (laghu) or heavy (guru) to digest and wet
tion in the brain it still produces the same (snigdha) or dry (ruksa) on the mucous mem-
physiological repercussions throughout the whole branes. It also defines whether the herb is pene-
system. For example, blood pressure can increase trating (tiks.n.a) or soft (mrdu). An example is
after a very spicy meal or after an angry moment. black pepper, which is pungent and also hot,
Hot spices such as garlic warm the mouth, stimu- light, dry and penetrating; it is easy to digest,
late metabolism and raise the temperature of the dries the mucous membranes and penetrates
whole system. This heat also affects the conscious- deeply into the tissues.
ness and it can transfer to the emotions and may Tropism: the taste also implies an affinity for
cause extra passionate moments or rajasic hot- certain tissues and organs. A herb will influ-
headed behaviour. How this heat is experienced, ence the function of an organ, tissue or chan-
physically or emotionally, depends on the constitu- nel by tonifying or reducing, stimulating or
tional tendency. pacifying, drying or moistening. For example,
hot and dry herbs commonly clear wet mucus
from the lungs, can irritate the plasma, blood
The taste (rasa) of each herb is determined by the
and muscle but also reduce fat, nerve and
combination of elements (pan~ camahabhuta) within it
reproductive tissue, while cool and bitter
(Fig 3.1); the pungent flavour, for example, is ener-
herbs often drain heat from the plasma, blood
getically dominated by fire and air and is spicy,
and liver while also reducing fat, nerve and
drying and light. Every substance (dravya) has all
reproductive tissue.
the elements within it and usually one or two are
Doshic: the taste of each medicinal also influ-
dominant. The secondary tastes (anurasa) are diffi-
ences the quantity and quality of each dos a. For
cult to determine but add to the total activity of the
example, sweet builds kapha, reduces vata and
herb or food. A substances rasa is not static and
pitta and increases all the tissues.
can change over time depending on when it is har-
Direction: the taste has an effect on the move-
vested, where it is grown, how it is stored, how it
ment of vata dos a by influencing the direction in
is processed or cooked. For example, immature
which the five vayu move; e.g. the pungent taste
fruits are more sour, mature fruits more sweet, gar-
ascends and spreads vyana vayu outward caus-
lic is very pungent when raw but becomes sweeter
ing sweating while bitter descends causing apana
on cooking, tinctures add a warm energy to the
vayu to move downwards with a laxative effect.
herb and medicinal ghees add a sweet quality to
the preparation. Flavour is the essence of life; it affects everything
(Table 3.1).
Tastes have certain functions and effects:
Temperature: each specific taste affects the Sweet (madhura)
thermoregulatory qualities within the body; hot The sweet flavour is made from the elements of
(us.n.a) and cold (sita). They heat it up or cool it earth and water. This means that it has the

Figure 3.1 The elements and tastes


TABLE 3.1 The six tastes of Ayurveda: Rasa, Virya, Vipaka

Rasa Sweet Salty Sour Pungent Bitter Astringent
Sanskrit Madhura Lavan.a Amla Kat.u Tikta Kas.a- ya
Dos. a action VP K+ VP (+ in excess) PK+ V PK+ KV P+ KP V+ KP V+
Gun. a Wet, heavy, cool Wet, heavy, warm Wet, light, warm Dry, light, warm Dry, light, cold Dry, light, cool
Dha- tu action All 7 Rasa Rakta All but Sukra Rakta Rakta Asthi Rasa Rakta Sukra
Increases ojas; moistens; lumps and tumours; Expels va-yu; moves liver Dries a-ma and mucus; Descends and drains; LEAKAGE; tightens
difficult to digest; clears srota-m.si; stagnation; awakens stimulates agni, benefits stimulates nervous dha-tus; cleans mucous
increases dos.a/dha-tu/ grounding; soothes mind; holds fluids in digestion; aromatic, system; benefits skin; membranes; stops
mala; benefits the mind nerves; nutritive to rasa the tissues sharp, penetrating; clears parasites from bleeding; stops
dha-tu; increases opens srota-m.si and gastrointestinal tract; diarrhoea and coughs;
fluid and mucus blockages; encourages benefits liver and heals wounds
sweating; increases ranjaka pitta; clears
circulation: central and congestion from the
peripheral srota-m.si
Dose 330g 15g 112g 115g 115g 110g
Contraindications Excess medas; when Hypertension; when Itching; heat conditions; Sukra deficiency; All deficiencies; Srotorodha, Va-ta
a-ma is present; high blood is aggravated; when blood is heat conditions; acidity High va-ta, cold aggravation;
kapha high pitta; ulcers aggravated conditions; pregnancy constipation;
Biomedical action Nutritive and tonic; Nervine; demulcent; Digestive; demulcent; Stimulant; carminative; Antipyretic; anti- Haemostatic;
laxative and diuretic; nutritive; anti-tumour laxative; cholagogue diaphoretic; vasodilator inflammatory; astringent;
demulcent and cholagogue; laxative; vasoconstrictor
emollient; antispasmodic; anthelmintic; alterative;
expectorant diuretic
Constituents Polysaccharides; Mineral salts Tannins; bioflavonoids Volatile oils; mustard Anthraquinones; Tannins
saponins; fatty acids glycosides alkaloids
qualities of these two building blocks; i.e. earth is to be truly nourished, loved and cherished. This

heavy and descending and, like water, is wet and will create a cycle of ever-increasing benevolence.
cold (when water is subjected to heat it becomes
hot, but in its primordial state it is cold). Sweet Used in excess the heavy, unctuous and cold quali-
is the flavour of love, of sharing and of compas- ties can reduce the digestive fire of jatharagni,
sion. We give sweets to friends as an act of shar- increase mucus and promote congestion. It can
ing and companionship. It is considered the most cause toxins, ama, fever, mucus, chest and breath-
sattvic of flavours and is used to heighten experi- ing problems, dampness, swollen lymph glands,
ence of clarity and awareness of the spiritual flaccidity, heaviness, worms, fungal infections,
aspect of life. Candida albicans, obesity, and diabetes. Exceptions
to this rule of sweet substances increasing kapha
We all know the sweet flavour. Its main receptors are honey, mung beans and barley; they are actu-
are at the front of the tongue. Sweet comes from ally considered to balance excess moisture. As
sugars; glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose, lactose. sweet tends to encourage accumulation it can cre-
They are made up of short (mono-) and long ate cravings and greed. Too much sweet flavour
(poly-) chains of saccharides. It is the flavour of can create a congested and soggy quagmire!
energy. Many carbohydrates, fats and proteins are (Bhavaprakasa 6.1.175178).
sweet and their potential energy is measured in
kilojoules. Foods and herbs with the sweet flavour Sour (amla)
are considered to be tonics; they build and nourish The sour flavour is made from the elements of
all seven tissues; licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), bala earth and fire. Its qualities are hot, oily and light. It
(Sida cordifolia) and shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) creates both dampness and heat in the body and
are sweet and nourish the deeper reproductive mind. It stimulates digestion via its hot and light
tissues. The sweet flavour increases ojas and the quality and clears dryness via its unctuous fluid-
integrity of the immune system. Many renowned promoting properties. Sour foods make the mouth
immune tonics have a sweet flavour and are moist and increase the flow of saliva. When taken
full of immune-modulating saponins and polysac- in excess it draws the tissues inwards and puck-
charides. ers the lips, making the body horripilate all over.
This contraction creates an emotional reluctance to
Sweet substances and experiences increase kapha share things. Eating too much sour-flavoured food
and reduce pitta and vata. As a demulcent, soft, encourages envy and can make your experience of
soothing and wet flavour it reduces some of the life feel like sour grapes.
dryness and weakness associated with vata. It is
often combined with some mild pungent herbs to The sour flavour is found in acids; citric, lactic,
help balance its cooling nature when treating vata. malic, oxalic and ascorbic. The receptors for the
It is a tissue healer and sweet herbs are often used sour flavour are found on tastebuds on the sides of
for hastening wound repair (e.g. aloe or licorice). the tongue. The acids have a direct effect on diges-
Sweet benefits the mucous membranes lining the tion by promoting liver function through various
mouth, lungs, digestive, urinary, and reproductive mechanisms; as sour flavours can reduce stomach
systems. The sweet taste can help to clear a dry acid it also means that the liver needs to produce
throat and lungs by enhancing expectoration. Its less acid-neutralising alkaline fluids. Sour flavours
cooling anti-inflammatory tendencies help to also increase the flow of bile that helps to encour-
remove the intense heat of pitta or -itis conditions age digestion of fats. Unripe fruits are sour and are
(e.g. bronchitis). This is also helped by its softening commonly used as digestive chutneys in India.
mild laxative effect. It benefits the complexion, Sour fruits such as amalaki (Emblica officinalis) are
improves hair and nail quality and is the best high in vitamin C and are considered to be anti-
flavour for making a smooth voice. Sweet sub- oxidant, rejuvenating and tonic herbs.
stances that are digested properly will build all the
tissues and create inherent strength. Following the As the sour flavour aggravates pitta and liquifies
principle of like increases like you want to kapha it is not usually beneficial in hot and damp
increase your sweet experiences and flavours in life conditions. It is also considered to vitiate the

Salt is found in minerals and there are different

blood and it is recommended that the sour flavour

be avoided in skin diseases. Most fermented foods types of salt classified in Ayurveda; rock, sea, black,
are sour; fermented yoghurt, sour dough breads, pink and son~cala. Rock salt (saindhava) is considered
vinegar, pickles and alcohol are sour foods that the best as it is very high in minerals and, unlike the
increase heat and mucus in the body. Sour nour- other salts, does not cause such water retention and
ishes all the tissues bar the deepest reproductive it is not detrimental to the eyes. It is also the excep-
tissue (sukra). It is actually considered to destroy tion to the rule that salt is heating as it has a cooling
semen. It alleviates vata and aggravations of the action (virya) and hence is used to rebalance high
nervous system; it draws scattered energy back in. pitta. Salty is the rarest flavour in the ayurvedic mate-
It is a specific carminative useful to promote ria medica, not found in many herbs. It is found in
digestion while also removing gas and indigestion. shilajit, a natural mineral rock exudate, full of
Amalaki, lemons, limes and pomegranate seeds numerous nourishing minerals. Seaweeds and celery
(Punica granatum) are the exception to the rule that are other examples of the salty flavour.
the sour flavour aggravates pitta, as they actually
reduce heat and inflammation. Salt aggravates pitta and kapha. It also disrupts the
blood and is contraindicated in skin diseases as
In excess sour can cause dizziness, thirst, burning well as bleeding problems. Its use in marinades
sensations, hyperacidity, ulcers, fever, itching, reflects its softening quality and it is used to soften
anaemia and skin diseases (Bhavaprakasa masses and as a demulcent to liquefy kapha. It alle-
6.1.179181). It can also aggravate diarrhoea, viates any excess of vata by stimulating the
oedema and wet coughs and is not recommended appetite, moistening dryness and nourishing the
when there are excessive congestive conditions. nervous system. It is a mild laxative at a medium
dose (3g) and an emetic at higher dose (510g). It
Salty (lavan.a) has a specific property of suksmagami; its subtle
Salt is predominantly made from the water and properties help it enter the minutest channels of
fire elements. It creates moisture and heat and is the body. Interestingly, when used externally as a
heavy and sinking. A grain dropped onto the salt pack it has warm and light qualities that
tongue is instantly moistening. A sprinkle on food reduce kapha and work osmotically to draw
enkindles digestion. Its association with the water moisture out of the body and to heal wounds.
element makes it a mild laxative and with the fire
element a digestive stimulating antispasmodic. It In excess it causes ulcers, skin diseases, water
is an easily recognisable flavour and its receptors retention, ascites, intestinal inflammation, hyper-
are at the front of the tongue. Its sinking and tension, bleeding, grey hair, baldness and thirst
heavy effect is very grounding for the nervous (Bhavaprakasa 6.1.182183).
system and this encourages stability. People who
are solid and reliable become known as the salt of Pungent (kat.u)
the earth. The pungent flavour is a combination of the fire and
air elements. Its qualities are hot, dry and light as
The use of salt is a good lesson in the importance well as penetrating and ascending. The acrid heat of
of dosage. In correct quantities it is vital to our hot foods and spices spreads throughout the whole
very existence and is as essential to our health as system. Too much heat, whether climatic or dietary,
water and food. It can save life when there is dehy- is known to cause hot emotions ranging from pas-
dration. In contrast to this a sprinkle too much will sion and excitement to anger and irritation. It is the
cause an ulcer and aggravate stomach acidity. most rajasic and volatile of the tastes.
Excess salt consumption also causes water reten-
tion with the concomitant results of oedema and It is primarily found in the aromatic volatile oils,
high blood pressure. This physical holding is resins, oleo-resins and mustard glycosides. All
reflected in its emotional effects as it causes greed these compounds are used to stimulate, invigorate,
and encourages the desire for more flavour. To par- penetrate, dry and clear the accumulation of wet,
aphrase a famous ayurvedic adage, it is all about stagnant and congestive conditions. The essential
who is taking how much, of what and when. oils of ginger (Zingiber officinale) and black pepper

(Piper nigrum) are often used for clearing mucus nant qualities are cooling, drying and light. It cre-

congestion or warming a cold condition. Pungent ates space in the body by draining and drying
resins such as guggul (Commiphora mukul) and excess fluids. Too many bitter herbs can literally
frankincense (Boswellia serrata) also invigorate the space you out and leave you feeling disorien-
flow of blood, scrape out toxins and reduce choles- tated. Many psychotropics are bitter; e.g. Psilocybe
terol. The aromatic cardamom (Elettaria cardamo- spp. It has a particular affinity for the blood (rakta).
mum) is an excellent digestive for encouraging Bitters are usually classified as alteratives as they
sluggish digestion and removing mandagni. Unlike alter the chemical balance of the blood by clearing
the other tastes it does not have a specific taste bud toxins. As they encourage the flow of bile and the
receptor site but works through irritation of local activity of the liver this may account for some of
tissue and nerve endings. bitters detoxifying activity. Too much bitter
flavour can weaken the kidneys, reduce reproduc-
Pungent herbs and foods are a panacea for kapha as tive tissue, and cause excess urination, and emo-
they dry the excess moisture and mucus so preva- tionally encourages fear and anxiety. The bitter
lent in this humour. They are often used in lung flavour has a negative effect on the strength of
problems such as asthma or coughs where there is avalambaka kapha and ojas which reside in the heart.
aggravation from mucus and kapha congestion. Again, it is all about an accurate diagnosis and
Pungent herbs are vital for any weight-loss pro- using an appropriate dose for each individual
gramme as they stimulate the metabolism and person.
reduce fat. They directly cook and burn ama as
well as also clearing it via diaphoresis. The heat Whereas in Western herbalism bitters are com-
encourages vasodilation of the pores of the skin monly associated with a tonic effect, in Ayurveda
and encourages the body to sweat, therefore they are considered depleting. The tonic associa-
throwing off unmetabolised toxins through the tion comes from the low dose, digestive-stimulat-
skin. The pungent flavour usually increases vata ing and liver-promoting perspective. The depleting
but, in moderation, it can also help to remove the and cleansing view comes from the experience that
cold stiffness of vata while also encouraging the relatively larger doses of bitter herbs are cooling,
elimination of wind and digestive cramps. The reducing, detoxifying, laxative and diuretic.
heat of pungent herbs irritates pitta and should not Studying and applying the insights of herbalism is
usually be used where there is inflammation, espe- a constant reminder to be specific. Everything is
cially with aggravation of the plasma (rasa) and unique; how you apply the medicine, when you
blood (rakta) tissues. Its drying effect on bodily apply it, to whom it is applied and where it is
fluids can reduce semen and cause constipation. administered. Ayurveda clearly teaches that any
substance can be a food, a medicine or a poison
In excess it creates burning, intestinal inflamma- depending on how much is given, who is eating it,
tion, bleeding, dizziness, thirst, urinary retention, when it is eaten and where it is taken.
lack of semen, reproductive disorders and exces-
sive dryness. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and The reason that the bitter flavour is found in plants
cooked garlic (Allium sativum) are the exceptions to is often attributed to its ability to defend itself; a
the rule that pungent flavours aggravate vata; in nasty-tasting plant is less likely to be eaten! The
fact they benefit it as they increase digestion and bitter taste receptors are at the back of the tongue;
reduce intestinal gases (Bhavaprakasa 6.1. 184-188). they are the bodys way of giving us a last line of
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), coriander defence. The bitter flavour is found in sesquiter-
(Coriandrum sativum), cumin (Cuminum cyminum) penes, anthraquinones, alkaloids and some glyco-
and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are all examples of sides. Plants with these properties are renowned
herbs containing a pungent quality that do not for their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial,
aggravate pitta if not used excessively. antipyretic and digestive secretion enhancing
activities. These compounds are usually found
Bitter (tikta) intermixed with pungent and aromatic or astrin-
This therapeutically priceless taste is created from gent-tasting plants; all drying flavours. Neem
a combination of space and air elements. Its domi- (Azadirachta indica), kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa) and

and mind; this can upset the nervous system caus-

kalamegha (Andrographis paniculata) are well-

known ayurvedic bitters famed for their ability to ing constipation, dizziness, weakness, coldness,
clear infection, heal skin problems and purify the reduction in semen and dryness of the whole body.
blood. Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is a bitter herb that is
an exception to the above contraindications as,
Bitter herbs clear kapha and pitta while aggravat- along with the bitter benefits, it is also an aphro-
ing vata. Excess dampness, ama and heat are disiac and tonic due to its sweet post-digestive
reduced as the bitter flavour dries and drains effects (Bhavaprakasa 6.1.189191).
them out of the system. When treating kapha prob-
lems bitter herbs are often combined with some Astringent (kas.a-ya)
pungent herbs to offset their cooling nature. When Astringent is the driest flavour. Made from a pre-
treating high pitta in the stomach bitters may dominance of the earth and air elements it is
aggravate acidity and should be tempered with heavy, cold and dry. As it draws inwards it dries
some sweet and unctuous herbs to balance the and reduces them. On eating something astringent
light quality in the bitter flavour. Bitters also pro- your whole mouth contracts and draws the
mote peristalsis and urination. They are often mucous membranes closer together. Having too
indicated in lung conditions, especially with infec- many dry and unfulfilling experiences can leave
tions manifesting with green and sticky mucus. you with a lack of taste for life and even resentful
They excel at clearing itching, swelling and oozing at its lack of zest.
on the skin. A little is used as a stimulant to the
appetite as the light quality can enhance the The astringent flavour is found in tannins. These
appetite, regulate samana vayu, reduce mandagni polyphenols are particularly concentrated in the
and clear the palate as well as stimulate the bark, leaves and outer rind of fruits of plants and
release of digestive enzymes. Higher doses are trees. They appear to offer some form of outer pro-
used to kill worms and parasites in the intestines tection by repairing wounds and neutralising bac-
and blood. They are commonly indicated in high teria. They are especially soluble in water; hence
pitta conditions of the plasma, blood and liver the drying nature of a strong cup of tea left to
such as hepatitis and jaundice. Their antimicrobial steep for too long. Astringency is often found in
and anti-inflammatory effects are salutary for combination with plants that also taste sweet or
treating heat in the intestines with dysentery, sour. Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica), haritaki
bleeding and mucus. Bitter herbs also benefit (Terminalia chebula), arjuna (Terminalia arjuna)
overweight conditions as they can dry and scrape and guggulu (Commiphora mukul) are especially
away the adhesions and fatty accumulations. Here astringent.
they benefit obstructions to the channels and help
to clear srotorodha. Therapeutically the astringent flavour clears kapha
and pitta while aggravating vata. It is very useful
When misused or incorrectly prescribed they can where there is any leakage of body fluids; bleeding
cause too much dryness and wasting in the body (externally and internally), excessive sweating,

TABLE 3.2 The six tastes

(rasa) (tattva) (gun.a) dos. a
Sweet (madhura) Earth, water Heavy, wet, cold K+, P, V
Sour (amla) Earth, fire Light, wet, warm K+, P+, V
Salty (lavan.a) Water, fire Heavy, wet, warm K+, P+, V (K externally)
Pungent (kat.uka) Fire, air Light, dry, warm K, P+, V+
Bitter (tikta) Space, air Light, dry, cold K, P, V+
Astringent (kas.a-ya) Air, earth Heavy, dry, cold K, P, V+

enuresis, diarrhoea, excess catarrh, leucorrhoea and the constitution and condition of the patient as well

premature ejaculation. It holds tissues together and as their subjective experience will all affect the
astringent herbs are often used as a wash to help physiological heating or cooling effect of the plant.
heal wounds. This holding effect also prevents
loose and flaccid tissue from accumulating. Using Hot (us.n.a)
astringent herbs is appropriate to treat sinking Heat warms, dries, invigorates and stimulates the
problems such as prolapses. Its drying effect on the tissues. Just as the sun on a hot day causes the
digestive system benefits diarrhoea by astringing blood to come to the surface of the body, so ener-
the bowel and stopping excessive downward flow. getically hot herbs cause our metabolism to expand
This also helps absorption by drawing fluids and upwards and outwards causing the pores of the
nutrients inwards. But its cold and heavy quality skin to open. Hot substances are high in the fire
can impair agni and reduce the strength of the (tejas) element. Heat increases the metabolism,
digestive fire. Astringents are used for pitta inflam- encourages circulation, causes sweating, light-head-
mations to draw the swelling inwards, cool the heat edness and thirst. Hot substances are usually used
and also drying any damp suppuration. to treat cold, contracted and hypo or sluggish con-
ditions. Beneficial to kapha and vata, it dries damp,
These dry, rough and light qualities are similar to phlegm and warms cold. As like increases like
vata. Because astringent tastes contract the tissues pungent herbs encourage agni and digestion to
and obstruct the flow of prana and nervous energy function at optimum level. Herbs that are heating
in the system it is usually detrimental to vata. usually contain volatile oils or mustard glycosides
Astringent haritaki (Terminalia chebula) is a notable that stimulate gastric secretions as well as assimila-
exception as, due to its warming energy and sweet tion of nutrients. Usna substances have a particular
post-digestive effect, it is one of the primary vata affinity for the heart, head, liver and lungs and are
tonics. In excess astringent flavours can cause vata commonly used when they are imbalanced but
diseases like rigidity, pain in the heart, convulsions may damage them if used unjudiciously. Pungent,
and retention of gas, urine and faeces (Bhavaprakasa sour and salty herbs tend to be heating.
Cold (s-ta)
Cold natured herbs cool, moisten and sedate the
tissues and metabolism. Rather like the cold of a
This is basic science. Hot substances warm and winters day causes you to shiver, energetically
cold substances cool. Herbal formulas are a combi- cold herbs contract the muscles and narrow the
nation of hot and cold remedies that are balanced channels of circulation. They are high in the water
to fit the energetic makeup of the individual and (ap) element. Cold substances are usually used to
their condition. The categories of hot and cold
are not absolutes but guides on the path to balance.
Though they are commonly classified alone they TABLE 3.3 The three degrees of heat
should be considered along with the other guna Degree of heat Heating flavours
qualities of dry, unctuous, light, heavy, penetrating
Hot in the third degree (hottest) Pungent (kat.u)
and soft. In fact, Caraka lists the six secondary
actions (upakarma) as energetic virya. The quality of Hot in the second degree Sour (amla)
virya is always more therapeutically important than Hot in the first degree Salty (lavan.a)
rasa and vipaka. For example, a hot remedy such as
fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) can be used to heat
the body to cause a sweat that has the effect of TABLE 3.4 The three degrees of cold
cooling the body temperature. Conversely a cooling
Degree of cold Cooling flavours
remedy such as kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa) can be dis-
pensed at a low dose to stimulate the digestion via Cold in the third degree (coldest) Bitter (tikta)
its other light and dry properties and hence Cold in the second degree Sweet (madhura)
increase metabolism and heat. Other external influ-
Cold in the first degree Astringent (kas.a-ya)
ences such as the time of year that the herb is used,


treat hot, inflamed and hyper conditions. Cold Box 3.2

benefits pitta while aggravating kapha and vata; Carakas classification of the post-digestive
cold-natured herbs soothe painful and inflamma- effect of tastes on the dos. a
tory heat conditions. Digestion is easily damaged Sweet, salty
by cold-natured herbs and should be used cau- Digest into sweet: sweet is nourishing and
tiously when there is diarrhoea and sluggish diges- moistening to the tissues and also has a mildly
tion from cold. Cold herbs have an affinity for the laxative effect. The cooling and anti-inflammatory
stomach, the kidneys and the bladder and can nature of sweet make it beneficial to pitta, and its wet
weaken them if used excessively. Bitter, astringent and building properties will increase kapha
and sweet herbs tend to be cooling.
The classification of hot and cold can be further Digests into sour: this will encourage digestion,
separated into a hierarchy of degrees that will benefit the liver, increase heat and moisture in the
increase or decrease agni in the body. This emulates body while also calming the nervous system. Its long-
the Vedic classification of agni representing the tem effect is to aggravate pitta and calm va-ta.
heating qualities of solar fire and soma representing Pungent, bitter, astringent
the cooling qualities of lunar water. This is con- Digest into pungent: its nature is to increase dryness,
veyed into tridosa theory with agni representing constipation and gas as well as reducing fertility. It
tejas and pitta, soma representing ojas and kapha with can help to reduce kapha and aggravate va-ta
vata balanced in the middle as the regulatory prana.


Susrutas classification of the post-digestive
This is a unique energetic category peculiar to effect of tastes on the dos.as
Ayurveda. Vipaka refers to the post-digestive effect
of tastes; it is the effect a certain flavour has on the Sweet, salty
tissues and metabolism having been digested or Digest into a heavy quality, slowing tissue
after cooking. While the rasa has an immediate and metabolism but building the quantity of the dha-tus
localised physiological effect on the digestive sys- and acting as anabolic substances
tem the vipaka is the long-term effect of a food or Sour, pungent, bitter, astringent
herb throughout the whole body. Vipaka results Digest into light qualities hastening metabolism,
from the mixing of the digestive fire with the par- reducing the quantity of the dha-tu and acting as
ticular flavour and is an extension to the effect of catabolic substances
each particular taste. Caraka lists three categories of
the post-digestive effect of tastes based on their
and irritating in the raw state but become less
effect on the dosa (Box 3.2), while Susruta lists two
hot and sweeter and nourishing after cooking;
categories of post-digestive effect of tastes based
both also have respected anti-inflammatory effects
on their effect on the guna (Box 3.3).
and promote the reproductive system.
To give an example of how the vipaka varies
There are many exceptions to these rules. For
according to the specific energetics of each herb we
example both haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and
will look at the peppers. Both black pepper (Piper
bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica) are primarily astrin-
nigrum) and long pepper (Piper longum) are pun-
gent in taste but due to their sweet post-digestive
gent and heating. While black pepper is pungent
quality have a nourishing effect on the tissues and
after digestion and therefore constipating, drying
act as laxatives.
and damaging to the production of reproductive
fluids, long pepper is sweet post-digestively and
therefore helps elimination, is moistening and is a GUN.A: THE QUALITIES OF THE HERBS
beneficial rejuvenative tonic to kapha and as an We discussed the guna theory in Chapter 2. Here is
aphrodisiac to the reproductive system. Onions a more specific look at how these qualities are used
and ginger are other examples of herbs that are hot in herbal medicine.

The specific quality of a herb indicates its poten- mucilage or essential fatty acids. Sesame (Sesamum

tial therapeutic activity. indicum) seeds and oil are unctuous.

There are 20 qualities listed in Susruta that could Dry (ru-ks.a)

all be used to determine the energetic effect of a Any plant with a dry quality is naturally astrin-
substance but, as well as the heating (usna) and gent, absorbs moisture and therefore reduces kapha
cooling (sita) actions, the five listed below are the and greatly increases vata. They are high in the ele-
main ones used in ayurvedic herbal energetics. ments of air (vayu) and earth (prthvi) having a dry-
They are listed separately as they need the agni- ing (ruksana) effect on the tissues. They are usually
regulating effects of usna and sita to become mani- high in essential oils and tannins and may also be
fest, reflecting the primary importance of the heating as well (as heat dries fluids). Most plants
thermal quality of a substance. Though they usu- have tannins in but certain barks and fruits are
ally take a secondary position to the primary place especially astringent. Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is
of virya (hotcold), the guna of lightheavy, dry.
wetdry, penetrating may occasionally have a
dominant effect. For example, the unctuous prop- Penetrating or sharp (t-ks.n.a)
erties of coconut and sesame oils are more thera- Herbs with a penetrating or sharp quality are usu-
peutically important than their respective cooling ally pungent, acrid and aromatic. They are usually
or heating properties: high in air (vayu) and fire (tejas) elements. They
spread deeply and quickly into the tissues, open
Light (laghu) the channels and by their intense nature increase
Plants, foods and minerals that are light have a pitta and calm kapha and vata. Vacha (Acorus cala-
quality that moves upwards, assist agni, are easily mus) has penetrating properties.
digested and also remove sluggishness and


kapha. Primarily comprising of the elements of air
(vayu) and fire (tejas) they have a reducing
(lan.ghana) effect on the tissues. Aromatic and Ayurveda includes the descriptive category of
warming herbs often have a light quality. The prabhava or specific action. This term implies the
bitter and astringent herbs are usually light in individual action of a substance regardless of its
nature. Leaves, seeds and fruits are mainly light. taste, energy or post-digestive effect. It includes
The aromatic cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) these concepts but is not dependent upon them. It is
seeds are light. the specific action of a plant above and beyond its
energetic classification and is described as being
Heavy (guru) inexplicable (acintya). Its action cannot be described
Substances that are heavy sink downwards, are by its gunas alone but through direct experience. It
difficult to digest, increase kapha and nourish the most commonly refers to the affinity a herb has for
whole system. They benefit vata by opposing its a particular region of the body or for a particular
light, dry qualities. They are comprised of earth disease.
(prthvi) and water (ap) and have a building
(brmhana) effect on the tissues. Heavy natured For example, tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is classified as
herbs are often sweet, salty or sour. Roots, resins, heating but it therapeutically helps to clear heat
nuts and barks are often heavy. Ashwagandha and reduce fever through diaphoresis. This means
(Withania somnifera) is heavy. that whatever the causes of the fever tulsi is indi-
cated and this is its prabhava.
Unctuous (snigdha)
These medicinals are soft, demulcent and oily. They Even when herbs have the same energetic pattern
are moistening, strengthening, increase virility, fer- they can have different actions and this defines
tility and kapha. They are comprised mainly of the prabhava; sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) and
water (ap) element and have a demulcent and mois- madanphala (Randia dumentorium) are both sweet,
tening (snehana) effect on the tissues. They are usu- astringent and bitter in flavour but sesame is a
ally sweet, heavy and contain a high content of tonic while madanphala is an emetic and reduces


any excess of the dosas. While they have similar and pills retain their potency longer than fresh
flavours their actions are different. Each has its herbs or powders.
own unique and individual prabhava.
The main forms in which herbs are administered
Fresh juice (svarasa)
Prior to the advent of classical botanical classifica- The fresh juice of a plant is a favourite method of
tions herbs were known by many different names administering juicy and aromatic plants such as aloe
according to variable yet identifiable factors; taste, vera, tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), ginger, or brahmi
smell, shape, the specific part of a plant, habitat, his- (Bacopa monniera). The dried plant can also be recon-
tory or animal parts. They are also classed in certain stituted by soaking one part of the plant in two parts
groups according to their morphology, actions, water and leaving for 12 hours before expressing.
properties and uses. Again the senses are para- The usual dose is 12 karsa or 1224ml twice a day.
mount in forming the shape of ayurvedic medicine.
Herbal paste (kalka)
Box 3.4 lists some literal translations of the mean- When a fresh and whole plant is crushed it makes
ing of the herbs: a paste. This is usually used for external poultices
and plasters. Dry material is mixed with water.
Specific vulnerary herbs are neem (Azadirachta
(RASASA-LA- AND BHAIS. AJYA KALPANA-) indica) and bhringarja (Eclipta alba). When used
internally 1 kars.a is given equal to 12g twice a day.
The ayurvedic pharmacy has developed many
wonderful herbal preparations. As herbs are not Herbal powder (cu-rn.a)
readily assimilable in their raw state they are usu- When a dried plant is crushed it becomes a pow-
ally processed to enhance absorption. The form in der. Ayurveda has many famous curnas; triphala
which a herb is taken can greatly affect its potency and trikat.u are both renowned curnas. Powders are
and effect. There are also specific preparations that commonly used to treat internal imbalances and
are indicated for certain diseases or specific plants. are prescribed at 1 karsa of 12g twice a day. They
A large part of ayurvedic pharmacy developed are often mixed with carriers of ghee, honey, sugar,
out of a need to extend the shelf-life of these water or milk.
delicate medicines in the hot and humid
Indian climate. Along with their therapeutic effects Decoction (kva-tha/kas.a-ya)
the medicated ghees, medicated wines, gugguls Ayurveda makes very strong decoctions that are
the mainstay of self-administration in the home in
India. They are a very effective way to take herbal
Box 3.4
medicines as so many of the active compounds in
Translations of the meaning of the herbs
plants are water-soluble. The main disadvantage is
Taste: yashtimadhusweet stick, amalakisour,
that their shelf-life is short.
mahatiktavery bitter
Smell: ashwagandhahorse-smelling,
One part of coarsely ground dry herb (kvatha
curna) by weight is added to 16 parts water by vol-
Shape/morphology: gokshuracows hoof,
ume. This is then reduced to 4 parts of the original
jatamansidread-locked mind herb
volume of water. You can also prepare a decoction
Colour: krishnablack, safed musaliwhite musali,
using a quicker method at a ratio of 1:8:4 if using
Kali musaliblack musali
dry plant material. Roots, barks, stems and fruits
Effect: kumariprincess bestowing youthfulness,
are usually decocted. Decoctions are dosed at 2
brahmigiving the nature of the universal
palas, equal to 96ml a day. To prepare medication
consciousness, gurmarsugar killer
for a couple of days requiring approximately
Root groups: dashmoolaten roots
100ml a day, start with 50g of the dry herb, add to
Fruit groups: triphalathree fruits
400ml water, simmer until 200ml remains. Store in

an airtight container in the refrigerator for a maxi- for the intestines. They are often complex formula-

mum of two days and take cool or warm as tions with elaborate preparation procedures. They
appropriate. are dosed from 5g up to 1 pala of 48g twice a day.

This theory is expanded so that there are milk Medicated wines (aris.t.a, a-sava)
decoctions (ks.-rapa-ka kalpana-) where 1 part and tinctures
herbs is mixed with 8 parts milk and 32 parts Decocted extracts (arista) or cold infusion extracts
water and simmered until the water evaporates; (asava) of different herbs are fermented with the
this is very effective for rasayana treatments (e.g. flowers of dhataki (Woodfordia fruticosa) at a ratio
pippali vardhamana where increasing numbers of of 1 part herb to 5 parts honey to 10 parts jaggery
long pepper fruits are taken to treat asthma) as to 25 parts water. They are sealed in a wooden
well as for maximising extraction of lipid soluble barrel and left to transform into nourishing medi-
components such as saponins (cf. arjuna). Herbal cines. They are used as tonics and to stimulate the
stocks (pa.naka) are made by simmering 1 part digestive fire. They are often prescribed at doses of
herb in 64 parts water reduced to half. Rice or veg- 12 karsa of 1224ml twice a day.
etable soups are then made in this stock as a part
of nourishing therapy (brmhana). Although not traditionally used in Ayurveda tinc-
tures are commonly used these days in Western
Distilled waters (arka) countries to administer herbs. Herbs are macerated
The collected vapours resulting from condensed or percolated in water and alcohol with varying
steam; aromatic seeds and delicate flowers are weights and volumes. For example 1 part herb is
often used to make these delicious herbal waters macerated in 5 parts menstruum at a 25% alcohol
that are commonly used for the skin and emotions. ratio for 24 weeks and then pressed out. The
resulting extract is then stored and has a long shelf
Hot infusion (pha-n.t.a) life from 1 to 5 years, depending on the herb. This
Delicate leaves, seeds and flowers are usually ratio is written as 1:5@25% and means that 5ml
infused at a ratio of 1 part herb to 8 parts freshly tincture is equal to 1g herb and thus the dose can
boiled water. This brew is left to steep for up to be accurately measured. A tincture does have a
12 hours. These hot teas are used for vata and kapha special effect on the effect of the medication; the
problems and are commonly prescribed at 2 palas, usna quality of alcohol is added to the preparation,
equal to 96ml twice a day. tinctures are easily assimilated and they spread
quickly round the body. They are usually taken at
Cold infusion (hima) 15ml three times a day with warm water, depend-
A cold infusion is used for steeping very delicate ing on the ratio of the extract, the type of herb
aromatic leaves and flowers and in treating pitta used and the effect desired.
disorders. One part herb is steeped in six parts
water. This is usually done overnight when the Gugguls
cooling lunar energy is at its peak. Well-known These compounds are made with a base of purified
preparations are made from guduchi (Tinospora guggulu (Commiphora mukul). The guggulu is boiled
cordifolia), coriander seed, jasmine flowers and in a decoction of triphala to remove impurities and
sariva (Hemidismus indica). They are commonly then fried in ghee and ground to a powder. To
prescribed at 2 palas, equal to 96ml twice a day. make medicinal gugguls it is then triturated along
with other herbs, fresh juices or decoctions of other
Herbal jams and jellies (pa-ka, leha, avaleha) complementary herbs. For example, kaisor guggulu
These delicious preparations are often used as ton- is an anti-inflammatory preparation where the
ics when there is debility. A primary ingredient is herbs and guggulu are triturated in a decoction of
mixed with herbs, ghee and honey or jaggery. triphala and guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia).
Cyavanaprasa is the most famous of these prepara- Trituration grinds herbs by rubbing and pounding
tions but there are numerous others made for spe- them into very fine particles that are easy to digest.
cific organs; brahmi rasayana for the intellect, Friction also adds its other function of removing
agastya haritaki leha for the lungs and bilva avelaha natural and chemical impurities. This ground paste


is then baked in an oven, ground to a powder and nourishing and cooling it is often used for vata and
made into pills. Gugguls are specifically detoxify- pitta diseases. One part herb is decocted in 16 parts
ing as guggulu has a scraping action that clears water until 4 parts of the water remain. This is
toxins. They are prescribed in doses of up to 3 masa then mixed with equal parts of ghee and simmered
of 4g twice a day. until all of the water has evaporated. The whole
process can also be carried out in one boiling.
Pills (gut. ika-, vat.i) Brahmi ghrta and Pancatikta ghrta are renowned
Pills are made by mixing powdered herbs with ghee compounds. Ghrta are prescribed at 121 karsa
sugar, honey, guggul or water and then rolled into (also known as a tola) of 612g twice a day.
small pills. They are prescribed from 12 gunja of
125250mg twice a day, up to 4 masa of 4g twice Medicated oil (siddha taila)
a day. Made the same way as ghee (1 part herb:4 oil:16
water) these decocted oils are used for massage
Alkaline extracts (ks.ara) and gud.u-ch- sattva and healing wounds, strengthening bones, as hair
The dry herbs are incinerated to an ash and then tonics, skin treatments, medicated enemas, vaginal
mixed with 4 parts water. This maceration is stored douches. They are used at doses of 14 prasthas
overnight and then strained through a cloth until equal to approximately 7503000ml per treatment.
there is a clear liquid. The liquid is then evapo- They are also used for nasal administration to clear
rated until a pure white solid remains. They are sinus conditions where they are prescribed at drop
prescribed at a dosage of 12 gunja of 125250mg doses between 210 bindu. They can also be taken
twice a day. They are used as scraping, laxative, internally, such as when mahanarayan oil is used
diuretic and digestive treatments. A similar prepa- to clear asthma.
ration, known as a sattva, is made from the fresh
stem of guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) pulped and Minerals (rasasa-stra)
soaked and the resultant sediment separated and A large percentage of the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia
dried. It is prescribed at a dosage of 12 masa of is of mineral and metallic origin and many formu-
12g twice a day for treating fever. las contain some minerals. Their appearance in
ayurvedic medicine (c.800CE) marks a coming
Medicated ghee (siddha ghr. ta) together with the tantric tradition. The ayurvedic
Ghee holds a special place in Indian culture. It is the goal of long life becomes intermingled with the
most pure essence of selflessly-given milk from the tantric yogic goal of immortality. Alongside this
sacred cow. Unsalted butter is slowly simmered for esoteric union is the clear fact that minerals are
about 20 minutes until the water portion is evapo- stronger than herbs, have a longer shelf-life and are
rated and the milk solids have settled to the bottom very effective. Mineral preparations are usually
leaving the pure golden butter oil. It is sweet, cold, killed (marana) by being calcified in very hot fires,
heavy and unctuous with a special prabhava of enter- dipped in purificatory (sodhana) fluids (cows urine,
ing all seven tissues. Benefits: sweet in taste with herb decoctions or sesame oil) and then ground to
sweet post-digestive effect, enkindles agni, nourishes the finest powdered ash (bhasma). The number of
all seven dhatus, increases ojas, calms pitta, oleates heatings or puta treatments indicates the quality of
the tissues, lubricates connective tissue, reduces vata, the bhasma and this can range from 10 to 1000
carries herbs deep into the tissues, rejuvenating, ben- cycles! They become oxides or sulphides that are
efits the eyes, clears poisons, bestows lustre, pro- chemically unreactive. This means that they are not
longs life, increases intelligence, strengthens the soluble and they are either totally or relatively
brain and nervous system and descends apana vayu. chemically unreactive on the tissues. They are cata-
Do not use in kapha diseases with clear, white dis- lysts that spark a healing process. From mercury,
charges and obstruction to the channels. gold and diamonds to iron and eggshell innate
materials are transformed from their raw state to
Medicated ghees are used to nourish the nerves potent medicines. They are prescribed at low doses
and mind. As ghee is so easily absorbed into the from 124 guja of 62.5500mg twice a day. Refer to
deeper tissues it is a very beneficial vehicle that Bhagwan Dashs Alchemy and metallic medicines
carries the herbs deep into the body. As it is so in Ayurveda for further details of this vast subject.


in his heart to the god Shiva. When collecting
from normal land, one should choose ones
This is the idea that certain substances either act as
ingredients from the higher ground. Medicinal
catalysts or messengers to the main active herb
herbs which grow on termite hills, in dirty places,
and help carry them to certain parts of the body.
in bogs, in cemeteries, salty ground, or on the
The carriers are either mixed with or taken along-
streets, are not effective. Nor are those which
side the medicine. Known as an anupana they are
have been affected by parasites, fire or frost.
the medium that carries the herbs to their intended
destination and enhances or moderates their effect. Sa-rngadhara Sam . hita-
Milk, water, ghee, oil, herb juices, sugar, salt and
honey are all used as vehicles. Herbal medicine is now being legislated by central
governments all over the world in an attempt to
Milk counteracts pitta and also encourages the
raise the quality of production standards. The
nourishing effect of ashwagandha (Withania World Health Organisation has set standards on
somnifera) or shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) quality control methods for medicinal plants and
Water when hot encourages agni, clears ama and individual nations have also set legal standards
reduces vata and kapha that herbal products must meet; good manufactur-
Water when cold reduces pitta ing practice (GMP) with standards akin to the
Ghee carries the herbs deep into the tissues, pharmaceutical industry. GMP is a system that
nourishes the nervous and reproductive systems includes assurances, checks and procedures to
and it also has a catalytic (yogavahi) effect on the ensure appropriately safe and effective medicinals
herbs that helps to potentise them are released for therapeutic purposes. These are
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) carries herbs to all checks on quality and purity (Box 3.5).
the tissues with a special affinity for the plasma,


blood and reproductive tissues
Honey clears kapha due to its warming astrin-
gency and is often used with herbs that treat the The medicinal dose depends as much on the spe-
lungs and congested mucus conditions. It stimu- cific nature of the herb you are using as on the per-
lates the appetite and prevents excessive excre- sons age, sex, constitution, digestive capacity,
tions. It acts as a yogavahi substance that strength, stage of the disease and the season in
enhances the activity of the herbs taken with it. which the treatment takes place (see Table 3.5 and
It can aggravate pitta and this is alleviated by Boxes 3.6 and 3.7).
using double quantities of ghee.
The herbs ride on these carriers like the scent on
the wind. Using an anupana can enhance the AYURVEDIC PLANT ACTIONS (DRAVYA KARMA)
potency of a preparation as well as facilitating its Medicinal substances are classified according to
journey to the intended destination. groups that have different physiological actions.
The Caraka Samhita lists 50 groups of 10 herbs
QUALITY CONTROL and the Bhavaprakasa Samhita 24 such categories.
These ayurvedic pharmacological concepts offer
It is relevant to point out the importance of quality
deep insight into how herbs work to balance the
control in all aspects of herbal medicine harvest-
dosas, dhatus, and malas. They tie together the
ing, processing and manufacture. The primary
concepts of taste (rasa), energetics (virya) and
points of consideration are sustainability, efficacy
post-digestive effect (vipaka) as well as incorpo-
and safety. This was abundantly clear to early
rating prabhava so that we can have a clear
Ayurvedins and the ayurvedic texts make refer-
understanding of the primary action of the herb.
ence to the nature of ideal medicinal collection:
The list below contains some of the most
popular categories listed throughout the
ayurvedic literature.
The herbs should be gathered on a good day by
someone in a good state of mind who is clean, Abhisyandi: These substances block the
facing the sun, silent and who has paid homage channels and cause heaviness. The flow of rasa


Box 3.5
Good manufacturing practice
Appropriate botanical identification in the field to Correct species identification and quality
ensure correct species determination using pharmacopoeial
Sustainability of harvesting practices (see below) recommendations including macroscopic analysis,
Correct harvesting times to maximise active microscopic analysis, foreign matter, ash tests,
ingredients moisture content, thin layer chromatography (TLC),
Correct drying to optimise vitality and maximise high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)
marker compound ingredients and gas chromatography (GC)
Validation of storage facilities, equipment and Organoleptic tests to ensure the feel is correct;
processes visual identity, colour, smell, friability
An effective quality-control management system Microbiological analysis
Standard operating procedures (SOP) in place for Heavy metal and pesticide analysis
every process of storage, quarantine, manufacture, Marker compound testing
batch identification, batch traceability, stability Appropriate analysis of the above information to
testing, releasing products, recording complaints ensure that the intended product is released in a
and recall procedures consistent and repeatable form

is hindered and stagnation occurs when too herbs, commonly from the Umbelliferae family,
much of these substances is used. They are such as fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) or
mainly unctuous and heavy in nature; e.g. ajmoda (Apium graveolens).
yoghurt obstructs the flow in the channels. Arsoghna: These are antihaemorrhoidal remedies
Anuloma: These herbs help vayu to move in its such as chitrak (Plumbago zeylanicum) or ginger
appropriate direction. They are often mild aperi- (Zingiber officinale).
ents and help with flatulence and constipation. Artava janana: Herbs promoting the menstrual
They are usually aromatic and carminative flow such as myrrh (Commiphora myrrha).

TABLE 3.5 The effect of dosage on the tastes

Low dose Restores homeostasis
Medium dose Nourishes va-ta, has a mild laxative action and cools pitta via its anti-inflammatory effect
High dose Calms the CNS, alleviates va-ta and relieves pain while also aggravating kapha and a-ma
Low dose Stimulates the appetite but may aggravate pitta
Medium dose Moistens dryness and benefits va-ta but aggravates pitta
High dose Contracts the organs
Low dose Stimulates digestion and can aggravate pitta
Medium dose Moistens dryness but can aggravate kapha and is a mild laxative thus benefiting va-ta
High dose Breaks accumulations, can cause vomiting and aggravates all three dos.as
Low dose Stimulates digestion and increases agni
Medium dose Stimulates circulation, penetrates the tissues and can aggravate pitta
High dose Causes sweating, dries a-ma and dries fluids, therefore aggravating va-ta and pitta
Low dose Stimulates digestion, clears kapha and awakens the nervous system
Medium dose Detoxifies the liver and blood and reduces a-ma
High dose Drains downwards through the bowel and bladder, cools the system, clears pitta, slows digestion and aggravates va-ta
Low dose Cleans the mucus membranes and clears kapha and pitta
Medium dose Holds tissues and organs in place
High dose Binds and constricts the movement of blood, liquids and pra-n.a in the channels, thus aggravating va-ta

black pepper (Piper nigrum) all help to detoxify

Box 3.6
General principles of dosage the deeper tissues.
Daha prasamana: These herbs alleviate burning sen-
Low dose (0.53g of herb powder) balances the
natural function of the dos.as and influences the sations in the body, such as sandalwood (Santalum
emotional system album) or coriander (Coriandrum sativum).
Dipaniya: These herbs enkindle the digestive fire.
Medium dose (39g) stimulates a specific therapeutic
effect that treats a systemic imbalance They indirectly digest ama. They are usually
High dose (930g) either drains toxic accumulations pungent, hot and dry; e.g. long pepper (Piper
or tonifies the whole system longum), black pepper (Piper nigrum) and
chitraka (Plumbago zeylanicum).
Garbhasaya: These herbs have an affinity for the
Box 3.7 uterus, such as ashoka (Saraca indica) and roses
General dosage levels (Rosa centifolia).
Adults (1260 years old) Grahi: These herbs dry the moisture of the body
Tea: hot infusion (pha-n.t.a) 3096ml of a 1:8 infusion and of the wastes; ginger (Zingiber officinale),
twice daily cumin (Cuminum cyminum).
Tea: cold infusion (hima) 3096ml of a 1:6 infusion Hikka nigrahana: These herbs are antihiccup such
twice daily as clove (Syzygium aromaticum).
Tea: hot decoction (kva-tha) 3096ml of a 1:16 Hrdaya: These herbs have a tonic effect on the
reduced to 4 parts two to three times daily heart; arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) and ashwa-
Pills/tablets/gugguls: 250500mg two to three times gandha (Withania somnifera).
daily Jivaniya: These herbs are life-giving and rejuve-
Tincture: average dose of 110ml of a 1:5 ratio three native herbs such as amalaki (Emblica officinalis).
times daily or 19ml of a 1:3 ratio three times daily. Jvarahara: These are antipyretic herbs for stop-
Children (512 years old) ping fevers including musta (Cyperus rotundus)
412 adult dose or divide age at next birthday by 24 to and kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata).
Kandughna: These are antipruritic herbs such as
give fraction of dose (this is known as Cowlings dose)
peppermint (Mentha piperita), turmeric (Curcuma
Babies and young children (05 years old) longa) and musta (Cyperus rotundus).
52 tsp of tea three times daily or give the herbs to Kanthya: These herbs are renowned for their
the breastfeeding mother 20 minutes prior to affinity for the throat; e.g. licorice (Glycyrrhiza
breastfeeding. glabra), long pepper (Piper longum).
Kasahara: These are antitussive herbs such as
Balya: This means strengthening and these vasaka (Adhatoda vasica) or long pepper (Piper
herbs are tonics. They are usually heavy and filled longum).
with the earth element, like bala (Sida cordifolia). Krmighna: These herbs are specifically for remov-
Bhedaniya: These are purgative herbs that forcibly ing parasites and worms; e.g. neem (Azadirachta
expel the solid and liquid parts of faeces. Kutki indica) or kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata).
(Picrorrhiza kurroa) has this effect at a high dose. Kusthaghna: These are herbs that treat skin diseases
Brmhaniya: These are nourishing herbs that are such as neem (Azadirachta indica) or manjishtha
full of the water element; e.g. shatavari (Rubia cordifolia).
(Asparagus racemosus). Lekhaniya: These herbs scrape the waste residues
Caksusya: These herbs improve eyesight; e.g. out of the body by a drying action. They are usu-
amalaki (Emblica officinalis). ally bitter and pungent in flavour; for example
Chhardi nigrahana: These are antiemetic herbs such guggul (Commiphora mukul), myrrh (Commiphora
as fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale recens), pome- myrrha), vacha (Acorus calamus), turmeric
granate juice (Punica granatum) or cardamom (Curcuma longa), triphala, barley and honey.
(Elettaria cardamomum). Madakari: These are substances that cause intoxi-
Chedana: These herbs actively draw out toxins cation, such as alcohol.
by scratching them from the tissues; guggulu Madhya: Anything that nourishes the mind and
(Commiphora mukul), shilajit (Asphaltum) and intellect, e.g. brahmi (Bacopa monniera).

Sirovirecana: These are herbs that clear the ori-

Mutra samgrahaniya: These herbs reduce the flow

of urine such as bhalltaka (Semecarpus fices of the head, also known as errhines. Such
anarcadium). herbs are vacha (Acorus calamus) or cloves
Mutravirecana: These herbs are diuretics that (Syzygium aromaticum).
increase the flow of urine, such as gokshura Sodhana: These herbs actually clear the excess
(Tribulus terrestris) and coriander (Coriandrum dosas out of the body, e.g. triphala, castor oil
sativum). (Ricinus communis) or manjishta (Rubia cordifolia).
Nidrajanana: These herbs promote sound sleep; Sonita sthapana: These are haemostatic herbs
e.g. tagarah (Valeriana wallichi), ashwagandha such as manjishta (Rubia cordifolia).
(Withania somnifera). Sramsana: Herbs that are laxatives and clear
Pacana: These herbs directly digest ama. They faeces before complete digestion is complete,
do not necessarily stimulate digestion as well; e.g. trivrut (Operculina turpethum).
e.g. triphala. Sula prasamana These are anticolic herbs that
Prajasthapana: These herbs prevent miscarriage prevent intestinal spasms; e.g. hingu (Ferula
such as ashoka (Saraca indica). asafoetida) or cumin (Cuminum cyminum).
Pramathi: These herbs remove the accumulated Sukrala: Herbs that increase semen and/or give
dosas from the dhatus and cells; e.g. vacha force to its ejaculation, e.g. amalaki (Emblica
(Acorus calamus) and black pepper (Piper nigrum). officinalis), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Purisasamgrahaniya: These are intestinal astrin- and shatavari (Asparagus racemosus).
gents that stop diarrhoea such as bilva (Aegle Sukra janana: These are sperm-increasing herbs;
marmelos). ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and safed
Rakta sodhana (rakta prasadana): These herbs musali (Asparagus adcendens).
specifically clean the blood and alter its chem- Sukra sodhana: These herbs purify the sperm
istry so that it does not cause inflammatory such as gokshura (Tribulus terrestris).
problems; e.g. manjishta (Rubia cordifolia). Snehopaga: These are moistening herbs such as
Recana: These herbs are cathartics. They forcibly castor oil (Ricinus communis) or tila/sesame
expel faeces as semi-solid diarrhoea; e.g. castor (Sesamum indicum).
oil (Ricinus communis) or rhubarb root (Rheum Stambhana: These are astringent herbs that are
palmatum). constipating, stop bleeding and are drying. They
Rasayani: These herbs rejuvenate the cells and have the properties of vata and so increase it.
extend life. They are antioxidants and also Manjishta (Rubia cordifolia) is a renowned astrin-
remove diseases; e.g. guduchi (Tinospora cordifo- gent that stops bleeding diseases.
lia), amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and haritaki Stanya janana: These herbs can increase lactation;
(Terminalia chebula). e.g. fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and shatavari
Samjn~ asthapana: These herbs are used to restore (Asparagus racemosus).
consciousness; e.g. vacha (Acorus calamus). Stanya sodhana: These herbs purify the breast
Sandhaniya: These herbs heal broken bones and milk, e.g. fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and musta
hasten the repair of broken bone tissue. Guggulu (Cyperus rotundus).
(Commiphora mukul) is famous for this. Resins Suksma: These herbs are penetrating herbs that
have a significant role here because resins in can travel through the minutest channels, such
general are considered to relate to the blood part as salt, neem oil (Azadirachta indica) and gotu
of plants just as the bark of trees is said to relate kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica).
to bone tissue. The analogy is that just as resin Svasahara: These herbs prevent breathing diffi-
heals the bark so it heals the bone. They also culties such as somalata (Ephedra vulgaris) and
encourage circulation to flow to the wounded vasaka (Adhatoda vasica).
part of the body and hasten healing. Svedopaga: Herbs that induce sweating, e.g.
Samana: These are herbs that reduce the path- vasaka (Adhatoda vasica).
ogenic level of a dosa to a more healthy level. Trptighna: These herbs are thirst-quenching, e.g.
The dosa is not expelled from the body, it is amalaki (Emblica officinalis).
calmed. These are palliative herbs, e.g. Udara prasamana: These are antiallergenic herbs,
guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia). e.g. pit shirisha (Albizzia lebbek).

Vajikarana: These are aphrodisiacs that increase endangered, under pressure and that should not be

sexual desire, strengthen the reproductive system used. Organically-certified herbs that are wild-
and nourish sukra dhatu; e.g. kapikacchu (Mucuna crafted have to be collected under strict guidelines
pruriens), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). that ensure the sustainability of indigenous popula-
Vamana: These are emetic herbs. They work tions, (e.g. The Soil Associations Standards on Wild
specifically on pitta and kapha that have accumu- Collection). The Convention on International Trade
lated in the stomach. They move upwards and in Endangered Species (CITES) lists the flora and
outwards. High doses of licorice (Glycyrrhiza fauna that are regulated for trade. It divides the
glabra) are emetic as is madanphala (Randia species into three categories (only examples of med-
dumentorium). icinals used in Ayurveda are given here):
Varnya: These herbs benefit the complexion and
skin lustre, e.g. aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis), san- Appendix 1 includes species threatened with
dalwood (Santalum album) or rose water (Rosa extinction. Trade in specimens of these species
centifolia). is permitted only in exceptional circumstances
Vedana-sthapana: These are analgesic herbs, e.g. (i.e. sustainably grown).
cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) or ashoka (Saraca
Kasturi (Secreto moschus)
Kushtha (Saussurea lappa)
Vikasi: These herbs destroy the tone of the joints
by loosening the ligaments, e.g. betel nut (Areca Appendix 2 includes species not necessarily
catechu). threatened with extinction, but in which trade
Virecana: These herbs are purgatives that move must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation
downwards. They dissolve undigested foods incompatible with their survival.
and expel them, e.g. haritaki (Terminalia chebula). Papra (Podophyllum hexandrum)
Visaghna: These are antitoxin herbs that destroy Red sandalwood or rakta chandana
poison in the system, e.g. neem (Azadirachta (Peterocarpus santalinus)
indica), kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa) and sariva Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina)
(Hemidismus indica). Chingali (Dioscorea deltoidea)
Vyavayi: These herbs spread everywhere in the Agar (Aquilaria malaccensis)
body and are then digested, e.g. ganja (Cannabis Aloe ferox
indica) and opium (Papaver somniferum).
Yogavahi: These are catalyst herbs. When they are Appendix 3 contains species that are protected in
mixed with another herb they enhance its action, at least one country, which has asked other CITES
e.g. ginger (Zingiber officinale), honey and ghee. parties for assistance in controlling the trade
Jatamamsi (Nardostachys jatamansi)
HERB SOURCING Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa)
A brief comment regarding the sourcing of herbs: Please follow these guidelines. There are many rep-
as the popularity of Ayurveda and natural medi- utable suppliers and I have listed some of them in
cine grows, along with the massive increase in the resources guide at the back of the book. It is up
global population, the burden on nature increases. to us as herbalists and herbal medicine users to
One of the primary reasons for this is that many help protect the sustainability of herbal medicines.
herbs are still harvested from the wild and there is Without this awareness and discipline there will
such a financial pressure on many wild collectors not be the tools with which to apply the incredible
to over-harvest that this is disrupting traditional pharmacology and energetics of Ayurveda.
practices on sustainable harvesting.

In order to be responsible when using herbs, firstly SAFETY AND CONSERVATION OF THE AYURVEDIC
ensure that your supplier or herbal practitioner has PHARMACOPOEIA
a policy on only purchasing material from sustain- The sustainability of herbal medicines is a very
able sources and is aware of the national and inter- important issue and is affecting all users of herbal
national laws regulating the trade of certain species. remedies. In January 2004, Alan Hamilton, a plant
Secondly, become aware of the species that are specialist at the World Wildlife Fund, released a


paper on the threat to the herbal community faced the natural healing patterns of nature as well as heal
by the indiscriminate over-harvesting of medicinal the endemic destruction of the natural world.
herbs (Hamilton 2004). In this paper he notes that
approximately 75% of all herbs that are used in Some examples:
herbal medicine come from the wild. He also Yastimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) or licorice
stated that there are 50 000 species used as medi- grows all over the world. A large portion of that
cines around the world and that 10 000 are threat- global supply has come from China and Turkey.
ened; this means that a staggering 20% of all Licorice has been in demand for years as a
herbal species used throughout the world are soothing pitta-reducing anti-inflammatory. Its
under threat. So is there a future for herbal medi- over-popularity and lack of controls on harvest-
cine or will the dravyaguna sastra become obsolete? ing mean that Turkey is now suffering a short-
age of wild licorice (Plantlife International 2004).
Why are herbal medicines so important to us?
Jatamamsi (Nardostachys jatamansi) or Indian
In medical terms the use of herbal medicines is
spikenard only grows in the Himalayas at alti-
unsurpassed; they have the function of safely
tudes of 35005000m and is highly valued for its
strengthening the tissues, immunity and integrity
aromatic vata-calming properties. Apart from its
of the body while also offering the potential to
limited growing habitat it takes three years to
safely cleanse, detoxify and clear wastes from the
grow to full maturity and it has been thoroughly
body. Their broader value is also very significant
plundered to the extent that it has been listed on
(Box 3.8).
the CITES list as a species to be protected from
In a fascinating paper entitled Ethical revolution international trade unless it has been cultivated.
written by eminent herbalist David Crowe and pre- Box 3.9 lists some reasons for the threat to herbal
sented to the Dalai Lama in New York in 2003 he species.
suggests that one way of healing human suffering as
well as preventing ecological destruction is to pro- Box 3.9
tect herbal medicines. This will reconnect us with Why is there a threat to herbal medicines?
It is estimated that the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia

Box 3.8 includes upwards of 1250 species with approximately

Importance of herbal medicines 300 of these in regular demand. In India and Sri Lanka
Herbal medicines are an integral part of nature. most herbs come from the wild. That is, in excess of
They help to protect and increase the biodiversity 90% of herbal material used in Ayurveda comes from
of an ecosystem. the forests, mountains and plains of the Indian sub-
They are a valuable part of the human relationship continent. This figure is based on comparative
with nature and enhance our connection with the harvesting figures available from China and Europe
planet. Up to 80% of the worlds population where greater levels of herbal medicinal production
depend on herbal medicine as the primary form of occur (see Schippmann et al. 2002). That is a heavy
medical healthcare. burden for nature to bear.
They offer health benefits in the form of traditional In other parts of the world there is similar pressure

medical systems, folk medical systems and with 80% of species coming from the wild in China
shamanic healing systems (Hamilton 2004). and up to 99% in Africa (Williams 1996,
They form a major resource for the healing of Schippmann et al 2002).
known and unknown diseases. There is increasing pressure on natural habitats as

They offer great financial benefits, with the global global population increases.
market being estimated at 11 billion per annum. There is increased financial pressure on low-income

They offer spiritual benefits as guides and symbols communities and herbal medicines offer a viable
of power. source of income.
They protect indigenous cultural values and It is very difficult to monitor herbal collection.

promote cultural integrity. Having knowledge of Global demand has sky-rocketed in the last decade

local herbal medicines promotes cultural with demand increasing by 1020% per annum.
uniqueness, respect and value. There is relatively little cultivation of herbal medicines.

route I support by using products certified by the

Why do herbs come from the wild?
That is their natural habitat. Soil Association or other similar certification agen-
They often require very specific habitats and cies. Uncertified products are more likely to have
may be difficult to cultivate. come from an unsustainble source.
Herb prices are actually very low and so there is
a lack of incentive for farmers to grow herbs as An example of a sustainable management
they can receive a greater income from conven- system
tional food crops. The working document should acknowledge that the
They are a relatively accessible source of income key for successful sustainable harvest/collection
to people without land or a regular job. In the over time is adaptive management, i.e. management
higher altitude region of Nepal 100% of the fam- systems that are well-informed of the situation on
ilies harvest herbs and it can account for 1530% the ground and can react quickly and appropriately
of their income. in the light of possible threats to sustainability.
Some authorities consider herbs grown in the
1. All herbs considered for collection to be checked
wild to be more potent and this is reflected in
against local, national and international legisla-
the higher price of up to 30% more being paid
tion and action plans including CITES.
for wild collected American ginseng (Panax
2. Herbs Critically endangered on the
quinqufolium) in China as opposed to cultivated.
International Union for the Conservation of
Nature (IUCN) Red List cannot be collected.
What can be done? Cultivation is the only option.
The World Health Organization has recently 3. An integrity management plan to be estab-
released its recommendations for Good lished, maintained and documented. The plan
Agricultural Collection Practices (GACP) and these should be reviewed annually. Adaptive manage-
could be implemented in law on a national level. ment is required in line with the findings of the
Governments could include sustainability clauses integrity management plan to ensure sustain-
in legal documents to ensure that the supply of ability of herbal medicines into the future.
herbal medicines is sustainable. Cultivation could
be encouraged to ensure that extra burdens on the Integrity Management Plan to cover:
wild are reduced. Sustainable wild harvesting proj- 1. Named responsible person taking responsibility
ects could be established. This would involve for the operation and maintenance of the system.
working with the plant collectors, liaising with 2. Collecting and harvesting areas: maps and
government officials, and establishing a relation- approximate hectarage. Areas used for collec-
ship with the forest department. tion must be:
a. geographically identified and detailed on
A crucial part of sustainable wild harvesting is the appropriate maps
use of Wild Collection Plant Monographs. This b. a minimum of 10m from conventional
idea has been drawn up by Klaus Duerbeck, a con- farming areas
sultant of SIPPO (a Swiss environmental consul- c. 25m from major roads, 10m from minor roads
tancy) and implemented successfully in Europe. d. an appropriate distance from other sources
A resource study is carried out to determine which for contamination/pollution.
species thrive in a given area, what is the popula- e. collection areas should be away from paths/
tion density, what needs to be harvested and when trails to maintain the ambience of an area.
and how regularly crops can be harvested without 3. Written procedures to check IUCN status
damaging resources. of herbs considered for collection, plus a justifi-
cation for the harvesting of endangered or
I strongly believe that certification is needed to vulnerable species.
protect the future of herbal medicines. This certifi- 4. Ecological resource assessment survey for each
cation would inform the consumer whether herbs species being harvested, to include:
have been sustainably grown and harvested. At a. details of ability to sustain the level of har-
present organic certification offers one solution to vesting proposed
the lack of an international standard and this is the b. re-growth patterns for each species


c. impact of collection on other species in the 8. Procedures for appropriate and ongoing monitor-
collection area ing of collection/harvesting operations to ensure
d. sustainability of annual yield and maximum sustainability of the area and species concerned.
collection levels to be set Procedures for identifying, acting on and record-
e. definition by the operator of the sustainable ing any foodborne diseases contracted by collec-
annual yield tors/harvesters (e.g. 24-hour stomach bugs) so
f. general ecological impact of the collection they dont collect during illness.
operation and potential threats to biodiversity. 9. Hygiene procedures to ensure all equipment is
5. A register of all collectors/harvesters (includ- clean and free from remnants of previously-
ing farmers collecting from their own land) harvested plants.
involved. List of groups or organisations of col- 10. Procedures for taking samples of harvested
lectors (if relevant) including responsible per- materials and recording and storing them.
son and management structure. Batch size for keeping samples depends on
6. A harvesting plan for each harvesting opera- scale, length of harvesting operationdue dili-
tion, which should detail: gence must be shown. The definition of the
a. person responsible for the operation specification of a batch of herbs should be
b. the collectors/harvesters involved detailedhow large a sample for how large a
c. identification of other users or harvesting batch. Samples of each batch harvested should
operations in the same area plus measures to be taken in line with sample size requirement,
ensure operations are coordinated (i.e. not all recorded and stored to ensure traceability.
harvesting the same patches) 11. Record-keeping systems adequate to maintain
d. controls on collecting/harvesting: appropri- traceability from harvest to point of sale.
ate time of year for harvest, geographical
area, species identification by the harvesters, Details of managerial responsibility for each
possible plants that may be confused with harvesting operation:
the correct species, harvesting protocols, The manager for each harvesting operation must:
quantities, species and qualities Be clearly identified and be familiar with the
e. the environmental management of the oper- collecting area in question
ation to ensure: Have written authorisation from relevant
the maintenance of the species being local/national regulatory bodies or whatever is
collected appropriate
that the natural plant community includ- Ensure cooperation and coordination with any
ing other species in the area is minimally other collecting/harvesting activities in the area
affected/disturbed concerned
that the sustainable yield of the area is not Ensure plants are correctly identified to avoid
exceeded mistaken collection of rare or non-target species
that the surrounding areas are not dam- Have an agreement with collectors/harvesters
aged through careless access or other including what is being harvested and how this
activities associated with the operation is carried out.
f. statement of action plan when it is felt that
the sustainable yield may be exceeded. Details of general standards
7. A training programme for all collectors/ for collection/harvesting:
harvesters including: Collection/harvesting must be carried out at
a. plant and species identification appropriate times of year to maximise the effec-
b. quality standard required for each species tive use of the plant resources and to minimise
collected (i.e. time of year to be harvested, environmental impact
part of plant to be harvested, volume to be Collection/harvesting must be restricted to the
harvested, replanting schedule) plant parts required wherever possible.
c. life cycle of plants Collectors should be encouraged to take from
d. hygiene the site only those parts of the plant required, to
e. food safety where appropriate. minimise fertility depletion

Collection/harvesting must be done in a man- Where plants are critically endangered,

ner that is appropriate for each species, in a way endangered, or rare, cultivation should be under-
that is regenerative not degenerative taken to reduce the threat to wild populations
If plants reproduce by seed or spore, sufficient and to increase the genetic diversity of the
plants must be left to mature (to reach the repro- species locally. Care should be taken that cultiva-
ductive age and/or to produce seed/spore) tion of such plants does not reduce the genetic
If plants reproduce by corms or bulbs, sufficient diversity of the cultivated population.
must be left in an area to sustain the species
If plants reproduce by root or rhizome and it is Standard on communities in herb growing
these parts that are being collected, then suffi- areas
cient numbers must be left in the ground for Care must be taken to ensure that the commerciali-
future sustainable re-growth, or rootlets and sation of medicinal plant collection and production
rhizomatous material must be replanted is a vehicle for positive community improvement,
Never replant an area with rootlets/rhizoma- and that it does not create social inequalities within
tous material beyond the natural density that communities (see Acknowledgement). The future
existed prior to collection/harvesting for the ayurvedic community and our use of herbal
If bark is collected, some form of management is medicines depends upon these communities.
required. It must be collected in a manner
appropriate to the species. Harvesting from As a community I suggest that we add a code of
recently fallen trees is permitted. Harvesting practice to our regulatory standards on a country-
bark from trunks of living trees is by-country basis. This will include a firm commit-
restricted/prohibited. If bark is being harvested ment of ayurvedic practitioners to strive to use herbs
from living trees, it should be removed from the that are sustainably grown or sustainably collected
limbs, not the trunk. Harvest by hand not by and to not use herbs on the CITES or Red list.
Care must be taken to allow sufficient numbers As herbalists we are in a position of responsibility
of mature plants to remain after harvesting/ with regard to what we can and cannot use in our
collection to maintain the ecological integrity of clinics. We are bound by professional codes of con-
the collection area duct with regard to following the law as it stands
Damage to neighbouring species, especially rare in the UK. This means that we are restricted from
or threatened species should be avoided. Special using certain herbs in our practice. In the UK the
care must be taken with species that grow great vidanga (Embelia ribes), sarpagandha
together in a symbiotic relationship or otherwise (Rauwolfia serpentina) and somalata (Ephedra vul-
depend on each other, or where similar species garis) are either banned, off limits to herbalists or
are growing in close proximity dosage is regulated. This we have to accept.
Collection/harvesting operations that may lead I believe that by greater representation through
to erosion must be avoided. professional bodies and through attaining statu-
tory self-regulation we may be able to influence
General standards on the approach the availability of these herbs in the future.
to collection versus cultivation The same recommendation stands for ayurvedic
Where collection from gardens/farms/wild practitioners the world over.
cannot meet the high market demand without
affecting sustainable yield, cultivation should With regard to the products that we can buy we
be promoted have a choice and we can influence suppliers to
Where it is found difficult to maintain raise their standards. Buying sustainably-harvested
consistent quality from collection from and organic material fulfils the ayurvedic objec-
farms/gardens/wild, cultivation should be tives of helping patients health while benefiting
promoted the health of the planet.
Where collection from widely dispersed plants
is not viable for commercial collecting, cultiva- To conclude, the majority of species are not on the
tion should be promoted verge of extinction but they are threatened. We, as

tative incompatibility, an energetic incompatibility,

representatives of the herbal and ayurvedic

community and carriers of the ayurvedic heritage, or functional incompatibility. For example, ghee
must make sure that we act in a truly ayurvedic and honey should not be used in equal propor-
fashion and help to prevent disease before there is a tions by weight, lemons (sour) and milk (sweet)
problem and to conserve without damaging our should not be used due to conflicting tastes and
future. We could follow the example of the temperatures, and laxatives and astringents should
Vrksayurveda (the Science of Plantlife), a c. 16th not be used together as one will negate the activity
century text by Surapala: Knowing this truth of the other. This concept is further pursued in
one should undertake planting of trees since Ayurveda so that lifestyle is not incompatible with
trees yield the means of attaining dharma (life age, environment, climate, season, diet, customs or
duty), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure) and moksa state of health. This further evolves into using
(enlightenment). appropriate medication that is compatible with the
diagnosis, the plants dosage range, the patients
Protecting nature protects us! inherent strength and the plants unique proper-
ties. Following these rules reduces the chance of
any unwanted side-effects.
MEDICATIONS TOGETHER Within the clinical setting there is increasing con-
Because of the primary use of the allopathic med- cern regarding drugherb interactions as more and
ical model and the last resort desperation of more patients are concurrently taking herbal and
patients seeking herbal medicine treatment it is pharmaceutical treatments. As health practitioners
rare to see someone who is not taking pharmaceu- it is our duty and privilege to care for our clients,
tical medication. This places herbal medicine at a hence we must monitor all aspects of their treat-
historical junction where practitioners have to con- ment and this includes all potential drugherb
sider the effect of different types of medicines interactions. In an attempt to highlight any poten-
potentially or actually interacting with each other. tial risks the examples mentioned below are both
These interactions may be positive, neutralising or theoretical and actual. In a clinical setting, every
negative, causing exaggerated, toxic or diminish- interaction will depend on the individual constitu-
ing effectiveness and we as practitioners must be tion of the person taking the substance including
aware of them. their age, sex, body weight and basal metabolic
rate. Appropriate diagnosis and herbal prescribing
Interactions refers to the scenario when two or will minimise any potential risks. It is always
more medicines may alter each others action or advisable to communicate with the patients med-
bioavailability. The concern is when an adverse ical doctor regarding the use of herbs, and if any
interaction takes place. This may be a drugdrug, adjustment to the dosage or prescription of phar-
drugherb or herbherb interaction. It may be maceutical drugs needs to be made it should be
positive, negative, high risk or low risk. In carried out only on the advice of a medical doctor.
Ayurveda, examples of positive interactions may
be where ginger, black pepper and long pepper are These interactions can be divided into two cate-
combined to enhance their heating and mucus- gories; pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic.
reducing effects. At other times extremely bitter
and cold herbs are combined with warmer herbs to Pharmacokinetic interactions
positively offset any extreme effects; the use of Pharmacokinetic interactions are based on the
neem with ginger is a common example of this. availability of herb or drug active ingredients in
This is positive synergy and the result of skilled relation to their absorption, distribution, metabo-
and appropriate herbal prescription formulation. lism and elimination. Pharmacokinetic interactions
affect what the body does to the drugs or herbs.
This idea of the compatible nature of different
herbs is prevalent in Ayurveda. There are many Absorption
foods and herbs that are considered to be incom- Absorption refers to the assimilation of herbs or
patible (viruddha). This is based on either a quanti- drugs into the body. This occurs via the skin,

lungs, rectum, uterus, and, primarily, via the diges- hence have a longer-lasting effect. In contrast to

tive tract. substances that increase liver metabolism, drugs
that slow liver metabolism have an immediate
Stomach acidity effect and can reduce liver function in a matter of
Drugs that reduce the production of stomach acid days. This means that phytochemical herb com-
(antacids that neutralise, decrease or inhibit acid pounds may accumulate in the body and there
production) may also reduce the digestibility of may be an increased risk of side-effects. Hence,
herbs. The solution is to take the medications at the dose may need to be lowered and the fre-
least two hours apart. Certain herbs that improve quency of ingestion may need to be adjusted
digestion may increase the uptake of certain med- accordingly. Some drugs that slow liver metabo-
ications (both herbs and pharmaceuticals included) lism are cimetidine, erythromycin, alcohol,
with ginger (Zingiber officinale) being a well-docu- fluconazole, itraconazole and ketoconazole.
mented example.
Motility Active substances from drugs and herbs are elimi-
Drugs that slow or hasten gastrointestinal motility nated via the kidneys. If kidney function is
may either increase or decrease the absorption of impaired then these compounds may accumulate.
herbs. Conversely, herbal bulk laxatives may This increases the chance of accumulating higher-
reduce the absorption of drugs. The remedy is to than-intended dosages of the herb. In such a situa-
take the medications apart and it may be necessary tion it may be wise to lower the dose of the herbs.
to consider adjustment of dosage. Some drugs that impair kidney function are
amphotericin B, methotrexate, tobramycin and
Distribution gentamicin.
Distribution refers to the specific area a medicinal
needs to work on. The tropic affinity of herbs for cer- Pharmacodynamic interactions
tain organs is one of the arts of herbal medicine; the Pharmacodynamic interactions occur between
skill of herbal formulation is to aim a prescription drugs and herbs in the body, influencing how
at a certain system. With regard to drugs it is very the drugs and herbs affect the body. An interac-
difficult to assess the potential of drugherb interac- tion between a drug and a herb may be synergis-
tions apart from if there is a very narrow range of tic or antagonistic, resulting in an exaggerated or
safety index and the drug is highly protein-binding; a lessened effect. Theoretically, drugs and herbs
warfarin and phenytoin are two such examples. that have similar therapeutic activity have an
increased potential of interacting. The highest
Metabolism risk of interaction occurs when simultaneously
Many drugs and herbs are metabolised in the liver, using drugs and herbs that are anticoagulant,
after which they become inactive. If liver metabo- antiplatelet, antidiabetic, diuretic or sympath-
lism increases then the active ingredients are omimetic. Hence it is essential to monitor
digested more quickly and therefore have a less patients taking such drugs and herbs together.
enduring effect. This effect is not instantaneous as
drugs that enhance liver metabolism do not have Anticoagulants/antiplatelet
an immediate effect; an increase in liver metabo- Drugs: warfarin, enoxaparin, heparin, aspirin,
lism can take some weeks to occur. So, if using dipyridamole, clopidogrel.
medication that speeds up liver metabolism it may
be necessary to use a higher dose of herbs to gain a Herbs: guggulu, myrrh, turmeric, safflower, ginger,
therapeutic effect even for some weeks after the saffron, arjuna, garlic.
medication has been stopped. Some drugs that
increase liver metabolism are phenytoin, carba- Risk when used together: may cause bleeding as the
mazepine, phenobarbitals and rifampicin. cumulative effect of the medicinals may move the
intended therapeutic effect beyond its predicted
If liver metabolism decreases then the active boundary. The reality of this effect depends on the
ingredients remain functional for longer and relative metabolic pathways of the drug and herb,


the condition of the patient and the dose of the mind the sensitivity of the liver in individuals who
medicinals. Caution is advised. have suffered from hepatitis, alcoholism or liver
damage it is prudent to monitor liver function tests
Anti-diabetics in these individuals. This also seems to be the case
Drugs: metformin, insulin, chlorpropamide, for certain skin diseases such as psoriasis (Blakwell
repaglinide, gliclazide. 1996). In patients with renal damage or with a his-
tory of kidney infections extra care should be
Herbs: gurmar, karavela, black pepper, neem. taken. I recommend that you ask patients on their
intake form if they have ever suffered with liver or
Risk when used together: may increase the effect of kidney diseases and when necessary have the rele-
reducing blood glucose levels, causing hypogly- vant liver or kidney function tests prior to treat-
caemia. When indicated, a reduction in drug med- ment and adjust your prescription accordingly.
ication may be necessary.
Conclusion on safety and toxicology
Diuretics Having drawn attention to some of the
Drugs: loop diuretics (burnetanide), potassium potential risk areas in herbal medicine it could
sparing-diuretics (amiloride, spironolactone, appear that herbal medicine may be unsafe.
triamterene), thiazides (bendroflumethiazide, This is not the case. These points are to highlight
cyclopenthiazide, hydrochlorothiazide). potential risk areas with the intention of maximis-
ing safety in herbal medicine. Herbal medicine and
Herbs: punarnava, gokshura, coriander. Ayurveda have a long history of safe and effective
use both from the point of view of folk medicine,
Risk when used together: if used for controlling self-medication and in the clinical setting. When
hypertension then the synergistic effect may cause used with an awareness of the patients appropri-
hypotension. When indicated, a reduction in drug ate diagnosis, pattern discrimination, constitution,
medication may be necessary. digestive strength, sex, age, medication, medical
history and an appropriate knowledge of the
Sympathomimetic herbs used it maximises both safety and efficacy.
Drugs: antihypertensives (beta-blockers,
monoamine oxidase [MAO] inhibitors), anticon- Acknowledgement
vulsants (phenytoin), bronchodilators (ephedrine, The example of a Sustainable Management
epinephrine, salbutamol), decongestants System Standards was written in conjunction with
(ephedrine). Victoria Stoneman and with the help of the
Soil Associations Standards on Wild Collection
Herbs: ephedra, bala. available from www.soilassociation.org.

Risk when used together: interaction may cause

exacerbate or reduce effect of medication, causing References
hypertension, arrhythmia, anxiety, and insomnia
(see Rang et al 1999, Low Dog 2002, Gascoigne Blakwell R 1996 Journal of Chinese Medicine
2003, Chen & Chen 2004 for a further discussion January
of these concepts and for reference material). Chen J, Chen T 2004 Chinese medical herbology
and pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press
Gascoigne S 2003 The prescribed drug guide; a
There is no doubt that herbal medicines are potent
holistic perspective. Jigme Press
therapeutic agents. Some do contain ingredients
that have valuable healing effects but if used incor- Hamilton AC 2004 Medicinal plants, conservation
rectly or inappropriately may impair liver function and livelihoods. Biodiversity and Conservation
or cause renal damage. Ayurveda often counters 13:14771517. Online. Available: http://www.
this potential effect by processing herbs in milk, springerlink.com/app/home/contribution.asp?
ginger juice, aloe vera juice or triphala. Bearing in wasp=82db32db68574c8f9ff3025cd98c8df9&

referrer=parent&backto=issue,5,10;journal, 12,103; plants on biodiversity: global trends and issues.

linkingpublicationresults,1:100125,1 Inter-Department Working Group on Biology
Diversity for Food and Agriculture, FAO,
Low Dog T 2002 Safety, toxicity, drug interactions
and contraindications of botanicals. Proline
Botanicals Williams VL 1996 The Witwaterrand muti trade.
Veld and Flora 82:1214.
Plantlife International 2004 Herbal harvests with a
future. Online. Available:http://www.plantlife.
org.uk/html/press_office/press_office_latest.htm Further reading
January 2004
Dash B 1986 Alchemy and metallic medicines in
Rang H, Dale M, Ritter J 1999 Pharmacology. Ayurveda. Concept Publishing
Churchill Livingstone
Harkness R, Bratman S 2003 Handbook of
Schippmann U, Leaman DJ, Cunningham AB 2002 drugherb and drug supplement interactions.
Impact of cultivation and gathering of medicinal Mosby

Chapter Four


Diagnosis 87 Building an ayurvedic

Treatment principles 92 formula 106
The balance of excess vs Recognising the signs of
deficiency: the allopathic and homeo- successful treatment and good
pathic approaches 92 health 107
Understanding the disease Case studies 108
process: dos.a du-s.ya References 110
sam.mu-rcana 93 Further reading 110
Treatment strategies 95

The goal of Ayurveda is the equilibrium of the tissues (dha-tu)

One who knows how to reduce excess, nourish deficiency, dry, oleate, sweat and astringe is a real
ayurvedic physician (vaidya)
Caraka Sam. hita- Su-trastha-na 1.53 and 22.4

The aims of ayurvedic treatment (cikitsa) are to bal- perception and it includes Susrutas threefold
ance the dos. as, dhatus and malas, clear any obstruc- methods of diagnosis (trividha pariks.a): palpation
tions in the srotas, reduce ama and to establish a (sparsana), looking (darsana), and questioning
healthy agni, prana, tejas and ojas. These treatments (prasana). Caraka has mentioned that direct percep-
are consolidated by rejuvenation therapy (rasayana) tion (pratyaksa) includes using the five senses
with the result of increasing the quality of life. meaning that listening, feeling, looking, smelling
Treatment is based on: and tasting should also be included. The natural
aversion to tasting and smelling the patient and
Diagnosis: the eightfold examinations and the
their excretions means that this information is
ten assessments
obtained by questioning. Later on diagnosis
Treatment principles
became systemised according to the eight locations
The balance of excess and deficiency
(astasthanapariksa; first mentioned between 1474
Understanding the disease process
and 1538 in the Jvaratimirabhaskara of Camun.d.a)
Treatment strategies
that should be examined (Wujastyk 2001).
Building an ayurvedic formula
Recognising the signs of successful treatment The eightfold examinations:
and good health. (as t asthanaparks a)
Please refer to Chapter 2 and the section covering
DIAGNOSIS The main characteristics of each dos.a: dos.a laks.an.a
The starting place of a successful treatment is a for further details.
clear diagnosis. ayurvedic diagnostic methods are
founded on the three methods of knowing The following diagnostic examinations should be
(pramana). These are: direct perception (pratyaks.a), taken as part of the whole pattern that emerges
textual authority (aptopadesa, sabda), and inference from the multiple diagnostic clues, and not in
(anumana). The most clinically useful is direct isolation.

Pulse (na-d. - par-ks.a-) Pitta: long, narrow, pointed, inflamed, ulcerated,

Investigations include the rate, depth, strength, raised red papillae, swollen and red edges, red
length, quality of the pulse and also revealing the tip. A tongue extended with force, like an arrow,
prakrti and vikrti of the patient. It is essential to reflects high pitta with its sharp and penetrating
study the pulse under the guidance of an adept (tiksna), liquid (drava), and hot (usna) properties.
practitioner. It is a vast subject and is expertly cov- Kapha: large, swollen, thick, soft, wet, covered in
ered in Dr Lads The Secrets of the Pulse. saliva, swollen and wet edges with scallops
indicating mandagni, swollen tip indicating heart
Tongue (jihva- par-ks.a-) congestion, swollen in the centre indicating lung
It is relatively easy to get accurate information congestion. The kapha tongue just flops out of
from observing the tongue, hence it is covered in the mouth as though it is too large for their
some detail here. Tongue diagnosis includes the mouth. These reflect the unctuous (snigdha),
shape, colour, coating and geographic peculiarities fluid (drava), soft (mrdu), slimy (picchila), smooth
of the tongue (indentations, swellings, lines, (slaksana) and cold (sita) qualities of kapha.
cracks, raised papillae) and revealing the nature of
the dos.a, reflecting the regulatory function of vyana, Colour
prana and udana vayu, the functioning of agni, qual- Vata: pale, reflecting cold or poor nutrient metabo-
ity of plasma (rasa) and blood tissue (rakta dhatu) lism due to a deficiency of rasa or rakta dhatu,
and the state of ama. purple-blue reflecting stagnation of circulating
vyana vayu from cold. There may be dark or
It is important that the patient extends the tongue black discolorations.
in a relaxed manner and fully extend it without Pitta: red, reflecting high pitta in rasa or rakta dhatu,
being tense. The tongue should not be held out for orange (especially orange sides) from high pitta
too long. If it is necessary to observe for long then consuming rakta dhatu, purple-red due to high
ask the patient to put the tongue back into the pitta condensing rasa and rakta dhatu resulting in
mouth and then extend it again. Observe the viscous and sluggish circulation that in extreme
tongue under a natural light. Certain substances conditions turns a black-red.
like coffee, tobacco and cough sweets can discolour Kapha: pale due to the cold restricting circulation.
the tongue coating. Drinking hot drinks and eating There can also be a pale-blue colour from con-
spicy meals can make the body redder. Certain gestive heart disorders due to aggravated
flavoured drinks may leave an orange coating. avalambaka kapha.
Taking antibiotics can give the tongue a thick coat-
ing or a shiny-peeled appearance. Location
Vata: normally observed at the back of the tongue
A normal tongue is medium sized in relation to associated with the state of the colon.
overall body size, is a fresh pink colour, with a thin Pitta: observed in the middle portion of the tongue
and moist coating without any markings. associated with the stomach and small intes-
tines. The sides of the tongue relate to the liver
Shape and form and many pitta imbalances are seen here.
Vata: small, thin, cracked, dry, deviated, quivering, Kapha: reflected in the condition of the tongue in
short, indentations, sunken concave spots, scal- the front portion associated with the lungs,
loped and dry edges indicating malabsorption chest and heart.
and low agni due to the erratic digestive power of
visamagni, cracked edges, depressed at the back of Coating
the tongue indicating low ojas, cracked just at the Tongue coatings are measured by their colour
front indicating lung dryness. Vata types are often (white, yellow, dirty yellow, pale yellow, black),
anxious about extending their tongue and find it depth (thick, thin) and texture (dry, wet, greasy).
difficult to extend very far. An extremely short The tongue coating is an easily observable marker
tongue is a sign of low ojas. These all reflect the of the efficacy of treatment and the movement of
dry (ruksa), rough (khara), mobile (cala), light disease. If a coating moves from thick to thin it
(laghu) and deficient (kasaya) qualities of vata. is a positive sign, and from yellow to white it is a

beneficial sign, and vice versa. If the tongue

Vata: bitter, astringent.
becomes dry it is a negative sign. Pitta: pungent, rotten, acrid.
Kapha: sweet.
Vata: dry, non-existent, thin, white
Pitta: yellow, dirty yellow. If it is greasy as well this
Volume and frequency
indicates that pitta and ama have mixed together.
It is worth noting the drinking habits with regard
If yellow and dry the pitta and vata have mixed
to urination, as coffee, tea, some herbs and phar-
together. Pitta can cause a total absence of coat-
maceutical diuretics can all increase the frequency
ing, resulting in a red, glossy, shiny tongue due
and volume of urine.
to intense heat burning the coating away as a
sign of excess pitta, causing a weak and deficient Vata: low volume and increased frequency due to
condition from metabolising available nutrients the high amount of dryness (ruksa), cold (sita)
too quickly. and anxiety in the system. Tendency to urinate
Kapha: white, thick white, wet, clear. If the coating at night.
is thick white and greasy kapha and ama have Pitta: high volume, less frequent due to its fluid
mixed together. If the coating is a pale yellow (dravya) and hot (usna) qualities.
then kapha has mixed with pitta. Kapha: high volume, normal frequency. Tendency
to urinate at night.
Central crack
The central crack indicates the flow of prana Temperature
through the heart or spine. If the crack extends to Vata: cold.
the tip of the tongue then it indicates a congenital Pitta: hot.
heart weakness. A deviated crack can indicate Kapha: cool.
spinal curvature. A crack can also appear from high
kapha, causing the two sides of the tongue to swell. Diagnostic signs
These symptoms paint a picture of the internal
Urine (mu-tra par-ks.a-) fluid metabolism.
Observations include the colour, odour, volume, fre-
Vata: excessive frequency, excessive nocturnal uri-
quency, temperature and times of day and night
nation (more than once), very pale or dark
that urine is passed, revealing the nature of the dos.a.
colour, frothy, cold, moving pain in urethra and
bladder, lack of complete voiding, dribbles,
Normal urine is yellow, straw coloured, passed
incontinence, urinary tenesmus, deficiency of
with ease, no retention or dribbling.
the tissues.
Pitta: dark red colour, burning sensation, sharp
pain on elimination, acute infections, foul
Urine colour can be affected by the diet, supplements
smelling, reduced frequency.
or herbs. It also reflects the functionality of medas-
Kapha: lack of complete voiding with oedema,
dhatu, ambuvahasrotas and mutravahasrotas as well as
cloudy urine, sweet smelling urine, slow to fin-
the state of vata, pitta and kapha. B vitamins can make
ish urination, lack of force and urination at
urine yellow; beetroots and other red foods can
colour the urine a darker hue, anthraquinone laxa-
tives can give an orange tint to the urine. Ayurveda also includes a method of diagnosis
using oil as an interpretation of the state of the
Vata: clear or concentrated, reflecting the predomi- dosas. Refer to Lads Introduction to Ayurveda for
nance of cold or dryness in the system. more details on this.
Pitta: dark yellow, red.
Kapha: pale, turbid, revealing the presence of mucus. Faeces (mala par-ks.a-)
Observations should include regularity, odour,
Odour colour, form, consistency, and sinking or floating
Foods that are eaten can be detected in the urine, qualities of the stool, revealing the state of the
as with the infamous asparagus aroma. digestive system and the dos.a quality. This is not

the most elegant part of the diagnosis but is an Kapha: pale stools due to low agni and a sluggish

absolutely essential part of the questioning to liver not secreting enough bile.
establish a correct diagnosis.
Pathogenic symptoms may be black stools, indicat-
Normal stools are light brown, soft, easy to pass, ing upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding, coffee
regular shape, not sticky and without undigested granules, denoting a peptic ulcer, white stools,
food. indicating obstructive jaundice, or dark brown
stools, indicating ama.
The motility of the intestines and the transit time Form and consistency
of undigested matter is gauged by how long it This reveals the fibre content of the diet and the
takes for insoluble fibre and undigested food parti- ability of the large intestine to absorb fluids back
cles to pass through the system. into the body.

Vata: has a tendency to constipation due to a dry Vata: small, dry, knotty, rabbit droppings
(ruksa), rough (khara) and cold (sita) contractile passed with lots of gas due to the dry (ruksa)
nature. May only pass stools once a day or and rough (khara) property of vata. Stool can
every other day. Vata types have a krura kostha also be pencil thin due to intestinal spasms.
that is hard relating to poor peristalsis, painful Dryness can also be caused by lack of fibre in
and irregular evacuations. the diet.
Pitta: fast metabolism, mrdu kostha and highly Pitta: loose, unformed, cow-pat-like due to the hot
greasy (snigdha) nature of the intestines encour- (usna), liquid (drava) and oily (snigdha) quality
age regular bowel motions of rapidly-excreted of pitta.
stools twice a day. Kapha: large, moist, elephant-logs, containing
Kapha: regular and slow to pass due to their slow mucus due to the gross (sthula), slimy (picchila)
(manda) quality. They have a madhyama kostha, and unctuous (snigdha) nature of kapha.
giving regular bowel movements.
Diagnostic signs
Odour These indicate the health of the digestive fire, the
The smell of the stools reveals the level of putrifi- state of the internal intestinal flora and the health
cation and gases released. of the lining of the intestines reflecting the balance
of agni, the level of vata and the quality of kapha in
Vata: much gas, stool not smelly due to dry (ruksa) the digestive tract.
Pitta: like the smell of rubbish on a hot summer Vata: high volumes of gas with concomitant bloat-
day, pitta causes foul-smelling stools due to the ing, discomfort, constipation, hard, dark and
hot (usna) quality. dry stools that are hard to pass. There may be
Kapha: not smelly, although can be associated with rectal bleeding due to the dryness of the stools.
a sweet smell when there is intestinal fungal May experience itching.
infections with large dairy and carbohydrate Pitta: frequently passed, yellow, foul-smelling
consumption. stools. There may be blood and burning. Can
have explosive and urgent movements when
Colour mixed with vata.
The colour of the stools reflects dietary articles such Kapha: sluggish bowels, with large volume of fae-
as high amounts of red foods causing a reddening, ces, feeling of incomplete voiding, itching,
yellow foods causing a yellowing or anthraquinone mucus may be passed.
laxatives causing an orangey colour.
Sinking stools can indicate ama in the system,
Vata: dark, due to concentration of liquids. while floating stools are generally considered to be
Pitta: yellow, green due to excessive stomach acid healthy, except when there may be poor fat diges-
and bile. tion, which can also cause floating stool.

Body symmetry (akr.ti par-ks.a-) Voice (sabda par-ks.a-)

Observation should include the balanced propor- This includes the sound, pitch and volume of the
tion of the body structure, prominence of bones, voice. The meaning of sabda can be extended to
veins and fat in the body revealing the structural include the other sounds of the body; breath, intes-
aspects of the predominant dos.a. tines and joints, which reveals the predominance
and quality of any dos.a.
Vata: has an irregular bone structure, unusually
tall or short, thin and out of proportion, with Vata: a dry, hoarse and high-pitched or quiet voice.
slender fingers, arms and legs. They have pre- A fast talker, jumps from topic to topic with
dominant joints with knobbly knees and elbows. erratic rhythm and focus. The vata prediliction
They have thin lips, small eyes, dark marks on to expending energy is reflected in their love of
the face, thin facial hair and a pointy, crooked speech. Vata is very sensitive to excess noise.
nose. You can often clearly see the bones on vata Pitta: a loud and sharp voice. Focused, persuasive,
types. dominates conversation, argumentative, chal-
Pitta: has a medium, balanced build with lenging and due to their impatience they tend to
defined muscles. They have medium-sized red finish other peoples sentences.
lips, rosy cheeks, sharp eyes, fair or orange Kapha: a moist, soft, deep and calm voice. A sweet
facial hair, and a medium-sized nose. The melodious voice that is pleasant to listen to.
energy-efficient pitta has a proportionally
balanced frame. Skin (sparsa par-ks.a-)
Kapha: often has big bones with a stocky body that This includes the temperature, dryness, moisture,
is well built, with wide shoulders and hips. The firmness and smoothness of the skin, revealing the
joints are not easy to see. They often have excess quality of the plasma tissue (rasa dhatu).
fat, especially around the omentum, buttocks
and cheeks. They have broad lips, large eyes, Vata: vata types have a tendency to have dry
luscious eyelashes, thick eyebrows, pale face, (ruksa) skin due to excessive movement burn-
thick facial hair and a big and broad nose. They ing off all lubrication as well as the constitu-
have short and stubby fingers. tional deficiency of nourishing fluids. The skin
looks rough and chapped. Cracks on the hands
Eyes (dr k par-ks.a-) and feet are common. Their variable nature
Observation includes the colour, shape and clarity may lead to some oily areas and other dry
of the eyes and reveals the quality of the nervous ones. The veins are clearly visible through the
tissue (majja dhatu). thin skin. Dry skin problems are a common
vata imbalance. The skin colour is dull, dark
Vata: grey, dark blue or dark brown. Different- and lacking in lustre. They tan easily and their
coloured eyes. Vata eyes are small in relation to cold nature draws them towards the sun. The
the head size and are at irregular levels or close poor circulation may lead to pale lips, nail beds
together. They are often dry eyes that itch. The and skin.
sclera is often dull. The eyebrows will be thin Pitta: pitta is the delicate or mrdu dosa. Their skin is
and irregular. easily aggravated and they cannot tolerate the
Pitta: any light colour indicates pitta. A yellow sun. They are prone to inflammations, rashes
or blood-shot sclera is a common sign when and acne. The skin flushes easily and may
there is excess pitta in the system. Pitta eyes appear red. The skin is commonly freckled or
are light-sensitive and they often require with many moles. As pitta is a by-product of the
sunglasses. They have sharp and piercing blood tissue (raktadhatu) they have deep red lips.
eyes. The eyebrows and eyelashes are bal- A pitta type is easy to spot in an embarassing
anced. situation as they blush very easily.
Kapha: smooth brown colour. Large, oval-shaped Kapha: healthy skin that appears thick and oily.
eyes with a white sclera. Their eyebrows are They have smooth skin. It has a slight pasty
lush and bushy, often joining in the middle. The look. Their cool nature draws them to the sun.
eyelashes are thick, oily and long. They burn easily but will soon tan.


The physician also relies on the tenfold assess-

ments (dasavidha pariksa) that help them to arrive at
The importance of reducingtonifying,
a complete diagnosis (Box 4.1).
dryingoleating and fomentingastringing
Having arrived at an accurate ayurvedic diagnosis
The most empowering way to embody and apply
it is necessary to formulate the most effective treat-
the diagnostic principles of Ayurveda is to
ment. This is known as the treatment principle.
observe and study nature. This helps your ability
As health is in a continual state of flux, treatment
to use herbs. Ask yourself questions and act with
focuses on clearing out excess dosas, ama and malas
an enquiring mind; What does heat do?, What
and strengthening deficient dhatus, agni, prana, tejas
does cold do?, What does dampness do?, What
and ojas. Ayurveda uses six main techniques to
does dryness do?, How can the aggravating
treat disease (Box 4.2).
factors be alleviated?, What treatment strategy
and combination of herbs will help to heal the
patient?. In nature lies the best teacher; by THE BALANCE OF EXCESS VS DEFICIENCY: THE ALLOPATHIC
understanding nature the physician applies a AND HOMEOPATHIC APPROACHES
metaphorical understanding to disease and Diagnostic balance
health. As a simple example, by observing the Determining the qualitative nature of an imbalance
nature of wind it is clear to see that it moves is crucial to a successful treatment.
erratically and it causes dryness. These are similar
qualities to the vata humour that can assail the As the dosas, dhatus, malas and agnis may be dis-
nervous system and cause it to function irregu- eased it is essential that their relative states of bal-
larly. Likewise, by observing the hot nature of the ance are diagnosed correctly. Ayurveda classifies
sun and how it heats and concentrates fluids you these parameters as:
can make an analogy of what the effects of pitta
may be. The heavy nature of water and how it Excess (vrddhi) or too much heat, cold, dryness,
causes dampness and moulds can easily be dampness, mucus, ama, mala, pain and includes
compared to the nature of kapha. excesses of the dos.a and dhatu; e.g. vata is

Box 4.1
The ten assessments (dasavidha parks.a) Box 4.2
Constitutional assessment (prakr
ti): va-ta, pitta or Techniques used in Ayurveda to treat disease
kapha and combinations thereof 1. Reducing (langhana) where there is an excess.
State of imbalance (vikrti): imbalances of the dos . as Purification (sodhana) or palliation (samana) are

Quality of the tissues (sara): deficient, excess and prescribed for reducing any excess pathologies.
vitiated states of the dha-tu 2. Tonifying (br m
han a) where there is deficiency.
Quality of the body (sarra sam . hanana): strong, Sweet and nourishing tonics (rasa-yan a) are given
weak or average for building strength.
Body type (sarra prama n
- . a): tall, short, large or thin 3. Drying (ru-ks an a) therapy is used to alleviate any
Daily habits (satmya): daily and seasonal routines, excess fluids in the system. Herbs that are diuretic
hobbies, likes and dislikes or remove mucus dry the system.
Mental constitutional quality (manas prakrti):
4. Oleating (snehana) treatments moisturise dryness
including the mental nature and an assessment of and give unctuousness to the tissues by using oily
the functions of intellectual analysing (dh), and demulcent substances.
memory retention (dhr. ti), memory recalling (smr ti) 5. Fomentation or sweating (svedana) therapy
as well as emotional tendencies reduces coldness, heaviness, stiffness, a-ma and
- -
Digestive power (ahara sakti): strong, erratic, trapped heat in the body by using steam and
sluggish, or balanced diaphoretic herbs.
- -
Energy levels (vyayama sakti): ability to exercise, 6. Astringent (stambhana) therapy is used to slow the
endurance and capacity excessive flow of bodily fluids with tannin-rich
Age (vayas): young, middle-aged or elderly. herbs (Charaka Sam
hita- Su-trastha-na 22).

increased in autumnal windy weather causing (Tribulus terrestris) as seeds increase seeds (sperm

dry skin. These signs are usually confined to the and ova), while plasma (rasa) is nourished with
typical site of the affected dos.a and remain sweet fruit and vegetable juices like grapes (Vitis
within the normal signs and symptoms for that vinifera), as juice nourishes juice.
dos.a. For example, an excess of vata usually con-
fines itself to the colon, thighs, hips and ears See Appendix 1 (Table A1.5) for a table of which
with the concurrent vata signs of gas, bloating, herbs and foods build or reduce the tissues.
constipation, pain, aversion to cold, stiffness,
rigidity and ringing in the ears.
Deficient (ksaya) or too little heat, moisture, UNDERSTANDING THE DISEASE PROCESS: DOS.A DUS.YA
physical strength, digestive strength, mental SAM.MURCANA
strength and also includes deficient states of See Chapter 2 for a more detailed discussion on
the dos.a and dhatu; e.g. deficient blood tissue pathogenesis and samprapti.
(rakta dhatu) means that there may be anaemic
signs of paleness, shortness of breath and The disease process follows a clear path. A dis-
palpitations. turbed dos.a can upset the digestive fire (or vice
Vitiated (prakopa) meaning that the dosas, dhatus and versa). This creates ama. The dos.a can then mix
agni are aggravated and deranged. They will with this ama and may spread from its home site
often mix with other dosas in this vitiated state, and locate at a foreign site and manifest as disease.
causing complex patterns that are difficult to For example, vata can accumulate at its main site in
treat; for example, anaemia caused by pitta, caus- the colon with symptoms of bloating, flatulence
ing complications of insomnia due to high vata and constipation. If the blockage continues and the
arising from the lack of plasma and blood tissue. accumulated vata does not move out then it
See Appendix 1 (Table A1.2) for a chart of the becomes aggravated. It is in the nature of vata to
dhatu in a state of deficiency or excess. move and it commonly rebels upwards. This
immediately upsets the digestive fire, which leads
Excess pathologies are treated using the principle to food not being properly digested. Toxins accu-
of samanya-vaisesika (equalopposite) (Caraka mulate and combine with vata and they both over-
Samhita Sutrasthana 1.45, 30.29: Substances having flow and locate at a vulnerable site. Vulnerable
properties of heaviness, lightness, cold, heat, vata sites may be the nervous system, ears, bones,
unctuousness get increased when other substances hips or joints. The disturbed agni will also mean
having similar properties are added. On the other that the dhatus are not properly nourished and
hand substances having dissimilar qualities weakness will start. An unstable nervous system
decrease their quantity). This means using with excess anxiety are the early signs of vata dis-
substances with qualities that are opposite to the ease, while later on arthritis may develop with
disease. In principle, this is an allopathic approach: degeneration of the joint, causing deformity and
for example, cold-inducing herbs are used for pain.
treating heat, dry-natured herbs for damp,
hot-quality substances for cold, and moisture- This pattern of disease follows a set diagnostic pat-
enhancing herbs for dryness; neem (Azadirachta tern according to disease causation and pattern dif-
indica) is a superb heat-clearing herb, while ferentiation known as nidana, which is divided into
cinnamon (Cinnamonum zeylanicum) is renowned five subcategories;
for clearing cold.
Nidana: aetiology and disease causation
Purvarupa: prodromal disease symptoms
Conversely, according to the principle that like
Rupa: disease symptomology
increases like, deficient pathologies are treated by
Upasaya: diagnosis based on trial and error
using herbs with similar properties to the defi-
Samprapti: disease pathogenesis.
ciency. In principle, this is a homoeopathic
approach of using similar substances to treat the These categories are defined in detail in such diag-
imbalance: for example, reproductive essence nostic texts as Madhava Nidana, a text written
(sukra) is increased with seeds such as gokshura between 650 and 950CE.

Nidana: aetiology and disease causation Griping or cramping pain

Nidana is based on the cause of the disease such as Irritated colon causing the need to eliminate the
low digestive fire or inclement environmental fac- bowel but an inability to do so.
tors. These are usually general causes and are not
especially dos.a specific. For example, in irritable In vataja:
bowel syndrome (grahani) the causes are: Pain, cramp, watery stool, painful diarrhoea,
flatulence during and after digestion, stool is
Atisara: diarrhoea/food
liquid mixed with solid, passed with difficulty,
poisoning/antibiotics/food intolerances
exhaustion after passing stools, bloating, exces-
Taking too rich a diet for long periods, espe-
sive hunger and thirst, dark circles under the
cially after diarrhoea: brmhana diet with weak
eyes, dry skin, stress and anxiety.
digestive system
Poor absorption of nutrients
In pittaja:
Eating inappropriate foods for digestive capac-
Burning, loose, yellow stools with undigested
ity: prajnaparadha
food, feels hot to pass stool, burning anus after
Long-term digestive weakness: mandagni
defecation, sour eructation with bad smell, acid-
Parasites (parasites, amoeba, colitis, giardia,
ity, thirst, skin eruptions, spots, aggressive, angry.
Candida albicans): krmi.
In kaphaja:
Pu-rvaru-pa: prodromal disease symptoms
Large volume of stool with mucus that is a pale
Purvarupa are the early warning signs before a
colour, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sticky
named disease sets in. They may be general or
sweet taste in the mouth, cough, salivation,
dos.a-specific and their correct identification can
heaviness in the chest, eructation with foul
help direct appropriate preventative treatmement.
smell and sweet taste, suppression of libido,
To continue the example of grahani:
lethargy and tiredness.
Thirst, lethargy and heartburn, delayed
digestion Tridoshic:
Taking a long time to digest foods, weakness, All symptoms.
acidity increased, bad taste in mouth, loss of
appetite, abdominal distension, borborygmus. Upasaya: diagnosis based on trial and error
Despite the best intentions and highest levels of
Ru-pa: disease symptomology knowledge the practitioner cannot always discern
Literally meaning form, rupa classifies the specific the correct pattern. When this happens then it is
signs and symptoms of each particular dos.a imbal- incumbent on them to attempt a diagnosis based
ance according to each disease name. This is on a specific treatment. This may be either similar
pure disease pattern differentiation at its best, to or opposite to the disease. For example, it may
and reveals how Ayurveda can be so specific and be difficult to determine the exact nature and loca-
why it treats the same disease name with different tion of heatcold, wetdry or vatapittakapha in
and often seemingly contradictory treatment the body and the practitioner may have to try a
strategies. It guides the practitioner to a set of diagnostic formula that is weighted in a certain
symptoms that may fit a particular pattern and direction. The either beneficial or negative
this in turn guides the vaidya to specific herbs and response results in the provisional diagnosis being
treatment plans. confirmed or denied.

In grahani: It is important to note that lack of response or

Diarrhoea 46 times a day, mainly in the morn- excessive response are not always the result of
ing, can be alternating with constipation and accurate or inaccurate diagnosis, but may also be
with painful urgency causing tenesmus the result of idiosyncratic patient reactions, too
Unformed stools with undigested food, smelly high or too low a dose of medication, drugherb
stools, pain in stomach, fatty stools, large num- interactions, or simply an inappropriate form of
ber of stools medication being prescribed.


. prapti: disease pathogenesis
Samprapti is divided into six different parts and
A successful treatment relies on a treatment strat-
reflects the particular qualities of a disease mani-
egy that is directly related to the diagnosis. A diag-
fest according to each dos.a.
nosis of high vata with obstructed apana vayu in the
lower abdomen due to low agni means that the
1. Sam. khya: this is disease enumeration into the treatment strategy must focus on balancing vata,
different states of a disease. For grahani this is
removing the obstructed apana vayu, increasing
divided into four types; vataja, pittaja, kaphaja
agni and nothing else.
and tridosaja.
2. Vikalpa: this categorises the specific quality of a The main treatment strategies to be considered are
symptom to a particular dos.a. For example, listed in Box 4.3.
vataja grahani can be caused by dry, pungent,
bitter, astringent and overly unctuous cold Treat the dos.a
foods, varied eating habits, overactive mind. Treating the dosas is a primary focus in ayurvedic
Vata gets aggravated and covers the suppressed treatment because any imbalance of the humours
agni manifesting as intestinal pain and cramps, causes disruption to health. Ayurveda makes con-
bloating, anxiety, dry skin, erratic hunger tinual efforts to reduce any excess of the dosas. It
and thirst, darkness of eyes, watery diarrhoea aims to balance all the dosas within the boundaries
with undigested food that is passed with diffi- of each individuals potential for health. It is a rela-
culty and discomfort, and flatulence during tive situation as some people have a natural ten-
and after digestion. Hence the symptoms are dency to be healthy while others inherit a weaker
vata type symptoms and the disease is of constitution. Everyone has a fixed balance of the
vata (vataja). dosas that is determined from conception (Box 4.4).
3. Pradhanya: this refers to when a disease is This is the measure of that persons optimum health.
due to two or more dos.a and defines which is Under certain circumstances different proportions of
the predominant imbalance; this dictates the dosas may increase and even become deranged
treatment. When there are different diseases (prakopa). For example, in a vata constitution vata
manifesting it is important to prioritise the will increase when there is stress, irregularity and
primary disease in order to prioritise the treat- cold weather. Every vata type will be taxed under
ment strategy. such conditions but even if a vata-reducing lifestyle
4. Bala: this determines the strength of the disease. is followed some will still be unable to reduce the
If all the symptoms (rupa and purvarupa) of a increasing vata. Others will ignore the warning
disease are manifest then it is stronger than if signs, or be unable to avoid them, and the dosas will
there are just a few symptoms present. become deranged and the onset of insomnia and
5. Vidhi: this describes the prognosis of a disease digestive imbalance will ensue. The ability to remain
according to whether it is easy to cure (sadhya), healthy depends on the constitutional level of each
difficult to cure (krcchra sadhya), incurable dos.a, the aggravated level of the dos.a and the
(asadhya), or incurable but can be managed strength of the aggravating forces.
through continuous treatment (yapya). The early
stage of a disease involving only one dos.a is
Box 4.3
usually easy to cure, increasing chronicity and
Treat the dos.a
multiple dos.a involvement makes an absolute
Treat the agni
cure more difficult. -
Treat the dhatu
6. Kala: this relates to the specific seasonal and -
Treat the disease (vya dhi)
daily manifestations of a disease. For example, if -
Detoxify the whole system and clear ama with
a symptom is always worse after a meal then it
relates to a vata disease. Hence the importance -
Pacify the disease and clear ama with samana
of effective treatment strategies involving reduc-
Treat the gun . as by increasing sattva and reducing
ing excess, nourishing deficiency, drying secre-
rajas and tamas
tions, oleating dryness, sweating out stagnation
Rejuvenate with tonics and aphrodisiacs
and astringing leakages.


Box 4.4 4: the highest value, indicating a strong predilec-

Signs of dos.a excess (dos.a vr ddhi): tion to either constitutional factors (prakrti) or
Va-ta: dryness, pain, thinness, wasting, cracking, an imbalance (vikrti).
deformity, irregularity, nervous imbalance, cold, 3: here the diagnostic factors have a high influence
lightness. on any health imbalances.
Pitta: heat, inflammation, bleeding, redness, 2: the middle value, where the diagnostic factors
purpleness, burning, thirst. are causative in imbalance, but less so.
Kapha: wetness, dampness, oedema, puffy skin, 1: a low value where the factors influence the dis-
mucus, over-weight, heaviness. ease process but do not guide it.
0: the lowest value, signifying no constitutional or
Signs of a derangement of the dos.a (dos.a aggravating factors.
Va-ta: erratic, irregular, hyperactive, anxious, weak For example, a persons prakrti may be vata 4, pitta
digestion, constipation, insomnia, joint pain, dry skin, 2, kapha 1 while their vikrti may be vata 3, pitta 4,
dark discoloration around the eyes, back of tongue kapha 0. In this case you would first clear the
and skin. aggravated pitta and then the disturbed vata before
Pitta: intense, angry, irritable, acidity, loose stool, moving to a vatapitta constitutional treatment.
nausea, fever, inflamed joints, skin inflammations, Va-ta treatment
yellow- or green-coloured secretions, yellow How va-ta is aggravated
discoloration of the eyes, skin and stool. Vata is aggravated by astringent, bitter and pun-
Kapha: dull, lazy, sluggish, thick and white catarrh, gent flavours (as they all increase dryness), at the
breathing problems, swollen joints, pitting oedema, end of a meal, early morning and evening, by fear
suppurating skin problems, paleness of the skin and and insecurity, in early autumn and spring, at the
tongue. latter stage of life, by excessive movement, by dry
Signs of a deficiency of the essences: and cold climate, by going to bed after 11pm. If out
Pra-n.a: weak lungs, low energy, early ageing, lack of of balance there is a natural tendency for vata types
vitality. to be attracted to these destabilising influences.
Tejas: dull eyes, low digestion, lack of zest for life, poor
intelligence. How to balance va-ta
Ojas: low immunity, wasting, fevers, infertility, lack of As vata is light, cold, and dry it is increased by
compassion. these tendencies. It is best balanced by using the
opposite qualities: more warmth, moisture,
If a dos.a is in excess, it may be brought under control
by adjusting lifestyle and diet alone, whereas if the Decrease bitter, astringent, pungent foods (cold
dos.a is aggravated then specific measures to remove salads, tea, very hot spices)
the dos.a from the body are needed. This may involve Decrease rushing, travelling, hurrying
herbal treatment and eliminative therapy. Decrease cold and dryness
Decrease fear
An important thing to remember is that when the Increase oily, warm oil massage: sesame oil,
dosas are mixed it is necessary to treat the most narayan oil
serious imbalance first and to work backwards Increase regularity: a daily routine is essential to
towards balance (Fig 4.1). In order to differentiate balance vata.
the hierarchy this is often determined numerically: Increase warmth: hot water, soft and warm teas
Increase stillness: learn relaxation techniques
and calm yoga practices
Increase confidence and security: enhance self-
esteem, reduce fear.
Vata treatment concentrates on regulating the
lower abdomen and clearing apana vayu by ensur-
Figure 4.1 Examples of dos.a balance ing that it moves freely out of the body. Use

Box 4.5
General treatments for relieving va-ta Grains: rice (basmati, brown, wild), wheat, oats
Emphasise foods that are warm, soupy and easy to (cooked) and quinoa are very good. Amaranth is
digest. acceptable. Reduce intake of barley, corn, millet,
Eat at regular times, and eat to less than full. buckwheat and rye. Avoid all others.
Practise relaxation. Fruits: favour sweet, sour, or heavy fruits, such as
Avoid yeast, coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, and berries, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries,
extremely spicy foods. lemons, limes, fresh figs, peaches, melons, plums,
Favour foods that are warm, heavy, and oily. pineapples, mangoes, and papayas. Cooked apples
Reduce foods that are cold, dry, and light. and pears are acceptable, as are soaked prunes and
Favour foods that are sweet (e.g. wheat, milk, rice), raisins. Avoid dried fruits, uncooked apples, pears,
sour (e.g. vinegar, yoghurt, umeboshi plums, citrus pomegranates, cranberries.
fruit), and salty. Vegetables: asparagus, beets, cucumbers, carrots, and
Reduce foods that are spicy, bitter (e.g. coffee, sweet potatoes are the best. Peas, green leafy
chillies, green leafy vegetables), and astringent (e.g. vegetables, celery, summer squash, winter squash,
apples, beans). and potatoes are best well cooked in oil or ghee with
Dairy: all dairy products nourish the nervous mild spices. Seaweeds are very beneficial. It is best to
system. Always boil milk before you drink it, mix avoid the Brassica family; brussels sprouts, broccoli,
with cardamom seeds and drink it warm. Dont take cauliflower and cabbage. Also avoid Solanaceae
milk with a full meal or eat with fruit. Use organic family; peppers, aubergines, potatoes and tomatoes.
milk. If allergic, substitute with almond or rice milk. Raw vegetables, especially onions, are banned.
Ghee is beneficial. Avoid ice cream and powdered Spices: most of them reduce va-ta, especially
milks. asafoetida, cardamom, cumin, coriander, ginger,
Sweeteners: all sweet flavours are good for fennel, dill, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed,
nourishing the nervous system. Reduce refined black pepper.
white sugar. Nuts: all nuts and seeds are good in moderation,
Oils: all oils nourish the nervous system. Emphasise especially soaked.
flax, hemp, sesame, ghee, olive, sunflower, evening Beans: avoid all beans, except for tofu and mung
primrose, borage and fish oils. Use these internally dhal and occasionally red lentils.
and externally. Meat and fish: chicken, turkey, eggs and seafood
reduce va-ta; beef should be avoided.

carminatives, demulcent laxatives and enemas; emotions, in summer, from adolescence to middle
licorice, triphala, linseed and ginger. Then tonify age, from excessive ambition, a hot and damp cli-
the nervous system using nourishing tonics such mate. If out of balance there is a natural tendency
as ashwagandha, bala, safed musali and shatavari. for pitta types to be attracted to these destabilising
Va-ta-relieving diet (nervous-system-nourishing diet)
How to balance pitta
Use this diet to help relieve nervous tension,
As pitta is hot, oily and intense it is aggravated
cramps, pain, anxiety, insomnia, bloating, constipa-
by these tendencies. It is best balanced by their
tion, dryness (Box 4.5).
opposites: cooling, calmness, loving, compassion
and moderation.
See Chapter 2 for more ideas on vata lifestyle.
Decrease pungent, salty, sour foods (chillies,
Pitta treatment spices, salt, pickles, fermented foods, i.e. alcohol)
How pitta is aggravated Decrease aggression, competition
Pitta is aggravated by pungent, salty and sour Decrease hot environments
flavours (as they increase heat), in the middle of a Increase sweet, bitter and astringent foods:
meal, at midday, by anger and irritation, repressed grains, fruits, asparagus, lettuce


Box 4.6
General treatments for relieving pitta olives, papayas and sour, not-yet-ripened oranges,
Include aloe vera juice and rose water daily. pineapples, and plums.
Avoid yeast, alcohol, coffee, tea, chocolate, cheese, Vegetables: favour asparagus, cucumber, cooked
yogurt, table salt and animal products. Low quality beetroots, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables,
oils are a major cause of inflammation. pumpkins, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower,
Avoid sour, salty, and pungent foods. celery, okra, lettuce, sprouted beans, peas, green
Favour foods that are cool, refreshing, liquid, sweet, beans. Avoid Solanaceae nightshade family; hot
bitter, or astringent. peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, aubergines,
Eat fresh organic fruits and vegetables. potato (a little is acceptable). Also avoid Allium
Reduce foods that are spicy, salty or sour. family; especially raw onions, garlic, radishes. Also
Dairy: milk, butter, and ghee are good for pacifying avoid raw beetroots, raw spinach and mustard
pitta. Avoid yoghurt, cheese, sour cream, and greens.
cultured buttermilk; these sour tastes aggravate Beans: avoid all beans except for tofu and mung
pitta. dahl.
Sweeteners: all sweeteners are good, except for Nuts: almonds, coconut. Avoid peanuts especially.
honey and molasses. Spices: cinnamon, coriander, dill, rock salt, aniseed,
Oils: ghee, flax, hemp, borage, evening primrose, cardamom, fennel, turmeric, fresh ginger and small
olive, sunflower, and coconut oils are best. Reduce amounts of black pepper are good, but the
sesame, almond, and corn oil, all of which increase following spices strongly increase pitta and should
heat. be taken in moderation: asafoetida, dry ginger,
Grains: wheat, basmati rice, jasmine rice, barley, cumin, fenugreek, celery seed, salt, and mustard
quinoa and oats. Reduce corn, rye, millet, and seed. Chilli peppers and cayenne should be
brown rice. avoided.
Fruits: favour sweet fruits such as grapes, limes, Meat and fish: chicken, pheasant, and turkey are
cherries, melons, avocados, coconut, preferable; but beef, seafood, and egg yolk increase
pomegranates, mangoes, apples, berries, sweet and pitta.
fully ripened oranges, pineapples, and plums. Superfoods: chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass, barley
Reduce sour fruits such as grapefruits, lemons, grass, Kalamath lake algae, seaweeds.

Increase cooling drinks: aloe vera juice, rose See Chapter 2 for more ideas on pitta lifestyle.
water, peppermint, coriander
Increase calming massage with light oils: Kapha treatment
almond, coconut, grapeseed How kapha is aggravated
Increase compassionate meditation and uncom- Kapha is aggravated by sweet, sour and salty
petitive yoga. flavours (as they increase moisture), at the begin-
ning of a meal, morning (610am) and evening
Pitta is generally alleviated by clearing pacaka pitta (610pm), by greed and possessiveness, in winter,
from the digestive system. Use purgatives, chola- by a cold, heavy and damp natured diet, in child-
gogues and alteratives; amalaki, neem, triphala, hood, from a damp and cold climate, sleeping in
rhubarb. Then use nourishing but cooling tonics the day, lack of movement and laziness. Because
such as aloe vera, shatavari, licorice and guduchi. like attracts like, there is a natural tendency for
kapha types to be attracted to these qualities that
Heat-reducing diet (pitta) (inflammation-reducing tip them out of balance.
Use for skin inflammations, itching, joint pain, hot How to balance kapha
flushes, acidity, ulcers, anger, irritation, infections, As kapha is slow, damp, and heavy by nature,
fever (Box 4.6) and has a tendency to be attracted to and therefore

Box 4.7
General treatments for relieving kapha Fruits: lighter fruits, such as apples and pears, are
Avoid yeast, salt, cheese, yoghurt, chocolate, and best. Reduce sweet, heavy or sour fruits such as
refined sugars and flours. oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, avocados,
Avoid overeating, especially at night. coconuts, and melons, as these fruits increase
Do not eat when you are not hungry. Do not eat mucus.
between meals. Sweeteners: use honey to reduce mucus. Reduce
Do not eat cold foods. sugar products.
A primarily vegetarian diet is highly recommended. Beans: all beans are fine, except tofu.
Include ginger in your daily diet; take a pinch of Nuts: reduce all nuts.
fresh ginger root with a few drops of lemon juice Oils: reduce all oils; flax, corn and sunflower are
before each meal. acceptable.
Favour foods that are light, dry, and warm. Grains: increase barley, corn, buckwheat, quinoa
Reduce foods that are heavy, oily, and cold. and millet. Do not take too much wheat, rice, or
Favour foods that are spicy, bitter, and astringent oats, as they increase heaviness and mucus.
(e.g. ginger, asparagus, tea). Spices: include all spices except for salt. Salt
Reduce foods that are sweet, salty, and sour (e.g. increases water retention and mucus.
cakes, crisps, lemons). Vegetables: increase asparagus, aubergine,
Dairy: low-fat milk is best. Always boil milk before beetroots, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower,
you drink it (making it easier to digest) and take it celery, garlic, ginger, green leaves, kale, onion,
warm. Do not take milk with a full meal, or with potato, pumpkin, radish, sprouts. Reduce okra,
sour or salty food. Add some cardamom or ginger olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and
to whole milk before boiling it to help reduce any summer squash.
mucus-generating properties. Use goats milk or Meat and fish: white meat from chicken or turkey is
water milk down 50/50. A little ghee is fine. Avoid fine, as is seafood. Avoid or reduce red meat and
cheese, yoghurt and buffalo milk. pork.

increase these qualities it is best balanced with Fluid- and mucus-reducing-diet (kapha)
opposites: increase movement, activity, light diet, (diet to clear phlegm, mucus and sticky
warm environment, less oils and fats, more dry accumulations)
foods and environments. Use this diet to clear mucus, heaviness, sinus con-
gestion, thick tongue coating, tiredness, sluggish-
Decrease sweet, sour, salty foods (sugar,
ness, high cholesterol, oedema (Box 4.7).
yoghurt, salt)
Decrease cold, refrigerated, damp, wet food (ice,
See Chapter 2 for more ideas on kapha lifestyle.
dairy, out-of-season fruits)
Decrease sluggishness
Treat the agni
Increase bitter, astringent and pungent foods
Another primary aim of cikitsa is the health of the
(asparagus, tea, spices)
digestive system. Its proper functioning is vital to
Increase exercise, dynamic behaviour: astanga

health as sarve pi roga mandagnihetavah: All dis-

yoga, metabolic exercise
eases are caused by a hypofunctioning digestive
Increase giving, sharing, letting go
system; Jatharagni is the root of all the digestive
Increase heat, saunas, deep massage with dry-
fires in the body. As it causes the increase or
ing powders, mustard oil
decrease of bhutagni and dhatvagni it should be
Increase drinks of hot water and spicy teas.
treated with great care. Astangardaya Samhita

Kapha is best treated by focusing on clearing Sarirasthana 3.7172.

mucus from the stomach and lungs: use expecto-
rants; long pepper, ginger, pepper or trikatu. Then Ayurveda classifies four different states of agni
use warming tonics such as ashwagandha, cinna- that point to certain constitutional tendencies
mon and chywanaprash. (Box 4.8).

A few ayurvedic dietary rules:

Box 4.8
Leave 46 hours between meals with no snacking.
The four types of agni
Fresh breath is a sign that the previous meal has
Vis ama-gni
been digested.
This is an irregular appetite and digestive system with
Eating in between meals weakens the agni.
signs of variable hunger, bloating, indigestion,
Eating foods with cold, wet and heavy qualities
intestinal cramps, constipation, dry stool,
weakens the agni.
borborygmus and gas. It is common in va-ta types.
Drink hot water or ginger water to stimulate
Use sweet and pungent flavours. Include hingashtaka,
trikatu and chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica) before you eat.
Do not overeat or undereat as both disrupt
digestive power.
Intense hunger but poor digestion is a pitta sign. Also, Treat agni with occasional fasts; use a monodiet
thirst, parched mouth, dry throat, loose stool and a (e.g. khicadi), hot lemon water and a seasonal
burning sensation in intestines. cleanse to keep digestion healthy.
Use mild sour flavours to dilute excess acid. Include Agni is increased by pungent, sour and salty
shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), guduchi (Tinospora flavours, so start a meal with these flavours
cordifolia) and amchur (Mangifera indica) to balance A low dosage of bitter taste taken before a meal
pitta. increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid in
Manda- gni the stomach, increasing digestion.
Weak hunger is a kapha sign. Also slow digestion, Agni-stimulating and increasing herbs are gin-
heavyness after a meal, sluggish bowels, bulky stool, ger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chitrak
feeling cold, sweet craving, stimulant craving. (Plumbago zylanica), cinnamon, long pepper
Use pungent and bitter flavours. Include trikatu, (Piper longum), guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia),
vacha (Acorus calamus) and cinnamon (Cinnamonum kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata). Use a small
zeylanicum). dose (0.51g) before meals to enkindle the
digestive fire.
Sama-gni Agni tonic herbs that build enduring
Balanced hunger and digestion; food is digested within digestive strength are pushkaramoola
4 hours with no excess craving or lack of interest. (Inula racemosa), kushtha (Saussurea lappa),
Use all 6 flavours and a balanced diet to maintain cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), musta
samagni. (Cyperus rotundus).
Yoga exercises to balance agni: stimulating the
fire practice (Agnisarakriya), abdominal massage
Tissue fires: dha-tvagni (nauli), lighting the skull breath (kapalabhati),
Another common factor in disease is the imbalance bellows breath (bhastrika), peacock (mayurasana),
of the tissue fires. If they are excessively active forward bend back stretching pose
then they consume any available nutrients and (pascimottanasana), fish pose (matsyendrasana),
cause tissue wasting; if they are underactive then the sun salutation (suryanamaskara).
they cause an excess of the dhatu and an obstruc-
tion of the channels. Treat the dha-tu
It is vital to the success of the treatment to aim the
See Appendix 1 for herbs that treat the dhatvagni of medicinal formula at a specific tissue where the
each tissue. disease is manifesting. This makes the treatment
precise and accurate.
Therapeutic treatment for balancing agni
The best advice is to follow the body. Try to eat See Appendix 1 for tables describing the following:
when hungry, gently stoking the digestive fire
with small meals and trying not to smother it with The signs of dhatu excess and deficiencies
foods that are excessively cold, heavy or wet. Tissue disturbance (dhatu dusti) caused by the
Do not aggravate it with excess spicy, oily or fried dosas invading the tissues
foods. Herbs that treat the dhatus.

ments for each pattern. This is patient-centred

The quality of a dhatu can be determined by the
quality and volume of its waste excretions along medicine at its best. Refer to the main texts, espe-
with the presenting signs and symptoms. For cially the Madhava Nidana, for a listing of disease
example, if there is excess mucus in a vata person names and categorisation of the different patholo-
then you may want to look at the quality of the gies of each disease. Along with the holistic ener-
tissue fire in rasa dhatu as it may be unable to getic approach, specific herbs known for their
transform the nutritious food resulting in excess curative effects on certain illnesses are also pre-
mucus. If there is too much mucus in a kapha scribed. For example, the therapeutic action of
type you may just need to address the diet and prabhava tells us what specific diseases individual
the overflowing symptoms will reduce. If there herbs treat; tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) treats fevers
is premature hair loss then you may need to and bilva (Aegle marmelos) treats diarrhoea, almost
address the metabolism of the tissue fire, the diet, regardless of the pathology.
or both, but the treatment should be directed at
regulating asthidhatvagni and eating bone-building See the Plant Profiles for the unique idiosyncrasies
foods. of each herb.

When a dos.a enters a dhatu it can create associated Sodhana: detoxify the whole system
symptoms that exacerbate certain tendencies of the and remove a-ma with pancakarma
dhatu. Taking rasa dhatu as an example; remember Reducing therapy (langhana) uses different cleans-
that rasa dhatu is rooted in the heart, is related to ing techniques (sodhana and samana) to remove ama
the skin, lymph and plasma, that its secondary (see also the next section) and the aggravated
product is menstrual fluid and breast milk and that dosas. Sodhana is primarily done through the prac-
its waste product is kapha. If vata enters rasa dhatu tice of pancakarma. Pancakarma represents the five
there will be more deficient rasa signs with dry- detoxifying therapies that remove the ama that has
ness, cracked skin and poor circulation; if pitta mixed with the dosas. It is usually used for long-
enters rasa dhatu there will be more heat signs term chronic conditions that are stubborn and dif-
affecting the organs associated with rasa, such as ficult to resolve. It is prescribed on a constitutional
skin inflammations, sore throat and fevers and if basis when the patient has sufficient strength and
kapha enters rasa then there will be excess rasa signs in the appropriate season. The weak and elderly
such as damp skin and lung problems with mucus, should not undertake the therapies, nor should
cysts and swollen lymph glands. they be performed in the summer or winter.
Pancakarma is a specialised subject and its study
Knowing these diagnostic signs and what they and practice takes much time and skill. Refer to
relate to, and most importantly how to differenti- technical literature for further details. Below is a
ate them, are the skills of the physician. summary of the techniques.
Interpreting them correctly, devising an appropri-
ate treatment plan and then selecting suitable These cleansing techniques give a clear insight into
herbs, diet and lifestyle regimen is the best path to the ayurvedic view on the movement of disease.
effective treatment. The process of pancakarma reverses the sequential
progress of illness through the six stages of disease
Treat the disease (vya-dhi) by guiding the diseased dosas and ama back
It is of course vital that you know the name of the through the three major pathways:
disease. Knowing the ayurvedic name of a disease
allows you to refer to the traditional wisdom, as The inner path (antar ma-rga)
recorded in the texts, on how to treat it. This This is the central passage that runs from the
allows you to make a differential diagnosis based mouth to the anus. It is the entire length of the
on the variable patterns of the disease making digestive tract. Even though it is inside the body it
your prescription specific to the patients present- actually comes directly into contact with the out-
ing symptoms and not just a disease name. This is side world. It is the pathway first affected by the
the real gem of practising Ayurveda. The same dis- dosas as it is the site of the first and second stages
ease is treated in many ways, giving specific treat- of disease; accumulation (caya) and aggravation


(prakopa). The dosas are relatively easy to clear from 1. Therapeutic emesis (vamana): emetic herbs such
here. Pancakarma draws the dosas and ama back into as madanphal (Randia dumentorium), vacha
this inner path before they are expelled. (Acorus calamus) and rock salt are given together
with strong decoctions of licorice (Glycyrrhiza
Outer path (ba-hya ma-rga) glabra) to clear kapha and pitta from the stomach
This is the periphery of the body including the rasa and lungs.
and rakta tissues. When disease appears here it has 2. Purgation (virecana): strong cathartic and
already entered the third stage of the disease process laxative herbs such as jaiphal (Croton tiglium),
(prasara). It has started to spread through the lym- aragwad (Cassia fistula), haritaki (Terminalia
phatic system and tends to manifest on the skin. chebula) or castor oil (Ricinus communis) are
given to clear pitta and kapha from the
Middle path (madhyama marga) intestines.
In between the inner and outer path, the middle 3. Enemas (anuvasana and niraha): in anuvasana
path houses the vital organs of the brain, heart, basti enemas, unctuous medicated oils and
lungs, liver, bladder and reproductive system. The ghees are used for pure vata diseases where
remaining tissues of muscle, fat, bone, nervous and there is good digestion. For niraha basti
reproductive tissue are also held in this central enemas, herbal decoctions using vata reducing
reservoir. When an aggravated dos.a arrives here herbs and formulas, such as dashmoola and
disease has already started to locate and manifest rock salt are used in vata diseases where
(the fourth and fifth stages of disease; relocation digestion is weak.
(sthanasamsraya) and manifestation (vyakti)). The 4. Nasal cleansing therapy (nasya): the head is
deepest tissues of the whole system are now steamed and medicated oil, such as anu tail, is
infected with imbalanced dosas and ama. This is applied to clear diseases from the head.
the main site of chronic disease and the final and 5. Blood-letting (raktamocana): pitta and blood tox-
sixth stage of disease is expressed here; the unique aemia is reduced by either giving blood or, more
characteristics of the disease (bheda). traditionally, by leeches. Susruta introduced the
used of blood-letting instead of one of the basti
As vata is the energy behind the actual movement treatments.
of disease it must be pacified to return the disease
along the path that it came. This is the purpose of After pancakarma should always come a period of
pancakarma; to oleate and sweat the subtle chan- tonification (brmhana) and rejuvenation (rasayana).
nels, to enkindle the digestive fire, to calm vata and This means using tonic herbs and a nourishing
loosen the aggravated dosas. This has the effect of diet. Ayurveda does not just leave a clean system,
purifying the opening of the channels so that the it nurtures it back to full strength. See the section
disease can flow back from the middle and outer below on treating the gunas.
paths to the inner path from where it can be
expelled. This is the theory behind the clinical Pacify the disease and remove a-ma
excellence of ayurvedic medicine. with samana
Where pancakarma is inappropriate due to the
Each level is carried out stage by stage. Firstly, strength of the patient, the season or lack of avail-
the accumulated dosas and ama must be loosened. ability, simple restorative treatments can be car-
Medicated oil massage (snehana), steam treat- ried out. This is known as samana and results in
ments (svedana), digestive herbs and a simple the pacification of the disrupted dosas. Anyone
diet are used to help to dislodge the toxins that can incorporate these practices into their daily life
have become fixed in certain parts of the body as it is a medical treatment as well as an excellent
and to guide them back to the digestive tract. preventative. It is a perfect regime for anyone
When this is finished the system is prepared for whose health is compromised or who has a sensi-
the treament that helps to evict the dosas. The sec- tive constitution. This treatment strategy is most
ond stage is the acts of cleansing. These are car- amenable to use in the western clinical setting
ried out sequentially with a five-day rest in and most lifestyles. It is practical, applicable and
between: effective.

are a tongue coating, bad breath, tiredness after

1. Dipana: enkindling the digestive fire by using eating, lethargy, feeling muzzy headed.
pungent, hot, drying herbs to stimulate the agni.
2. Pacana: digesting ama toxins and undigested Amapacana uses many of the same herbs as dipana
residues. but instead of taking them before a meal they are
3. Vrata or ksunnigraha: fasting. taken afterwards and usually at double the dose.
4. Trsna or ernnigraha: fasting from water. These hot herbs literally burn the ama. The indica-
5. Vyayama: exercise and yoga. tion for using pacana is when there is hunger but

6. Atapa: lightening, drying and reducing the dosas not enough fuel to fan the digestive flames. These
by sitting in the sun and raising the metabolism. spices are the fuel. Of course, when there are
7. Maruta: lightening and drying the body by sit- already inflammatory conditions, such as ulcers,
ting in the wind and by breathing practices. caution must be taken.
Vata mixed with ama (sama vata) affects the
1. D-pana: enkindling the digestive fire
colon causing stagnation in the lower abdomen;
The digestive fire is enkindled like a fire is built.
constipation and bloating are followed by pain,
Just as laying little bits of dry wood onto a fire
diverticulitis and may progress to arthritis and
feeds the flames, light and easy-to-digest food will
help the digestive system to grow stronger. On the
Pitta mixed with ama (sama pitta) upsets the
other hand a big damp log will cause a fire to
centre of the abdomen and stagnates the liver,
smoulder, just as a heavy rich meal is hard to
gallbladder and small intestine as well as the
digest and can clog the whole system. One of
blood as a whole. As pitta is hot and oily it
Ayurvedas central tenets is that like increases
creates hot and damp inflammatory conditions
like. Fire is increased by fire and, in order to build
in these areas and can cause a bilious liver,
the strength of the digestion, fire-like and pungent
ulcerated mucous membranes and infected
spices such as dry ginger and long pepper are
taken before meals. These agni-activating herbs can
Kapha mixed with ama (sama kapha) stagnates in
be used constitutionally; fresh ginger for vata, long
the stomach, chest, lungs and nasal area.
pepper for kapha and the warming but not exces-
Because the nature of kapha is to be wet, cold
sively hot coriander seed for pitta. Use about 12g
and heavy it has these effects in these areas
of each before a meal, then follow a sensible diet to
causing copious mucus, sinus congestion and
optimise healthy flames:
lymphatic congestion.
Avoid: cold things, ice, too much refrigerated Specific methods of reducing ama are listed below:
water, salads in winter, eating without hunger,
eating too much for your digestive capacity. Herbal therapy
Increase: light eating, warm meals, hot water, The bitter flavour reduces, dries and drains ama.
eating a small piece of fresh ginger mixed with The pungent flavour destroys and digests it. The
lime juice and salt before a meal, having a optimum method for the treatment of ama is the
short walk before you eat. combination of these flavours. Here are some
examples of herbal combinations to clear ama

2. Amapa-cana: removing toxins mixed with each dos.a:
Whenever there is low digestive fire ama accumu-
Sama vata: 1 part ginger (Zingiber officinale) and
lates. It is a sticky, thick, wet substance that blocks
1 part guggul (Tinospora cordifolia)
the channels of circulation (nutritional, nervous
Sama pitta: 1 part turmeric (Curcuma longa) and
and mental); this is the germ of all disease (sro-
1 part daruharidra (Berberis aristata).
torodha). It lowers immunity, stagnates energy and
Sama kapha: 1 part long pepper (Piper longum)
dulls the mind. We all have some in varying
and 1 part guduchi (Commiphora mukul)
degrees. Some examples of diseases mixed with
ama are high cholesterol, Candida albicans, hepatitis, NB: be careful of excess use of bitters in a sama vata
asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, gall- condition or of excess pungent for pitta types.
stones, arthritis, and tumours. Other signs of ama Herbs for reducing ama:


Anti-vata: fresh ginger, linseed, nutmeg, garlic,

Box 4.9
asafoetida, cumin, black pepper, fennel, castor Khicad. recipe
oil 1
3 cup split mung dal, 23 basmati rice (or other grain)
Anti-pitta: kalmegh, aloe vera, daruharidra, fen-
simmered in 34 cups of water (a ratio of 1:3 or 1:4)
nel, coriander, guduchi, neem for about 45 minutes without stirring.
Anti-kapha: dry ginger, cumin, black pepper,
Add 14 tsp organic turmeric, ginger, roasted cumin
pushkaramoola, punarnava, tulsi, vacha, gug- and coriander.
gulu, kutki Add a teaspoon of ghee at the end.
Add seasonal vegetables: spinach, peas, or seaweeds,
Other therapies to reduce ama
shitake mushrooms for an all-round healing, healthy
Sweating, fasting, hot water, wind and sun ther-
and agni-enkindling meal.
apy, vigorous exercise.

Anti-a-ma diet tendency to hold onto things, it can quickly

Emphasise pungent, bitter, astringent flavours. return balance to a system that can easily
Fruit: no sweet fruit, only sour: cranberry, become stagnant.
lemon, lime, grapefruit.
Vegetables: steamed sprouts, steamed vegeta- Another soothing way to fast is to do a mono-fast.
bles, some raw is good for pitta. Lots of greens. This is very useful if you have to work hard or are
Some microalgae and especially chlorella. depleted in any way. The supreme food, khicadi, the
No mushrooms, roots or excessively sweet original kedgeree, is specifically pacifying to all three
vegetables. dos.a (Box. 4.9). While fasting it can be useful to sip
Grains: no bread or pastries. Less wheat and hot drinks; try spicy teas of black pepper, cinnamon
oats. Kicharee, barley, quinoa, millet, rye, and cardamom to burn ama, clear toxins and relax
basmati rice. your contracting stomach.
Beans: mung; none for sama vata.
Nuts: none, some pumpkin seeds. Dietary therapy (a-ha-ra cikitsa-): a one-week cure
Dairy: none; goats milk is slightly astringent This is an amazing way to heal many disorders. It
and is less kapha-forming. is specifically used during convalescence, digestive
Meat: no shellfish, fish, fats, red meat, pork, eggs. problems, fevers, excess mucus and toxaemia to
Oils: none; ghee is acceptable in small quantities clear ama and enkindle the digestive fire:
as are mustard or linseed oil, which are drying.
1. Start with peya (liquid) diet: combine in a ratio
Sweeteners: none; sugar is ama-forming. Honey is of 1 part rice:16 parts of water. Cook for 1 hour.
acceptable (max. 2 tsp per day). Eat for 12 days
2. Follow this with leha (lickable) diet: semi-solid
Drinks: ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, diet. Rice:water at 1:8 for 12 days
dandelion root coffee. 3. Then, bojya (chewable) diet: soft diet. Rice and
water at 1:4 for 12 days. This is the same recipe
3. Vrata or ks.unnigraha: fasting
as khicadi.
Fasting is carried out to inspire a healthy hunger; a
4. Finally, bhaksya (firm) diet: this is the normal
true need for food taken in the balanced quantity.
ratio for cooking rice: rice and water at 1:2
Ks.unnigraha means to hold onto your hunger.
for 1 day and then eat a wider-ranging diet
Follow the guidance of a practitioner to guide you
as normal (Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana
through a fast that is appropriate for you:
Vata people can do a short fast on hot liquid Add a small amount of cumin and turmeric pow-
soups. der along with some fresh ginger and ghee (12 tsp)
Pitta constitution can do a liquid fast on fruit and a pinch of salt if appropriate.
juices such as grape or pomegranate.
Kapha types can do a literal fast; although this is The strength of the digestive fire dictates the quan-
a great struggle for them as it challenges their tity that should be eaten.

4. Tr.s.n.a or tr.n nigraha: fasting from liquids

(bhujangasana), bow (dhanurasana), fish (mat-

This means to fast from liquid intake. Extreme as syasana), shoulder stand (sarvangasana), triangle

this may sound, it can be very beneficial in water pose (trikonasana), matsyendras pose
diseases and kapha imbalances such as oedema, (matsyendrasana), twists, forward bends, abdom-
diabetes or kidney problems. It reduces the stress inal lock (uddiyana bandha), abdominal churning
on the water channels in the body (ambuvahasrotas). (nauli), alternate nostril breathing (nadi sodhana)
It also has the emotional affect of confronting your and the cooling breath (sitali pranayama) all help
inner thirst which, when out of balance, can over- to balance excess heat in the system. To balance
flow into desire. Grasping and holding onto sen- pitta yoga should be practised slowly to regulate
sual experience may manifest as a thirst for food, and moderate the system.
drugs, or extreme experiences. Fasting from liquid For kapha there are lung-expanding, thyroid-
can help to redress this imbalance. Always follow and kidney-strengthening and metabolism-rais-
the guidance of a trained health professional when ing exercises. The dynamic sun salutation (surya
fasting from liquids. namaskara), camel (ustrasana), bow (dhanurasana),
wheel (cakrasana), locust (salabhasana), fish
5. Vya-ya-ma: exercise (matsyasana), two angled pose (dvikonasana),
Exercise is good for you. But what sort of exercise lying spinal twist, neck lock (jalandharabandha)
is best? The modern phenomenon of sports mas- and bellows breath are all beneficial. To balance
sage therapists and physiotherapists as well as the kapha yoga practice should be vigorous and
steep increase in obesity and diseases related to a invigorating.
sedentary lifestyle suggest that many of us are not
taking the correct type of exercise in the appropri- 6. Atapa seva: sunbathing
ate amount. Ayurveda supports all exercise as long This treatment is very useful for lightening the
as it is the one for you. Pounding the heavy con- body, increasing the agni and treating bhrajaka pitta.
crete streets is not appropriate exercise for a vata Many conditions are improved by sitting in the
type with a constitution with such a delicate bone sun; certain types of eczema, psoriasis, arthritis,
structure. Vata types should do more relaxing and depression and water retention to name a few.
gentle exercise. Kapha people can do more vigorous Again it all comes back to who is doing what, how
exercise and it should be done regularly. Pitta and when. With the present holes in the ozone
should exercise regularly but moderate their ten- layer everyone must take care, especially fair-
dency to compete and push themselves. skinned pitta types, and should take extra precau-
tious and apply aloe vera gel when they go out in
Although the classical texts do not mention yoga the sun.
the two disciplines have blended over the last few
hundred years. There are yoga practices that can 7. Ma-ruta seva: wind-bathing
be used to reduce the dosas, strengthen the dhatus, This practice of receiving air is wonderful. How
increase agni and calm the mind for each humoral often do we just go outside and breathe? It specifi-
type: cally relates to the yogic practice of pranayama and
of becoming inherently tuned into deep slow
For vata there are pelvis-opening, balancing, breathing using a deep inhalation and long exhala-
inverse and lower abdominal manipulating tion. It is about imbibing prana; the life force surfs
poses. The forward bend (pascimottanasana), on the breath and flows deep into our tissues.
squatting poses, crow, tree pose (vrksasana), Specific problems such as asthma, bronchitis and
eagle pose (garudasana), plough (halasana), cat emphysema greatly benefit from this practice. Also
(marjarasana), equal breath (sama pranayama), people with a tendency to experience excessive
perennial lock (mahabandha) and humming bee anxiety and fear in their lives benefit from watch-
breath (brahmari pranayama) all help. To balance ing the breath flow in and out of themselves. It bal-
vata yoga practice should be calming, grounding ances pranavahasrotas, the channel carrying the
and relaxing. life-force around the system. This has a direct
For pitta there is an abdominal focus with long effect on the nervous system and manovahasrotas
limb stretching and inverse postures. The cobra of the mind. In fact the breath is the connecting

ayurvedic tonics are chayawanaprash, ghee and

principle between the body and the mind. A calm

breath leads to a calm mind and relaxed body. walnuts (Juglans regia).
Sitting in the wind and doing breathing practices
also helps to dry kapha and reduce excess ama Aphrodisiacs (va-jkaran.a)
(Hat.hayogapradipika 2.35,65). This refers to herbs that nourish the reproductive
organs, increase fertility, promote libido as well as
After integrating these practices into your life you prevent ageing. Herbs such as kapikacchu (Mucuna
are ready for rejuvenation. In fact, these practices pruriens), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and
alone will rejuvenate you; they will improve your amalaki (Emblica officinalis) are renowned repro-
quality of life, your experience of life and they may ductive tonics as well as being antioxidants.
well extend it.

Treat the gun.as by increasing the BUILDING AN AYURVEDIC FORMULA

qualities of sattva and reducing rajas There is a specific logic to creating an ayurvedic
and tamas formula (see Lad [2002a,b] for a superb transcrip-
As the emotions of passion and negativity are tion of the disease process and treatment selection).
ingredients of disease it is vital that they are It is based on a diagnosis that leads to a treatment
treated. The interconnected nature of mind and strategy that guides the creation of a prescription.
body mean that when one is upset the other is
destabilised. Many of the above treatments Remember the sequence:
increase sattva, especially the practices of strength-
1. Diagnosis
ening agni and rejuvenation.
2. Treatment principle
Rajas is removed by clearing pitta and balanced 3. Prescription.
by practising compassion and patience.
In a successfully blended prescription, one or two
Tamas is removed by clearing ama and kapha. If
herbs are combined for each level of the disease:
tamas is prevalent then selflessness and giving
are practices that can help to remove excess Disease-specific (vyadhi pratyanika)
slothfulness. Dos.a-specific (dos.a pratyanika)
Sattva is increased with unconditional love, self- Dhatu-specific (dhatu pratyanika)
lessness, peace and spiritual practice. Agni-specific (agni pratyanika).
This may also involve treating ama and the gunas
Rejuvenate with tonics and aphrodisiacs: within such treatments. The diagnosis guides you
rasa-yana and va-j-karan.a to the treatment principle and this guides you to
Rejuvenation involves brmhana (building therapy) the correct part of the materia medica, enabaling you
using tonic herbs such as ashwagandha (Withania to select the correct herbs for the pattern that is
somnifera), shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) and bala presented.
(Sida cordifolia) to nourish all the tissues, build the
strength, enhance ojas and strengthen immunity. It See the plant profiles in Chapter 6, and Appendix 1
also involves eating building foods like nuts, ghee for herbs that treat each dos.a, dhatu and agni.
and dairy products.
Dosage varies according to each treatment but it is
Tonics (rasa-yana) useful to lead with a high dose of the primary herb
In Ayurveda tonics are sweet, heavy and oily in to treat the most imbalanced factor. This can then
quality. The sweet flavour increases the quantity be supported with other herbs at lower doses for
and quality of the tissues as it is anabolic. So many the remaining disease influences.
of the modern wonder herbs that boost immunity
are full of immune-enhancing saponins and poly- For example, the treatment of asthma with aggra-
saccharides. The sweet flavour is tonifying and vated kapha in the rasa dhatu with a sluggish diges-
rejuvenating, but it must be of a high quality and tive fire causing phlegm, means that the treatment
fully digested to benefit the whole system. Popular principle is to reduce asthma, reduce kapha, clear

Good digestion without any signs of discomfort,

excess kapha from rasa dhatu, and to tonify the slug-
gish digestive fire. The following herbs could be belching, flatulence or borborygmus
selected: Clear voice
Relief from any pain or discomfort
Disease-specific: vasa (Adhatoda vasica) is a spe-
Proper functioning of the senses; hearing, feel-
cific herb for treating asthma and also reduces
ing, seeing, tasting and smelling
Clear complexion
Dos.a-specific: pippali (Piper longum) treats kapha
Appropriate length and quality of sleep; 68
dos.a and treats phlegm
Dhatu-specific: dry ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Regular elimination of stool, urine and sweat
treats kapha in the rasa dhatu
Constant energy with good stamina and ability
Agni-specific: tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) increases
to exercise
agni and clears phlegm and asthma.
Enthusiasm for life
Thus combined, the synergistic effect of the for- Balanced emotions; neither too happy with suc-
mula balances the forces that our health hangs on: cess nor too sad in times of difficulty
dos.a, dhatu, mala and agni. Regularly compassionate, generous and calm.

Ayurveda is about understanding who you are

RECOGNISING THE SIGNS OF SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT and then living in harmony with your own unique
AND GOOD HEALTH constituitional balance. It sounds simple. However,
the constant adjusting is difficult and requires sub-
A healthy appetite and a balanced desire for tle awareness.
food without cravings
Appreciation of the flavour of food and feeling Subh Labh
satisfied after eating Good luck!


The purpose of these case studies is to give some Nourish the plasma tissue
simple examples of how to arrive at an accurate Strengthen the digestive fire
diagnosis based on the presenting signs and symp-
toms of the patient, form effective treatment princi- The treatment principle is to first normalise her
ples and then create a unique formula based on bowel movements and digestion. She took triphala
this pattern differentiation. (a mix of amalaki, haritaki and bibhitaki) 4 pills at
night with 1 teaspoon of psyllium and hot water.
CASE STUDY 1: INSOMNIA She started to sip hot ginger water throughout the
A 32-year-old woman presented with insomnia as day and then to take 12 tspn hing-hashtaka with her
her primary complaint. On further enquiry she food. She was asked to only eat warm food and if
revealed that she was always bloated by the end she was under stress to avoid too much solid food
of the day, only had a bowel movement every (eating preferably soups). She took the main for-
other day and had recently been aware of her mula as prescribed
heart racing when under pressure. She also has
dry skin, low body weight and a light menstrual Her bowels soon normalised. The awareness of her
flow. She worked for a legal company, working to heartbeat and the feeling of having a tight chest
tight deadlines. Her appetite was good, in fact if stopped altogether. This helped enormously. She
she did not eat regularly then she felt weak. has now learnt a simple meditation technique and
Despite her hunger she did not always digest her feels much more in control of her life.
food well.
Box 4.10
Tongue: small, thin, pale, small cracks in the cen- Formula: insomnia
tre, dry and dirty coating at the back. Disease-specific (vyadhi pratyan-ka): jatamansi and
tagarah 20g
Pulse: thin, weak, no depth, a little rapid and Dos.a-specific (dos.a pratyan-ka): ashwagandha 15g
strongest at the distal point. Dha-tu-specific (dha-tu pratyan-ka): amalaki and
licorice 10g
Diagnosis Agni-specific (agni pratyan-ka): cardamom 5g
The diagnosis is high vata, with ama in the lower 1 tsp twice a day with warm almond milk
abdomen and deficiency of plasma tissue (rasa
dhatu). The disease category is insomnia (anidra)
with poor digestion (ajirna). CASE STUDY 2: ACIDITY
A 45-year-old man came complaining of heartburn
The high vata is fanning her digestive flames but after eating. He had hypogastric distension, burning
also disturbing her digestive ability to absorb the feelings in his stomach and chest and a sour taste in
food, hence the bloating. The constipation comes his mouth. He had loose bowel motions and a
from anxiety and tension in the tissues. The pri- strong appetite but did not feel that he digested
mary complaint, insomnia, is caused by stress and everything properly. He had a red face, felt warm
vata rebelling upwards instead of moving down and was very active but occasionally felt dizzy if he
and out. The high vata is bringing an excess of dry- was stressed. The heartburn was aggravated by
ness (ruksa) and lightness (laghu), which weakens wine, vinegar, spicy food and eating late at night.
the plasma tissues ability to nourish the heart and
keep her grounded. Tongue: red body with a thin yellow coating at the
Treatment principle
Normalise bowel movements and descend vata Pulse: rapid and jumpy. Very wiry in the middle
Calm the nervous system position in both arms.

Tongue: small, dry, cracked in the middle with some

The diagnosis is high pitta in the stomach with an red spots on the sides. Quivering and pale body.
intense (tiksna) digestive fire that is disturbing the
digestive system and causing ama. The disease cat- Pulse: weak, thin and faint all over but wiry in the
egory is acidity (amlapitta) and diarrhoea (atisara). middle positions.

Treatment principle Diagnosis

Balance the digestive fire with lightening therapy This is a case of aggravated vata obstructing the
Reduce acidity and ama with ama pacana flow of apana vayu with a weakness in the rasa and
Clear pitta with pitta sodhana rakta dhatus. This means that wastes cannot move
Stop diarrhoea downwards. This causes vata to backup and irritate
Pitta-reducing diet the blood. The aggravated blood tissue (rakta
dhatu) then aggravates pitta. So vata-pitta are aggra-
This formula quickly stopped the diarrhoea and vated which is irritating the menstrual channel.
burning sensations, especially when he followed a Dysmenorrhoea is known as krcchra artava and, in
diet with low salt, sour and spicy flavours. He still this case, the causes are weakness from poor
had some burning at night when he lay down. assimilation, recent childbirth and running outside
This gradually reduced and he stayed on a mainte- in the cold with cold invading the uterus.
nance treatment of triphala and aloe vera juice
Treatment principle
Box 4.11 Reduce pain
Formula: acidity Descend vata
Disease-specific (vyadhi pratyan-ka): manjishta and Nourish rasa and rakta dhatus
bilva 15g To regulate pitta and soothe the blood
Dos.a-specific (dos.a pratyan-ka): amalaki and licorice 20g Vata-reducing diet
A-ma-specific (a-ma pratyan-ka): guduchi and
After two cycles the pain had significantly
cardamom 10g
reduced, bowel symptoms calmed down and
Agni-specific (agni pratyan-ka): coriander leaf 5g
headaches stopped. She still felt run down if she
The herbs were mixed as a powder and 1 tsp taken
overdid it. She still had spots around the period,
with aloe vera juice before every meal.
which showed that some heat signs were present
from the aggravated blood and so Sariva was
CASE STUDY 3: DYSMENORRHOEA added to the formula.
A 30-year-old woman complained of painful
She continues to progress.
periods. She had an irregular 2530-day cycle with
a short and scanty flow that was always dark red.
Box 4.12
The menstrual cramps were a dull ache that
Formula: dysmenorrhoea
started on the first day and continued into day
Disease-specific (vyadhi pratyan-ka): shatavari and
two. She passed small and dark clots. She often
jatamansi or tagara 15g
had abdominal distension and constipation before
Dos.a-specific (dos.a pratyan-ka): ashwagandha and
the period and then diarrhoea during the period.
cinnamon 15g
She had acute headache in her temples and behind
Dha-tu-specific (dha-tu pratyan-ka): amalaki 10g
the eyes on the first day of the period. She also
Agni-specific (agni pratyan-ka): ajwan and fresh
got a few acne spots just before the period.
ginger 10g
Emotionally, she was more anxious and irritable
Taken with 2 tbsp of aloe vera juice as a carrier to the
before the period.
plasma and blood tissues
If the pain is very severe add turmeric, myrrh and
She runs her own company, has one young child
and is happily married. She loves exercising, often
Douche: dashmoola decoction or enema
running, as she says it helps her alleviate stress.
Regulate the bowel with triphala + hemp seeds
She is pale and thin.


References Further reading

Atreya 1999 Ayurvedic healing for women; herbal Atreya 1999 Ayurvedic healing for women; herbal
gynaecology. Samuel Weiser gynaecology. Samuel Weiser
Lad V 1996 Secrets of the pulse: the ancient art of Frawley D 1989 Ayurvedic healing. Motilal banar-
Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis. Ayurvedic Press sidass
Lad V 2002a Ayurvedic cleansing techniques: Lad V 1996 Secrets of the pulse: the ancient art of
Samana, Part one. Ayurveda Today January:16 Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis. Ayurvedic Press
Lad V 2002b Ayurvedic cleansing techniques: The primary texts: Madhava Nidana, Caraka Samhita,
Samana, Part two. Ayurveda Today March:16 Susruta Samhita, and Astanga Hrdaya Samhita.
Wujastyk D 2001 The science of medicine. Blackwell

Chapter Five


Elemental Ayurveda 111 Ayurveda and biological

Ayurveda, atomic structure function 113
and physiology 111 References 114

By knowing one science alone one cannot arrive at a proper conclusion. Therefore a physician should
study other sciences in order to arrive at a correct diagnosis
Susruta Sam.hita- Su-trastha-na 4.6

This chapter is an attempt to find some connec- As discussed in Chapter 2, Ayurveda reduces all
tions between ayurvedic theory and modern sci- of matter to the five elements (pacamahabhuta,
entific understanding. Ayurveda and energetic Box 5.1). These are understood to be the frame-
medicine as a whole are sometimes criticised for work of nature. They too are influenced by the
being too general; their holistic concepts appear natural forces of temperature, pressure and vol-
alien to the scientific mind. Whereas Ayurveda ume. We can say that the ayurvedic theory of
perceives the body as a matrix of interconnected matter shares some characteristics with the
systems, allopathic medicine focuses on the scientific view.
detail of the individual parts. Ayurveda excels at
understanding the whole picture, allopathy at When we go on to look at the different groups of
determining the minutiae. I am interested in how elements we can find correlations between them
each perspective can enhance the horizon of the and the humours. Gases such as hydrogen,
other. Here we can explore how allopathy can be helium and oxygen seem to have similar natures
understood more fully through ayurvedic con- and qualities as vata; they are light and ethereal.
cepts and vice versa. Although the comparisons Pitta is found in the reactive metals of phospho-
are not always exact, they reveal that the funda- rus and magnesium which share reactive, meta-
mental theories of Ayurveda are universal. bolic and combustible qualities. Kapha is found in
the heavy and denser elements of carbon, iron
ELEMENTAL AYURVEDA and the metals that are the solid building blocks
of matter. This shows that at room temperature
Chemistry is the science of matter. Simply put, the some of the elements are vata gases, some pitta
scientific understanding of matter is based on the interactive liquidsolids and some are kapha
atom that is made from a nucleus, protons and elec- non-reactive solids.
trons. Atoms combine to make molecules that form
the various states of matter. They literally give form
to our world. These states of matter can be solid, AYURVEDA, ATOMIC STRUCTURE AND PHYSIOLOGY
liquid or gas depending on various factors such as Here I want to explore some similarities between
temperature, pressure and volume. Water is a clear the dosas and modern physiology.
example; at room temperature it is liquid, below 0C
it is solid and above 100C it is a vapour (see Va- ta
Bloomfield & Stephens 1996). Vata can be seen as the master control system. Its
co-ordinating nature is mirrored by the regulatory
We can look at how these scientific concepts function of DNA existing in the nucleus of every
relate to the ayurvedic understanding of matter. cell. Vata is the regulator that facilitates and

of control. Pittas character also relates to the func-

guides the functioning of the cells just as the

DNA holds the genes that regulate the organisms tion of bile and hydrochloric acid that are also both
evolution. We also know that at the centre of liquid and combustive. The digestive functions of
every atom is space and that vatas expansive pitta are found everywhere from cellular metabo-
nature is dominated by the elements of space and lism to the digestive system itself. Just as enzymes
air. Space contains and limits the movement of are catalysts, so pitta is a metabolic catalyst for the
air. This air quality relates to vatas messenger whole system.
nature and it is this transferring activity that
moves information and nutrition across the cell Pitta is implicated in the endocrine system where
membranes. an imbalance often manifests as an excess or lack
of heat in the body. For example, menopausal hot
The nature of vata is also intimately related to the flushes, from an imbalance in the oestrogen-
functioning of the nervous system. The nervous progesterone levels, are a display of excess heat,
system is the communication network linking the while low thyroid function, due to low levels of
mind and body just as vata is considered to be the thyroxine, causes feelings of coldness that reveal
principle that regulates the movement of informa- a deficiency. Both conditions are often treated with
tion and feedback mechanisms around the whole pitta-balancing herbs. Another example connecting
system. The chemical transfer of messages in the pitta and hormonal balance is that just as pitta
brain is even known to involve a gas, nitric oxide manages the appropriate growth from childhood
(NO). Vata disorders often involve disorders
releasing gas, creating space and erratic move-
ments; from digestive gases causing bloating, to
osteoporosis causing holes in the bones, to nervous Box 5.1
system disorders causing spasms and shaking. The five elements of Ayurveda
Parkinsons disease is an example of this; an excess Earth (pr. thv), the element that has qualities of
of the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO) reduces being dense and heavy, is made from the nucleus,
the production of the neurotransmitter messenger proton and electron as the proton and electron
dopamine, which results in the instability of the give mass and substance to an atom.
nervous system. -
Water (ap), that is the connecting and structural

element, is the cohesive tendency that holds the

Pitta atom together and helps it join with other atoms to
Pitta has the quality of being the manager and make molecules. As atoms seek stability through
metaboliser. At a cellular level, pitta manifests in linking with other atoms by balancing the positive
the mitochondria that transform raw matter into and negative electromagnetic forces they are
energy. As discussed in Box 5.1, adenosine innately cohesive.
triphosphate (ATP) is released from the Fire (tejas), the element that relates to combustion

mitochondria and is the universal currency of and metabolism, is seen in the molecular energy
energy. The mitochondria are often referred to and release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that
as the powerhouse of the cells and pitta is the occurs in cellular metabolism. On the atomic level
powerhouse of metabolic functions. Pitta both electrons hold huge potential and when electrons
releases and manages energy. Some of pittas are freed from their orbits huge amounts of energy
physiological activities can be correlated to are unleashed. In molecules such as ATP the energy
some of the functions of amino acids that help is held in high-energy phosphate bonds and is
to build enzymes and hormones. released when these bonds are broken.
Wind (va yu), the force of motion, is reflected in the

These enzymes and hormones are the metabolic movement of electrons circulating around the
controls of the body that reflect pittas digestive, electron rings.
combustive and developmental functions. Like - -
Ether (aka sa), the subtle element that fills space, is

pitta these functions are dominated by the ele- the space that exists within the atomic structure
ments of fire and water. They are liquid and meta- and is at the centre of the nucleus (M Athique,
bolic. The water controls the fire from raging out unpublished work, 1997, 1998).

to puberty and from middle age to old age so it is The embryo

the release in hormones that influence the different The development of the embryo is also divided
stages of maturity. into three distinct layers. The unified egg cells
divide into the ectoderm, mesoderm and endo-
Kapha derm. The ectoderm relates to the outer covering
At a cellular level kapha gives structure to the and develops into the nervous system and skin
cell and is found in the fatty acid phospholipid that are both influenced by vata. The mesoderm,
bilayer that makes up the cell wall. Kapha col- the middle germ layer, develops into the vascular
lects in all other lipid tissue in the body as it system that includes the blood, lymph, heart, mus-
coats and protects the inner organs. Its predomi- cle, bone and urinary systems that are primarily
nance of the earth and water elements appears pitta in nature. (Although bone is frequently associ-
as the moisture in the body; interstitial fluids, ated with vata, some of its functions, such as man-
intercellular fluid, cytoplasm, synovial fluid, aging red blood cell production from the bone
cerebral fluid and the myelin sheath. It also marrow, can be related to pitta.) From the endo-
plays an important role as connective tissue that derm, the inner germ layer, comes the inner layer
is an interwoven matrix of tissue that links the of the mucus membrane lined digestive tract, res-
tissues of the body together. Kapha is the con- piratory system and urinary system that are regu-
tainer just as the earth contains water: cytoplasm lated by kapha.
within cell wall, blood and lymph in the vessels,
tissues within skin, chyme within the gastro- This three-tier pattern is then replicated in every
intestinal tract, and the neurons within the structure in the body from blood vessels, to bones
myelin sheath. to organs and to the mucous membranes; they
each have an inner epithelium layer through which
These structural and cohesive roles reflect the substances pass (vata), a middle layer containing
anabolic and creative kapha tendencies that exist muscles, blood and lymph (pitta) and an outer
internally. Interestingly, substances that are con- serous layer that holds structures together and
sidered to build kapha also increase semen, ova binds to the organism as a whole (kapha).
and reproductive essence; seeds, nuts, fruits and
tonic roots. Kapha is about creating, building and Digestion
holding onto energy. Kapha diseases often involve Another connection between ayurvedic theory
too much of this holding tendency with conges- and modern physiology is the process of diges-
tive heart disease, high cholesterol levels and tion. The functional processes of vata, pitta and
obesity being examples of diseases with patterns kapha are mirrored by the activities of ingestion,
involving accumulation and congestion. digestion and assimilation. For example, if diges-
tion moves too fast (vata) food cannot be digested;
too slow and it putrefies (vata); too much digestive
AYURVEDA AND BIOLOGICAL FUNCTION secretion (pitta) burns the stomach and intestinal
As we have seen the ayurvedic dosa system is a tri- lining; too little digestive secretion (kapha) means
partite model of natural processes. The processes that the food is not broken down. This link is fur-
of regulationcoordination, combustiontransfor- ther represented by the metabolic processes of
mation and generationcohesion are represented catabolism, metabolism and anabolism, which
by the functions of the vata, pitta and kapha help to release (vata), activate (pitta) and store
humours respectively. Here we can trace these (kapha) energy. If any of these processes become
functions and systems through the bodys exis- either excessive or deficient then they lead to dis-
tence. ease. (See Tillotson et al [2001] for further insights
into the physiological links between Ayurveda
Conception and modern science.)
Biologically, this tripartite nature is mirrored in the
movement together (vata) of sperm and ova that Homeostasis
results in their union and fertilization (pitta) that The universality of Ayurveda is reflected in its
leads to the growth (kapha) of the embryo. search for balance; its goal is the equilibrium of


the dosas, dhatus, agni and malas, just as the Like the heat of fire or the liquidity of water,
nature of all biological systems is homeostasis. Ayurveda is innate and its inherent nature is
Both Ayurveda and modern physiology recog- eternal.
nise that health is achieved through balance and
Caraka Sam. hita- Sutra-stha-na 30.27.
regulation of the internal systems. Ayurveda
describes this regulation via the humoral con-
cepts of vata, pitta and kapha while modern medi-
cine determines it through chemical pathways Bloomfield MM, Stephens LJ 1996 Chemistry and
and feedback mechanisms. Each has its place, the living organism. John Wiley, Chichester.
however, knowing how to utilise each particular
Tillotson AK, Tillotson NSH, Abel R, et al 2001 The
paradigm is the important question.
one earth herbal sourcebook. Kensington
Publishing Corporation, New York.

Chapter Six


Plant Profile Template 118 Daruharidra 170 Lotus 222

Plant Profiles Devadaru 171 Manjishtha 224
Ajmoda 120 Dhattura 172 Mint 226
Ajwain 122 Ephedra 173 Mustaka 228
Aloe 124 Fennel 175 Mustard seed 230
Amalaki 126 Fenugreek 177 Myrrh 231
Anthrapachaka 128 Frankincense (Indian) 179 Neem 233
Aragvadha 129 Garlic 181 Nutmeg 235
Arjuna 130 Ginger 183 Pepper 237
Ashoka 132 Gokshura 185 Pippali 239
Ashwagandha 133 Gotu Kola 187 Pit Shirisha 241
Bakuchi 135 Guduchi 189 Pomegranate 242
Bala 137 Guggulu 191 Psyllium 244
Bhallataka 139 Gurmar 193 Punarnava 246
Bhringaraja 141 Haritaki 194 Pushkaramoola 248
Bhumiamalaki 143 Hemp seed 196 Rhubarb 250
Bibhitaki 145 Hingu 197 Rose 252
Bilva 147 Jasmine 199 Safed Musali 254
Brahmi 149 Jatamamsi 200 Safflower 256
Cardamom 151 Kalamegha 202 Saffron 258
Castor 153 Kanchanara 204 Salt 260
Chiretta 155 Kapikacchu 206 Sandalwood 262
Chitraka 156 Karavella 207 Sariva 264
Chrysanthemum 158 Krishna Jiraka 209 Sarpagandha 266
Cinnamon 160 Kushtha 211 Senna 268
Cloves 162 Kutaja 213 Shankhapushpi 269
Coleus 164 Kutki 215 Shatavari 271
Coriander 165 Lemon and lime 217 Shilajit 273
Cumin 167 Lemongrass 219 Tagarah 275
Damanaka 169 Licorice 220 Tila 277

Trivrut 279 Vamsa Lochana 286 Vidari 292

Tulsi 280 Varuna 287 References 293

Turmeric 282 Vasa 288
Vacha 284 Vidanga 290

PLANT PROFILE TEMPLATE fluid effect on the mucous membranes; pene-

trating refers to its ability to travel deeply into the
The title name of the plants described is based
Dos.a effect: effect on the three functional princi-
primarily on their Sanskrit name apart from where
ples: kapha (K), pitta (P), vata (V), e.g. KV, P+
I have felt that it is more appropriate to use their
means reduces kapha and vata and increases pitta.
common English name. For example ginger
Dha-tu (tissue): affinity for each of the seven tissues.
(Zingiber officinale) is under ginger but calamus
Srotas (channel): affinity for any of the 16 channels.
(Acorus calamus) is under its Sanskrit name of
vacha. If you are searching for a herb please refer CONSTITUENTS
to the Index of Plant Names in Appendix 6, which The phytochemical ingredients, e.g. tannins, alka-
lists herbs under their Latin, Sanskrit and loids, essential oils. This book offers an overview
Common names. of the phytochemical content of the herbs.
The popular name of a herb in English (E), Hindi Ayurvedic categories of therapeutic activity, e.g.
(H), Singhalese (S), Marathi (M), e.g. ginger (E), Rasayanarejuvenative, Amana-sakatoxin
adrakh (H), sont (H). destroyer. This category also includes the prabhava
or specific effect of the herb above and beyond its
energetics. This is the physiological activity of the
The classical Sanskrit name, e.g. fresh = ardraka,
herb based on the empirical experience of
dry = sunth-. Each herb has many Sanskrit names.
ayurvedic doctors. I have used the Caraka Samhita,
I have just given the most common ones with
Susruta Samhita, Astangahrdaya Samhita,
appropriate translations where the herbs name is
Bhavaprakasa Nighantu, Yogaratnakara Samhita
an epithet as well as a proper name. If there is not
Nighantu and the Sarngadhara Samhita as the main
a translation then it usually means that the term is
textual reference sources for this information.
just a proper name.
Western categorisation, e.g. alterative, diuretic,
The botanical reference and plant part, e.g. Zingiber
diaphoretic, nervine.
officinaleRhizoma, followed by the botanical family
(Zingiberaceae). INDICATIONS
Specific conditions in which the herb is indicated,
e.g. lung conditions, skin problems.
For more details on these Energetics headings,
please refer to Chapters 2 and 3. COMBINATIONS
Rasa (taste): particular flavour of a herb, e.g. Special combinations of herbs that are commonly
pungent and sweet. combined to enhance their synergistic effect, e.g.
V -rya (energy): thermal quality of the herb, e.g. ginger and cinnamon to warm and stimulate
hot or cold. Heating and cooling are secondary digestion, clear kapha and regulate vata.
qualities, not quite as strong as hot or cold.
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect): This is the action
Areas where the herb may be considered inappro-
after digestion and is a category unique to
priate, e.g. rhubarb root in pregnancy
Ayurveda, e.g. salty becomes sweet.
Gun.a (quality): the nature of the herbheavy or SAFETY
light refer to digestibility; wet or dry refers to the Drugherb interactions.

(a traditional theory that the Creator has stamped

Daily dosage limits for dried, concentrated and a divine imprint on nature and that these charac-
tinctured herbs. teristics [growing conditions, leaf shape, colour or
Dosage is a slightly controversial issue because it smell] indicate a practical use; for example the
is not absolute for every herb or person. There are stalk of garlic has a hollow tube and it is indicated
no standardised dosages for these herbs, but there for breathing problems, while vacha [Acorus cala-
are reference ranges. I have given the dosages mus] thrives in damp conditions and is used to
that I use in my practice and, where they are clear mucus and catarrh). Also notes on the
given, that are recommended in the ayurvedic idiosyncratic (prabhava) nature of the herb, folk-
texts. One clear incompatibility in the profiles is lore, legal issues, special carrier mediums (e.g.
the comparison between the dry herb dose and honey), environmental concerns.
the tincture dose. This inconsistency exists as tinc-
tures extract more active ingredients, are more A NOTE ON REFERENCES
easily assimilated and are stronger than just the I have used many varied sources for reference
dry herb; therefore, where relevant, I have recom- material including primary and secondary
mended a proportionally lower dose. The tincture resources. The reader is referred to the bibliogra-
doses are not traditionally ayurvedic but are phy to find references to clinical and textual data.
extrapolated from Western herbal medicine use I have used data based on human clinical trials
and my own clinical experience. and in vitro experiments and have purposefully
avoided any clinical trials carried out on animals
NOTES for ethical reasons.
Comments that are of particular interest, growing
conditions, example of the doctrine of signatures


Common name Celery seed (E) Sanskrit Aja-moda Latin Apium graveolensSemen (Umbelliferae)

As with all members of the

Umbelliferae family with their
ascendant flower and seed heads,
this is a digestive lightener. Its
pungency and aromatic nature
activate the digestive process and
make light work of heavy food.
Literally meaning goats delight,
ajmoda is a delicious shrub.
Rasa (taste) Pungent
V - rya (energy) Heating INDICATIONS Urine Ajmoda seed is a specific
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect) Lungs Asthma, bronchitis, cough, herb for treating kidney and blad-
Pungent sinus congestion. It actively der discomfort from cold; frequent,
Gun.a (quality) Light, dry, helps to dilate the bronchioles by pale urine with lower backache
penetrating preventing spasm in the airways. and nocturia (Bhavaprakasa).
Dos.a effect VK, P+ It positively affects the flow of Caution should be observed in
Dha-tu (tissue) Plasma, marrow, prana and udana vayu. Excess kidney inflammation as the
nerve mucus accumulation, a sign of volatile oils may cause irritation
Srotas (channel) Digestive, aggravated avalambaka kapha is (BHMA 1992). Conversely, the
respiratory, nervous, urinary digested (Frawley & Lad 1994). vegetable stalk heals the urinary
Digestion Flatulence, borboryg- system afflicted with problems
CONSTITUENTS mus and intestinal cramps. Low from heat, such as urinary
Volatile oils D-limonene, alpha- agni is stimulated by the pun- irritation, cystitis, pain and
selinine, santalol, limonene-type gent volatile oils. Samana vayu is frequent, dark urination with
monoterpenes, phthalides regulated and apana vayu encour- burning.
Flavonoids Apiin, apigenin aged to flow freely downwards. Joints Ajmoda is a specific herb
Coumarins Bergapten, celeroside, It encourages the natural down- for rheumatism, arthritis and
isopimpinellin ward movement of digestion gout (Bone 2003). It directly
(Bone, 2003) (Tierra 1988). reduces pain by assisting
Nerves Spasms, cramps and excretion of inflammatory
ama toxins via the
D-pan-ya Awakens digestion muscular tension. Obstructed
Pa-caka Digestive vata is released by reducing ten-
Su-laprasamana Alleviates intes- sion throughout the whole nerv-
tinal spasms ous system; this directly COMBINATIONS
Sva-sa Benefits breathing regulates the tension versus * Ginger, fennel, cardamom,
relaxation balance in the smooth cumin, coriander for
Anuloma Mild laxative, corrects
muscles. Ajmoda benefits heart obstructed vata and digestive
the flow of vata
Amana- saka Toxin digester pain caused by nervous constric- discomfort.
tion (Bhavaprakasa). As an anti- * Pippali, anthrapachaka, haritaki
BIOMEDICAL ACTION spasmodic with an affinity for for vatakapha-induced cough.
Antispasmodic, carminative, the lower abdomen it can also * Jatamansi, brahmi, tagara for
nervine, galactogogue, diuretic, help ease the pain of dysmenor- debilitated nervous system and
bronchodilator, expectorant rhoea and menstrual cramps. high vata.

High pitta; hyperacidity. It is safe No drugherb interactions are 250 mg5 g per day or 315ml
in pregnancy despite mistaken known. per day of a 1:3 @ 60% tincture.
concerns regarding the contra-
indicated apiol being contained
in celery seed (Bone 2003).

Ajmoda grows in dry soil; according to the doctrine It regulates pra-n.a, uda-na, sama-na and apa-na va-yu,
of signatures this indicates its ability to oppose which helps to balance the entire nervous system.
moisture and absorb damp mucusy conditions. While there is some concern regarding the
It clears ama and general stagnation; it has an phototoxicity of its furanocoumarin content, celery
aromatic nature that warms and disperses cold, wet seed is a very safe remedy. Caution should be
and damp symptoms. observed if using ultraviolet treatment (Bone 2003).
Its pungent aroma is expansive and opening and,

like the petals of its flower head, is dispersing and

spreading outwards.


Common name Bishops weed (E), Ajwain (H) Sanskrit Yava- n-, Yava- nika- , Agnivardhana
Latin Trachyspermum ammi syn. Trachyapermum copticum, Carum copticum/roxburghianum/ajowan,
Ptychotis ajowanSemen (Umbelliferae)

Deliciously aromatic, ajwain is a

wonderful remedy for sluggish
digestion and coughs. A truly
warming seed.
Rasa (taste) Pungent, bitter
V -rya (energy) Heating
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect)
Gun.a (quality) Light, dry, pene- INDICATIONS the lower abdomen, reproductive
trating Digestion Specifically indicated system and lungs. Use in men-
Dos.a effect VK, P+ for low digestive fire (mandagni). It strual cramping, colic, wheezing
Dha-tu (tissue) Plasma, marrow, combines warming digestive pun- and general anxiety. As it benefits
nerve gency with antispasmodic and bit- the whole nervous system it can
Srotas (channel) Digestive, respi- ter activity; antiflatulent, digestive help to lift the sluggish lethargy
ratory, nervous, urinary cramps and sluggish digestion. of mild depression. It normalises
CONSTITUENTS Also benefits worms and fungal the flow of vata and all the pranas
Essential oils Thymol, dipentene, infections of the intestines (Swami around the body. By aiding udana
camphene, myrcene, limonene Prakashananda Ayurveda vayu, the prana regulating speech
Glycosides Research Centre 1992). It is spe- and enthusiasm, and by clearing
Fatty acids cific for digesting ama and stag- the lungs and throat, it opens the
(Williamson 2003) nant toxins within the digestive way for clear communication
tract. It works on samana vayu, the (Frawley & Lad 1994).
prana that controls digestion in the Urine As a warming diuretic it
D-pan-ya Awakens digestion
centre of the abdomen, and stimu- can clear urinary frequency
Pa-caka Digestive
lates pacaka pitta, the pitta subtype from cold. It also benefits painful
Su-laprasamana Alleviates intes-
overseeing digestion in the small urination caused by calculi.
tinal spasms
intestine. It is specifically indi-
Stanyajanana Promotes breast
cated for hiccups, belching and COMBINATIONS
Sva-sa Benefits breathing
rebellious apana vata moving * Haritaki, amalaki, fennel,
upwards instead of downwards. cumin for digestive sluggish-
Anuloma Mild laxative, corrects
Lungs As an antispasmodic it ness and bloating.
the flow of vata
- effectively eases wheezing and * Pippali, bibhitaki, vasaka for
Amana- saka Toxin digester
constricted lungs due to vata and wet cough with white phlegm
Su-laprasamana Alleviates pain
cold. Used where there is white and asthma.
Kr.mighna Kills parasites
Va- takaphahara Alleviates vata
and copious phlegm with high * Brahmi, gotu kola, ashwa-
avalambaka kapha. Also beneficial gandha for mental tension.
and kapha
in sinus and nasal congestion; it * Shatavari, ginger, turmeric,
BIOMEDICAL ACTION stimulates and opens the chan- rose for menstrual pain.
Antispasmodic, carminative, nels of the head (manovahasrotas). * Gokshura, bhumiamalaki,
nervine, analgesic, diuretic, bron- Nerves Ajwain relaxes tension in manjishtha and shilajit for uri-
chodilator, expectorant, the nervous system; especially in nary stones from kapha.

Acidity; high pitta; during preg- No drugherb interactions are 250 mg5g per day or 315ml
nancy. known per day of a 1:3 @ 60% tincture.

This aromatic member of the Umbelliferae family It reduces va-ta and kapha due to its hot and
thrives in the dry, sandy soil of central and western penetrating nature.
India, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. One of its Sanskrit names, agnivardhana, means
It can be used alongside or instead of ajmoda as strengthening the digestive fire.
they have very similar properties.


Common name Aloe vera (E) Sanskrit Kuma-r- Latin Aloe indica/vera/barbadensisHerba/ Succinum (Liliaceae)

The Indian name for aloe vera is Raktapitta Alleviates bleeding

kuma-r- meaning young maiden, D-pana Enkindles the digestive
which reveals its affinity for the fire for pitta
female menstrual cycle and its A mapa-cana Encourages the
rejuvenative powers for maintain- clearing of ama
Vis.ahara Destroys poisons
ing youthfulness.
Pl-hayakr.dvr.ddhiha- ra Reduces
ENERGETICS inflammations of the spleen and
Rasa (taste) Bitter, sweet liver
V -rya (energy) Cold Granthi Clears tumours
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect) Visphot.a Removes pustules
stretch marks. Very beneficial
Gun.a (quality) Heavy, unctuous, BIOMEDICAL ACTION
taken internally for hot, inflamed
slimy Emmenagogue, cholagogue, vul-
pitta conditions; eczema, urticaria,
Dos.a effect VPK= as the gel and nerary, alterative, anti-inflamma-
ulcers, acne. Specific for use in
juice; dried gum powder (bola) tory, demulcent, laxative,
jaundice and viral hepatitis.
aggravates V immune enhancing, antiviral,
Digestion The gel of the inner
Dha-tu (tissue) All tissues antitumour.
portion of the leaf is a mild laxa-
Srotas (channel) Digestive, excre-
INDICATIONS tive as its bitter principle works
tory, circulatory, female repro-
Gynaecology The gel and juice via the liver to encourage the
are salutary when there is excess release of bile. This effect can
CONSTITUENTS bleeding or clots. As kumari help to regulate blood sugar in
Saccharides Polysaccharides; clears the liver it directly affects diabetics and lipid levels in
acetylated galactomannan raktavahasrotas and the flow of hypertriglyceridaemia (Plaskett
known as acemannan or alo- pitta in the blood. This affects the 1996). As it is a cooling and
everose, glucose artavasrotas, the menstrual chan- demulcent herb that directly
Phytosterols -sitosterol nel, as it is responsible for regu- clears pitta and heals mucous
Fatty acids Gamma-linolenic lating the uterus. It is a membranes it is a specific for
acid wonderful tonic for the female hyperacidity, peptic ulcers,
Enzymes, amino acids reproductive system. Its cooling ulcerative colitis and any
Vitamins B, C, E, choline and unctuous properties make it bleeding from the intestines
Glycosides Anthraquinones; aloe very effective for treating the hot (Murray 1992). Its ability to
emodin, aloin, barbaloin (in and dry symptoms of regulate bacteria levels in the
outer leaves) menopause (Bhavaprakasa). intestines indicates use in
(Murray 1992, Williamson 2002) Skin The gel contains polysaccha- Candida albicans and as a remedy
AYURVEDIC ACTION rides that are specifically healing for improving gastric and
Vran.aropan.a Wound healing for the skin and mucous mem- intestinal function (Bland 1985,
activity branes (Murray 1992). It has an Murray 1992, Bone 2003). The
Bhedan-ya Purgative (powder) affinity for bhrajaka pitta and dry and powdered extract of the
Rasa- yana Rejuvenative for the enhances the quality of the skin; leaf (also known as cape aloes) is
skin, intestines and female repro- used topically to treat psoriasis, strongly purgative and benefits
ductive system ulcers, eczema, seborrhoeic der- pitta types. It should only be
Kuma- r-rogaghna Alleviates men- matitis and mouth ulcers. One of used in the short term.
strual diseases the best ayurvedic herbs for heal- Eyes As a netrarogaghna herb it
A-rtavajanana Promotes menses ing burns, scars, wounds and destroys eye diseases. Applied

externally it is very soothing for matory skin diseases (use exter-

eye inflammation and eyelid nally and internally). No drugherb interactions are
swelling. * (powder) Myrrh, turmeric is known
used as a uterine cleanser.
* (powder) Fennel, cardamom to
* (juice) Rose, shatavari, man- prevent griping.
(Powder/bola) 100500mg per
jishtha for excessive menstrual day (short-term only), (juice)
bleeding and menopause. CONTRAINDICATIONS 10200ml per day, (gel) exter-
* (juice) Shatavari, licorice, musta During pregnancy (powder). nally, as needed.
for GIT inflammation. Powder in vata constipation.
* (juice and gel) Turmeric, neem,
kutki, manjishtha for inflam-

Aloe grows wild in the dry parts of India and is The herbs are ground together with aloe pulp until
excellent at opposing dryness. the mixture is dry. This adds pitta-reducing qualities
It is a marvellous vehicle for carrying medicines to to the preparation.
all the tissues, especially the plasma, blood and Its most famous preparation is kuma-r- a-sava, a
reproductive tissues. naturally fermented medicated wine for treating the
It is considered to be a hero herb in that it has an above conditions.
affinity for all the seven tissues and it regulates all Mix with ginger for va-ta and turmeric for kapha to
three dos.a. This makes it the perfect vehicle to carry enhance its regulating effects on those dos.a.
the prescription to the correct part of the body. Kala bol is the solid gum obtained after boiling the
It is a common trituration ingredient in many whole leaf juice. It is a strong purgative.
formulas; e.g. a- rogyavardhin- and kaishore guggul.


Common name Indian gooseberry (E), Amla (H) Sanskrit Amalak-, Dha- tr- Latin Emblica
officinalisFructus (Euphorbiaceae)

Amla literally means sour;

another name for amalaki is
dha-tr.-; dha-tr.- means mother or
nurse, indicating that amalaki is
the ultimate carer and healer.
It is the major ingredient in
Cyavanapra-sa-, the elixir tonic paste
that is a superb rejuvenative for
the lungs, all three dos.as and the
reproductive system. Use
J-van-ya Promotes energy
amalaki for reducing inflammation
pation, ulcers, acidity, gastritis,
in the digestive tract, assisting the Sukrala Increases reproductive colitis, hepatitis, haemorrhoids.
bowels and strengthening the fluids Especially useful in inflamma-
heart. Vr.s.ya Increases sexual potency tory and bleeding conditions of
ENERGETICS Hr daya Heart tonic the intestines. A small dose con-
Rasa (taste) All but salty; prima- D-pan-ya Awakens digestion stipates while a larger dose is a
rily sour, bitter, astringent. Raktasodhana Purifies the blood laxative. It is a very effective
Pungent and sweet are second- Raktavardhaka Nourishes rakta liver cleanser; its sour flavour
ary dhatu squeezes the liver, and its
V -rya (energy) Cooling Raktapittahara Cures bleeding antioxidant properties protect it
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect) diseases (Tillotson 2001).
Sweet Tridos.aghna Alleviates all three Heart Its affinity for the blood
Gun.a (quality) Light, dry dosa helps to nourish and protect the
Dos.a effect All dosas are reduced Kesya Hair tonic heart. It protects by reducing ele-
(tridosaghna) but primarily PV, Pramehaghna Destroys urinary vated cholesterol and healing
K+; increases ojas diseases and diabetes arterial damage. It is a super
Dha-tu (tissue) All tissues are Medhya Tonic to the mind antioxidant and a tonic for gen-
affected, especially blood and Anuloma Corrects the flow of eral debility and weakness; use
muscles vata for palpitations and for recovery
Srotas (channel) Circulation, Virecana Laxative post-illness (Tillotson 2001). It
digestion and elimination Stambhana Astringes and binds helps to nourish rakta dhatu and
Caks.us.ya Benefits the eyes enkindles raktadhatvagni to func-
CONSTITUENTS tion efficiently, hence alleviating
Organic acids Ascorbic acid BIOMEDICAL ACTION
deficiency conditions such as
(Vitamin C) (750mg per 10g fresh Antacid, anti-inflammatory,
anaemia that can affect heart
fruit or 23mg per g dry), tannin antipyretic, alterative, adapto-
function. It specifically pacifies
Bioflavonoids Quercetin, kaem- gen, digestive, laxative, hepato-
an aggravated sadhaka pitta and
pherol protective, astringent,
this influences the clarity and
Polyphenols Gallic acid haemostatic, antioxidant, car-
calmness of the mind (medhya
Cytokinins Zeatin diotonic, nutritive, ophthalmic,
(Shishoo 1997, Williamson 2002) tonic, aphrodisiac
Metabolic disorders Diabetes
AYURVEDIC ACTION INDICATIONS (pittaja prameha type) is treated
Rasa- yana Rejuvenative Digestion Specifically indicated by its microcirculatory-stimulat-
Va- j-karan.a Aphrodisiac for digestive sensitivity; consti- ing and ojas-enhancing proper-

ties, anaemia due to excess bile radiotherapy and chemotherapy

vitiating the blood, and hair loss treatments. Caution in high kapha and ama.
from excess pitta burning the Contraindicated in cases of diar-
roots of the hair (Bhavaprakasa, rhoea, and dysentery at high
Paranjpe 2001). The oil is espe- * Haritaki, psyllium for constipa- doses.
cially good at alleviating hair
loss and early greyness. It is a * Shatavari, licorice for acidity, SAFETY
ulcers and gastrointestinal tract
renowned rejuvenative and No drugherb interactions are
(GIT) inflammation.
adaptogen famed for slowing known
* Arjuna, bala, bibhitaki for heart
age (vayahsthapana), increasing
conditions with arrhythmia. DOSAGE
virility, promoting immunityand
inducing balanced health * Guggulu for hyperlipidaemia. 250mg30g per day or 115ml
(satmikarana). Consider using * Gurmar, turmeric, neem, shila- per day of a 1:3 @ 25% tincture.
jit, black pepper for diabetes.
amalaki as an immune restora-
tive and hepatoprotective during * Kutki, neem and guduchi for
liver disorders.

The tree that yields these gooseberry-like fruits and has a sweet post-digestive effect. Amalaki is a
grows throughout India. The Varanasi variety is rare exception to the rule that sour aggravates pitta
considered to be the best. (As.t.a-ngahr.daya Sam.hita- ).
The fruits of the cultivated variety are large and Amalakis prabha-va is having a sattvic effect that
fleshy, while the wild fruits are small. raises the quality of consciousness and the overall
Its massive Vitamin C content is one of the highest in wellbeing of the body.
the vegetable kingdom (20 times that of an orange), Amalaki relieves va-ta via its sour taste, pitta by its
and it is heat stable due to the tannin content sweet taste and cold energy, and kapha by its
maintaining stability. The stability of the Vitamin C astringent taste and dry nature; it thus calms all
content in Cyavanapra- sa- has been questioned three dos.as.
(Bhattacharya et al 1999, Khopde et al 2001). Clinical trials report a cardioprotective effect as well
Although amalaki has a predominantly sour flavour as a reduction in serum cholesterol levels indicating
it can increase the agni and digestive function an antiatherogenic effect (Tillotson 2001).
without aggravating pitta. It is energetically cooling


Common name Indian ipecac (E) Sanskrit Antra-pa-caka Latin Tylophora indica/asthmaticaFolium

This climber grows all over the

Indian plains. Its viney nature
reflects its ability to spread,
diffuse and ascend upwards
through the lungs. Anthrapachaka
literally means digestion in the
entrails relating to its ability to
remove parasites from the
antiallergenic, protozoal, anti- CONTRAINDICATIONS
tumour, immunosuppressant. Nausea, as it encourages a
ENERGETICS movement upwards and
Rasa (taste) Bitter INDICATIONS outwards. Contraindicated in
V -rya (energy) Cooling Lungs Asthma, bronchitis, rhinitis, pregnancy.
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect) hayfever; allergic conditions of
Sweet the respiratory tract. Human SAFETY
Gun.a (quality) Dry, light clinical trials report the efficacy of No drugherb interactions are
Dos.a effect VPK=, primarily PV its antiallergenic effect, proving known
Dha-tu (tissue) Plasma, blood, beneficial in reducing asthma
nerve DOSAGE
(Bone 1996).
Srotas (channel) Respiratory, 250500mg dried or 1 12ml
Digestion Amoebic dysentery,
excretory per day of a 1:5 @ 45% tincture
diarrhoea; it has an antiprotozoal
for up to 10 days continuously
action and is antispasmodic.
Seen as an effective replacement
Alkaloids Tylophorine, tylophori-
for ipecacuanha (Nadkarni 1954).
Immunity Allergies, autoimmune NOTES
(Bone 1996)
disorders; arthritis (Nadkarni As it is a powerful herb with

AYURVEDIC ACTION 1954). cumulative toxicity use only

Sva-sa Benefits breathing under the guidance of a quali-
Anuloma Redirects the flow of COMBINATIONS fied practitioner.
vata downwards * Licorice, pippali in asthma, Use for a maximum of 10 days

Recaka Aids expiration rhinitis and cough from high continuously in any one month
Raktasodhana Blood cleanser vata. and stagger treatment to avoid
* Ashwagandha, bala in compro- side-effects of possible nausea
BIOMEDICAL ACTION mised immunity. and vomiting (Tillotson 2001).
Expectorant, emetic, antispas-
modic, antipyretic, alterative,

Common name Purging cassia (E), Amaltas (H) Sanskrit Arag-vadha Latin Cassia fistulaFructus, Folium

A gentle laxative used to clear pitta

from the intestines.

Rasa (taste) Sweet
V -rya (energy) Cold
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect)
Gun.a (quality) Heavy, unctuous
Dos.a effect VPK
Dha-tu (tissue) Plasma, blood
Srotas (channel) Digestive,
aggravated. As a gentle laxative * Amalaki for bleeding condi-
CONSTITUENTS it is used in children, the elderly tions.
Glycosides and in pregnancy where consti- * Nagkeshar, gotu kola for piles.
Anthraquinones Fistulic acid, tutionally appropriate. It
sennosides descends apana vayu and clears
Even though it is traditionally
Sugars Saccharose flatulence. It is a specific remedy
used in pregnancy, as it causes a
Sterols to help ease the discomfort of
downwards movement it must
(Swami Prakashananda piles (Bhavaprakasa).
be used with caution.
Ayurveda Research Centre 1992,
Williamson 2002) Skin By helping to eliminate SAFETY
pitta toxins from the rasa and No drugherb interactions are
AYURVEDIC ACTION rakta dhatu it benefits skin known
Kus t haghna Alleviates skin aggravations by cleansing the
diseases blood. Most useful for hot and DOSAGE
Kan.d.u-ghna Stops itching damp skin conditions with itch- 215g per day.
Recana Laxative ing, suppuration and inflamma-
Sram . sanottama The best bowel tion (Caraka Samhita,
cleanser Williamson). NOTES
Jvaraghna Reduces fevers Bleeding Helps in bleeding from This medium-sized tree grows
Anulomana Directs vata down- any of the mucous membranes all over India.
wards (Paranjpe 2001). Aragvadha literally means
Raktapitta Stops bleeding Fever The ayurvedic adage is to remover of diseases.
purge a fever after it breaks, -
It pacifies vata and purges pitta
BIOMEDICAL ACTION natu reco jvarani, and aragvadha
Laxative, alterative, febrifuge and kapha.
is specifically indicated for It loses its properties on boiling,
cleansing the bowel after a fever so should be taken as an
(Bhavaprakasa). infusion or a powder.
Digestion Beneficial where there
is constipation from heat drying COMBINATIONS
the fluids in the colon. Specific * Haritaki as a laxative.
for high pitta in the intestines * Manjishtha, neem, kutki for
where pacaka and ranjaka pitta are inflammatory skin conditions.


Common name Arjuna myrobalan (E), Arjun (H) Sanskrit Arjuna, Kakubha Latin Terminalia
arjunaCortex (Combretaceae)

Arjuna means white or shining,

named after its bark which literally
reflects light wherever this huge
tree grows. Its name is also associ-
ated with Arjuna, one of the
heroes of the great Indian epic, the
Mahabharata. The pale white bark
of the arjuna tree moults naturally
once a year; its new skin bringing
new life. It is harvested when the Raktastambhaka Vulnerary, stops movement of vyana vayu in the
tree is mature, thus attesting to its bleeding heart and regulate circulation.
Sandha-n-ya Mends bones Lungs Its affinity for the chest
ability to prolong life, protect the
Pur-s.asam -
. grahan. ya Constipative directs arjuna to the lungs and
elderly and strengthen the heart. - -
Kasasvasahara Alleviates cough can help alleviate productive
ENERGETICS and breathing disorders coughs with copious mucus in
Rasa (taste) Astringent, bitter Kaphapittajit Conquers kapha and bronchitis and asthma due to
V -rya (energy) Cooling pitta excess kapha. It can also treat
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect) Udardaprasa-ran.a Alleviates haemoptysis from high pitta.
Pungent urticaria Liver Cirrhosis; it improves liver
Gun.a (quality) Light, dry function and inflammation
Dos.a effect Tridoshic, KP- (Dwivedi 1987).
Cardioprotective, cardiotonic,
Dha-tu (tissue) Plasma, blood, Skin Useful as an alterative for
hypolipidaemic, hepatoprotec-
bone, reproductive clearing the skin of pitta inflam-
tive, alterative, diuretic,
Srotas (channel) Circulatory, mations; acne, acne rosacea, pruri-
reproductive tus and urticaria (Paranjpe 2001).
INDICATIONS Tissue Its wound healing ability
CONSTITUENTS Heart Angina, congestive heart is demonstrated in post-trauma
failure, cardiac arrhythmia, healing of scars, post-operative
Triterpenoid saponins
hypertension have all showed recovery and repairing fractures.
Arjungenin, arjunglycocides
signs of improvement in human A paste or tincture applied exter-
Flavonoids Arjunone, arjunolone
clinical trials. Arjuna has also nally can rapidly hasten healing
been shown to reduce total cho- (Paranjpe 2001). It is used inter-
(Bone 1996)
lesterol and triglyceride levels nally and externally for healing
AYURVEDIC ACTION (Dwivedi et al 1987, Dwivedi & diabetic ulcers.
Hr.daya Heart tonic Jauhari 1997). It reduces inflam- Reproductive tissues Its astrin-
Varn.ya Ulcer healing, diabetic mation (P) and congestion (K) gency prevents premature ejacu-
ulcers that can damage the heart. Used lation and uterine bleeding.
Pramehaghna Urinary disorders, to treat emotional disturbance
diabetic problems and broken heart. It strengthens COMBINATIONS
Medas-hara Reduces fat tissue the muscles of the heart as well * Ashwagandha, amalaki, bala
Mu-travirecana Diuretic as toning the capillaries and for cardiac disorders associated
Va-j - karan.a Aphrodisiac improving flexibility, which with hypofunction.
Raktasodhana Purifies excess helps to prevent high blood pres- * Turmeric, kutki for hepatic dys-
pitta from the blood sure. It helps to balance the function.

* Sariva, sandalwood, neem,

manjishtha for skin problems Pregnancy, constipation 16g per day (dried bark) or
with inflammation. 315ml per day of a 1:3 @ 45%
* Guggulu, frankincense, myrrh No drugherb interactions are
for high cholesterol and con-
gestive disorders.

Arjuna is a huge tree growing up to 25m. It loves Decocting the bark activates the triterpenoid
riverbanks and lots of water, growing all over India saponins. It has traditionally been boiled with milk or
and Sri Lanka. used as a medicated ghee, Arjuna ghr.ta, to add to its
Arjuna is also the name of the legendary hero tonic properties (Cakrapa-n.idatta, Tillotson 2001).
figure of the Mahabharata. He brings strength, Although originally classified in Caraka as a
fortitude and protection to his family just as arjuna raktastambhana herb, used for stopping bleeding, it
brings these qualities to the body. was only later writers (Va-gbhat.a, Cakrapa-n.idatta)
who classified it as beneficial for the heart (hr.daya).


Common name Ashok (H) Sanskrit Asoka Latin Saraca indicaCortex (Caesalpiniaceae)

Ashoka is a famous uterine tonic

specifically used for excess bleed-
ing and pain. Lord Buddha was
born under the ashoka tree and
Lord Rams wife S-ta was held
captive in an ashoka grove in
Sri Lanka. It literally means
remover of sorrow, attesting to its
ability to cure pain and discomfort.
Rasa (taste) Bitter, astringent
BIOMEDICAL ACTION they are aggravated by vata
V - rya (energy) Cold
Astringent, constipative, uterine (Gogte 2000).
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect)
tonic, alterative, analgesic, Heart Its nourishing effect on the
diuretic, cardiac tonic circulatory system makes it a
Gun.a (quality) Light, dry
useful remedy in cardiac weak-
ness and arrhythmia.
Dha-tu (tissue) Blood, muscle, fat, Gynaecology A very useful herb
reproductive to treat menstrual disorders asso- COMBINATIONS
Srotas (channel) Female repro- ciated with excess bleeding (rakta * Ashwagandha, cinnamon to
ductive, circulatory pradara), pain and congestion. Use strengthen the uterine muscles.
when there are uterine spasms, * Shatavari, rose, turmeric to reg-
abdominal pain and dysmenor- ulate the menstrual cycle.
Phytosterols -sitosterol
rhoea. Its affinity for the uterine * Myrrh, manjishtha, turmeric
muscles and endometrium indi- for endometriosis and fibroids.
Flavonoids Quercetin,
cates its use as a uterine tonic to * Punarnava, coriander, pippali
help with prolapse, miscarriage for vaginal dscharge.
(Paranjpe 2001, Williamson 2004)
and irregular menstrual cycles. * Shatavari, amalaki, licorice for
AYURVEDIC ACTION Also of benefit for clearing dysentery and piles.
Raktapitta Alleviates bleeding congestion from the mamsa and
diseases, particularly menorrha- medas dhatus when there are
gia and metrorrhagia fibroids, cysts, endometriosis and
Stambhana Alleviates fluid leak- leucorrhoea from excess ama and SAFETY
age and diarrhoea kapha in the artava srotas (Swami No drugherb interactions are
Str-rogajit Treats gynaecological Shiva Tirtha). known
conditions Digestion Its astringency can
Praja- stha- pana Prevents miscar- help to alleviate bleeding piles
19g per day or 315ml per day
riage and dysentery. Also used to treat
of a 1:3 @ 25% tincture.
Garbha-saya rasa- yana Uterine colitis and ulcers.
tonic Urine It encourages the flow of
urine and can help to alleviate NOTES
Svetapradara Treats leucorrhoea
Ashoka is a medium-sized
Mu-trakr.cchra Alleviates painful painful urination.
Pain ashoka has specific evergreen tree growing all over
analgesic properties and can be India. It looks like a mango tree
Hr.daya Nourishes the heart
and has blood-red bark.
Vedana-stha-pana Analgesic used to soothe the nerves where

Common name Winter cherry (E), Indian ginseng (E), Asgandh (H) Sanskrit Asva-gandha Latin Withania
somniferaRadix (Solanaceae)

The irony of ashwagandha is that it

is a tonic and sedative all in one. It
strengthens an exhausted nervous
system that can manifest with
hyper signs such as emotional
instability, agitation or feeling
stressed out. It has the dual action
of energising while calming. Its
name ashwagandha meaning the
smell of a horse, comes from the
smell of the fresh root (like Sukrala Increases sperm pro- slow-developing children, and
horses urine), and also perhaps duction the elderly.
because it is renowned for Sothahara Prevents consumption Immunity Autoimmune condi-
and wasting diseases tions, neutropenia, rheumatoid
imparting the sexual stamina of a
Rasa- yana Rejuvenative and osteoarthritis, cancer, and
Va-takaphahara Reduces kapha chronic connective tissue disor-
ENERGETICS and vata ders. As a painkiller and anti-
Rasa (taste) Bitter, astringent, Vedana-stha-pana Reduces pain inflammatory it is commonly
sweet Sva- sa Benefits breathing used in swollen or painful
V -rya (energy) Heating arthritic conditions. It can
Vipa-ka (post-digestive effect) strengthen a weakened immune
Adaptogen, tonic, anti-inflam-
Sweet system and protect it from
matory, immunomodulator, anti-
Gun.a (quality) Light, unctuous becoming depleted due to
tumour, nervine, mild sedative,
Dos.a effect VK immunosuppressive drugs or
analgesic, reproductive tonic,
Dha-tu (tissue) Blood, muscle, fat, lifestyle. Improves white blood
aphrodisiac, antianaemic
bone, nerve, reproductive cell counts. It appears to have
Srotas (channel) Reproductive, INDICATIONS both immunosuppressive and
nervous, respiratory Tissues Debility, low body immunotonic abilities and is
weight, emaciation, deficient therefore a true adaptogen
haemoglobin, anaemia, post-con- (Tillotson 2001).
Alkaloids Ashwagandhine, with-
valescent weakness, athletic Lungs Asthma, cough and aller-
anine, isopelietierine, anaferine
exertion and with caution in gic conditions from low immu-
Steroidal lactones Withanolides,
pregnancy. It is useful for any nity with high kapha and vata.
imbalance in the muscles as it Useful in hayfever, allergic rhini-
Phytosterols Sitoindosides,
both reduces inflammation and tis from aggravated vata and
strengthens muscle tone. It is a kapha.
specific rasayana for mamsa dhatu Nerves Neurosis, insomnia, anx-
and it is an anabolic muscle iety, excessive thinking, hyper
(Bone 1996, Williamson 2002)
builder (Caraka, Bhavaprakasa, symptoms and attention deficit
AYURVEDIC ACTION Venkataraghavan et al 1980). As and hyperactivity disorder
Vis.aya Increases sexual potency it benefits all muscle tissue it is (ADHD). Very useful in all con-
Balya Increases strength used as a heart tonic, uterine ditions caused by stress as it