Rasayana (रसायनम्)

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Rasayana (रसायनम्।) is one of the 8 main branches of Ayurveda. This branch deals with use of various pharmacological and non-pharmacological measures to promote positive health. Rasayana treatment also acts as the rejuvenation therapy, health & wellness promoting therapy and preventive healthcare regimen to confer health and longevity. Rasayana treatments are primarily aimed at providing essential nourishment to all the body tissues and enhancing their strength.

Various modern research studies have now reported that, traditional Ayurveda Rasayana treatments work as rejuvenating therapies by offering effective anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, Adaptogenic and Immuno-modulator activities. Thus, Rasayana treatment is also popular as an Anti-ageing therapy.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

Rasayana is defined as the means of procuring the best qualities of different dhatus (धातवः। body building tissues) in sharira (शरीरम्।). Rasayana therapy also improves longevity, memory, intelligence, health, youth, complexion, voice, motor power and sensory responsiveness[1]. According to Ayurveda, the body fluid named 'Rasa' is responsible for transport of nutrients to all other tissues that hold the entire body and give its necessary strength. Disease develops in body only when the Dhatus (body tissues) lack strength and thus create seat for vitiated Doshas ultimately leading to development of disease. Thus, proper nourishment, strength and quantity of Dhatus in one's body is essential in order to combat diseases. Rasayana therapies are designed with this aim to improvise the strength of body tissues. Supreme quality Dhatus in addition to provide defense against diseases, help to enhance the other faculties like cognition, complexion, immunity, physical strength etc. Thus, Rasayana is also recognized as rejuvenation therapies that include use of herbs, food, specialized dietary regimen, special health-promoting conduct/behavior and other drugs.

व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology

The word "Rasayana" is composed of 2 terms.

  • Rasa (रस।) - Rasa is one of the 7 dhatus. It refers to a body tissue/fluid which is believed to be the essence of nutrition
  • Ayana(अयन।) - The pathway towards all body tissue elements (to nourish and replenish them) that provide Rasa dhatu access to other dhatus.

Thus, Rasayana means the therapy that is targeted at nutrition of all the body tissues.

रसायनस्य परिभाषा ॥ Rasayana Definition

Acharya Sushruta has defined Rasayana on the basis of end results obtained with this treatment. He defines Rasayana as a measure, which prolongs and provides positive health. improves mental faculties and provides resistance and immunity against diseases.

रसायनतन्त्रं नाम वयःस्थापनमायुर्मेधाबलकरं रोगापहरणसमर्थं च । (Sush. Samh. 1.7)[2]

rasāyanatantraṁ nāma vayaḥsthāpanamāyurmedhābalakaraṁ rogāpaharaṇasamarthaṁ ca ।

Sharangadhara Samhita explains the term 'Rasayana' as that which prevents ageing as well as diseases.

रसायनं च तज्ञेयं यज्जराव्याधिनाशनम् । (Shar. Samh. Purva Khanda 4)[3]

rasāyanaṁ ca tajñeyaṁ yajjarāvyādhināśanam ।

अष्टाङ्गायुर्वेदे रसायनस्य स्थानम् ॥ Place of Rasayana in Ayurveda

Rasayana tantra is a specialty of Ayurveda. It is also known as Jarachikitsa (जराचिकित्सा।). Various methods to prevent jara (जरा। Premature ageing), achieve longevity (by preventing diseases and preserving the health), increase the strength, endurance and immunity are discussed under this branch of Ayurveda. The word ‘Jara’ (जरा।) means Ageing or senility. Thus, Jarachikitsa also signifies the specialty treatments in Ayurveda for diseases occurring in old age. Therefore, this branch is commonly referred to as Geriatrics but its scope is not limited only to the diseases of old age. In fact, Rasayanas are recommended in young and middle age!

जराचिकित्सा ॥ Jarachikitsa : The alternative term for Rasayanatantram

Ayurveda has considered Jara or vardhakya (वार्धक्यम्।) as a natural and inevitable process. Ayurveda acharyas have also considered it as a Swabhavaja vyddhi (स्वभावज व्याधिः। natural disease).

The term Jara has been explained as the state of sharira (शरीरम्। physical body) wherein muscles and other tissues are loosened under the influence of aging. Few other words used synnonymously with Jara also indicate a state of degradation / retardation in the physical, physiological and psychological well-being.

रसायनस्य महात्म्यम्॥ Benefits of Rasayana

It was well known to Ayurveda physicians that, the delicate cellular machinery of the body suffers from constant stress, trauma and environmental insults, resulting in wear and tear of different body structures and deterioration of the functional capacity. For this, procedures of Rasayana were adopted to increase the strength of body and power of resistance to disease, these procedures retarded advancement of aging also.

Acharya Charaka has stated the multidimensional benefits of taking Rasayanas. He described this as,

दीर्घमायुः स्मृतिं मेधामारोग्यं तरुणंवयः| प्रभावर्णस्वरौदार्यं देहेन्द्रियबलं परम्||

वाक्सिद्धिं प्रणतिंकान्तिं लभते ना रसायनात्| लाभोपायो हि शस्तानां रसादीनां रसायनम्|| (Char. Samh. 1.7)[4]

dīrghamāyuḥ smr̥tiṁ mēdhāmārōgyaṁ taruṇaṁ vayaḥ| prabhāvarṇasvaraudāryaṁ dēhēndriyabalaṁ param||

vāksiddhiṁ praṇatiṁ kāntiṁ labhatēnā rasāyanāt| lābhōpāyō hi śastānāṁ rasādīnāṁ rasāyanam||

Meaning: By Rasayana treatment, one attains longevity, memory, intelligence, freedom from illness, youthfulness, radiating complexion and excellence of lustre, complexion and voice, optimum strength of physique and sense organs, perfection in deliberation, respectability and brilliance. Rasayana is the means of attaining excellent qualities of rasa etc. dhatus i.e. body cells and tissues.[4] These qualities naturally make such person respectable, successful and popular. the person attains physical and mental strength of such a nature that whatever he decides can achieve without any obstruction caused my health of body and mind.

Who can take Rasayana?

Acharya Sushruta has clearly mentioned that, Rasayanas can be used in either young age or middle age.[5] although Rasayana branch of Ayurveda is correlated with Geriatrics in the conventional medicine, it is necessary to understand the target age group of these correlated branches. Rasayans are administered to arrest the progression towards ageing thus need to be utilized in early age before the the senility sets in completely.

Pretreatment for Rasayana

‘Rasayana’ enhances the functions of the whole body system. ‘Rasayana’ treatment for rejuvenation is done after the system is thoroughly cleansed by ‘Panchakarma’ therapy. ‘Panchakarma’ is essentially a pretreatment equipping the body tissues for ‘Rasayana’ therapy. Shushruta observed that a person, whose system is not been previously cleansed by proper purification remedies, cannot expect good results with ‘Rasayana’ treatment. [Needs editing]

Historic considerations of Rasayana

Rasayaan therapy is prevalent since the time of Vedas since one can find references of Rasayana herbs like Soma, Pippali, Jivanti etc scattered at many places in Vedas. References related to Achara Rasayana and Sadvrtta can also be found at places in Vedas. (Rig veda 5/1/7, Atharva veda 16/2/2).

रसायनस्य भेदाः ॥ Classification of Rasayanas

Classification on the basis of the purpose behind its usage as follows:

  1. Naimittika Rasayna
  2. Ajasrika Rasayana
  3. Kamya Rasayana

Naimittika rasayana

It is the type of rasayana therapy utilized for specific curative purpose. It hastens the recovery from prevailing diseases. Some examples of this rasayana are Dhatri rasayana, Mandookaparni rasayana, Brahmi rasayana, and Triphala rasayana.

Ajasrika rasayana

It is used to improve health and maintaining good healthy lifestyle, diet or exercise. It involves utilization of milk, ghee, honey and maintenance of disciplined life style.

Kamya rasayana

It is used to improve a specific function (kama desire). It also improves prana (life energy),

Medha kamya

The type of Rasayana therapy used for enhancing the memory and intellect is called as Medha kamya rasayana. e.g. Use of Shankhapushpi as a rasayana in an individual willing to enhance the congnitive and intellectual abilities.

Ayush Kamya

The type of rasayana therapy primarily used for increasing longevity. Ayurveda treatises have mentioned some such herbs that can infuse such energies in one's body which help to strengthen the union of body, mind, senses and consciousness and ultimately increase longevity. Various such herbs act on different levels and perform specific activity. A vaidya can help to select the right herb from the range suitable for a particular individual and suggest the proper regimen of Ayush kamya rasayaan therapy.

Type of rasayanas as per method of use

Rasayana treatments have also been classified on the basis of the method of their use and regulations involved while consuming the Rasayanas. On this ground the following types of Rasayans have been described in Ayurveda treatises:

  1. Vatatapika Rasayana : Outdoor practice
  2. Kutipraveshika Rasayana : Intensive indoor regimen

Vatatapika Rasayana or outdoor practice

The rasayana therapies that have minimal protocols, regulations, inhibitions and thus, can be taken while continuing the daily routine of a person. Provided the daily routine itself is not directly harmful for one's desired health outcome.

Kutipraveshika Rasayana or intensive indoor regimen

This type of rasayana therapy involves a specific regimen, optimum environmental conditions and use of rasayana herbs coupled with panchakarma. Such intensive therapy thus requires monitoring by a skilled vaidya at every stage and minimum disturbance caused by environmental fluctuations. Therefore, Ayurveda tratises have detailed description on a specially designed trigarbha rasayana kuti or therapy chamber for this type of rasayana treatment.

Ayurveda, the oldest medical system in the world, provides lots of lead to find active and therapeutically useful compounds from plants. ‘Rasayana’ formulations in Indian traditional medicine may have antioxidant activity arising from individual plants, and may act synergistically to prevent aging and related degenerative diseases.[Needs editing]

Understanding Rasayana herbs and medicines in the light of modern science

Rasayana drugs are proposed to promote tissue longevity through some more novel mechanisms likeReduction of toxin/ metabolic waste load within the cell through their reduced production or increased scavenging, ensuring efficient use of energy within the cell, thus requiring less substrate consumption leading to reduced energy requirement and reduced waste production, initiation of micro-repair by providing essential nutrients by participating in regeneration directly or through promotion of latent enzyme systems.[Needs editing] [6]

References

  1. Vidyanath R, Nishteswar K. A handbook of history of Ayurveda. Varanasi: Chowkambha Sanskrit Series Offi ce;2006:1-386
  2. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 7)
  3. Sharangadhacharya. Sharangadhara Samhita, Edited: Pandit Parashurama Sastri Vidyasagar with Adamalla Dipika and Kashirama’s Gudartha Dipika, 7th edition, Chaukambha Orientalia, Varanasi. 2008:37
  4. 4.0 4.1 Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 7-8)
  5. Sushruta Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 27 Sutram 30)
  6. Rastogi S. Building bridges between Ayurveda and Modern Science. Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010;1(1):41–46. doi:10.4103/0974-7788.59943