Talk:/Medical Institutions in ancient india/Pharmacy/The Golden Period of Ayurveda

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The Golden Period of Ayurveda


600 B. C to 600 A. D.

Pharmacy had reached the scientific stage at this period, as is evinced by the master-classics of Caraka and Susruta. They evolved the all-comprehensive concept Caraka declares �



�There is no substance in the world which is not medicine".

They knew the uses of practically all the known substances, as is proved by the enumeration in the following verses.


�Again they are classified differently in three groups�animal, vegetable and mineral.


Honey, milk, bile, fat, marrow, blood, flesh, excrement, urine, skin, semen, bone-sinews, horns, nails, hooves, hair, down, and inspi�ssated bile these are the substances used in medicine from the animal world.

Gold, ores, the fine metals, sand, lime, red and yellow arsenic, gems, red ochre and antimony are the mineral products used in medicine.


The vegetable group is divided into four classes (the direct fruiters, creepers, flowery fruiters and herbs) Root, bark, pith, exudation, stalk, juice, sprouts, alkalies, milk, fruit, flower, ash, oils, thorns, leaves, buds, bulbs, and off-shoots are the plant products used in medicine. (Caraka Sutra I, 68-72)


In addition, to these classifications, clear instructions were given regarding the kind of country, season and clime of culling of herbs, selections of herbs and the methods of storage.


Regarding country, we have detailed descriptions in Caraka Kalpa 1-8.

�Place or clime is of three kinds Jangala (arid) I*and, wetland and ordinary land �. Then follows a description of three kinds of land.


Regarding the season and time of culling the herbs we have in Caraka, Kalpa sthana I, 10 � Of them such drugs should be culled as were put forth in their proper season and have attained their fulness of growth, taste, potency and smell... .." etc


In this verse detailed descriptions are given as to how and when the herbs should be culled.


Minute instructions regarding the selection of drugs are given in Caraka Cikitsa-sthana I, (1), 38-40.


� The best of habitats for medicinal plants is the Himalayas, the most majestic of mountains It is the fruits grown in the Himalayas that are therefore to be properly culled every season, rich with juice and potency, mellowed by the sun, wind, shade and water, unnibbled at by bird or beast, unspoiled and unmarked with cuts or diseases. We shall now describe the modes of administration and the excellent effects of these fruits."


Very valuable instructions are given in Caraka Kalpa-sthana Til regarding storage of herbs. It says that the herbs should be stored in houses with doors opening to the east or the north, and that the rooms should be windless, proof against fire, water, moisture, smoke, dust, mice an quadruped.


In order to ascertain the action of the drugs on the human body, the great sages evolved the five determinants viz., taste, quality, potency, post-digestive effect and specific action.

This system enabled them to study completely all the drags necessary for therapeutics. These drugs were chiefly administered through the natural channel of the mouth and hence the arrangement of Rasa or tastes came into prominence, the sense of taste playing an important part in oral administration of drugs. This arrangement and metaphysic of taste in six categories is a speciality of Ayurveda and it has been so arranged as to fit well arithmetically to the Tridosa theory. The properties and actions of inedible drugs were experienced by senses other than that of taste and so a comprehensive scheme of twenty or more kinds of properties was evolved which could be tested by other sense-organs. Some drugs acted more powerfully than usually expected and so or potency of drug became one of the determining factors. Another pecularity of Ayurveda is its theory that the drugs while entering the body submit themselves to the process of digestion. As a background of this theory, the concept of Ayurveda that diet and drugs fall in the same category is worthy of attention. The Upanisads consider food also as medicine. The difference between diet and drugs is not fundamental, taste is predominant in diet while potency is predominant in drugs and it is but a natural corollary that just as diet gets digested in the system, so drug also is digested in the system. It is on this sound fundamental theory that Ayurveda forbids the administration of another drug before the first drug is digested. Thus comes or post-digestive effect, the form that a drug is turned into after being digested and its action on the body, these form the subject matter of vipakgyan, Last but not the least comes the specific action of a drug. Even in this modern scientific age not to talk of the so-called empirical age of knowledge, no scientific expla�nation can be given for the specific properties of certain arugs, because they are beyond the ken of the present stage of science. When the knowledge of specific action attains perfection, there will be no need of research but so long as there is room for research, we must admit that the knowledge is incomplete.


These five-fold deliberations on drugs cover the whole field in a comprehensive way. As Ayurveda has conceived diet and drug as one, the properties and the actions of the substance that comprise our diet have been subjected to the same process of study and exposition as those of the drugs. This is really a speciality and pecularity of Ayurveda.