Ayurvedic categorisation of native plants

Dr. med. Kalyani Nagersheth

The idea for this work arose because allopathically trained doctors in Germany who practice āyurvedic medicine have noticed overlaps and differences. For example, in āyurvedic medicine dill seeds are particularly recommended for dysmenorrhea, but in Western practice they have proven to be completely ineffective in this indication. A publication (Schmidt S, Melzig MF. Anethum graveolens L. - The dill. Zeitschrift für Phytotherapie 2013; 34: 249 -254), solves this disparity: the Indian dill is Anethum graveolens sowa, the European dill is Anethum graveolens graveolens. The two subtypes differ in the composition of the essential oil in the fruits, which is responsible for the spasmolytic effect. This allows the conclusion that the āyurvedic indications do not apply to all plants in Europe.

Other examples can be found for plants that belong to the same species but have completely different indications in India and Europe. For example Vitex agnus castus (relevant in gynecology in Europe) and Vitex negundo (used in Āyurveda for pain therapy).

Against this background, this paper compares some drugs from India and Germany that are similar in name or use. The hypothesis is that there are mostly similarities in the areas of application.

Āyurvedic classification of plants
āyurvedic medicine is gaining more and more importance in Germany and is slowly emerging from the "wellness only" sector. However, there are always difficulties with āyurvedic medicinal plants. Some are not available in Germany, some are contaminated with heavy metals. Therefore, it makes sense to switch to native plants. They are easily available and in good quality (DAB) available from pharmacies and are significantly cheaper than Indian preparations. In principle, it is recommended to use plants and food from the surrounding environment, as the body tolerates them better. The plants are subject to the same climate and influences as the people living here and are therefore much better suited to metabolism and digestion.

The only problem is the āyurvedic classification of the plants. In Āyurveda all substances are categorized according to rasa (taste), guņa (property), vīrya (thermal potency) and vipāka (effect after digestion - systemic effect). This is necessary because herbal medicines are not administered for certain diseases, but should suit an individual person in his or her individual condition. People and diseases are also differentiated according to the quality of symptoms and then assigned to the corresponding Doşas (Bioenergies). Thus, for example, not all headaches are treated equally, but the quality of symptoms in each Doşa type person is diagnosed and the appropriate plant is then selected. Of course, recommendations on nutrition, lifestyle, cleansing measures and manual therapy are also given.

Now the native plants are not categorized according to this system. That's why it has to be done differently. The taste (rasa) is usually well perceptible. However, plants are mixtures of many substances and therefore often have several flavours next to each other. The taste is divided into dominant and aftertaste. Also the characteristics (guņa) are sometimes clearly perceptible, e.g. a comfrey root is very slimy. When determining the propertiesthe ingredients of the plants are also helpful, e.g. tannins are always drying, mucilage is always slimy, etc. The thermal potency (vīrya) becomes noticeable after ingestion of the plant, it becomes hot or cold for humans. To feel this clearlya high dose is necessary. According to the āyurvedic teaching, there are connections between rasa and vīrya that facilitate this classification: the sour, salty and pungent taste causes heat; the sweet, bitter and astringent taste causes cold. Of course, there are exceptions based on experience. Similarly, the effect after digestion (vipāka) can be attributed: the sweet and salty taste forms a "sweet" vipāka; the sour taste remains "sour"; the spicy, bitter and astringent taste is "spicy" after digestion.

If this classification of native plants is successful, they can be administered individually according to āyurvedic criteria. Of course, the compatibility and the preparation form must also be taken into account.

Attempt of an ayurvedic classification based on the ingredients

  Gerbstoffe Seifenstoffe Schleimstoffe Bitterstoffe Ätherisches Öl
Rasa Bitter, astringent Sweet Sweet Bitter Hot
Guņa Dry, rough Dry Moist, heavy, soft Dry Light
Vīrya Rather cold Not hot, not cold Cold Cold Hot
Vipāka Hot Sweet Sweet Hot Hot
Doşa V+, K-, P neutral V+, K-, P neutral PV-, K+ V+, PK- VP+, K-

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