Ayurvedic concoctions and preparations can be a tad bit confusing, what with the countless number of herbs used. Interestingly, the traditional Ayurvedic practice follows 5 classic methods to extract the active ingredient from various herbs for medicines. In Sanskrit, this is referred to as Panchavidha Kashaya Kalpana.
These specific methods of preparation differ according to the type of herb used, the targeted illness, and the strength of the patient. In fact, some of these home remedies might sound familiar as they’re frequently used to cure mild ailments.
1. Swarasa Or Fresh Juice
Swarasa is essentially the freshly pressed juice of a herb. Any part of the plant, the leaves, tender stems, roots, or fruit, can be used in this preparation. Active elements in herbs are readily absorbed by the body, which makes Swarasa highly efficient. Swarasa has the highest concentration of active ingredients, of all the methods, and is usually reserved for patients who are in the advanced stage of a disease.
How To Prepare
- Wash and air dry the required part of the plant.
- Pound this to form a thick paste and then strain it to extract the juice.
- The pure juice of most herbs is not always palatable, so add honey, cumin seeds, or sugar to make it taste better.
The recommended dosage of this concoction is generally 20–40 ml per day in divided doses. Some of the applications of this method can be seen in the form of ginger or basil juice for colds and coughs. In addition, herbal oils and medicated ghee like Brahmi Ghrut can be prepared using herbal juices. Similarly, neem juice diluted with 2 parts of water can be externally used for washing wounds.
Note: Since the juice thus obtained is highly potent, be cautious when administering to weak and debilitated patients.
2. Kalka Or Fine Paste
Kalka is used for herbs that have a lower moisture content and therefore a higher fiber content. As with Swarasa, any part of the plant can be used in this preparation. The mixture obtained here is less concentrated than Swarasa, and therefore has milder potency.
How To Prepare
- Clean, crush, and pound the plant by adding enough water to make a fine semi-solid paste.
- You can add honey, oil, jaggery, or sugar, depending on the disease, to enhance the taste.
The dosage for this type of preparation is 5–10 gm per day in divided doses. Examples of its application include a neem leaf paste applied directly on wounds or dental carries for healing. Additionally, fenugreek leaf paste is administered orally to treat diabetes and manage cholesterol levels. Due to the increased fiber content, such herbs are effectively used in individuals with an intolerance to strong medicine due to their physical strength.
3. Kwaatha Or Herbal Decoction
Kwaatha preparations have a lower concentration than the Swarasa or the Kalka methods. Any part of the plant – the leaves, roots, stem, bark, fruit, or seeds – can be used.
How To Prepare
- Sun dry, coarsely pound, and boil the required part of the plant in an open vessel on a mild flame.
- The amount of water required ranges from 4 times as much water for the softer parts to about 16 times as much water for the harder parts of the plant.
- Reduce the extract to the appropriate proportion, allow it to cool, and strain for consumption.
- You can add honey, sugar, or cumin seeds, if required.
The dosage is 40–80 ml per day in divided doses. Common applications of such decoctions include internal consumption, external washing of a wound, in a sitz bath for hemorrhoids, enema, Panchakarma medicines like Dashamool Kadha used in steam therapy, and Shirodhara. It also forms the base for preparations like medicated ghee, Avaleha (medicated jams), and fermented preparations like Arishta. Since the water soluble ingredient is extracted into water, it is easier to administer. Its shelf life is longer and it can be bottled and stored.
Note: Avoid stirring during preparation and re-boiling.
4. Hima Or Cold Infusion
In a cold infusion, the concentration of active ingredients is relatively low. Only aromatic roots, rhizomes, flowers, leaves, and seeds are used. Herbs with an aromatic oil as the active principle are used. This method of preparation prevents the evaporation of volatile oil that may be lost if these herbs were subjected to heat. Hima preparations are used to treat Pitta disorders and diseases related to blood.
How To Prepare
- Mix 1 part of the powdered form of the herb with 6 parts of water.
- Leave it overnight, preferably in an earthen pot.
- Filter and then administer orally.
The recommended dosage is 40–80 ml per day in divided doses. Herbs such as dhanyaka (coriander seeds), chandana (sandalwood), and sariwa (hemidesmus indicus) are used in these preparations.
Note: The herb should not be steeped in water during day time as Hima is a cold preparation; the cool temperature of the night is more appropriate.
5. Phaant Or Hot infusion
This preparation has the lowest concentration of active ingredients. Here, only soft parts of the plant such as the leaves, flower, and soft stem are used. This method extracts the water soluble ingredient from the herb using a low heating point. It is a mild medicine, effective in persons with a weaker constitution and debilitated patients.
How To Prepare
- Soak 1 part of the powdered herb in 6 parts of hot water.
- Mix thoroughly, squeeze, and strain.
- Take this as oral medication.
The recommended dosage is 40–80 ml per day in divided doses. Its applications are in herbal teas like cinnamon tea and licorice tea, which help to relieve symptoms of Vata and Kapha imbalances, and in sudarshan phaant to treat fevers.
Benefits of Panchavidha Kashaya Kalpana
- They increase the assimilation of active ingredients.
- There are no preservatives or chemical additives.
- They are time-tested and efficient.
- They are economical and a natural form of treatment.
- They can be modified based on the disease and strength of the patient.
All of these mixtures give the best results if prepared and consumed fresh. But they can be stored in a dry, cool place for up to 3 hours. Although the processes are time-consuming, the benefits far outweigh the costs.