Prabhava –

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Prabhava – Two meanings:
1. a) Specific action of a substance; b) that action not understandable from an examination of its guna, rasa, veerya, vipaka
2. the specific action of a drug is not toward dosha but toward an organ, tissue, or disorder
3. most drugs affecting srotamsi do so through prabhava
4. technically, the actions of emetics, purgatives, narcotics, poisons, intellect promoting drugs, the cardiotonic effect of arjuna, anthelmintic effect of vi¿anga, and antitoxic effect of tridosha effect of amalakee
5. supersedes all other effects, usually
6. acts on the deposition (sthanasamsraya) and manifestation (vyakti) stages of samprapti by being used primarily for an affinity to a tissue (dhata), organ (avayava), or channel (srotas) collectively called the duÃya affected by dosha
7. acts through chemical nature of the substance
  1. as a category of drug action there is much correspondence with modern notion of isomerism

3 Vipakas:

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  1. described in terms of (3) tastes: sweet (madhura), sour (amla), pungent (katu)
  2. the post-digestive: transformed state called niraapaka arising after separation of rasa and mala
  3. action revealed in colon after stomach and SI digestive processes are completed and occurs in the cells as micro-digestion; this action is inferential
  4. stronger than guna effects but less than veerya effectbased primarily upon chemical properties of a substance

    1. effect based primarily upon chemical properties of a substance
    2. longer lasting effects than rasa;
    3. secretory and excretory functions affected: urine, feces, sweat, sperm, vaginal secretions and affects dhatus and srotamsi
    4. as tastes are secondary attributes composed of the 5 elements they reveal their molecular nature expressed in terms of the gunas: sweet = heavy (guru), cold ( sheetha); pungent = light (laghu) and hot (uhna), etc.
    5. acts on the aggravation (prakopa) stage of pathogenesis
    6. as a category of drug action there is much correspondence with modern notion of polarity

2 (or 8) Viryas:

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2 (or 8) Viryas:
  1. the potency of a drug; that energy by which all substances act;
  2. a systemic effect; this action is inferential
  3. known by observing the time from administration to excretion, systemic, stronger than prior categories, these 2 gunas are particularly important to the srotamsi regarding (4) possible defects
  4. main 2: hot / cold:
a. hot (ushna veerya) = catabolic / kinetic, produces giddiness, thirst, exhaustion, fatigue, sweating, inflammation, accelerated biochemical reactions/digestion and alleviates vata and kapha, promotes dilation of blood vessels, relaxation of muscles, higher BMR / temperature and BP, stool becomes hard or difficult, urine decreases and as does appetite and sleep; acts to accelerate the action of the srotamsi
b. cold (sheetha veerya) = anabolic / creating potential energy; causes cheerfulness and pleasing mind, sustains life, imparts strength sturdiness, steadiness and cleanses blood and decreases pitta, increases sleep and urine, decreases BP and BMR, stool becomes smooth, decreases appetite; acts to decelerate the action of the srotamsi
  1. 8 veeryas: light/heavy, oily/dry, sharp/soft, hot/cold; these are the only qualities that survive digestion and thus have therapeutic value; oily/dry are significant for purposes of the koshtha (abdomen); the srotamsi are affected by hot /cold; heavy/light affect the dhatus; sharp/soft do not affect the samprapti
  2. acts on the deposition (sthanasamshray and manifestation (vyakti) stages of sampraptias a category of drug action there is much correspondence with modern notion of stearic structureas a category of drug action there is much correspondence with modern notion of stearic structure

  3. a category of drug action there is much correspondence with modern notion of stearic structure

6 Rasas (Tastes):

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6 Rasas (Tastes):
  1. sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent
  2. determined by the predominance of two elements (sweet = water and earth, e.g.)
  3. the gustatory response to physical and chemical properties rasa is known by its contact with the oral cavity (mouth and tongue, etc)
  4. manifest and subtle (anurasa, uparasa)
  5. karya dravya (effects)
    1. produces direct / immediate action -- quick and short acting
    2. implies a feeling response – affects emotions, etc.
    3. affects the mucus and synovial membranes, and skin (via the nerves) -- affects rasa dhatu
    4. weakest of categories of action
    5. used locally in the therapeutic measures of snehana, svedana, nasya, basti, etc.
    6. acts on accumulation (sancaya) stage of samprapti
  1. while taste is subjective experience there are numerous interfering considerations:3
    1. different plants are used under one name
    2. different parts of the plant are used
    3. different place and season of collection and storage
    4. plant as green versus ripe
    5. taste as an inference by observed actions in the body
  2. as a category of drug action there is much correspondence with modern notion of ionization

Gunas (20):

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Gunas (20):
1. a set of primary attributes/qualities of all substance associated always with substance but are without quality themselves;
2. inactive cause
3. principally reveal the physical / static nature of substance (as opposed to its chemical nature)
4. universal and eternal, these are categories which define, in groupings or 10 continua, the nature of individual substances
5. content of the container-substance, e.g.: a stone has the qualities of hard, static, solid, gross, etc.
6. a category of action which causes the result given by its name; see below. [ Note: there are 41 total attributes of ¨Ayurveda listed in 4 groupings—gurvadi or physico-pharmacological which include these 20 listed below; paradi or pharmacological = 10; visishsha or specific (sense data) = 5; adhyatmika or psychological/mental = 6]
Attribute Continuum
1. Guru / Laghu heavy/light weight
2. Manda / Theekshna sharp/dull-slow intensity
3. Uhsna/sheethaq hot/cold temperature
4. Ruksha / Snigdha dry/oily emolliency
5. slakshna / Khara smooth/rough texture
6. Drava / Sandra liquid/dense-solid viscosity
7. Kathina / Mrdu hard/soft rigidity / compressibility
8. Cala / Sthira mobile/static fluidity
9. Sookshma / Sthula subtle/gross density
10. Vishada / Picchila clear/cloudy-sticky adhesion

Attribute Action
1. Guru tonic, apatarpana
2. Laghu † lightness / activity, santarpana
3. Manda pacifies, apatarpana
4. Teeskhsna cleans, santarpana
5. Ushna † perspiration, santarpana
6. sheetha condenses, apatarpana
7. Ruksha dries, santarpana
8. Snigdha produces moisture, apatarpana
9. slaksha stimulates growth, apatarpana
10. Khara rarifies, attenuates, santarpana
Attribute Action
11. Drava dissolves/mixes, santarpana
12. Sandra nourishes, apatarpana
13. Kathina fastens, hardens, solidifies, apatarpana
14. Mrudu relaxes, santarpana
15. Cala excites, † motion, santarpana
16. Sthira supports, apatarpana
17. Slashana penetrates, analyses, santarpana
18. Sthula covers or protects, apatarpana
19. Vishada clears, santarpana
20. Picchila forms a coating, apatarpana

other Important features of this category:
  1. affects digestion
  2. acts as a nutritional basis of the body
  3. give inferential knowledge of taste (a secondary attribute based upon elemental compostion), and vipaka
  4. are the basis of the 6 therapeutic strategies or actions (langhana, stambhana, etc.)
  5. not dependent upon the physical weight of the substance
  6. acts on basis of physical and chemical properties
  7. effect may be short or long lasting in the body
  8. acts in a general way / affects the whole body; this action is inferential
  9. acts on the proliferation (prasara) stage of pathogenesis (samprapti)

      1. as a category of drug action there is much correspondence with modern notion of inter-atomic distances of a given substance


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Dravya (substance): that in which guna and karma (quality and action) are inherent and which is the material cause of action
Karma (action): the movement initiated by effort is called action; relative to drugs/foods ingested these may be known by their effects e.g. increased urination is evidence that the substance is diuretic; this category of action is usually a result of transformations resulting from digestion (note that modern drugs are often introduced in a manner that by-passes digestive processes); this category often will correlate with the category of prabhava (explained below)
Elements: the 5 energetic expressions of Consciousness, which in combinations gives rise to the creation, inorganic and organic; e.g.; space, air, fire, water (karana dravya/causative substance regarding tastes), earth

Substance or Element Its Attribute Its Actions

prthiva (earth) heavy destroys vata, fat promoting
apya (water) oily fat promoting, destroys vata, vitalizing, strengthening
tejas (fire) sharp increases pitta, scraping, dispels kapha and vata
vayavya (air) dry increases vata, destroys kapha
akasha (space) light space creating, destroys kapha,
DoÃas (3):
  1. vata, pitta, kapha
  2. physiological principles of life—motion, transformation, structure & lubrication, respectively
  3. they constitute the body physically in the form of tissues
  4. when normal are called dhatus (supporting)
  5. when abnormal become disturbed in their governing roles / (and) disturb the other doÃas by “polluting” the physiology in a systemic way
Dhatus (7): the basic constructing material of the body as tissues having 7 forms: plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow / nervous tissue, reproductive tissue; “that which stays in the body”
Malas (3): the 3 wastes—urine, feces, sweat; “that which leaves the body and corrupts it when it stays”
Srotas (s.) Srothmsi (pl) (16) 16 prominent channels for ingestion, maintenance, elimination, communication having as their prominent feature the movement of nutrients, wastes, etc. (Caraka states there are as many srotamsi as entities)

Underlying premises

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There are several underlying premises of this theory:
1. Only substance is the material cause of action.
2. There are 9 categories of substance, according to Vaishshika: space, air, fire, water, earth (elements), soul, mind, time, and direction.
3. These 9 causative substances are studied through 7 categories (padartha): dravya (substance), guna (attribute), karma (action), samanya (commonality), vishesha (uniqueness), samavaya (inherence), abhhava (non-existence).
4. All substances are composed of the 5 elements (space, air, fire, water, earth)
5. In a system which brings together substances of similar quality (guna) that quality increases in that system. Similarity is always the cause of increase and builds homogeneity and unity (called Samanya Siddhanta).
6. Conversely, if in a given system substances of opposite qualities come together there is a decrease in the expression of those qualities. Dissimilarity is always the cause of decrease and builds heterogeneity and diversity9 (called Vishehsa Siddhanta).
7. Like attracts like—similar qualities attracting is the basis of affinity, attraction, selectivity. This principle is the basis of drugs working predominantly in a given tissue, organ, system, etc.

Dravya Guna: Study of Substance--Qualities and Actions

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This section introduces the topic of ¨Ayurvedic pharmacology—study of action (karma) of drugs. It is the goal of the module to state, define, and explain the basic terminology of ¨Ayurvedic pharmacology; to show their relationship to physiology so that one can learn to predict the full gamut of actions associated with administration of medicines to enable the student to rationally select appropriate treatments / medicines for remedy or prevention. Also, it is the goal of this section to gain an understanding of the principles of ¨Ayurvedic pharmacology as based in the darsha—Vaisheshikaka (one of the 6 Upangas). In the broadest sense only substance is the cause of action, according to ¨yurveda. Thus this section is a study of substance. But in the strictest sense, the modern notion of physical substance is too limiting for a complete study and understanding of action (karma). Electricity, for example, has no materiality in the modern use of the word—physical, material, etc. Yet we know that it is a powerful agent of change. Hence, for a more complete picture we must accept the modern quantum concept of the equivalence of energy and matter: E = MC2 . In a prior section—Medicine—we learned that mantras and gems and rituals are potent / efficient to produce an effect; therefore, we must insist that, while this section seems to deal with material substances—plants, minerals, etc., the deeper significance of Dravya Guna must be expanded to include quantum interactions as well.
Yet another aspect of this section, which is an unique ¨Ayurvedic insight, is the study of drug actions AS they undergo transformation in the body. Different points of interaction yield separate opportunities for action. Digestion and absorption are the cause of these different points of interaction. Some drugs act without transformation, while others reveal their actions after digestion, etc. This understanding is introduced and explained by way of the terminology of: Guna, Rasa, Veerya, Vipaka, Prabhava. These will be defined and explained below but their general import should be understood at this time: as molecular structures continually change their effects/actions in and on the body, physiology may be assumed to change, too. This fact is not much appreciated in the allopathic reductionistic model. Some of these transformations will be studied through the proxy of taste. That is, we will predict future actions by studying and understanding transformations in digestion/metabolism described in terms of tastes. Others will be studied as a special or specific action of a drug—called Prabhava.

Ayurvedic Medicine’s medicinal plant

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latin NameSanskrit NameMain Indications in Ayurveda
Acorus calamusVachanervine, antispasmatic, sedative, stomachic, expectorant, emetic, laxative, diuretic
Artemesia absinthiumIndhanaanthelminthic
Artemisia vulgarisNagadamnianthelminthic, expectorant
Asparagus racemosusShatavarigalactogogic, antispasmodic, antidiarrhetic, demulcent
Azadirachta indicaNeem, Arishtaskin disease, blood disease, antibacterial
Bacopa monnieriBrahminervine tonic, diuretic, sedative
Boerhavia diffusaPunarnavadiuretic, expectorant, laxative
Boswellia serrataShallakiantiarthritic, analgesic, antiinflammatory
Buchanania lazanPiyalaskin disease, laxative
Butea monospermaPalasadiarrhea, flatulence, anthelminthic
Callicarpa macrophyllaPringujoint pain, skin disease, blooddisease
Calotropis giganteaAlarkabronchitis, diarrhea, tonic, cancer (?)
Cannabis indicaBhangainsomnia, cachexia, dysmenorrhea
Capiscum annumKatuvirarubefacient, stimulant, tonic
Carum carviKrishnajiraflatulence, stomachic
Carum copticumYamani, Ajowanspastic bowel, flatulence, dyspepsia
Cassia angustifoliaMarkandikaconstipation, liver disease, joint pain
Cassia fistulaArgbhadaringworm, constipation, fever, antibacterial
Cedrus deodaraDevadarufever, diarrhea, urinary disorders
Centella asiaticaMandukaparnitonic, sedative, alterative, anxiolytic
Cichorium intybusKasniemmenogogue, digestive
Cinnamomum camphoraKarpoordiarrhea, nervousness, muscular pain, fever
Crocus sativusKumkumanervine sedative, emmenogogue, aphrodisiac
Cinnamomum zeylanicumTwakdyspepsia, flatulence, diarrhea, menorrhagia
Cissampelos pareiraLaghu Patha spasticbowel, uterine prolapse,alterative
Clitoria ternateaAparajitaconstipation, edema, anthelminthic,demulcent
Cocos nuciferaNarikelafever, pharyngitis, skin disorders, alterative
Coleus aromaticusPashanbhedakidney stones, conjunctivits, spastic colon
Cordia myxa (obliqua)Shleshmatakaexpectorant, colic, dyspepsia, ulcers, cough
Coriandrum sativumDhanyakaflatulence, colic, joint pain, antiseptic
Crinum deflexum (asiaticum)Sudarshanemetic, inflammatory conditions
Cuminum cyminumJeerakadiarrhea, dyspepsia, antiseptic,hookworm
Curculigo orchiodesTalamulikahemmorrhoids, asthma, kidney stones, skin
Curcuma longaHaridraarthritic pain, antiinflammatory, skin disease
Curcuma zedoariaShaticough, asthma, leukorrhea, tonsillitis
Cynodon dactylonDoorwadiuretic, styptic, hematuria, hemmorrhoids
Cyperus rotundusMustakaantiinflammatory, flatulence, fever, estrogenic
Datura metalDatturaantispasmodic, jointpain, asthma , dysmenorrhea
Daucus carotaGarijarablood purifier, nervine tonic, jaundice
Dolichos biflorusKulithaedema, kidney stone, asthma, dysmenorrhea, tumors
Eclipta AlbaBhringarajhepatic deobstruent and tonic, alterative, emetic, purgative, antiseptic, antiviral
Elettaria cardamomumEla Chhotibronchitis, flatulence, dyspepsia, hemorrhoids
Emblica officinalisAmalakifruit: cooling, laxative, stomachic, tonic, diuretic
Evolvulus alsinoidesShankapushpianxiety, diarrhea, bronchitis, memory loss, fever
Ferula foetidaHinguflatulence, cough, constipation, palpitations,aphrodisia
Ficus religiosaAswathaulcers, skin disease, diabetes, constipation
Ficus racemosaUdumbaradiarrhea, hemorrhoids, bleeding disorders, antiseptic
Foeniculum vulgareSatupuspacough, flatulence, dysmenorrhea, hookworm, edema
Grewia hirsutaNagbaladiarrhea, wounds, heart disease, fever
Gmelina arboreaGambharigeneral tonic, to increase strength, antiviral, indigestion
Gymnema sylvestreMeshasringadiuretic, astringent, hypoglycemic, refrigerant, stomachic
Hemidesmus indicusSarivaexcellent alterative, to increase appetite, cough, skin
Holarrhena antidysentericaKutajadiarrhea, dysentery, amebiasis, anthelminthic
Hyoscyamus nigerYavanichronic dementia, hysteria, palpitations, asthma, sedative
Hyssopus officinalisZuphacough, asthma, bronchitis, amenorrhea
Ipomoea digitataVidaricough, hoarseness, respiratory stimulant, tonic
Justicia adhatodaVasakabronchitis, asthma, jaundice, antispasmodic
Linum usitatissimumUmacystitis, bronchitis, boils, expectorant, demulcent
Luffa acutangulaKoshatakisplenomegaly, emetic, excellent for skin disease, expectorant
Madhuca longifoliaMadhucatonsillitis, cough, rheumatic joints, diabetes, appetizer
Michelia champacaChampakagastritis, chronic arthritis (?), emmenagogue, diuretic, colic
Mimosa pudicaLajjalumenorrhagia, hemorrhoids,skin wounds, diarrhea
Mimusops elengiBakulatonic, cardiotonic, urogenital disease, snakebite, skin sores
Morinda citrofoliaAchacne, eczema, hyperlipidemia,brochitis, diarrhea
Moringa oleiferaSigrusource of vitamin C, colds, boils, fever, joint pain, gout
Mucuna pruriensKapikachchhanervine tonic, aphrodisiac, parkinsonism, hypercholesterolemia
Nardostachys jatamansiJatamansinervousness, anxiety, dysmenorrhea, insomnia, hair tonic
Nelumbo nuciferaParijatarefrigerant, sedative, demulcent
Nyctanthes arbor-tristisParijataliver diseases, constipation, anthelminthic, antihistaminic
Ocimum sanctumTulasidemulcent, expectorant, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, anthelminthic
Paederia foetidaPrasarinirheumatic joint pain, edema, bladderstones(?),inflammation
Papaver somniferumAhiphenamanxiety, diarrhea, aphrodisiac, sedative
Peucedanum graveolensSatapushpiflatulence, colic, abscesses, digestive
Phyllanthus fraternusBhumiamalakijaundice, liver disease, fever, genitourinary disease, edema
Picrorhiza kurroaKatukihepatitis, asthma, anorexia
Piper longumPippalidigestion, weakness, pharyngitis, headache, constipation
Piper nigrumMarichadyspepsia, cough, pharyngitis, headache, diarrhea
Plantago ovataIsaphgolconstipation, colitis, irritible bowel, cystitis
Plumbago zeylanicaChitrakaabortifacient, warts, rheumatic joint pain
Premna integrifoliaAgnimanthaflatulence, fever, arthritis, liver deobstruent
Prunus amygdalusBadamamental energy, general tonic esp. nerve & kidney, semen,
Pterocarpus santalinusRakta Chandanaskin tonic, liver disorders, fever
Punica granatumDadimaanthelminthic (esp. tapeworm), diarrhea, dyspepsia
Randia dumentoriumMadanafruit and rind are emetic, diaphoretic, and antispasmodic; bark is sedative and nervine calmative.
Rauwolfia SerpentinaSarpagandhahypertension, anxiety, insomnia, colic

medicinal plant science

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Dravyaguna vignan or medicinal plant science is a section of Ayurveda that deals with medicinal herbs and their properties. Dravya guna vignan provides details about the differing qualities of medicinal herbs with seasons, the right time to collect the herbs, etc.

Though dravyaguna vignan is almost exclusive for the knowledge of medicinal herbs, it can also include the knowledge of matter in general. Dravya means matter (everything is made of matter and energy). Dravya guna vignana also includes the knowledge of quality of matter, change of properties while in combination with other materials, etc.
Meanings: Dravya – matter, guna – quality and vignan – knowledge.
Since treatment in Ayurveda is purely herbal, the practitioner needs to identify the exact quality of each herb he collects. The season in which the herbs are grown and harvested determines the quality of the herb.
Ayurveda acharyas recommend the use of fresh herbs. However, it is not practicable in all cases because some annual plants grow only in specific seasons. Here, according to Ayurveda acharyas, one can store the whole plant, or usable plant part (flower, fruit, root, leaves, or whole plant) dried and well preserved for up to one year.
Dravya guna vignan evolved over thousands of years. The accumulation of data from the experiments that spread over thousands of years produced accurate results. The results are reported in concentrated forms in ancient books like Ashtangahridaya, Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, etc.
Dravya guna vignan also allows the practitioner to choose herbs or herbal combinations that effectively balances the vitiations of doshas, while preventing further imbalances or side effects. Here lies the key to relative absence of side-effects for Ayurvedic medicines. The medicines are used to treat both the disease and the patient. When taken the disease separately, the treatment of a specific imbalance can lead to the imbalance of other parts.
Therefore drayaguna vignan is the most important knowledge an Ayurvedic practitioner must gain before he attempt treating.