What is Bhaishajya Kalpana – Introduction to Ayurvedic Pharmacy

Ayurvedic pharmacy introduction

Introduction

Today, most people know about Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, Shatavari. However, few of us are aware of the advanced science of Ayurvedic pharmacy. Ayurveda says that you can use every substance in the universe as a medicine. And the science that can convert every substance into medicine is the ancient Ayurvedic pharmacy – Bhaishajya Kalpana.

Meaning of Bhaishajya Kalpana

What is Bheshaj?

The Sanskrit word Bheshaj means “something that eliminates the fear of disorders”. The use of the word “fear” is very interesting, as it points at a comprehensive Ayurvedic treatment; a treatment that works both on the physical and psychological level. Therefore, Bheshaj has a very broad spectrum. It may be an herbal preparation or therapy for physical ailments; or even meditation, counseling, or mantra chanting for psychological disorders!

Besides, the word “fear” also refers to prevention. A flawless healthcare system offers effective prevention, and thus successfully eliminates “fear” of disorders.

What is Kalpana?

The Sanskrit word Kalpana means “imagination or creativity.” It also refers to design, strategy, craft, or method. In the Ayurveda framework, Kalpana is a project or scheme of treatment in the context of disease, body type, and multiple other factors.

Therefore, the word Kalpana (design) refers to the unique scheme of treatment for all individuals. Like the way an architect designs a structure based on the requirements, available material, and the site; similarly, a Vaidya (ayurvedic physician) designs a healing solution according to the health condition of the patient. And since the healing solution is a Kalpana (creative design), a physician can be innovative with the overall healing process! This creativity turns the entire Ayurvedic pharmacy into an art.

The two above two words come together to produce Bhaishajya Kalpana – creating something that will eliminate the fear of disorders. So, Bhaishajya Kalpana is the science, or rather the art of designing cures in Ayurveda.

What is Bhaishajya Kalpana?

what is Bhaishajya Kalpana

Summary

Bhaishajya Kalpana is the science to design the most suitable cure for the patient. This cure can be anything, a pill or a counseling session.

Importance of Medicine

Charak Samhita talks about a very interesting concept of Chikitsa chatushpada (the four limbs of treatment). These four limbs are – physician, healing structure, nurse, and patient.

  1. The Physician
  2. The healing strategy/medicine
  3. The Nurse
  4. The Patient

These four pillars have specific characteristics that make them suitable or unsuitable for successful treatment.

The physician is the crucial part of treatment for obvious reasons. Ayurveda says that an excellent physician can ward off even the possibility of a disorder; and cure a patient with the help of only food, air, and water.

But excellent physicians are rare. However, the general preparation of quality medicines is more workable. Therefore, medicines become the primary healing tool in most cases.

A regional proverb says that the physician without medicines is akin to a soldier with a sword or a king without the sceptre. If the physician is the soul of Ayurvedic treatment, medicines form its body.

Summary

With physicians and nurses of average experience, or patients with less willpower to follow treatment protocol, medicines or the healing strategy is the healing crucial factor.

Bhaishajya Kalpana – The Art of Treatment

I call Bhaishajya Kalpana an art, as it does not follow strict rules and guidelines. The human body is a dynamic system, and each person has a unique mind and body. Therefore, an Ayurvedic physician or pharmacist can be creative while devising medicine, a therapy, or a treatment plan; completely personalized to the patient’s needs.

No wonder, the ancient Ayurvedic texts of Charak Samhita describe 128 distinct categories of medicinal preparations. It urges the physicians to be inventive and discover more variations. And this is a single text on Ayurvedic general medicine that we are talking about! The ancient texts describe novel treatment approaches that are far more progressive than todays’ “one size fits all” approach.

Ayurveda has eight distinct branches like General medicine, surgery, toxicology, etc. And each branch has its personalized Bhaishajya Kalpana!

Summary

The immense variety of healing options and health aspects elevate Bhaishajya Kalpana from the science to the art of healing.

Bhaishajya Kalpana – The Origin and History

The history of Bhaishajya Kalpana starts with the Vedas. In Rigveda, we find the oldest medicinal hymn in the history of humankind. This hymn praises the art of pharmacy. It says –

“The physician needs medicines as the king needs a council. Only the one who knows medicine is a healer and destroyer of diseases in true sense.” Tenth Mandala (10-97)

Vedas mention multiple medicinal plants and their benefits. For example, Rigveda alone talks about 107 medicinal herbs –

“The tawny plants were born in the ancient times, three ages before the gods; now I will meditate upon their hundred and seven forms.” Rigveda, Tenth Mandala (10-97)

We also find the first botanical classification of human history in Vedas. The oldest Veda, Rigveda classifies the plants into three categories – vriksha (trees), aushadh (medicinal herbs), and virudh (minor herbs).

Some of the important plants mentioned in Vedas are –

  • RigvedaKaranj , Palash, Khadir, Pippali, Awla, Durva, Apamarg, Ark etc
  • YajurvedaMoong (Green gram), Urad (black lentil), sesame, priyangu, barley, etc.
  • Atharva vedaBilva, Guggulu, Ark, Til, Arjun, Barley etc.

Vedic sutras contain encrypted medicinal properties of the plants and ways to use them. Here are some select examples from Rigveda about the Kushtha tree.

Kushtha (Indian costus root – Saussurea lappa)

“ O, herb who are named Kushtha! You grow in the mountains. Descend here from the mountains so that you may cure disease.

“Oh, kushtha plant! Make this patient sit up. Make him healthy and remove his ailment.”

All Vedas contribute to Ayurvedic pharmacy. However, the fourth Veda Atharva Veda is the primary source of Bhaishajya Kalpana. Hence, Atharva Veda is also called Bhaishajya Veda.

“You were born from the gods. The soma herb is your friend. You are like the breath of life; you cure diseases of the eye. Grant this patient happiness.” Atharva Veda, Kanda 5

There are lots of interesting details about medicinal plants in Vedas. I look forward to covering these details in future blogs.

Summary

Bhaishajya Kalpana derives its basics from the four Vedas, esp. Atharva Veda. For this reason, the Atharva Veda is also called the Bhaishajya Veda.

Bhaishajya Kalpana – Basic Principles

Everything is Medicine

Vedas state that medicine is anything that destroys the disorders. So, anything, from a plant to a sound vibration (mantra) or a Yagya (fire sacrifice) can be medicine. However, the present focus of Bhaishajya Kalpana is material preparations from plants, minerals, metals, etc. Physical medicine is more tangible and easier to use for an average physician.

The basic concept of Bhaishajya Kalpana is – it makes the herbs suitable for use as medicines. Each substance present in the universe is a medicine, provided we process it properly. And Bhaishajya Kalpana is the science of converting everything into medicine.

For example, Ayurvedic medicines use some highly toxic herbs like Aconite (vatsnabh), Marking nut (bhallataka), etc. But these herbs are processed to produce a beneficial effect on the body. Another example is Ark or the Indian Maddar. It produces a poisonous latex. But this latex is used in Ayurvedic preparations for skin disorders. Ayurvedic medicines also use snake poisons for medicinal purposes.

This is the art of pharmacy. Like the way you can draw a picture with crayons as well as coal; likewise, you can make a medicine from edible herbs as well as poisons. Bhaishajya Kalpana provides limitless possibilities for a wise physician.

Summary

According to Ayurveda, every substance present in the universe has the potential to serve as a cure for some disorder.

Compatibility is the Key

Bhaishajya Kalpana is the art of creating compatible and effective preparations; for example – the creation of paediatric medicines. There is no benefit of medicine if a minor patient is not willing to eat it. Therefore, Ayurveda prescribes sweetened or tasty medicines for children.

This statement refers to all aspects of compatibility. For example, the medicine should be –

  • Effective
  • Relevant (disorder, body type, stage of the disease, age, etc.)
  • Consumable (for paralytic patients etc.)
  • Easily available
  • Affordable

There are many other compatibility factors. And their importance keeps changing from one individual to the other.

Summary

Ayurveda says that the medicine/cure should be compatible with all the factors – patient, disorder, availability, etc.

The Food Medicine

Ayurveda says that food is the first medicine. A famous Ayurvedic proverb by Vaidya Lolimb Raj says – the one who eats good food will never need medicine, but the one who eats wrong food will never benefit from any medicine. An ideal Ayurvedic treatment starts with food and not with medicine.

Therefore, Bhaishajya Kalpana starts with the creation of therapeutic food. It aims to create food that can prevent diseases, before creating medicines for disorders. And this proactive approach towards “health preservation” is the beauty of Ayurveda. It goes beyond prevention.

For example, preventive pharmacy (related to Rasayana Shastra or Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Science) offers seasonal preventive foods like Til Laddo (Sweetened Sesame Balls) in winter, or Sattu (roasted barley and Bengal gram) in summer. These seasonal foods help the body to maintain homeostasis through the seasonal changes.

Summary

According to Ayurveda, food is the first medicine. We are what we eat. And therefore, without dietary corrections, we cannot cure any disorder.

The Foundation Medicine – Eliminate the Cause

Modern medicines have a very different outlook towards medicine. Most lifestyle disorders have medicines that never end, for example, medicines for diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, etc. So, medicines are there to stay and to increase, not to cure the disorders.

However, Ayurveda has a different perspective about the role of medicines.

According to Acharya Sushrut, Nidan parivarjanam or elimination of the causal factors is the primary and indispensable treatment. Acharya Sushrut claims that only elimination of the cause is a complete treatment.

Even the best Ayurvedic medicines fail to produce the desired effect if the patient is not able to follow the recommended dietary and lifestyle routine.

Therefore, medicines are important, but they are not the primary treatment factor. However, they gain paramount importance when the physician and nurse are not that skilled, or the patient is not willing or able to follow the dietary and lifestyle restriction.

Summary

Nidan parivarjanam or elimination of the cause is one of the fundamental treatment principles of Ayurveda. Without removing the cause, you cannot reach permanent relief.

Take Away

Bhaishajya Kalpana is the art of designing a comprehensive and personalized healing strategy for the patient. It is a science with immense possibilities. And this huge expanse of healing options in the spring of healing creativity. Thus, Bhaishajya Kalpana is an art of healing.

Some of the basic principles of Bhaishajya Kalpana are –

  • Everything can become a cure for something
  • A cure should be comprehensive and compatible
  • Food is the primary medicine
  • You must remove the causal factors for a complete treatment.

This information about Bhaishajya Kalpana is akin to a scratch on the surface of a huge mountain. However, it is a good point to start. I hope that it helps you understand future blogs.

In the next blog, let us explore the basic four qualities of medicine that define the success or failure of treatment.

Dr. Kanika Verma
Dr. Kanika Verma is an Ayurvedic physician in India. She studied Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery at Govt Ayurveda College in Jabalpur and graduated in 2009. She earned additional degrees in management and worked for Abbott Healthcare from 2011-2014. During that period, Dr. Verma used her knowledge of Ayurveda to serve charitable organizations as a healthcare volunteer.

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