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Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Principles of Ayurvedic Drugs: A Concurrent Appraisal

  • K. Nishteswar
Chapter

Abstract

Ayurveda (science of life) consists of three principles, viz., etiology (hetu), symptomatology (linga), and therapeutics (oushadhajnana). The state of equilibrium of tridoshas (three biohumors, namely, vata, pitta, and kapha), dhatus (tissues), and malas (metabolic debris and impurities) contribute for state of health. The very object of the science is the maintenance of the equipoise of these components (dhatusamyata). Food and drugs play a pivotal role in the restoration and maintenance of equilibrium. In Ayurvedic materia medica, the dravyas (food and drugs) are classified into three groups, viz., vegetable in origin (oudbhida), animal in origin (jangama), and metals and mineral in origin (parthiva). All these substances are formed by combination of panchamahabhutas (five proto elements). The modus operandi of these substances is explained with the five principles such as rasa (taste), guna (attribute/quality), virya (potency/energy), vipaka (biotransformation), and prabhava (principle responsible for specific activity). Among them, rasa (taste) is the only perceivable principle which helps to identify the panchamahabhoutic constitution of the substance and to infer its spectrum of pharmacological activity. Active drug molecule alone initiates the drug activity. To make the drug molecule more potent, it requires some energy which is named as virya (potency/energy). Rasa, guna, and virya are considered as pharmacodynamic principles. Vipaka is the process of biotransformation, and the Ayurvedic classics delineate three major metabolic pathways for biotransformation of substances such as madhura vipaka, amla vipaka, and katu vipaka. Looking at these descriptions, vipaka should be considered as the pharmacokinetic principle. These principles help to explain the drug activity in the most rational way. The activities which cannot be explained with these principles are conveniently designated as Prabhavajanya karmas (inexplicable activity). Several modifying factors of drug activity like soil, season of harvesting, storage (bhajana), dosage forms (bhaishajya kalpas), dose (matra), route of drug administration (bhaishajya marga), time of administration (bhaishajya kala), adjuvants/vehicle (anupana), incompatible substances (virudha dravya), constitution of the patient (prakruti), etc. have been identified by Acharyas of Ayurveda.

Some research studies have been carried out to produce scientific validation for certain concepts of Ayurvedic pharmacology. The observations made through these studies confirmed the rationality of Ayurvedic pharmacological concepts. A critical review of these principles clearly indicates that seers of Ayurveda have made sincere attempts to develop the most rational pharmacological basis for indigenous therapeutics by their excellent acumen.

Keywords

Ayurvedic pharmacology Rasapanchaka Factors modifying drug action 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Nishteswar
    • 1
  1. 1.Former Professor and HOD, Department of DravyagunaInstitute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda, Gujarat Ayurved UniversityJamnagarIndia

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