Therapeutic activity in Ayurveda (आयुर्वेदे कर्म)

From Dharmawiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Therapeutic activity of herbs or food articles or any other medicinal substance is known as Karma (Samskrit: कर्म) in Ayurveda. The term Karma literally means action, work, deed. Thus activity carried out by substances is called as karma. The karma of any substance decides what kind of change it will bring out in the body when it is consumed. This change is also dependent of few other factors like rasa, guna, veeryam, vipaka and prabhava of that substance. However there exists a certain relationship between karma and other attributes of that substance. karma of any substance depends upon its rasa, veeryam, vipaka and prabhava. Substances with certain rasa or veerya have a specific type of karma or therapeutic activity. Thus many a times, karma of a substance is a gross product of its other attributes like rasa, veerya etc.


     क्रियते इति कर्म |

That which is done is called as karma. karma here is the action of a dravya(drug).

Karma is one of the padartha amongst the 6 padarthas (dravya, guna, karma, samanya, vishesha and samavaya) explained in Vaisheshika darshana and Ayurveda. Any mechanism or activity which yields a certain outcome is termed as karma.


Tarkasamgraha, a treatise based of nyaya and vaisheshika darshanas, has defined karma as belows,

चलनात्मकं कर्म। (Tarkasamgraha)[1]

Any kind of movement is identified as karma. Fundamentally it is believed to be of 5 types. In Charaka Samhita, karma is defined as below,

संयोगे च विभागे च कारणं द्रव्यमाश्रितम्| कर्तव्यस्य क्रिया कर्म कर्म नान्यदपेक्षते|| (Char.sutr 1.52)

Meaning: That which is responsible for amalgamation and seperation of a dravya(drug) composition. That transformation which happens in dravya is due to karma, that specific activity is termed as karma.

The movement which is initiated by any effort is called as karma(action)

In simple words Acharya Charaka at other place defines karma as 'the activity that is carried out'.

यत् कुर्वन्ति, तत् कर्म (char. sutr. 26.13)[2]

Meaning: The end product of any mechanism or activity is karma(action).

When the term karma is mentioned in our Ayurvedic treatises, it mainly refers to the action of the dravya in our body.

The concept of Karma according to Darshana Shastras

Karma is mentioned as one of the shad padhartha (dravya,guna, karma, samanya vishesha and samavaya)

According to vaisheshika darshana,

Karma is described as “ekadravyam” that which exists in a single dravya(substance).

Karma is also “aguna” which means it is devoid of guna, here there is a difference drawn between guna and karma.

Karma exists wherever there is samyog (union) or vibhaga (separation) in a dravya. The activity which occurs because of sanyoga and vibhaga inside a dravya is known as karma.

As per the Vaisheshika darshana, the karma is of 5 types. These 5 types are based on the direction or flow of movement of the object within the space.

उत्क्षेपणापक्षेपणाकुञ्चनप्रसारणगमनानि पञ्च कर्माणि॥ [1]


ऊर्ध्वदेशसंयोगहेतुरुत्क्षेपणम् | [1]

Meaning, upward or ascendent movement as an action is termed as utkshepana.


अधोदेशसंयोगहेतुरपक्षेपणम्। [1]

Meaning downward or descendent movement as an action is known as apakshepana.


शरीरसंनिकृष्टसंयोगहेतुराकुञ्चनम् [1]

Meaning, that which causes contraction or action of bringing together or closeness is termed as akunchana.


विप्रकृष्टसंयोगहेतुः प्रसारणम्। [1]

Meaning, that which moves away or expands is termed as prasarana.


अन्यत् सर्वं गमनम्। [1]

Meaning, that which includes all the random movements or actions apart from the utkshepana etc are termed as gamana.

Dravya and Karma relatioship

The dosha, have a certain panchamahbhuta permutation and combination. And when there is a pathological condition or disease formation, these elements are either in elevated form or decreased form. Thus, when a certain is drug(dravya) administered its karma or action is to bring these elements into balance. Thus, the karma(action) is dependent on the composition of the dravya(drug), so karma as a concept is widely and importantly applied for the treatment of various diseases and maintaining health.

The karma of a dravya depends on certain qualities of the dravya which are rasa, veerya, vipaka etc and the panchamahabhuta predominance present in it. And action of each of these dravya depends on the dominant mahabhuta.

Various types of karmas (therapeutic activities) described in Ayurveda

Even though there are various categories based on the location where the dravya acts or dosha or dhatu karma etc, mainly there remains six karma [3] which are classified as follows

1.langhana (therapeutic Fasting)     2. Bhrimhana(Nourishing therapy)

3.Rukshana (Dryness causing)          4. Snehana(Emollient)

5.swedana (Fomentation)                 6. Sthambana (Styptic therapy)

langhana(therapeutic Fasting)

यत् किञ्चिल्लाघवकरं देहे तल्लङ्घनं स्मृतम्||

Langhana karma means therapeutic fasting. That which induces lightness in the body is termed as langhana.

Bhrimhana(Nourishing therapy)

बृहत्त्वं यच्छरीरस्य जनयेत्तच्च बृंहणम्|

That which causes nourishment to the body in qualitavtive and quantitative aspects is termed as Bhrimhana karma or nourishing therapy.

Rukshana (Dryness causing)

रौक्ष्यं खरत्वं वैशद्यं यत् कुर्यात्तद्धि रूक्षणम्||

The therapy which causes dryness, roughness in the body is termed as rukshana karma .  


         स्नेहनं स्नेहविष्यन्दमार्दवक्लेदकारकम् (char.sutr.22.10)

Snehana is the therapy which provides snighdata(unctuousness) to the skin. Here snehana is done not just externally but internally as well. This procedure is done with the help of ghruta, taila etc.

swedana (Fomentation)

स्तम्भगौरवशीतघ्नं स्वेदनं स्वेदकारकम्||(char.sutr.22.11)

Swedana is a process or therapy by which sweat is produced in our body using various methods. This procedure reduces stiffness, heaviness of the body. The set of dravya which carry out this action are called svedopaga gana dravya.

Sthambana (Styptic Therapy)

स्तम्भनं स्तम्भयति यद्गतिमन्तं चलं ध्रुवम्|

The therapy which causes inhibition of bodily movements is termed as sthambana karma.

There is not a single heading under which karma can be categorised, but for the better understanding of the concept few ayurvedic scholars have classified it by an organ specific approach or systemic approach

Nasya (Errhine therapy)

A therapeutic measure where the medicated oil etc is used to administer in the nostrils for elimination of certain dosha, in various disease aspects.[4]

chakshushya (beneficial for eyes)

The dravya which act by keeping the vision and overall health of eyes in a good state. There is set of specific  dravya(drugs) which are called chakshusya dravya mentioned in our classical treatises. One very basic example here is anjan (medicated collyrium) which is mentioned as chakshushya.

Keshya (promoting hair health)

There are certain set of dravya known as keshya which act to keep hair healthy and promotes good lusture)

Varnya (Promoting complexion)

Dravyas which act to promote healthy complexion and lusture are varnya dravya.


The dravya which act by kindling the jatharagni(digestive fire) are known as deepan dravya and that process by which it acts is termed as deepana karma. [5]

Pachana (Digestive)

Pachana means digestive process. The dravya which digests the ama(..) are known as pachana dravya and the process is termed as pachana karma. [5]


              तत्र दोषहरणमूर्ध्वभागं वमनसञ्ज्ञकम्(char.kalpa 1.4)

The dravya which emits out the undigested food, dosha orally are termed as emetic dravya and the procedure is termed as vaman

Virechana (Purgative)

            अधोभागं विरेचनसञ्ज्ञकम्; (char. kalp.1.4)

The process in which elimination of undigested food and morbid dosha occurs through anal route is termed as virechana karma. And the dravya which are responsible for it are known as virechana dravya(drugs)

Following are the karma mentioned according to sharangdhar Samhita


The dravya which removes the morbid dosha through anal route, relieves constipation are known as anulonama dravyas and the process or the karma is termed as anuloman karma. [5]


The dravya which eliminates the digested or undigested food and the adhered doshas through the anal route are sramsana dravyas, and the karma is termed as sramsana karma.[5]


The dravyas which causes the breakdown of grathit(hardened) mala and removes it through anal route are bhedana dravyas and the process or karma is termed as bhedana karma.[5]


The dravya which detangles the morbid doshas within themselves are chhedana dravya and that particular action is termed as chedana karma.[5]


The dravya which causes shoshana(drying up) of dosha and dhatus are lekhana dravya and the action is termed as lekhana karma.[5]

Shastra Karmas

Shastras are sharp instruments which are used in various surgical procedures.

उत्पाट्यपाट्यसीव्यैष्यलेख्यप्रच्छानकुट्टनम् छेद्यं भेद्यं व्यधो मन्थो ग्रहो दाहश्च तत्क्रियाः|| (Asht. Hrud. 26.28)[6]

Utpatana (to extract)

Removal of foreign body or extraction procedure is known as utpatana karma

Patana (to tear)

The karma which involves cutting or tearing with the help of appropriate shastra is termed as patina.

Seevana (suturing)

The process of suturing or sealing of a for example wound is termed as seevana karma.[7]

Eshana (probing)

The process of penetrating or probing with the help of a sharp instrument or shastra is termed as eshana karma. (for example, in sinuses, wounds etc)[8]

Lekhana in surgery (to scrape)

The process which involves scraping


Scratching, incising, minute puncturing


beating, hitting, pounding


excising, cutting,








holding, grasping and


burning, cauterizing  are the functions of sharp instruments.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Tarkasamgraha by Annambhatta Karmadilakshana-prakaranam
  2. Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 26 Sutra 13)
  3. Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 22 Sutra 9)
  4. Sushruta Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 40 Sutra 21)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Sharangadhara Samhita (Purvakhanda Adhyaya 4)
  6. Ashtanga Hrudayam (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 26 Sutra 28)
  7. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 25 Sutra 16)
  8. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 25 Sutra 10)