Essence of Herbs – Rasa (taste)

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Dashanan’s wife, Mandodari was bearing his child in her womb, and under terrible pain, when she asked him, ‘Oh Lord of three Worlds, with your grace, no asur or sorrow or even death can touch me, yet I am in so much pain.’ Please tell me a remedy such that my baby grows healthy and yet there is no pain. Dashanan then told her, the gyan of aushadhis (medicinal herbs) as received by him from Devi Parvati herself.

The aushadhis may be categorised as: lata (creeper, eg giloy), gulma (bush or shrub, eg pittpapada), shakha (branch, eg mango), paadap (tree, eg banyan and peepal) and prasara(stinkvine, eg kateri). Five parts of these herb plants are considered potent: leaf, flower, bark, fruit and root. Of these, root is more potent than the fruit, which is more potent than the bark, which is more potent than the flower, which is more potent than the leaf. A vaidya needs to assess the heating and cooling effects of these herbs and decide which part to use as per the ailment.

TIW AD

That which has rasa (taste), guna (quality), veerya (potency), vipaka (nature/character), and shakti (ability) — in a combined form, is called an aushadhi.

The rasas are of six kinds, detailed below in decreasing order of potency:

1. Madhur (sweet) rasa is viscous and cooling, it promotes the dhatus and can be compared to mother’s milk in this potency. It is beneficial for the eyes, removes imbalances of vata and pitta.
2. Amla (sour) rasa is hot on the inside and cooling on the outside. It stimulates appetite, promotes pitta, kapha and rakta, relieves constipation and gas. It is harmful for eyes, brows and teeth.
3. Lavana (salty) rasa is cleansing, appetising, digestive, reduces kapha and pitta, renders the body inactive and slow.
4. Tikt (bitter) rasa is cooling, removes pitta and kapha, and helps in case of thirst, fainting and fever. It improves appetite but is in itself less appetising.
5. Katuk (pungent) rasa is dry. It helps ameliorate fat, kapha, itching and poison. It balances the tridoshas, promotes the agni tatva, is beneficial for eyes, digestive and appetite enhancing.
6. Kashay (astringent) rasa helps remove worms and itching, reduces the slackness caused by kapha, and relieves ailments of vata. However, it should be consumed in moderation as excess can lead to diseases of the eye.
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