Rasa Panchaka – 5 Qualities Of Substance (Dravya)

Article by Prof. Dr. MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), Ph.D.
The word rasa panchaka is include that the five factors of dravya (substance) that is
Rasa – taste
Guna – qualities
Vipaka – taste conversion after digestion
Veerya – Potency of the herb (cold or hot)
Prabhava – special effect of the herb. Example: Brahmi is Medhya – brain tonic. 

The word rasa means taste, but it also have other meanings like rasadhatu, paradha etc.
“Rasya te aswadhyate rasanayaha rasendriyena eti Rasa”
That means the particular sense object, which is perceived by the tongue, is called rasa or the guna, which can be perceived by the rasanendriya, is called rasa.
pharmaceuticsTypes of Rasa: 
Rasa are basically divided into six type based on its perception that is:
Madhura Rasa ,amla Rasa, lavana rasa, katu rasa, tikta rasa, kasaya rasa.
Once again, based on the actions of rasa the rasas are divided into two types i.e., soumya rasa and agneya rasa,

Panchamahabhootha of Rasa:
Madhura (sweet) – Prithvi +jala (earth + water)
Amla (sour) – Prithvi+tejas (earth + fire)
Lavana (salt)  – Jala+tejas (water + fire)
Katu (pungent) – Vayu+tejas (air + fire)
Tikta (bitter) – Vayu+akash (air + ether)
Kashaya (astringent)- Vayu+prithvi (air + earth)

Regarding composition of amla and lavana rasas there is difference of opinion between charaka and shurshrutha.
The composition given in above table proposed by charaka. According to shushrutha amla is composed of jala and tejas and lavana is of prithvi and tejas.
Even though rasa is having above-mentioned mahabhoothas predominantly the other mahabhoothas are aloso possible to see in little extent.

Rasa and its gunas:
Madhura (sweet) is Snigdha (oily, unctuous), sheetha (cold), guru (heavy)
Amla (sour) is Snigdha, ushna (hot), guru
Lavana (salt) is Snigdha, ushna, guru
Katu (pungent) is Ruksha (dry), ushna, laghu (lightness)
Tikta (bitter) is Ruksha, sheeta, laghu
Kashaya (astringent) is Ruksha, sheeta, laghu

Action of Rasas on Doshas:
The actions of rasas on doshas is an essential because rasa is one which has gunas in its and which are favourable or unfavorable for the dosha and it will be mainly applicable in the treatment aspect because in ayurveda we are treating only on basis of doshas by using different recipes.

Doshas and effective Rasas against them, in sequence (less to more effective)
Vata Dosha – Lavana (salt), Amla (sour), Madhura (sweet)
Pitta Dosha – Tikta (bitter), Madhura (sweet), Kashaya (astringent)
Kapha Dosha – Katu (pungent) Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent)
In these order rasas are used in treatment.

The Perception of Rasas:
According to Indian Darshana shashtra knowledge rasa can be acquired through three pramanas i.e., pratyaksha, anumana, aptopadesha.

Rasas can be known through all these three modes of knowledge.yet, direct demonstrable knowledge is more widely used.if the dravya comes in contact with the tongue then only the direct perception of rasa is possible.this is rasana pratyaksha.

The some rasa can perceivable by anumana only like, sweetness of gold, taste of silver. Taste of lead & bitter taste of iron have all been ascertained through inference after carefully observing the effects of these dravyas on the body.

Similarly avyaktha rasas or anurasas have to be specially understood through aptopadesha. And this knowledge is endorsed through anumana pramana.

According to some, a general knowledge of rasas is obtained through pratyaksha, anumana provides specific knowledge, where aptopadesha provides experimental knowledge.

Actions of Rasa:
The action of rasas is brought in accordance with samanya vishesha siddhantha. Similar dravya-guna-karma increase similar dravya-guna-karma and dosha-dhathu-mala. Whereas dissimilar dravya, guna, karma bring about decrease. The action described as the action is in fact the actions of gunas belong the dravyas having the particular rasa.

The one which is directly perceived is called rasa, whereas sime rasas which are not perceptible at first but it will found at the last. This founding rasa is called as anurasa

Characteristics of anurasa:
Anurasa is either unmanifested or is manifested in small proportion.
Anurasa doesn’t remain in dravya inits dry state. For eg: The sweet anurasa of dry pippali will not persists.
Read more: Tastes – Types, Qualities, Therapeutic Action- Ayurveda Details

Comparison between Rasa and Anurasa:
Rasa is clearly manifested. Anurasa may not be clearly manifested.
Rasa remains in tact in the herb even after drying. Anurasa may not remain intact after drying.
Taste is manifested at first, in the beginning of tasting process. Anurasa is manifested later or in the end. 

Guna:  Guna is one which is located in dravya inherently causative agent and devoid of property and action.
It means guna itself has no action but its qualitates dravya for such action.

Characteristics of gunas:
“samavayee tu nischesthaha:”
here the word nischestha has been intentionally added to characteristic of guna in order to differentiate it from karma. If only the word samavayee would have been used, it might have been transgressed the characters of gunas, since karmas also have an inseparatable relationship to dravyas and resides in dravyas.

Dravya sustains guna, karma, but guna can’t sustain guna and karma. Karma also resides in dravya and it is a non essential cause as well. Yet, it is the cause of aggregation, segregation at the same time

The author of text rasa vaisheshika describes gunas as “ Vishwa lakshana gunah”. As these are responsible for the presence of various characteristics of padarthas.

Gunas acts as a medium for understanding the peculiarities of dravyas .it is an acceptable principle that every guna has a definite action a single dravya may have many gunas and single specific guna may be present in many dravyas.

Classification of gunas:
Gunas are classified mainly on three types i.e., vaisheshika guna , samanya gunas,and atma gunas.
The vaisheshika gunas are
Shabda – sound
Sparsha – touch
Roopa – shape
Rasa – taste
Gandha – smell

The samanya gunas are 30 in number.they are divided into guruadhi and paradi guna:
Guruvadi guna                                                                                         
Guru X laghu
Mandha X thikshana
Hima X Ushna
Snigdha X Ruksha
Slakshana X Kara
Sandra X Drava
Mrudhu X Kathina
Sthira X Sara
Sukshma X Sthula
Visadha X Pichilla

Paradi Guna:
Para, Apara, Yukti, Samyoga, Vibhaga, Prutaktva, Abhyasa, Samskara, Parimana and Samkhya

Atma gunas are 6 in number. They are
prayatna and
In total 41 gunas are considered.

Significance of guna: 
The references for guna are available in all the classics.
Definition of sharira dosha dhatu mala mulam he sharirum,
Here three factors dosha dhatu malas are exhibited through gunas.
In chikitsa aspects samanya vishesha siddhantha, samanya guna will increases the dhatus etc.. vishesha gunas will decreases the dhatus etc..
This is based on guna only.

Importance of guna:
The importance of gunas is:
Rasabibhavath: – Actions of rasa that are present in dravya are superseated by guna
Rasanugraha: – The gunas of dravyas are condensive to rasas only
Vipakakarantvath: – the vipaka superseats the rasas, but this vipaka mainly due to the gunas
Sankyabahulyath: – in number also it is more
Prayogabahulyath: – in the aspect of usage the gunas are widely used in clinical application
Karmabahulyath:- guna is associated with and helps to bring action in various manner, this is by guna only
Vishayabahulya:- dravya which are sustainer of guna, guna are superior and that which has many sustainer is considered as superior.
Upadesh: – many of granthas explained about gunas.
Apadeshath: – it means description while describing an objects we mentions its gunas only.
Anumanath: – the inference is also by gunas

Doshas and its gunas: 
Vata dosha:- ruksha , laghu, sheeta, kara,sukshma,chala.
Pitta dosha:- sneha,tikshna,usna,lagu,visra,sara,drava.
Kapha dosha:- snigdha,sheeta,guru,mandha,slakshana,Sandra,mrudhu.

The word veerya is derived from ‘veer’ that means a dynamic property of a substance which brings about the action is called veerya.
The actions of rasa are described. The remaining actions are due to veerya.

Characteristics of veerya:
It is observed that drugs which effectively act on dosha,dathu,mala at a particular time become ineffective after sometimes. This is so because the potency of a substances or the veerya which is responsible for the effective action, is lost when old.
For this reason all samhitas adviced to use fresh dravyas instead of old.

A drug works through veerya if its veerya gets depleted due to the effect of adverse conditions it looses its dynamic potency because of which it becomes ineffective. Action only takes place if the drug posessess veerya if it doesn’t actions are not seen.

Different opinions exists regarding the form of veerya. Some ancient acharya mentions veerya as a substances, some as guna and karma. Some describes veerya as a dynamic potency and therefore consider it as a part of guna. Modern scholars consider veerya as ‘active principle’ and hence a part of special substances.

Types of veerya:
Veeryas are mainly divided into two types based on Charaka samhitha and Vagbhata samhitha. i.e.,
a) Astavidha


b) Dvividha

Dvividha Veerya and its Mahabhootha, Karma, effect on Dosha:

Sheeta veerya –
composed of
Prithvi and Jala
Effect – Pleasurable, stabilizing, cleaning, life giving, heavy
Effect on Dosha – Pittashamaka, Kapha – Vata Vardhaka

Ushnaveerya –
Mahabhuta – Agni
Effect – Burning, fainting, loss of senses, sweating, digestion, emesis, purgation
Effect on Dosha – Kapha Vata Shamaka, Pitta Vardhaka

Asthavidha veerya
Above two, 

Snigdha Veerya –
– Aap (water)
Effect – Snehana, restorative, anti ageing, aphrodisiac
Tridosha effect – Vatahara

Rooksha –
Mahabhuta – Vayu
Effect – Constipative, drying,
Tridosha effect – Vata Vardhaka

Guru Veerya –
Mahabhuta  Pruthvi + Aap
Effect – Brumhana, Vata anulomana, Dhatu Vardhaka, Aphrodisiac
Effect on Dosha –  Increases Kapha, Decreases Pitta and Vata

Laghu Veerya –
Mahabhuta – Agni + Vayu
Effect – drying, absorption, healing, scraping
Effect on Tridosha – Increases Vata, Decreases Kapha.

Mrudu Veerya –
Mahabhuta – Aap + Akasha
Effect – Blood & muscle promoting
Tridosha – Pitta Shamaka

Teekshna Veerya
Mahabhuta – Agni
Effect – stimulating, secreting, oozing
Tridosha – Balances Kapha Dosha. Increases Vata and Pitta

Some authors have told
Vishada (clarity) as Veerya in place of Laghu and
Picchila (stickiness) as Veerya, in place of Guru.

Relations between rasa and veerya:
Generally dravyas having Madhura tiktha, kashaya rasas are sheeta veerya and those having amla, lavana, katu rasa,are usna veerya. All these rasas which are related to agni mahabhoothas are usna veerya, and rest are sheeta veerya. But there is a exception, even through rasa is usefull in arriving at an inference about veerya , vipaka,guna. So it is wrong to decide the veerya.

Importance of veerya:
Drug contains different entities like, rasa, veerya,vipaka etc. among all these veerya is predominant because it brings about action of dravya.
Only dravya those which are predominant in veerya are used in chikitsa.
Actions of dravya are due to veerya.
Veerya supersedes rasa, vipaka, and guna.therefore even when rasas, vipaka and guna of a dravya act in accordance with each other. Veerya being about total action different.
Veerya is mentioned as extremely importance even by aptavachas in literatures.

The word vipaka is gets originated by “vi-puch” which means pachana. The synonyms are parinama durgathi, swadhu, nayathi, ayu.
Transformation of rasas after food is digested completely in the koshtanga by the help of Jataragni is called vipaka. When its undergone digestion the ahara rasa is divided into sara bhaga and kitta bhaga.

Classification of vipaka:
vipaka is classified into 2 types ie., a)prapaka; b)vipaka.

Prapaka:- It is the first stage of digestion here the ahara undergone paka in koshtanga levels, nourishes the tridoshas respectively. It is also called awasthapaka. it is of three types
Madhurawasthaka: which will takes place from mouth to amashaya and nourishes kapha dosha.
Amlavasthapaka: which will takes place at amapakwashsyamadhya and nourishes pitta dosha.
Katuawasthapaka: it takes place at pakwashya and nourishes vata dosha.

Shushrutha mentioned two types of prapaka i.e, Guru which does kapha vardhana and vata pitta shamana . Lagu which does vata pitta vardhana kapha shamana

Vipaka:- is done by bhoothagni and dhathu agni.it is the final stage of rasa which nourishes the respective dosha, mala,dhatus by done ahara rasa paka by its respective agni.

Vipaka and its Guna and effect on Doshas:
Madhura – Snigdha, guru guna – Kapha vardhaka
Amla Vipaka – Snigdha, laghu guna – Pitta vardhaka
Katu Vipaka – Ruksha, Laghu guna – Vata Vardhaka

Karmas of Vipaka on Dosha, Dhatu, Mala:
Madhura Vipaka – Kapha vardhaka – Shukra vardhaka – Laxative
Amla Vipaka – Pitta vardhaka – Shukra nashana – Laxative
Katu Vipaka – Vata vardhaka – Shukra nashaka – Constipative

General rule of Vipaka:
Always Madhura rasa dravyas undergoes amla vipaka ,and katu, tiktha, kashaya rasas undergone katu vipaka. But parashara opines that Madhura, lavana,titka, kasaya, rasas undergoes Madhura vipaka, amla to amla vipka and katu rasa to katu vipaka.

Perception of vipaka:
Vipaka of the dravya is ascertained by anumana. When food undergoes vipaka it shows an effect by this we can infer the vipaka of the drug but in pratyaksha cannot be possible to ascertain.

Importance of vipaka:
Vipaka is one in which the ahara or the medicinal drugs will attains the last stage of the homologus stage and nourishes the definite dosha, dhatus, malas etc respectively.
Even though it is not possible to see directly we can elicited by inference.
Even though it is of different rasa, guna etc due to the vipaka it undergoes to nourish tridoshas specifically by its action.
It s an micro digestion particleof food and medicine.
Vipaka is important among all other qualities like rasa within dravya, because guna or dosha of dravya depend on proper and improper digestion.
Gunas are evolved due to proper digestion of dravya by balanced digestive fire and doshas due to incorrect digestion.
Vipaka is more important because both aggrevation and allevation of doshas is due to vipaka.
Read related: Vipaka: Taste Conversion During And After Digestion

“ Due to its presence and combination the substance acquires a distinct activity that is called Prabhava.”
Prabhava one which is of beyond to the normal effect even thoughboth dravyas having same rasa, guna, vipaka, are shown for an definite action but finally it gives different action,this action of difference is due prabhava.this prabhva is also called achinthya.

Characteristics of Prabhava:
If both the plants are having same rasa, guna, etc.. its karma is different .this is due to the prabhava.
For eg: milk and ghee both are sweet and cold but ghee is agni deepana but milk is not. This is due to prabhava.

Any effect is having cause similarly when dravya,rasa, guna, vipaka cannot explain the effect. The effect is attributed by prabhava. Prabhava is the inconvinceable unipue property of dravya, its effect is seen but one cannot establish a casual relationship i.e., prabhava.
By ancient scriptures prabhava is considered as superior one.
Read related: Prabhava: Special Effect of Herb

Discussion and conclusion: 
Rasa panchaka is a term which includes five factors of dravya i.e., rasa, guna,Veerya, vipaka. These five are always the factors of dravya and these are having inseparable relation with dravya.

The actions of these five factors depends on dravya only because these five are the fractions of dravya and some of interrelated while performing the karma.

Among these rasa panchakas Charaka mentioned vipaka as the first because of its wide spread actions over the body. But the recent authers mentioned in the order of rasa, guna, veerya, vipaka, prabhava.

Some are mentioned that rasa is more dominant than guna is dominant than veerya is this sequence till prabhava,but infact all these factors are resides in dravya only. For the propagation of actions of components is dravya only.

Because draya is the seat for all these five components.
Every matters in the world are studied under the concept of dravya only.
So the fulfillment of knowledge towards dravya the knowledge of rasa, guna, veerya, vipaka, is must because with out this dravya is not perceptible to our naked eyes.

For the fulfillment of treatment inayurvedic science the knowledge of dravya is must. So for the knowledge of dravya the knowledge of these five factors is important.
Lastly whatever the opinion about the superiority of these five factors, as per the concern to application. The knowledge of whole five factors carrying equal weightage.

Charaka Samhitha by R.K Sharma and Bhagawan Das
Shushrutha Samhitha by Laxmidhar Dwivedhi
Astanga Sangraha by K R Shreekanta Murthy.
Ayurvedic Pharmacology and Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants by Vaidhya V.M Gogte
Dravya Guna Vignana by P.V Sharma
Dravya Guna Vignana by Gyanendra Pandey
Bhaishajya Kalpana by Ramachandra Reddy
Bhaishajya Kalpana by Shobha J Hiremath

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  1. in which classical text can i find a original list or the gunas from herbs and food?

  2. Satyan Namdhari says:

    I could not understand the meaning of the word “vishadha” in the sentence: “According to some vishadha replaces the laghu and picchila replaces guru veerya.” above in Ashtavidha Veerya. Could you clarify reference and context for this sentence?


    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Thanks for pointing it out.
      I removed the tables and eased the explanation for better reading experience.

      Some authors have told
      Vishada (clarity) as Veerya in place of Laghu and
      Picchila (stickiness) as Veerya, in place of Guru.

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