Vrikshayurveda - Introduction


Ayurveda (5)

Ayurveda is probably the first health system to mention about climate change and its repercussions. Abnormal conditions of stars, planets, moon, sun, air, fire, water seasonal variation etc., cause derangements of environmental conditions leading to the occurrence of serious physical and mental health problems. Ayurveda envisaged such calamities about 7000 years ago and recommended suitable revival/remedial measures in a holistic manner. It is also observed that Panchabhoutika characters/qualities (based on the five elementary principles) of our planet is deteriorating day by day.

According to basic concepts and fundamental principles of Ayurveda, energy exist in all substances whether in a drug form or in any matter. The actions, interaction and transformations of the five elementary principles Apancheekrita panchabhuta and pancheekrita panchabhuta, which are evolved from pre-particle state to the molecular state (Panchatanmatras) leads to their different state of equilibrium in matter.

Ayurveda explains the basic concept through various evolutionary states of the unmanifested Mahabhuta, i.e. from Bhutas to Mahabhuta, Mahabhutas to manifested Drishya Bhuta is the external and the subtlest form of Dravya (substance/matter) according to the Vaiseshika philosophy. The physical representation of the Panchamahabhutas (Drishya Bhutas) are Akasa (Space), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Ap (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). Based on this concept Vagbhata states that, every form of matter (dravya) has to be considered as Panchabhoutika in its origin. In this, Prithvi considered as the repository, Ap the source, Akasa, Vayu and Agni the accompanying causes which are considered to be the causative factors of matter.

Highlighting the Panchabhoutika theory described in Ayurveda based on Sankhya and Vaiseshika philosophy states – “for the purpose of chemical analysis and synthesis, all substances were looked upon by the ancients as being made up of Panchabhutas – the five gross elements”. These elements were taken to be different states of matter. Further he explains that, the Paramanus (atom) of the chemical elements may be said to be the combination of these five states of matter in different proportions. The important element forming the proto-matter occupies the center as the nucleus, while the remaining four elements occupy periphery. In Indian philosophy, the proto-matters are linked to Tanmatras (molecules), which may be translated as charges of specific energy. It must be noted here that the word energy is used here only with reference to matter. These tanmatras i.e, rudimentary elements are, as it were, the foundations of five types of matter charged potentially with the energy of:

  1. Sabdha – Sound (vibration),
  2. Sparsha – Touch (tangibility),
  3. Roopa – Heat and light,
  4. Rasa – Taste,
  5. Gandha – Smell

According to Sankhyas they are arranged in groups wherein the proportions increased by permutation and combination. Sabhdha tanmatra is being held as the starting point. In this evolutionary process Sabdha tanmatra charged with vibration is responsible for producing the whole structural character of Akasa mahabhuta. Like this Sparsatanmatra with vibration and tangibility produce Vayu mahabhuta. Roopa tanmatra with vibration, tangibility and heat produce Agni Mahabhuta. Rasa tanmatra with vibration, tangibility, heat and taste produce Ap mahabhuta. Gandha tanmatra with all the preciding in addition to smell produces Dravya, it first takes form as intense but invisible vibrations, called quantum fluctuations, before it proceeds to coalesce into impulse of energy and particles of matter”. Subsequently coalescence interactions between two Bhutas result in Dwayanuka state and that between three Bhutas result in the Trasarenu state.

In the evolutionary process, an important question that arises is regarding the ultimate source of energy. To focus more on this one has to verify the Trigunas i.e., the origin of three effective principles of nature (Prakriti). They are Satwa, Rajas and Tamas. These three principles are said to be nothing but essence of nature in which all the physical and physicochemical energies, such as rudimental, potential and kinetic energies like heat, sound, electricity etc. are included. Therefore, energy existing in all matter is due to Rajas, resistance and stability of matter is due to Tamas and all conscious manifestation of matter is due to Satwa. In nature, these three Gunas always stand in an interdependent manner. It is also stated that individuals assume inherent qualities of Trigunas. This can be explained through the relationship between Trigunas and Panchamahabhutas.

Based on Sankhya philosophy, Susruta explain this relationship as follows:

1, The inherent quality of Satwaguna is predominant in Akasabhuta and is responsible for producing the physical properties – Sunnyatwam (Space) followed by sound, sense of hearing, porosity, power of differentiation etc.

2, The inherent quality of Rajoguna is predominant in vayubhuta and is responsible for producing the physical properties – Chalatwam (movements) followed by sense of touch (skin), all functional networks of the organism, all vibrations (Spandanam), lightness etc.

3, The inherent quality of Satwa and Rajoguna is predominant in Agnibhuta and are responsible for producing the physical properties – Ushnatwam (heat energy) followed by colour, form, vision, complexion, heat, lustre, illumination, digestive, anger, valour etc.

4, The inherent quality of Satwa and Tamas are predominant in Apbhuta and are responsible for producing the physical properties – Dravatwam (liquid) followed by sense of taste, fluidity of all liquid parts of the body, heaviness, coldness, oleaginousness, semen etc.

5, The inherent quality of Tamoguna is predominant in prithvibhuta and is responsible for producing the physical properties – Katinatwam (Solid/stability) followed by smell or odour, sense of smell, embodiment, heaviness etc.

When we consider human body or plant as Dravya or matter one can differentiate the predominance of Panchabhoutika characters in the constitution of body part and can categorize them as Parthiva predominant Apya predominant, Agneya predominant, Vayavya predominant, and Akasa predominant. Any part of the body how so ever in the form of Nano level is thus an inseparable combination of these principles. Diseases occur in human body due to the imbalance of Panchabhuta due to a variety of reasons. Main objective of treatment therefore, is to restore the balanced state. To detect this Panchabhoutika imbalance in human body, Ayurveda established Tridosha theory followed by “Saptadhatu” and Mala theory. Aksa and Vayu bhutas are predominant in Vata, Agni in Pitta and Ap and Prithvi in kapha. Simialrly the inhernt quality of Rajoguna in pitta and Tamoguna in kapha.

Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the master physiological regulators of the body and mind and are termed as Tridhatu. Tridhatu remains always in a state of equipoise in healthy individuals. In this context Varier (1987) states that “some particular parts of dhatus always tend to wax and wane due to difference in factors like food, activities, day and night, age, time and place. Tissue also may wax and wane from diseases affecting particular pats of the body. The parts of the dathu is liable to such changes are called Tridoshas”.

Vata is one among the Tridosha, a major functional network and control system specifically responsible for the micro to macro level movements/ signaling/ traffic/ crosstalk at cellular to physical level. Connectivity of this network system linked with five satellite networking / control system like Prana Vata, Udana Vata, Vyana Vata, Samana Vata and Apana vata, which will cover as the related system biological network of their whole body and mind.

Pitta is a second major functional network and control system specifically responsible for the micro to macro level transformation and metabolism at cellular to physical level. Connectivity of this network is linked with five satellite networking/control system namely Pachaka pitta, Sadhaka pitta, Alochaka pitta and Bhrajaka pitta, which will cover as the related system biological network of the body and mind.

Kapha is the third major functional network and control system specifically responsible for the micro to macro level structural integrity of the body and provide stabilitiy to the immune system. Connectivity of this network is linked with Kledaka Kapha, Avalambaka Kapha, Bodaka Kapha, Tarpaka Kapha and Sleshaka Kapha, which will cover related system biological network of the body and mind.

The vitiated doshas are transformed into metabolic end products and are eliminated from the body as ‘Mala’. Thus, it is seen that human body is composed of doshas, dhatu and mala.

The term Vayu (Vata) is derived from the root va gatigamdhanayoh, which indicates two meanings, gati and gandhanayoh. Therefore, the term Vayu denotes movement, adjustment (activation of the whole physical and mental faculty) and is responsible for the conduction of gandha particle – odour. The term pitta is originated from the root tap meaning santap (integration of the whole physical and mental faculty and functional network of metabolic process due to Agneya property). The term sleshman (Kapha) is derived from the root Slishalingana’ which means to embrace. The root meaning therefore indicates attachment or building block and assimilation (completely integrates he physical and mental faculty by assimilative process due to Apyaguna). 

In this manner, at material level Ayurveda observes

(1) the development and functions of human organism, fundamental etiological factors/causes of illness, diagnosis, toxic and pathological conditions based on the Panchabhoutika theory and Tridosa theory.

(2) Properties, potencies, physiochemical action of different substance or dravyas.

In short, when an imbalance takes place in the panchabhoutika character of the body and mind due to various etiological factors, the balancing state of the doshas will be affected and this will be reflected on dhatus and malas. Thus, in turn aggravates or depletes the balancing equilibrium of the dosha-dhatu-malas of the body and mind produces different kinds of disorders. As mentioned earlier the ultimate objective of treatment is to bring back the balanced state. This process is termed in Ayurveda as Dhatusamyakriya. This balancing technique either brings down the aggravated doshas or tone up the depleted doshas into equilibrium. Therefore, the selection of the drug should be based on the bhuta character of a drug. For example, if the disorder is due to Prathivabhuta depletion, the drug prescribed must be Prathivabhuta predoiminaant. If the disorder is due to the aggravation of Agnibhuta, the dur must be the one that can counteract and establish the balance. These directions for selecting the drug are based on the fundamental principle ‘Vridhisamanair Sarvesham Virparitair Vipariya’ (Ashtangahridaya).

Based on the above concept and theory Ayurveda defines the term health as:

“Samadosha samagnischa samadhatu malakriya

Prasanna atmendriya mana swastha ithya abhidiyathe”

(Susruta Samhita, Sutra sthanam 75/41)

Health is the balanced state of Samadosha (equilibrium of Tridosha -  vata, pitta and kapha), Samagni (homeostasis/metabolic process), Samadhatu (healthy issues) and Malakriya (metabolic end products) leading to a balanced state of Spiritual, Mental, and Physical faculties. These in turn if aggravates or depletes the equilibrium of dosha, dhatu and mala of the body and mind causes various diseases. In short, as described above the ultimate objective of the treatment is to bring a person back to the balanced state.

Application of Panchabhoutikadravya into another Panchabhoutikadravya followed by its actions, interactions, reactions are expressed in terms of Ayurvedic Pharmacology. Satpadarthas are the main subject critically discussed in it. ‘Dravyam gunachaiva rasa sa veerya: vipika karmanicha shatpadartha’ (Rasavaiseshikom). To explain the various aspects of Dravya, Ayurveda established a separate branch of Sastra known as Dravya guna sastra. It mainly consists of Dravyaguna vignanam (Pharmacology), Dravya Parichaya Vignam (Pharmacognosy), Dravyakalpa Vignam (Pharmacy). All these aspects have to consider while formulating a drug either in single form or in combination.

Dravyaguna vignanam (Pharmacology) deals with the pentavalent basic principle of medicinal plants or drugs. They are Rasa (active principle), Guna (quality/properties), Veerya (potency), Vipaka (in vivo effect) and Prabhava (specific/synergic action).

Fundamental principle of Ayurvedic Pharmacology

“Bhootanam mutkarsha apakarsha sannivesa visesha

Samuhatekasmat vyavakeernnadwa”


The above stanza reveals that the medicinal property of a plant or drug is based on its constitution which may have one of the bhutas as a dominant component, that is one of the bhuta may be in a Utrarksha state (predominant state) and the others remain in a smaller proportion but supportive (Apakarsha state). Hence the drug would show chiefly the property of that bhuta or bhutas which are in a dominant state.

Example: In the popular medicinal plant Pipali (Piper longum) one can find domination of more than one bhuta while analyzing its characters, properties and action. Piper longum is stable (sthira) in nature because of prithvibhuta domination. It has got katurasa (pungent taste) due to domination of Agni and Vayu bhutas. Guru guna (heaviness in nature) prevailing in it is because of prithvi, apyabhuta domination. It possesses seethaveerya (naturally potentiated with cold principles) and in vipaka, it is gurupaka, because of prithvi and apyabhuta domination.

Name of the plant (Dravya), physical characters & relation with Panchaboutika


Out of these pentavalent basic principles, which will be active and which will be lesser active when administered as drug. Sastra says ‘yetasya balavat tena karma’. Action of a drug is based on the strength of each pentavalent basic principle. If rasa of a particular dravya or drug is more potent than other guna, veerya etc. the action of rasa may dominate when it is administered. In this manner guna, veerya etc of a drug is to be evaluated.