Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Rasayana is an important branch of Ayurveda which falls under the category of Jara Chikitsa (old age care and treatment, treatment of age induced disorders, anti-ageing treatment). Jara Chikitsa forms 1/8th of Ashtanga Ayurveda, i.e. 8 elite branches of Ayurveda. Rasayana can be coined as ‘Ayurvedic Geriatric Care System’.
Rasayana is a word which covers many meanings. Rasayanas are the medicines which help in formation of best quality tissues (dhatus) and also support the srotases (channels, duct system) related to specific dhatus. Rasayanas help in distribution of qualities of a herb or formulation including rasa, veerya, guna etc and makes them available to all the tissues.
Related reading – Rasayana, meaning and introduction
Rasayana is a broad spectrum science and covers many aspects of healing and treating. It is predominantly preventive medicine and also a curative medicine to an extent. It is included under Swasthasya Urjaskara type of Bheshaja (medicines) i.e. medicines (and non-medicines) which help in maintenance of health in an already healthy individual.
Anti-ageing medicines, immune-modulators, disease modifying medicines, rejuvenators, health boosting medicines, all these can be clubbed in the category of Rasayana group of medicines.
Rasayana Paribhasha, Definition of Rasayana
- Rasayana defined in terms of being the source of ‘best quality tissues’
Rasayana therapy, the source of best quality tissues
According to Charaka – ‘All the methods and materials which help in begetting the best quality Rasadi Dhatus are called Rasayanas’.
The methods and materials include dravya rasayanas (the rasayanas in the form of consumable medicines, diet etc) and adravya rasayanas (the rasayanas which do not have shape but still serve the purpose of rasayana, example, the conducts and behaviors of life called Achara Rasayana etc).
Therefore, any medicines, non-medicines or food substances which provide the best quality tissues and in turn a comprehensive health and immunity are called Rasayanas.
According to Arunadatta, the commentator of Ashtanga Hridaya – ‘Rasayanas are those methods which help the rasa and rakta to obtain the best qualities (others say that ‘any drug or medicament which eradicated jara and vyadhi is called rasayana’)’.
Rasayana includes all the methods of obtaining the best rasadi dhatus. In this context Rasa Rudhiraanam not only includes rasa and rakta but also includes all the tissues of the body.
Yogendranath Sen Ji has a similar opinion and tells – ‘All those methods which help in acquiring (begetting) the best qualities of rasadi shukranta dhatus (dhatus beginning with rasa and ending with shukra i.e. all the tissues of the body) are called Rasayanas (all those methods which induce the best qualities in the rasadi dhatus)’.
- Rasayana defined as the destroyer of ageing and diseases
Rasayana therapy, delays ageing and destroys disease
According to Sharangadhara, – ‘The Rasayanas are those which destroy Jara (old age, ageing) and Vyadhi (diseases)’.
Among the Ashtanga Ayurveda or 8 limbs (branches) of Ayurveda, Jara Chikitsa (treatment of old aged people, anti-ageing treatment) is an important branch. As the name indicates it is a branch which deals with handling the ‘old age and old age related health issues’. Old age or ageing is an inevitable factor but Rasayana allows graceful ageing. By strengthening the structural components of the body i.e. dhatus, it not only delays ageing process of the tissues it also helps preventing many diseases. This is a preventive dimension of Rasayana.
On the other hand, Rasayana is also curative in nature (Vyadhi Hara Rasayana). Rasayana, being a bheshaja (medicine) is both preventive and curative in nature. By strengthening the dhatus and enhancing the immunity Rasayana helps in preventing as well as curing many ailments. Rasayanas are prescribed as ‘recovery medicines’ in the follow up of treatment protocol of any disease, they help in quick recovery from a disease. Thus, Rasayanas are also immune-modulators; they also promote longevity and rejuvenate the tissues. They are good for balancing body-mind health.
- Rasayanas defined in terms of those which ‘nourish the tissues’ and ‘distributes the active principles of medicines to the tissues’
Rasayanas nourish the tissues & makes the qualities of medicines available to the tissues to optimum levels
According to Dalhana, the commentator of Sushruta Samhita – ‘That which nourishes the passageways (srotases, channels of the body, transport channels and ducts) of the Rasadi Dhatus (all the tissues) and thus help in proper formation and circulation of dhatus is called Rasayana’.
Discussion – The body tissues are carried and conducted from the place of manufacture to the place of need via srotas i.e. channel or duct system of the body. The srotas are present in all parts of the body. The body itself is said to be an abode of millions of srotases. Each corner of the body is connected to each corner through srrotases. These srotases are made of dhatus.
The srotas also carry the tissues in the stage of transformation (parinamam aapadhyamaanaanaam dhaatoonam abhivaahini bhavanti) from one place of the body to the other. Thus, the srotas not only transport the dhatus but also help in their formation and transformation. For the dhatus to be at the best of their health and protect the body, they should be present in optimum quality and desired quantity. For this to happen they need to be nourished and enriched from time to time through the srotases.
This indicates that the health of dhatus is dependent on their respective srotases. Rasayanas are those methods and materials (medicines and non-medicines) which support and nourish the dhatus and their srotases and help in formation of best quality dhatus. In short, the medicines beneficial to the rasadi dhatus and their ayanas (ducts, srotases) are called Rasayanas.
Dalhana also defines Rasayana as – ‘That which nourishes the passageways through which the rasa, veerya, vipaka etc of an herb or medicine are made available to the body tissues is called Rasayana’. (This part has been discussed in the context of Nirukti in the above said passages).
Thus, Rasayana is good for each ayana (each cell, each channel), it nourishes the sroto mula (origin of srotas or place of manufacture of dhatus) and srotases (the conduction system in the body, channels, ducts), enables the cells of the body to indentify the nutrition available to them, selectively intake them and make use of it. Similarly it helps the cells to identify, intake and make use of the medicines and their rasa, verya etc properties to the maximum possible extent.
Acharya Shiva Das Sen Ji also has a similar opinion as that of Dalhana –
Rasa is said to be the Karana (causative factor, origin) for the Karya Rupi (effect) Raktadi Dhatus. Therefore the term Rasa indicates and includes all the dhatus (tissues) beginning with the rasa and ending with shukra dhatu.
The pathways or methods of begetting the best quality and quantity of rasadi dhatus are called Rasayana.
Alternatively, the methods of obtaining rasa, veerya, vipaka etc of the bheshaja or the methods or passageways through which the best quality of rasa, veerya etc of bheshaja are made available to the rasadi dhatus is called Rasayana.
- Rasayana defined as preventive and curative medicine, that which prevents the disease in the form of ‘senility’
Rasayana therapy is preventive as well as curative medicine, prevents the disease in the form of Jara or senility
According to Shiva Dasa Sen – ‘Rasayana is a subject which is related to both Swastha (healthy individual) and Atura (diseased, patient)’. Rasayana is beneficial to both sectors of people. Rasayana helps in eradication of Jara (old age, ageing) in Swastha (healthy individuals) and destroys Vyadhi (diseases) in Atura (patients).
Jara (old age, senility) is also a Vyadhi (naturally occurring disease, inevitable disease).
According to Tattva Chandrika – ‘Rasayana is that which prevents a disease called Jara from manifesting. This happens because Rasayana enables the formation of a special type of enriched and fortified Rasa which further nourishes and enables in the qualitative and quantitative formation of Rasadi Dhatus’.
The whole equation is responsible for eradicating or halting the jara or ageing process. Thus, Rasayana helps in preventing or postponing the ageing factor and makes one look and feel young (though it doesn’t alter the biological age). It also keeps the person healthy and immune, prevents many diseases which might occur towards the dusk of life and enables one to enjoy a disease free and healthy old age, i.e. graceful ageing.
Thus, Rasayana can be considered as ‘Ayurvedic Geriatrics’.
- Rasayana defined in terms of that which ‘stabilizes the lifespan, strength and vigor, fortifies them’
Rasayana therapy fortifies and stabilizes the lifespan, strength and vigor
That which nourishes the Rasadi Dhatus is called Rasayana. The pathways or methods through which the Ayu (life span), Bala (strength, immunity), Verya (potency, vigor) etc are stabilized, strengthened and fortified through the rasa, verya, vipaka and prabhava of a bheshaja (herb, medicament) are called Rasayana (Dalhana).
Just Before Finish –
In this article I have covered in detail the definition of the term Rasayana and the opinion of various Ayurvedic ancient teachers about the same including different perspectives of understanding the same.
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