Types of ayurveda medicines

(Published in December 2017 issue of Santwanam magazine.)

Plants and other substances of medicinal value are usually transformed to one form or other, for convenience of storage and use. Most of the traditional ayurvedic preparations are of these types, and it can typically be inferred from its name.

Some of common forms used in Ayurvedic medical practice are listed below.

1. Anjjana
It is made by adding a little water to fine powder of specific drugs/herbs. Typically used for applying in the eyes
Eg. Guladyanjana

2. Arishta
It is made by keeping drugs/herbs along with jaggery or honey in a pot for a period (30 days, 41 days etc.)
Eg. Dasamoolaarishta

3. Choorna (powder)
Choorna refers to powder form of medicine. It is, typically, made by powdering the dried drugs/herbs on the grinding slab or with pestle and mortar
Eg. Ashtachoorna

4. Avaleha
It is also called lehya or rasaayana. Avaleha refers to a form of medicine which is semi-solid. It is prepared by adding jaggery, kvaata etc to drugs/herbs

Eg. Chyavanapraasa

5. Bhasma
This is made from minerals, after removing impurities through a process called Sodhana. Thereafter, the drug/herb is converted to a state in which they can be absorbed in the body through a process called Maarana process.

Eg. Sankhabhasma

6. Lepa
It is a paste for external application. It is prepared by grinding drugs/herbs in oil, water, etc, and is made into a paste to be applied on a part of the body.

Eg. Mahaatiktalepa

7. Kvaata (Kashaaya)
It is essentially a decoction made using drugs. Drugs/herbs are made into small pieces and kept in a pot. Further, water is added and boiled on low flame till significantly reduced in volume. Proportion of water mixed and reduction level depends on the type of drug/herb involved. The liquid is allowed to cool and then strained to a clean vessel.

Eg. Mahaaraasnaadi Kvaata

8. Vati
It is also called Gulika, Gutika, Modaka, Vatikā, Vartika, Varti etc. It is prepared by mixing powdered drugs/herbs with water, kvaata, honey etc into a paste. Then it is changed to a pill by the hand

Eg. Yogarajaguggulu vatika


Circadian Clock, and Nobel Prize

(Published in November 2017 issue of Santwanam magazine.)

The Nobel prize in medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young, this year, for their “discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”.The Nobel prize in medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young, this year, for their “discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”.

What is circadian rhythm?

Circadian rhythm is the 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living things. It is driven by a biological clock within us, with day-night cycles helping us to organize various activities of our body. This clock is called a circadian clock. It is affected by environmental factors, like sunlight and temperature. This clock controls sleep patterns, variation in blood pressure and body temperature, release of hormones, etc

Earlier studies

Seymour Benzer and his student Ronald Konopka discovered, in 1970s, that mutations in an unknown gene affected the circadian clock in fruit flies. They named this gene ‘period’. But it was not clear as to how this gene influences the circadian rhythm.

Period gene and PER protein

This year’s Nobel Laureates Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash, working closely with Michael Young, discovered the ‘period’ gene as well as the 24-hour cycles of the the protein PER encoded by the period gene. These oscillations that they found were in sync with the circadian rhythm. Further, Michael Young discovered a second clock gene ‘timeless’. This gene encodes the TIM protein. The TIM protein  when bound to PER was able to enter the cell nucleus and block period gene activity thus closing the inhibitory feedback loop. Michael Young also identified yet another gene called ‘doubletime. This gene encodes the DBT protein delaying the accumulation of the PER protein. That is how frequency of the oscillations is controlled to closely match a 24-hour cycle.

Ayurvedic perspective

While existence of a circadian clock, by itself, is a long accepted fact, these discoveries establish beyond any doubt that they are inherent and integral part of our body. As our body functions are regulated by this, it is obvious that one needs to lead a life in tune with this as far as possible. Chronic and huge disconnect between lifestyle and rhythm is a strong indication for many diseases

Ayurveda has been always a strong advocate of regimen for healthy and happy living. In fact, it makes specific recommendations for disciplined daily life as Dinacharya as well as regimens to adapt to various seasons as Ritucharya. Caught in the rigors of daily life, disciplined lifestyle becomes the first causality. When these cannot be avoided, it is important to take adequate preventive and corrective measures so that overall health is not affected.