human body is a diverse combination of tissues intricately woven together in a
delicate balance that must be respected and honored if it is to be healthy.
Ayurveda is a science of life which treats the person as a whole, and as such,
it treats all the diverse tissues of the body in a way that is both effective
and respectful. Consequently, ayurvedic
medicine employs a vast array of treatments each specially catered to the
particular disease and the part of the body in which it is present. The
delivery of treatment to the right part of the body is very important, as even the herbs with the right potencies can
be ineffectual without proper delivery. In Ayurveda, the method of delivery, or
vehicle, is called the anupana, and
there are a variety of anupanas
employed to deliver the power of herbs and minerals to the right places. Here
we will explore the five basic vehicles, water, raw sugar, ghee, oil, and alcohol.
is the simplest and most common vehicle and is often used in a preliminary step
of a formulation only to be later combined with a more potent vehicle. In
general, water delivers the potencies of the herbs to the plasma of the blood,
and is used both hot and cold depending upon the circumstances and desired
effect. Generally in ayurvedic
treatments, hot water reduces vata and kapha, while cold water reduces
pitta. The temperature of the medium greatly affects the metabolism and the
manner in which the herbs are digested. For example, contrary to what one might
think, fever reducing herbs should always be taken with hot water, as fevers
result from a depression of the central digestive fire which causes it to rise
to the surface of the body. Cold drinks and food further suppress this fire and
perpetuate the cause of the fever, while warm and hot things kindle it back to
are also boiled in water to extract and concentrate their essences by a process
known as decoction. Decoctions are then combined into concoctions and mixed in
other mediums to create more complex formulations like medicated ghee, milk,
oil, and aristas, i.e. medicated wine
ayurvedic medicine, raw sugar is a very common medium for rejuvenative tonics,
due to its inherent nourishing. It is the medium in the famous Chyawanprash
and other similar rasayanas. It delivers the herbs to the plasma and the blood,
and increases the tonic effect of herbs. It rejuvenates the plasma and the
blood, relieves heat, and protects tissues, while encouraging the digestive
power of the tissues.
is perhaps one of the best anupanas
in ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of pitta and vata, but is light and
easily digested so as not to contribute to the buildup of excess kapha. Ghee
enhances the ojas, which is the
subtle essence of all tissues and is responsible for vitality and immunity. It
also increases the digestive power of the small intestines and liver without
aggravating pitta, making it a particularly powerful aid for the treatment of
pitta related conditions which generally stem from these two organs. Although
ghee is fatty it does not clog the liver as other oils and fats do, but
actually strengthens it. Ghee is food for the bone marrow, nerve tissue, and brain,
and encourages the intellectual digestive fire of perception and understanding.
The penetrating and nourishing effects of ghee have won it a central role in
many ayurvedic treatments.
oils are known worldwide for their healing, nourishing, and rejuvenating effects.
There are many classic formulations of oils which utilize herbs from all over
India in all the varieties and combinations of oils which are found on the
sub-continent. There are cooling, heating, nourishing and grounding oils all of
which ayurvedic medicine employs each according to its potencies. The variety
of different oils allows them to be used in ayurvedic treatments for all three
doshas. In general, oils work on the plasma, blood, and muscle tissues of the
body. They increase the digestive power of these tissues by providing essential
vitamins and minerals in a rich medium of nourishing fats and fatty acids.
Though they are too heavy for the liver to digest, and so cannot reach subtler
tissues, they are very effective vehicles for the treatment of the skin, blood,
lungs, and colon. They are a powerful and often relaxing medium of application.
medicine employs alcohol as an anupana
in its famous aristas,
or medicated wines. Alcohol is a very powerful medium that reaches deep into
the subtle channels and tissues of the body and mind. It works primarily on the
nerves and as such is great for the treatment of vata, where its heating and
calming effects enhance nerve supportive herbs. However, its power is not to be
abused as it can also do great damage to the body, particularly the liver.
are just a few of the many mediums which Ayurveda employs to administer
treatment. Ayurvedic treatments are as vast and varied as the conditions which
they treat, and consequently there are many more anupanas which are employed. These five constitute the primary
mediums of most classic ayurvedic
formulations which have served the science of life for many millennia.