There are 100s of herbs, roots, flowers and extracts used across Ayurveda. They are also used in other traditional medicines. The alternative medicine literature mostly focuses on which herb one should use for which ailment. It also talks about the quantity. However, for the medicine to be effective knowing just these won’t be enough. We also need a right process and an efficient delivery medium. It should be noted that there were medicines even prior to injections, capsules and modern peel and consume packs. The apothecary was not just a retail outlet. They had a crucial job of making medicine out of herbs too.
Right Herbal medicine technology
The job of the Vaidya (Ayurveda doctor and pharmacist) was to create a right concoction that is capable of the following:
- It could extract the medicinal essence out without denaturing them.
- It standardizes the strength and the right dosage.
- Converts it into something stable, easy to store, administer, and transport. In addition, it needs to be palatable.
- The medium should have the ability to be absorbed by the body and cure the ailment.
8 Types of Ayurvedic Preparations
The apothecary (pharmacist) alters the prescription depending on the patient, ailment. It also depends on the nature of the medicine. However, the delivery medium traditionally falls under the following eight categories.
: It is an effective Herbal tea. People in southern India consume it regularly. They boil the spices with medicinal herbs to make medicinal water. Kashayam is the most common tea. It has tulsi, ginger, honey, and pepper. People consume it in winters generally. It cures flu, cold or sore throat. It is known as Arishtam when fermented. The other name is Ashavam. This is not the fermented form.
2. Lehyam or Chawanprash:
Prepared same like Kashayam. A sugar medium (Jaggery, malt, or fruit jams) provides the thickness. This results into a semi-solid paste. This paste is more stable. It is easier to store and administer. The sugar masks the flavors of stronger and bitter medicines. We can store it in a syrup form. This form is known as Rasayana.
It means ‘Sugar tablets’. This medicine involves jaggery infusion. However, nowadays there are better and more compact binding agents available to make pills or capsules.
Here instead of sugar/ malt medium, we use cow ghee/ fats to extract and preserve the medicinal extract. It is useful when the medicine is oil soluble rather than water-soluble. Some doctors replace animal fat with Coconut oil. This is the case especially for Alzheimer medications and medications for vegans. European households use herbal cooking olive oils. It involves the same process.
These are a kind of herbal oil. It traditionally involves external consumption. For example, scalp treatment, pain relief, or skin ailments. Gritham is for oral administration while Thailam is for external application and massage. Sometimes the oil becomes like a balm. It gets thick. They call it Kuzambu. People use it for joint pains and headaches. In some cases, we can even heat the oil before application. It helps in higher bio-ingredient activity and absorption.
6. Arishtam/ tinctures:
The word means freedom from Injury or disease. It is a fermented medicine. The whole herbs are put into the sugar syrup. Then we add yeast to allow creation of alcohol. Alcohol is a unique solvent. It has the ability to dissolve both water and fat-soluble medicines. We don’t apply heat here. This helps preserve the aromatic oils. It also avoids denaturing of proteins too. Alcohol has a strong ability to mask the off taste and bitterness. Absorption is easy too. Tinctures have become an important inclusion. Even modern medicine and homeopathy is moving from a sugar pill-based medium to tinctures. This helps harness these properties.
The simplest choornam herbs or mixtures in the form of powder. They are the tastiest medicines in Ayurveda. However, many of the digestive choornams are pickled or fermented herbs. Some are sour in taste. This results from microbial actions. Hence it becomes tastier. It also infuses a lot of enzymes and probiotics to help aid in digestion. The microbes also break down the cell walls (cellulose) improving bioavailability. They also reduce the pH. This improves the taste. Chooram is salted and sundried to make the mixture more stable. People give preference to Black or pink Rock salt (Sendha Namak) over white sea salt. This is because of the higher quantities of sulfur and minerals. Children like the sweet, sort, and salty taste. Therefore, some sugar is also coated on the chooram to get the bouquet of flavors.
It has important traditional usages. It treats mineral or blood pH imbalance. As the name suggests, these are mineral ashes. They are prepared from metals, minerals, pearls, stones, and gems/ crystals. They are typically alkaline in nature. The burning/ oxidation increases the bioavailability of the active ingredient (mineral salts). Metal ash, Pearls, Gems, and crystals were in use in the era prior to nanotechnology. These natural crystals were the source of the purest form of metals and minerals. It’s important to have a proper prescription for Bhasma. Otherwise, it could lead to heavy metal toxicity, liver, and kidney damage. Its good to go for a second opinion. And get your kidney function tests and blood tests are done before consuming them for an extended period.
Choornam and lehyam are particularly popular amongst kids who do not like to swallow pills. Tailam is popular for those suffering from arthritis or knee cartilage loss and find a massage with warm oil useful in winter months.
Types of Fermented Medicines
There are three major types of fermented ayurvedic medicine in India
- Chooran: These are pills or balls much like dried pickle.
- Madhya Kalpana: Fermented alcoholic Arishta and Asava
- Sukta Kalapana (Cider Vinegar medicines.
यद् अपक्वौषधाम्बुभ्यां सिद्धं मद्यं स आसवः ।
अरिष्टः क्वाथसाध्यः स्यात् तयोर्मानं पलोन्मितम् ॥Sa Ma Kha 10/2
Essentially means that Asava is made from a decoction that is not fermented while Arishta is made from boiled decoction.
तयोरासवारिष्टयोर्मानं पानार्थं तुलनारूपं जलोन्मितमिति ।Dipika Tika
जलपानमात्रं जलपानं तु अल्पमेव कथितं नैतन्मनोहरम्, कुतो मदात्ययविषयकत्वात ॥
This talks about additional differences like:
- Asava is made from Sita Virya Dravya (which means it would lower the metabolism rate). Arista is made from Usna Virya Dravya which increases the metabolic rate.
- Asava is lower viscosity, less potency and suitable for children Pediatric patients. Arista is higher viscosity, alcohol content, and potency. It is more suitable for adults and old age patients.
- Asava is better suited for Paittika Vyadhi or digestive tract and gastric diseases. Arista are better suited for vata kaphaja vyadhi or energy space imbalance in the body.
Types of alcoholic medicines in Ayurveda
- Sura Including Prasanna, Kadambari, Jafala, Medaka & Surabija.
Types of Cider Vinegar medicines
Fermented Medicine Ingredients:
अनुक्तमानारिष्टेषु द्रवद्रोणे तुलां गुडम्। क्षौद्रं क्षिपेद् गुडादर्थं प्रक्षेपं दशमांशकम्॥Ma. Kha 10/3
- Kwatha Dravya (Medicine) varies as per potency but about 250-500gm of herbs are used.
- Dravadravya: liquid for fermentation. It would be 1 drona ( 12.3kg) would yield about 10 liters of medicine. Most practitioners use boiled water, but coconut or fruit juice is preferred.
- Madhura Dravya: Essentially means sweetening agent. It can be Malt, honey, gur/jaggery, or any sugar source. Depending on potency (BRIX levels) between 1/4 Tula to 1/2 Tula is used (1.2 kg to 2.4kg)
- Praksepaka Dravya: Additional drugs to help boost the immunity of the patient. 1/10 Guda or 0.48kgs. Some of these have been added to improve the digestion that weakens due to illness.
- Sandhana Dravya or yeast source. about 1/2 to 1gm per liter should be sufficient. Ayurveda insists on using flower petals as a source of yeast. However, most ayurvedic chemists have started using wine yeast for this.
- Sandhana Patra or fermenter. It is supposed to be made of an inert material like clay pot or stainless steel.
द्रव्यद्रोणे द्रोणद्वयपरिमिते द्रवे क्वाथादिके। तत्र तुलामितिसन्धानीयकद्रव्याणां क्षिपेत्। तानि मधुकपुष्पप्रभृतीनि गुडपरिमाणादर्धपरिमाणम्। मध्विति गुडमानमपिक्वाथद्रव्यपरिमाणाद) बोद्धव्यम्। प्रक्षेपं पश्चाद्देयं द्रव्यं दशमांशिकं गुडपरिमाणादित्यर्थः।।(Dipika Tīkā)
Why alternative medicine?
People turn to alternative medicines and Ayurveda for various reasons. Some are looking for natural therapy. This has lower side effects and ability to build up body immunity rather than just suppressing the symptoms of the ailments. Those suffering from chronic ailments; prefer alternative medicines for its superior ability to manage the disease with lower side effects. Others turn to Ayurveda due to the side effects from regular medicines. Elderly and kids switch to Ayurveda because the taste is more agreeable.
Whatsoever be the reason to switch towards traditional delivery vehicles (medicine base), the goal of this chapter is not to promote self-medication. What we want to impress upon you is that not all medicines need to be a bitter pill or a painful injection. Work with the doctor and we may be able to find a more agreeable way to administer the medicine without compromising on its efficacy.