When you visit an Ayurvedic physician, whatever you ailment may be, there are certain factors that determine the course of treatment that is best for you. Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of medicine, is a highly personalized healing science. Therefore your physician will first determine several crucial physical and mental factors before prescribing a course of treatment. These factors can be classified into dosha, rasa, vipaka, veerya, prabhava, guna and pathya. According to Ayurveda, every living organism is controlled and governed by three major life forces known as the tridoshas. The tridoshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and all physical and mental disorders occur when these three doshas lose their unique balance in the body. Vata governs our nervous systems and Pitta is the energy for the body’s internal functions. Kapha regulates the heat and biological processes of the body as well as influencing the secretion and formation of body fluids. When one of these doshas become either high or low, disorders begin to occur and your physician’s first order of priority is to go to the root of your problem by determining which of the doshas is out of balance.
The Role of the Rasas
Rasa is taste and taste plays an important role in restoring the balance of the doshas. Ayurveda classifies taste into six types. Madhura or sweetness pacifies Pitta and Vata but aggravates Kapha. Madhura is a pleasant taste that is a good tonic for heart and brain if consumed in correct quantities. Amala or sourness aggravates Pitta and Kapha but pacifies Vata. It promotes the appetite and improves digestion if consumed within limits. Lavana or saltiness also aggravates Pitta and Kapha but pacifies Vata. It is diuretic and it works as digestive expectorant and appetizer. It is easily soluble and acts as softening and water retaining agent. Katu or pungent taste aggravates Pitta and Vata but pacifies Kapha. It promotes the secretion of saliva and tears. The tingling sensation produced by katu taste on the tongue is useful in dyspepsia. Tikta or bitterness pacifies Pitta and Kapha but aggravates Vata. It is an excellent appetizer, though it produces dryness in the mouth. Kasaya or astringent taste also pacifies Pitta and Kapha but aggravates Vata. It is a diuretic and helps in healing of wounds.
Vipaka and Veerya
Vipaka refers to the metabolism of various organs caused by biochemical changes brought about by foods and drugs. It is directly related to rasa, but while the action of rasa is immediate, local, physiological and psychological and quite perceivable, vipaka action is delayed, systemic, physiological and inferable but not-perceivable. Veerya is the potency of a food or a drug. Veerya is is further classified into sheeta or cold and ushna or hot. Sheeta diminishes secretions, stabilizes our excretory functions, stops bleeding, promotes vigour and vitality and aggravates Vata and Kapha, while pacifying Pitta. Ushna, on the other hand helps in storing up of internal energy, leads to easy digestion, causes thirst and aggravates Pitta, while pacifying Vata and Kapha.
Prabhava , Guna and Pathya
Prabhava refers to the empirical action of a drug- its characteristic influence. When talking of remedies, Guna on the other hand, denotes the actual physical properties of any drug, of which there are 20, according to Ayurveda. Pathya is the study of food-to-drug and drug-to-drug interactions or to put it in Ayurvedic terms, Pathya and Apathy. In Ayurveda certain food items or drugs must be completely avoided during treatment, because they reduce the absorption of essential ingredients of the drugs. Certain drugs can lead to side effects when they interact with other drugs, and so it is essential that Pathya and Apathya be strictly followed during the course of treatment.
In Kerala, a tropical paradise in South Indian there are Ayurvedic physicians who are probably the world’s foremost experts in charting out a course of treatment that is uniquely designed for you, after carefully considering all the above factors. Their families have been practicing this ancient science and art of healing for generations – in fact, some of them trace their lineage back to the ancient sages. On your part, they will expect you to be an active participant because Ayurvedic treatments require changes in diet, lifestyle and habits for which you should be willing for the treatment to be a success… so finally, Ayurveda’s success depends on you, as a patient.