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Ayurvedic Pharmacology

The materia medica of the Ayurveda,composed of the five basic elements, has been categorized according to the derivatives of these elements. They include: taste (rasa), potency (virya), taste of the digestion product (vipaka), properties (guna), specific properties (prabhava) and action (karman).

Taste (rasa) is six fold: sweet (madhura), sour (amla), salty (lavana), sharp (tikta), bitter (katu) and astringent (kasaya). Each taste is composed of two of the five elements. The condition of the food substances after digestion is also expressed in terms of taste (vipaka), however it can only be sweet, sour or sharp.

The properties (guna), are grouped in 10 pairs, each one complementary to the other: heavy and light, cold and hot, fat and dry, slow and sharp, stable and labile, soft and hard, clear and slimy, smooth and raw, fine and massive and viscous and liquid.

The potency (virya) of a drug is defined as its capability to express its property. Sometimes, potency is grouped in the same way as the property, but for practical reasons, it is usually expressed in terms of hot (ushna) and cold (shita).

The specific property (prabhava) distinguishes two drugs that have the same taste, taste after digestion and potency. This might be due to the composition of the drug or the location in the body where the drug acts.

Finally the action (karman) of a drug on the body is expressed in terms of the three doshas. A drug can increase or decrease the vata dosha, the pitta dosha and the kapha dosha.

The drugs used in Ayurveda are made by several processes from vegetable and mineral raw materials. Mostly plant alkaloids are the active ingredients. Obviously barring some chemical changes it is mostly natural deviates.

We hope that you will continue to explore Ayurveda to enhance your health and to gain further insights into this miracle we call life.


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