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The concept of Prabhava its origin and importance in Aaharpaka

Ayurveda is the science which literally means 'the science of life'. It is also known as Indian system of medicine. Ayurveda is an ancient medical system, which treats what is advantageous and what is harmful for the body and stresses on happy and unhappy states of life. In other words, Ayurvedic system of medicine gives importance to the involvement of the patient's well being.

Ayurveda was derived from Artharva Veda and Vedic era is considered to be the time, when Ayurveda flourished as a science. It is estimated that Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita were written around 1000 B.C. Charaka Samhita deals with medicine and Sushruta Samhita deals with surgery. Distinguished scholars were attracted to the science of Ayurveda and visited India for acquiring scientific language. Hippocrates, the father of modern science, was an intensive learner of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is based on peculiar fundamental principles like Tridosha (three humors vata, pitta and kapha) theory, and Panchmahabhuta (five elements ether, air, fire, water and earth) theory. Imbalance of the three humors is considered to be the root cause of the disease.

Diagnosis of a disease is based on pulse examination. The diagnostic parameters of Ayurveda were established way back and are still valid today. An expert Ayurvedic physician is in a position to tell about the disease process by examining the pulse.

Detailed investigation includes:

  1. Interrogation of the patient in terms of body constitution, exercising and digestive capacity.
  2. Objective examination to assess the progress of the disease.
  3. Examination by inference like color of the skin, urine, and state of the pupil.

Ayurvedic pharmacy is a vast subject. Drug formulation in Ayurveda is based on following seven parameters:

  • Dravya (Substance)
  • Rasa (Taste)
  • Guna (Property)
  • Virya (Potency)
  • Vipaka (Post-digestion effect)
  • Prabhva (Specific action)
  • Karma (Pharmacological activity)

Dravya is described as a substance used for medicinal purpose. According to Ayurvedic theory, every component of the universe is dravya and has medicinal value. Charaka Samhita has described dravya to be the nucleus of Ayurvedic pharmacy.

Taste has a significant place in Ayurvedic medicine. Diagnosis of a disease is based on three biological humours (vata, pitta, and kapha) and treatment is based on six tastes (sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter and astringent). Our tongue experiences these tastes when the drug is administered orally.

Property (guna) parameter is a vast topic. Ayurveda has described forty-one properties, which are comparable to physical properties of the drugs. Each property description has a specific role to play in the Ayurvedic drug formulation.

Virya (potency) is described as the active constituent of the drug and is responsible for the pharmacological activity of the drug. The drugs have cold and hot potencies.

Vipaka and prabhava parameters are comparable with metabolism and specific action of the  drug. Karma parameter describes the pharmacological activity of a drug in detail. Ayurveda classifies drugs, according to pharmacological activity.

Prabhava refers to a specific action or biotransformation or post digestion effect of the drug. A drug works according to rasa (taste), virya (potency) and vipaka (biotransformation or post digestion effect). Every drug has specific configuration. There are some exceptions when a drug having typical taste, potency and post digestion effect produces entirely different action from that of expected action.

According to the experts, again the role of digestive juices (jatharagni) and enzymes is critical. As a result, the alignment of the atoms changes and it produces different action. In Ayurveda, this change is referred to as prabhava. This can be seen in organic synthesis, where new molecules are being created by changing the configuration of functional group of the molecule. Like vipaka, prabhava is also debatable topic and it demands further research.

Prabhava is defined as the specific property of a dravya (substance),  which is responsible for actions contrary to those related to rasa, guna, virya and vipaka. Prabhava defines the specific and characteristic actions of dravya (substances),  and it can not be explained in terms of the pharmacological actions of isolated active constituents. This concept of prabhava clearly demonstrates that why the Ayurvedic concept of drug as a whole is more efficacious and safer as compared to isolated constituents. Prabhava is acintya (inexplicable) and is not part of the energetic classification

Chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica) and Danti (Baliospermum montanum) are pungent in vipaka and ushna virya (hot in potency). But Danti has purgative action, while it is missing in chitraka. The purgative action of Danti, can be better explained in terms of  its Prabhava (specific action).

Toxins are widely used in medicine. The medicinal property of toxin substances, results in the vomiting or purgation of the humours. Sometimes wearing of precious stones is prescribed for eliminating diseases. Mode of action of the above mentioned examples is beyond all scientific explanations. The medicinal effect of these examples can better be explained due to their prabhava (specific action).

Some drugs assert their mode of action by virtue of rasa (taste). Some drugs work by virtue of virya (potency) and some drugs by the virtue of guna (physical property) or vipaka (biotransformation). Some exceptional drugs act by virtue of prabhava (specific action). Taste (rasa), virya (potency), vipaka (biotransformation) and prabhava (specific action) possess equal strength. However, Taste (rasa), virya (potency), vipaka (biotransformation) is dominated by prabhava (specific action).

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