Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda

Vata (Air & Space)

“Vata” is the principle of movement in all living organisms and is a combination of the elements: air and space. The main characteristics of Vata in any person are:

Characteristics Can appear in the body as:

  1. Mobility Generally quick actions, fast walking and speech, restless eyes, like travelling and often has mood swings.
  2. Dryness Dry body (including skin, hair and lips), inclination towards constipation as a result of dryness.
  3. Coldness Dislike towards cold weather generally has cold feet and hands, inclination towards poor blood circulation.
  4. Lightness Generally underweight, thin physique (bones and muscles), light sleeper.
  5. Roughness Rough and cracked skin, nails, hair feet and hand. Crackling joints.

Some of the bodily functions ruled by Vata Dosha:

  • Physical movement
  • Respiration
  • Starts activities and processes in the body
  • Stimulation of Agni (digestive fire)
  • Excretion
  • Development of the embryo
  • Sensory perception
  • Speech
  • Hearing
  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity

Pitta (Fire & Water)

Pitta is the principle of transformation in all living organisms and is a combination of the elements of fire and water. The main characteristics of Pitta in any person are:

Characteristics Can appear in the body as:

  1. Heat Good appetite, strong digestive fire, body temperature is higher than normal, dislikes heat, early greying of hair.
  2. Oiliness Oily skin which is soft. Dislikes oily food.
  3. Fluidity Excess sweating, passing of excess urine, loose stools tendency towards diarrhoea, excess thirst.
  4. Sour Acidity, teeth sensitive towards sour fruits, excess salivation. Sour eructation.
  5. Sharpness Accurate memory, sharp teeth and sharp facial features with a pointed nose and penetrating eyes.
  6. Pungent Burning sensation on the skin, including eyes, throat and stomach. Feelings of anger and hatred.
  7. Spreading Spread of any infection of the body e.g. rash, acne etc. The tendency towards desiring fame.

Some of the bodily functions ruled by Pitta Dosha:

  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Vision
  • Heat and energy production
  • Skin lustre
  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Intelligence
  • Courage
  • Anger

Kapha (Water & Earth)

Kapha is the principle of stability and maintenance in any living organism and is a combination of the elements of water and earth. The main characteristics of Kapha in any person are:

Characteristics Can appear in the body as:

  1. Heaviness Deep voice, a tendency towards obesity, large and heavy body, bones and muscles.
  2. Coolness Cold skin, a tendency towards attacks of cold, slow metabolism leading to low appetite and thirst.
  3. Softness Soft skin and hair and a tendency toward soft tender nails. Loving, caring and kind attitude.
  4. Oiliness Oily body including skin, hair, nails, stools. Flexible and mobile joints.
  5. Sweetness Tendency towards excess intake of sweet foods and drinks. Good anabolic state of the body.
  6. Stability Patient and relaxed attitude. Firm decisions. Likes sedentary activities like reading, watching television etc.
  7. Sliminess Excess salivation, thick slimy secretion when suffering from a cold. Thick joints with good mobility.

Some of the bodily functions ruled by Kapha Dosha:

  • Strength
  • Maintenance of health
  • Maintenance of the joint functions (synovial fluid)
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Anabolism and growth
  • Potency
  • Stability
  • Nutrition
  • Absorption
  • Immunity
  • Satisfaction
  • Tolerance

The Panchamahabhutas

According to Ayurveda, everything in life is composed of the Panchamahabhutas

  1. Akash (Space)
  2. Vayu (Air)
  3. Jal (Water)
  4. Agni (Fire)
  5. Prithvi (Earth)

Omnipresent, they are mixed in an infinite variety of relative proportions such that each form of matter is distinctly unique. Although each element has a range of attributes, only some get evident in particular situations. Constantly changing and interacting with each other, they create a situation of dynamic flux that keeps the world going. Within a simple, single living cell, for example, the earth element predominates by giving structure to the cell.

  • The water element is present in the cytoplasm or the liquid within the cell membrane.
  • The fire element regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell.
  • While the air element predominates the gases therein.
  • The space occupied by the cell denoting the last of the elements.

In the case of a complex, multi-cellular organism as a human being for instance,

  1. Akash corresponds to spaces within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen etc.);
  2. Vayu denotes the movement (essentially muscular);
  3. Agni controls the functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, and metabolism);
  4. Jal is in all body fluids (as plasma, saliva, digestive juices);
  5. Prithvi manifests itself in the solid structure of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair et al).

The Panchmahabhutas, therefore, serve as the foundation of all diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully.

The basis for Ayurvedic Philosophy

The Senses

The five elements manifest in the functioning of the five senses of man. This allows the person to perceive the external environment in which he or she lives. They are also related, through the senses, to five actions expressing the functions of the sensory organs.

The basic senses and their relationship to the five elements are shown below:

Element Senses Sense Organ Action Organ of Action
Ether Hearing Ear Speech Tongue, vocal cords, mouth
Air Touch Skin Holding Hand
Fire Vision Eye Walking Feet
Water Taste Tongue Procreation Genitals
Earth Smell Nose Excretion Anus


Panchamaha bootha Sense Organs Sensory Faculty Properties Actions
Space Ears Hearing * Creates a natural void in the body
* No distinct taste
Produces softness, lightness and porosity
Air Skin Touch *Light, clear and dry.
*Governs inhalation, exhalation, opening and closing of eyelids, extension and contraction of joints, locomotion and other motor functions.
*slightly bitter taste
Creates dryness, lightness and emaciation.
Fire Eyes Visual(Sight) *Rough & bright eyes
*Controls temperature and lustre of body colour.
*Pungent taste
Helps in digestion, maturation, improves eyesight
Earth Nose Smell *Heavy, immobile, compact & rough.
*Controls organs as teeth, nails, flesh, skin, tendons & muscles.
*Sweet taste.
*Increases firmness & strength of the body
*Acts as a nutrient, emollient and purgative
Water Tongue Taste *Cold, hevy fluid
*Slimy, fat and sweat by nature
*Sweet & astringent, sour & saline taste.
*Imparts glossiness.
*Enhances fluid content & purgative
*Acts as nutrient, emollient and purgative.


Rasa – The Taste

Rasa is identified by the tongue. It is of cardinal value among the five factors because life itself is situated in it. Since life is dependent on food alone according to our ancient traditional texts, the effect of the drug material taken is deduced on the basis of the rasa it produces. The Rasa is of six types and they are based on dravya (substance) and are stronger as per their precedence.

1.Madhura (sweet)
2.Amla (sour)
3.Lavana (salt)
4.Tikta (bitter)
5.Katu (pungent)
6.Kashaya (astringent)


The tastes have no independent identity but the properties of the substances.

  • As far as strength is concerned the strongest of all taste is ‘sweet’ and the weakest is 0 astringent’.
  • ‘Sour” is stronger than the ‘ salty’ but weaker when compared to ‘sweet’.
  • This way the strength of the other tastes can be assessed.
  • The usual methodology followed in teaching the principles of drug action is to explain the rasa first and then the crude drug material itself.

For example,

  • The madhura (sweet), amla (sour) and lavana (salt) rasa, and not the drug material, in which they reside, pacify the Vata dosha.
  • Likewise, the katu (pungent); tikta (bitter) and kasitaya (astringent) rasa pacify the kapha dosha.
  • Conversely, the first group of rasa provokes the kapha dosha and the second group provokes the vata dosha.
  • Very precisely three rasa are the alleviators of each dosha and three rasa which are contrary to the other three rasa (alleviator of each dosha) are the provokers of each dosha.
  • All these rasa by mutual contact mostly get diversified into sixty-three kinds.
  • Primarily, drugs act on the basis of their rasa which have the properties of pacifying provoking any one of the three dosha.
  • Each group of three rasa either as stimulates or pacifies one of the dosha in different degrees.
  • However, it may be emphasized here that rasa fail to act if there are other more powerful factors acting simultaneously, like post assimilative effect (vipaka), virility (veerya) and the specific and characteristic action of the drug (prabhava) each more potent in the successive order.
  • The rasa (taste) modality is mutually complementary to the veerya (virility) modality, yet at the same time is not identical to it.
  • Rated at their best, rasa can only signify the nature of the panchbhautik structure of the related molecules.
  • Rasa (tastes) are described as principles of action and are not stable because they undergo changes under the influence of jatharagni (digestive fire).
  • The speciality of rasa (taste), is that it is of the apya nature jala niahabhuta) as explained by the qualities of the panchmahabhuta (five basic and elemental principles).
In akasha (space or ether) occurs only the sense of sound.
In vayu (air) occurs the senses of sound and touch.
In agni (fire) occur the senses of sound, touch and form.
In apya (water) occurs the senses of sound, touch, form and taste.
In prithvi (earth) occur the senses of sound, touch, form, taste and smell.


  • So these five basic or elemental principles (panchmahabhuta) are present in practically every substance because they all touch, influence and penetrate one another.
  • They get designated as apya (watery), prithvi (earth) etc. by the decrease or increase of any particular factor concerned.
  • This explains the naming of rasa as apya rasa and this apya rasa gets diversified by the contact of prithvi mahabhuta (earth element), Agni mahabhuta (fire element), vayu mahabhuta (air element) and akasha mahabhuta (space element) into six types after digestion. And, therefore, according to the preponderance of the qualities of the five basic and elemental principles, the rasa are:
Sweet results from prithvi (earth) and apya (water).
Sour results from prithvi (earth) and agni (fire)
Salts results from apya (water) and agni (fire).
Pungent results from vayu (air) and agni (fire).
Bitter results from vayu (air) and akasha (ether).
Astringent results from prithvi (earth) and vayu (air).


  • These rasa promote the principle from which they are born or generated and at the same time they tranquilize the principle from which other factors get generated.
  • In terms of their effectiveness, these six rasa (tastes) are categorized as mild and severe. They are sweet, astringent and pungent, and the severe rasa are acid, salt and bitter.
  • Sweet, acid and salt rasa (tastes) are unctuous and heavy in quality while bitter, pungent and astringent rasa (tastes) are rough and light in quality.

Classification of drugs can be according to their dominant rasa and properties of the drugs in the light of characteristics of rasa.

According to Acharya Sushruta,

All drugs can be classified into six categories according to their dominant rasa, like:

Madhura varga- (sweet group)
Amla varga- (sour group)
Lavana varga -(salt group)
Katu varga- (pungent group)
Tikta varga- (bitter group)
Kashaya varga -(astringent group)
Sweet group- (madhura varga)

Some of the drugs and diet articles of this group are

  • Kakoli (Lillium polyphyllum)
  • Ksheer Kakoli (Fritllaria roylei)
  • Jeevak (Microstylis musifera)
  • Rishbhak (Nhcrostylis wallichii)
  • Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)
  • Jeevanti (Leptadania reticulata)
  • Ksheera (milk)
  • Vasa (fat)
  • Majja (barley)
  • Yava (marrow)
  • Narikel (coconut)
  • Ikshuvikar (cane sugar)
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  • Draksha (Vitis vinifera)

These drugs and food items, due to their qualities of

  • Sweetness,
  • Stickiness,
  • Heaviness,
  • Coldness,
  • Sliminess

Are similar to Kapha dosha thus they promote and enhance the qualifies of Kapha.

Madhura varga due to their madhura rasa (sweet taste)

Produces a sense of

  • Satisfaction
  • Refreshment

Cause delight, and smear the mouth by excessive salivation. Sweet taste promotes the growth of the assailable essence of

  1. Rasa,
  2. Rakta,
  3. Mamsa,
  4. Meda,
  5. Asthi,
  6. Majja,
  7. Shukra and milk (in the breasts of lactating mothers) by providing nourishment to the sapta dhatu.

Sweet taste is wholesome to all age groups, in either sex and in any state or health and it taste gives colour and texture to the skin, it nourishes the hair and is wholesome to the eyes and is useful for all six senses (five sense organs and the mind). Sweet taste is anabolic and therefore, increases ojas (the vital essence).

Excessive consumption of sweet causes some disorders, like

  • Obesity
  • Excessive sleep,
  • Heaviness of mind and body,
  • Lethargy,
  • Disturbance in the voice,
  • Produces cough with expectoration and thereby creates difficulty in breathing.
  • It produces goiter, tumor,
  • Worm infestations,
  • Elephantiasis,
  • Abnormal growth of muscles
  • Produces excessive moisture in the body.
Sour group (amla varga)

Some of the drugs and diet articles of this group are

  • Gudhal (Hibiscus rosa sinensis)
  • Dadima (Punica granatum- Pomegranate)
  • Amra (Mangifera indica-mango)
  • Sura (wine)
  • Imii (tamarind)
  • Dadhi (curd)
  • Takra (whey, butter milk)
  • Nimbu (lemon)

The drugs and food items with sour taste

  1. Decrease Vata and increase Pitta and Kapha.
  2. Sour taste causes sensitiveness of teeth and increase secretions in the mouth.
  3. This increases the appetite and it adds to the taste to food.
  4. It sharpens the mind and strengthens the sense organs because this taste is light, hot and unctuous in quality.
  5. Sour taste is a gastric stimulant and causes digestion and aids metabolism.
  6. It also causes retention of gases in the body and helps in bowl movements.
  7. Excessive and sole use of sour things causes chattering of the teeth and closing or contracting of the eyes.
  8. This dissolute weakens/loosens Kapha and is the reason for lessening of the bowels.

Its excessive use also causes,

  1. Burning sensation in the throat,
  2. Chest in the region of the heart.
  3. It toxemias the blood
  4. Causes oedema,
  5. Inflammations,
  6. Ulcerations,
  7. Heart bum,
  8. Oesophagitis,
  9. Gastritis
  10. Produces sensations of trauma externally and initially, fracture of bones (pathological fractures).
  11. It produces a sensation like biting by wild animals.
Salt group (lavana varga)

Some of the food articles and drugs of this group are all types of salt like

  1. Sea salt,
  2. Rock salt,
  3. Kelp,
  4. Vida
  5. Pakya together with various types of alkalies are included in this group.
  • This taste decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha dosha.
  • This taste cleans the pathways of urine and stool (urinary and gastro intestinal tract)
  • Softens the limbs and the entire body
  • This taste is contrary to all other rasa and neutralizes the effect of all other rasa (tastes).
  • This taste is heavy, hot, unctuous in quality and water retentive.

Excessive use
Produces itching all over the body,

  • Morbid swelling,
  • Discoloration,
  • Infatuation of the eyes and the face
  • Suppression of the reproductive organs.
  • This taste creates problems in the sense organs,
  • Disturbs the blood,
  • Causes fainting,
  • Heat the body
  • Produces gastric and duodenal ulcers.
  • Rashes, acne (pimples) hypertension and some skin diseases are also produced.
Pungent group (katu varga)

Some of the drugs and diet articles this group are:,

  • Pippali (Piper lignum)
  • Vidang (Emboli ribes)
  • Shunthi (Zingiber officinal)
  • Tuisi (Osmium sanctum)
  • Chitrak (Lumbago zeylanica)
  • Shigru (Moringa oleifera)
  • Musta (Cyperus rotundus)
  • Gugglu (Conuniphora mukul)
  • Devdaru (Cedrus deodara)
  • Marich (Piper nigrum)
  • Karpoor (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Lashuna (Allium sativum)

Alkalies and urine also fall in this group.

    • This taste stimulates gastric juices and thus acts as appetizers.
    • It is catabolic in action.
    • This taste decreases Kapha and increases Vata and Pitta dosha.
    • It keeps the mouth clean,
    • Promotes digestion and absorption of food
    • Eliminates toxins from the body.
    • It cures obesity, laziness, worm infestation,
    • Obstinate skin diseases
    • Rigidity of the joints.
    • It helps to eliminate clots and cleanse the body

Excessive use

  • Use of this taste alone destroys
    • Milk (in lactating mothers),
    • Semen
    • Fat,
  • Brings about
    • Giddiness,
    • Intoxication,
  • Dryness of lips, throat and palate,
  • Burning sensation all over the body,
  • Destroys body strength,
  • Causes tremors,
  • Pain in the arms, legs, back and the flanks.
  • It creates a
    • Burning sensation in the throat, stomach and heart
    • Unconsciousness.
Bitter group (Tikta varga)

Some of the drugs and diet articles in this group are:

  • Aragvadha (Cassia fistula)
  • Trayamana (Gentiana kurroo)
  • Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)
  • Ashoka Saraca indica)
  • Saptapami (Alstonia scholaris)
  • Shankh pushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis)
  • Jyotishmati (Celastrus panniculatus)
  • Chandan (Santalum album)
  • Usheer (Vetiveria zizanoidis)
  • Ativisha (Aconitum heterophylum)
  • Patol (Trichosanthus dioica) etc.

Some facts about this tikta varga

  • This taste is catabolic in action.
  • It increases Va ta, decreases Pitta and Kapha dosha.
  • It keeps the mouth clean
  • Produces an appetite for other rasa (tastes).
  • It is a gastric stimulant
  • Purifies the body by eliminating the toxins.
  • This taste alleviates itching, gangrenous changes, thirst and fever.
  • It purifies breast milk of lactating mothers.
  • It makes the stool, urine, and other moistures of the body, fatty tissue and supportive secretions dry.
  • This taste acts as an antitoxic and bactericidal agent.
  • It is an antidote for fainting, itching and burning sensations in the body because of its properties like light and cold.

Excessive use

  • Use of this taste by itself causes
    • Stiffness
    • Rigidity in the neck and body.
  • Produces
    • Convulsions
    • Palpitation,
    • Facial paralysis,
    • Headache,
    • Giddiness,
    • Dryness
    • Eventually unconsciousness.
  • Also reduces
    • Bone marrow
    • Semen,
    • Produces a pricking sensation in the body
    • Insipidity in the mouth.
Astringent taste (Kashaya varga)

Some of the drugs and articles of diet in this group are:

  • Priyangu (Callicarpa macrophylla)
  • Pashana bheda (Bergenia lingulata)
  • Amra (Mangifera indica)
  • Haritaki (Terminalia chebula)
  • Palash (Butea monospermudi)
  • Vibhitaka (Terminalia bellerica)
  • Shirish (Albizzia lebbeck)
  • Amalaki (Embelica officinalis)
  • Ashoka (Saraca indica)
  • Mudga (Phaseolus tribolus)
  • Madan phala (Randia spinosa)
  • Shallaki (Boswellia serrata)
  • Jeevanti (Leptadania reticulata)
  • Bakula (Mimusops elengi)

Some facts about the Kashaya varga

  • This taste is catabolic in action.
  • It increases Vata and decreases Pitta and Kapha dosha.,
  • It is dry, rough and cold in property.
  • This taste heals ulcers,
  • Strengthens the body,
  • Eliminates the toxins
  • Thus purifies the body.
  • This taste also expels the toxins which enter the body through consumption of unwholesome food.

Excessive use of this taste causes

  • Bloating of the stomach, speech paralysis, stiffness and frigidness in the body especially of the neck.
  • It dries the mouth, obstructs speech,
  • Adversely affects the heart,
  • Causes throbbing in the body and painful sensation in the skin like one feel when covered with mustard poultice.
  • It causes contraction of the muscles of the myocardium (muscle of the heart) and produces convulsions.

So, if these six tastes are employed properly as discussed they maintain and sustain the body and if employed without following the dietary rules specific to each taste, they are responsible for provocation of dosha.

Sixty-three variations of rasa (tastes) occur as a result of the impact of matter, country and time factors. For example,

1. The impact of a country: Grapes, pomegranates grown in the Himalayan (mountain) region are sweet and at other places they are sour,
2. The impact of time factor: Mango when green or unripe has an astringent taste, in middle age (semi-ripe) it has a sour taste and is sweet when it is completely ripe. Likewise, herbs in winter are sweet while they are sour to taste in the rainy season.

  • Considering the condition of dosha and the therapy required, rasa (tastes) are administered singly or in combination.
  • The latter may be done by combining a single rasa (taste) together or by administering drugs having such combination by nature.
  • There are anurasa (followed to predominant taste) in each substances. Examples of substances having more than one rasa (taste):
    • Having two Rasa – Kashaya (astringent) and madhura (sweet) e.g., Mudga (Phaseolus tribolus).
      Having three Rasa – Madhura (sweet) amla (Sour) kashaya (astringent) e.g., Bhavya (Dillenia indica).
    • Having four Rasa – Madhura (sweet) katu (Pungent) Tikta (Bitter) and Kashaya (astringent) e.g., Tila (Sesamum indicum).
    • Having five Rasa – All Rasa except lavana e.g., Amlaki (Embelica officinalis) and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula). Haritaki is astringent in the dominant state but possess four more Rasa and Amalaki is predominantly sour.
    • Having six Rasa – e.g., Ena-flesh, virya (semen) and mercury has six rasa but in unmanifested state.
  • So in combination with substances various tastes are subjectively appreciated.
  • A physician having knowledge of the variation of rasa and dosha, and variation of dosha, possible alternatives among the vitiations in the patient’s body and drug does not confuse in determining the etiology (causative factors), symptoms, signs and treatment of disorders.
  • We have observed that the order in which the tastes are presented corresponds to their comparative strength.
  • So the most powerful anti Vata drugs and/or diet article should possess sweet taste, the next powerful taste should be of sour and so on.
  • The same is the case with pro Vata and anti Kapha.

Guna – The Quality

While substance is capable of existing independently by itself, quality or guna cannot exist. It does not have substance and has no qualities. Qualities include both mental and physical properties.

  • Guna (the quality) resides not in the guna but in its substratrum matter (dravya).
  • Guna unfailingly accompanies rasa in dravya and as such they are understood by the presence of a particular rasa.
  • For instance, If a dravya (matter) is madhura (sweet), it has to be unctuous (snigdha) as well.
  • Guna (the qualities) are twenty in number, comprising or ten pairs of opposites.
1.               Cold 2.                hot
3.               Viscous 4.                Dry
5.               Slow 6.                Quick
7.               Heavy 8.                Light
9.               Sliminess 10.             Clear/ Clean
11.            Slippery 12.             Harsh
13.            Hard 14.             Soft
15.            Fluid 16.             Dense
17.            Firm 18.             Mobile
19.            Gross 20.             Fine


Panchmahabhuta and guna
Predominance of prithvi mahabhuta

Do the drugs that possess (guna) qualities like?

  • Heavy,
  • Hard,
  • Slow,
  • Steady,
  • Clear,
  • Dense,
  • Gross
  • Predominantly smelly.

These bring about increased


Predominance of jala mahabhuta

Do the drugs that possess qualities like?

  • Cold
  • Liquid
  • Slow
  • Soft
  • Mucilaginous
  • Juicy

These bring about

  • Wetting or soaking,
  • Oblation,
  • Binding,
  • Softening,
  • Overflowing
  • A sense of delight.
Predominance of Agni mahabhuta

Do the drugs that possess qualities (guna) like

  • Acute
  • Hot
  • Subtle
  • Light
  • Dry
  • Clear

Those that have a specific form are agneya (fire)

These bring about

  • Digestion
  • Shine
  • Coloration
Predominance of Vayu mahabhuta

Are the drugs that possess qualifies (guna) like

  • Light
  • Cool
  • Dry
  • Rough
  • Subtle
  • Touchy

These bring about

  • Roughness
  • Lassitude
  • Motility
  • Clarity
  • Lightness
Predominace of Akasha mahabhuta

Are the drugs that possess qualifies (guna) like

  • Light
  • Soft
  • Subtle
  • Slippery
  • Sounding

These bring about

  • Softness
  • Porosity
  • Lightness

Drugs with contrary properties are able to eliminate disorders if they are administered with due consideration of

  • Place,
  • Dose
  • Time

And also if the latter are really curable.

The drugs contrary in properties lead to pacification of the guna only through pacifying the dravya (matter) by destruction of matter (dravya), and the dependent quality (guna) would automatically be destroyed.

To understand clearly: the power of a substance for a nourishing action lies in its heaviness and the power for reducing, in its lightness and so,

  • quaintness is in slowness,
  • purification in acuteness,
  • paralysing in cold,
  • sweating in heat,
  • dampness in unctuousness,
  • drying in dryness,
  • healing in smoothness,
  • scraping in hardness,
  • polluting in solidity,
  • stirring in liquidity,
  • lessening in softness,
  • tightening in hardness,
  • bearing in stability,
  • persuading in mobility,
  • boring in subtext,
  • covering in grossness
  • washing in transparency.

The dosha also have these properties viz.

  • Vata dosha consists of
    • dryness
    • lightness
    • coldness etc
  • Pitta dosha consists of
    • viscous ness
    • harshness etc
  • Kapha dosha consist of
    • viscous ness
    • coldness
    • heaviness
    • slowness etc.

Veerya – The Virility or The Potentiality

Some properties of the drug remain stable and do not undergo transformation, even after the post assimilatory phases like digestion and tissue metabolism. Such constant properties are termed as virility. They remain unaltered throughout, right from ingestion to excretion from the body. The great sage Acharya Sharangdhara in his text, Sharangdhara Samhita describes this concept of energy modality as shakti or power.

Sharangdhara’s view is that veerya is

  1. Shita (potential)
  2. Ushna (kinetic)

If there are other veeryas, they must be implicit in these two veeryas generally. The veerya of a drug determines its action. Veerya is considered two fold mainly due to the predominance of hot and cold properties. It has the ability to warm or cool the body and according to some authorities it suppresses the tastes.

Some authorities have described virility of eight kinds – cold, hot, viscous, dry, clear, mucilaginous, heavy and light, specifically mentioning the difference of understanding between qualities and virility.

For example, haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and amlaki (Embolic officials) have the same qualities, but the differentiating specialty concerns the virility of the two drugs.

The virility of heritage is hot while that of amalaki is cold; the special action carried out by the drug which creates a specific effect is the virility of the drug which has the special origin of power and efficacy.

The drug which has a sweet taste and whose post-assimilatory effect is sweet is cold in virility and the drug which has a sour taste and whose post-assimilatory effect is acid is hot in virility. Similarly, the drug which has a bitter taste and whose post-assimilatory effect is bitter is hot in virility.

These two very hot and cold, refer to the act of being pulled up or manifestation in excess of the ushna and shita guna superceding or suppressing the remaining six-guna.

  • So these two guna represent the final outcome of metabolism.
  • They alone are capable of performing actions in the body.
  • Veerya is inseparable in matter (dravya). Dravya and veerya are indestructible; they can neither be created nor destroyed. Matter and energy in the universe represent a quantitative permanence. The activities of drug are only through the regulation of its potency such as
    • Purification,
    • Pacification
    • Astringency,
    • Constipation,
    • Stimulation of digestive power and assimilation,
    • Scarification,
    • Pressure,
    • Augmentation,
    • Verification,
    • Elixirisation,
    • Burning,
    • Splitting,
    • Intoxication
    • Tranquilizing of the fatal poison.
  • All these actions take place because of the virility of the drug used.
  • The virilities carry out their work by overcoming the rasa (taste) because of augmentation in their quality and strength.
  • To cite a few examples,
    • Sugar cane juice has a sweet taste, it increases Vata dosha because of its cold virility,
    • Pippali (Piper longum) has a pungent taste and pacifies the Pitta dosha because of its cold virility
    • Radish (moolak) which has a pungent taste increases Kapha dosha because of its viscous or unctuous virility.

According to Acharya sushrita,

    • Therapeutically, virility has more value because the rasa (tastes) which decrease Vata dosha have the virility of roughness, lightness and coldness
    • So these rasa (taste) cannot counter act Vata dosha. Agaim the rasa which pacify Pitta dosha, if they have the virility of acuteness, hotness and lightness cannot pacify pitta dosha.
    • The same is true about other rasa.

The warming and cooling effects of veerya occur, regardless of the temperature or composition of the food articles, rather it occurs due to virility.

Vipaka – The Post Assimilative Effect

Substances have three Vipaka-

  1. Sweet
  2. Sour
  3. Pungent

The six types of rasa viz.

  1. Sweet
  2. Sour
  3. Salt
  4. Pungent
  5. Astringent
  6. Bitter

Yield towards the end of digestion, three tastes (after transformation)

Rasa Vipaka
  1. Sweet Sweet (madhura)
  2. Sour Sour (amla)
  3. Salt Sweet (madhura)
  4. Pungent Pungent (katu)
  5. Astringent Pungent (katu)
  6. Bitter Pungent (katu)
  • Jatharagni leads to the break down of food and renders them fit for absorption.
  • Bhutagni converts the nutrients absorbed from the stomach/duodenum, to pre-homologues substances which are meant to be utilized for the building up of the seven basic structural elements or dhatu of the body.
  • The material passed down from amashaya (stomach), having reached the pakwashaya (large intestine) is dehydrated and is converted into lumps by heat.
  • Then an acrid pungent gas is formed during the process.
  • From the food residue some of the elements of mutra (urine) are separated by Samana Vata.
  • The nutrient fraction of the digested food is rasa whereas the fraction devoid of nutrients is mala (waste).
  • The latter fraction is transported to vasti (urinary bladder) and is converted into urine (mutra) after the absorption of fluid from the large intestine.
  • On the other hand, the material left over, is converted into faces which are excreted from the body.
  • The pakwashaya (large intestine) has a large population of sahajkrimi (worms) or bacterial flora which brings about putrefaction that is thrown out as pungent gas.
  • Drugs after administration undergo transformation by action of digestive enzymes
  • Their constituents get disintegrated and result in synthesis or altered forms. These newly transformed substances may have similar effects to any of the
  • Three Rasa (tastes), namely sweet, sour and pungent and have similar effects on the tridosha, saptadhatu and trimala either in increased or decreased (reduced) form.
  • Thus, vipaka the post-assimilative effect, is given the names of the three rasa but this is true after judging the final effects.

Acharya Sharangdhara regards Vipaka to be the classical description of the transformations, which the drug and dietary articles undergo during the gastro-intestinal digestion.

  • The drugs and dietary articles of sweet and salty tastes undergo madhur vipaka,
  • The drugs and dietary articles of sour taste undergo amla vipaka
  • The drugs and dietary articles of pungent, bitter and astringent taste undergo katu vipaka

On the one hand, and their actions and reactions after they have been metabolized and synthesized on the other hand.

As far as the doctrine of five basic and elemental principles (panchmahabhuta) in terms of Vipaka is concerned there shall be two types of Vipaka:

1. Sweet (madhura)
2. Pungent (katu).

Sweet (madhura) Vipaka

The materials which have the qualities of

  • Prithvi (earth)
  • Jala (water)

After digestion turn out to attain sweet Vipaka

Pungent (katu) vipaka

The materials which have the qualities of

  • Agni (fire),
  • Vayu (air),
  • Akasha (space/ether),

Turn out to attain katu vipaka.

Clinical effects of post assimilatory effect

Sweet vipaka: The dietary articles and drug material of sweet vipaka release urine and stool, augment shukra dhatu and kapha dosha and thus it is heavy.
Katu vipaka : The dietary articles and drug material of anila vipaka release urine and stool, destroyshukra dhatu and augment vata dosha.
Amla vipaka: The dietary articles and drug material of amla vipaka release urine and stool, destroy shukra dhatu) and provoke Pitta dosha.
Madhura vipaka is the outcome of synthesis metabolism of complex substances with relatively very high molecular weight like macro-protein molecules, nucleon-proteins, hemoglobin and other biologically significant compounds like glycogen, lipids etc.

Acharya Sushruta Speaks of the five main factors in context to their action on the human body.

  • Some materials carry out the activity of destroying the very materials that compose them, that are by their crude drug nature as a whole, while others do so by their potency, while some do so by their taste and others by their post-assimilative effect.
  • Among all the five factors, it is the drug material that is of cardinal value and all the factors need the help of one another in carrying out the physiological action.
  • Metabolic end products characterized as amla vipaka and kattt vipaka are the outcome of respiration at the cellular level. They represent the breakdown substances resulting from oxidation.
  • Amla Vipaka refers to end products of cellular respiration of substances which are light in quality because of their low molecular weight yet they are pungent in taste, for example acetic acid and acetaldehydes.