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Identification of Formulae with Lesser Ingredients

In contemporary Ayurveda, formulations w'ith numerous ingredients are generally manufactured. At least in the province of Kerala, this trend was started in 1902, when Vaidyaratnam PS. Variar founded Arya Vaidya Sdla. All other entrepreneurs who came into this field followed suit and as a result almost all of them manufacture and sell the same set of products. However, formulae of medicines having equal or more efficacy are described in Ayurveda texts like Cakradattam, Gadanigraham, Vaidyamandrama and Cikitsdmahjari. An example is Guduci Ghrtam described in Cakradattam. It is a simple remedy prepared using juice of Guduci (Tinospora cordifolia), cow milk and clarified butter. This medicated clarified butter has exceptional effect on skin diseases (Sharma 1994). Equally interesting is the formulation Pinddsava described in Caraka Samhita to cure of an array of digestive diseases (Sharma 1998). Piper longum fruits, jaggery and pericarp of Terminalia belerica are to be pounded together with water and kept in a heap of barley grains for a fortnight. This medicine is administered suspended in water. Healthy individuals can also consume Pinddsava for a month in order to prevent the appearance of those disorders. Such formulations need to be popularized, so that the impact of shortages of crude drugs on medicine manufacture can be lessened to some extent.

Discovering New Dosage Forms

Nowadays ayurvedic companies offer tablets of kvdtha instead of the kvdtha itself. The justification offered is that tablets are easier to consume and carry than kvdtha, which are invariably bitter or astringent. It is also widely known that many such kvdtha tablets fail to bring about the desired effect of the corresponding kvdtha. The fundamental cause of this anomaly is the disparity in dosage. The standard dose of a kvdtha, as instructed in classical Sanskrit texts is the decoction obtained from one pala of herb mixture. The metric equivalent of one pala is 48 g (Anonymous 1978b). One pala of crude herb mixture will yield not less than 10% of water extract, w'hich amounts to 4.8 g.

5 g of granulated extract, when punched, will yield ten tablets. Consuming five tablets twice a day will not be liked by patients.

To overcome the problem of dosage it is better to convert ayurvedic kvdtha unto granules of extracts. Granules equivalent to one pala of crude herb powder can be easily packed into two tea- bags, which can be dipped into hot water and the reconstituted decoction consumed. This will overcome the problem of sub-therapeutic dosage of kvdtha tablets.

Substitution of Plant Parts

Ayurvedic pharmacy makes use of a wide variety of plant parts or products like whole plants, flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves, galls, stems, bark, wood, roots, oil, gums and exudates (see Table 11.6). These are generally collected from the wild, though recently, attempts are being made at cultivation and conservation of some herbs. However, population growth and increasing urbanization have had their deleterious effects on the ecosystem, leading to depletion of plant wealth. A glaring example that highlights this problem is the dasamula group of crude herbs, which consists of five larger roots and five smaller roots. Production of Dasamula kvatha, Dasamillarista and several other formulations is adversely affected by shortage of these crude herbs. One way to solve this problem is by substitution of the roots with a renewable plant part like the leaf.

Jena et al. (2017) conducted a study to explore the substitution of root of a member of the dasamula group, Premna latifolia, with its leaf and young stem. T.L.C. fingerprinting and monitoring of analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of the methanol extracts of the whole root, root bark, root pith, young stem and leaves were compared. The chromatogram of the leaf extract was similar in profile to that of the whole root both under U.V.254 and after derivatization, with six major bands appearing at matching R, values. All plant parts showed statistically significant and dose-dependent analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities. The whole root and leaf showed same level of inhibition of edema (48%) at 6 h at a dose of 400 mg/kg when compared to 59% inhibition shown by ibuprofen.

Similar results were reported earlier by Bidhan et al. (2015) who investigated the similarity of high-performance thin layer chromatographic (H.P.T.L.C.) patterns of leaf and heartwood of Pterocarpus marsupium, a medicinal tree exploited mainly for the heartwood, which has significant anti-diabetic activity (Ivorra et al. 1989; Kameswara et al. 2001). The study revealed that the leaf extract produced an equal number of spots in the H.P.T.L.C. system, suggesting similarity in biological activities. Similar studies need to be conducted to explore the possibility of substituting root, bark and heartwood with renewable parts like leaves and stems of many important ayurvedic herbs.

TABLE 11.6

Plant Parts Consumed in Ayurvedic Pharmacy

Plant Part


Whole plants




Fruits and seeds






Stems and bark








Gums and exudates


Adapted from: Ved and Goraya (2007)

Pharmaceutics of Ayurvedic Medicines

Expressed juices and powders are rather simpler preparations, requiring only extraction of the juice in the case of svarasa and pulverizing and blending of the herbs, in the case of cUrna. However, chemical conversions can occur among the bioactive compounds during the process of preparation of decoctions, which are used in Ayurveda as a dosage form as well as as ingredients of medicated oils and clarified butter. The dynamics of transfer of compounds has been studied well in the case of Chinese and Kampo medicine (Takaishi and Torii 1969; Takaishi and Watanabe 1971; Noguchi et al. 1978a, 1978b; Arichi et al. 1979; Tomimori and Yoshimoto 1980; Yamaji et al. 1984). However, such information is totally lacking in the case of ayurvedic kvatha.

Taila and ghrta are prepared by boiling juices or water extracts of herbs with vegetable oils or clarified butter, in the presence of a small quantity of paste of herbs (kalka). The process is carried out with frequent stirring of the boiling mixture. The function of the kalka is to introduce small quantities of some herbs into the preparation as well as to indicate the stage at which the taila or ghrta is to be filtered (Lahorkar et al. 2009). The general belief is that during this process the lipid- soluble compounds in the decoction dissolve in the oil or clarified butter. However, it is possible that during the continued heating and stirring over an extended period, glycosides in the boiling mass may turn into aglycones, rendering them soluble in the lipid medium. In addition to this, all kinds of chemical transformations may occur, like isomerizations (cis/trans cinnamic acid analogues and derivatives), inter- and intra-molecular trans-esterifications, hydrolysis of esters and amides, and so on. High temperatures can also cause oxidation and decomposition. The only way to understand the chemical changes is to analyze the herbal fluids and lipid before, during and after the treatments (Dr Robert Verpoorte, Leiden University, personal communication).

Virgin coconut oil (V.C.O.) is coconut oil directly extracted from fresh coconut milk (Villariano et al. 2007). Phenolic acid fraction (caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid and (+/-) catechin) of the coconut oil prepared by boiling coconut milk (the traditional method) is known to be more complex compared with that of coconut oil prepared by pressing copra (commercial coconut oil). The total phenol content of coconut oil produced by the traditional method is nearly seven times higher than that of commercial coconut oil (Seneviratne and Dissanayake 2008). On account of the high content of biologically active components like vitamins, phytosterols and polyphenols, V.C.O. exerts anticancer, antimicrobial, analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory properties (Abbas et al. 2017; Intahphuak et al. 2010; Nevin and Rajamohan 2010). Considering the physico-chemical properties, biological activities and beneficial effects on health (DebMandal and Mandal 2011; Chinwong et al. 2017), V.C.O. can be a cost-effective substitute for clarified butter. Ayurvedic ghrta can be prepared with V.C.O.

The traditional method of preparing ayurvedic pills is another area worthy of study. Solid-state fermentation (S.S.F.) is the growth of microorganisms on moist solid material in the absence or near-absence of free water. The microorganisms grow on a natural substrate or an inert support used as a solid base (Bhargav et al. 2008). It seems that S.S.F. is involved in the preparation of traditional ayurvedic pills. An example is Bilvadi gulika, used in the treatment of bites from scorpions, rodents, insects and spiders, gastroenteritis, dyspepsia, fever, poisoning and psychological conditions (Vaidyan and Pillai 1985). It is prepared by grinding the mixture of herb powders for 1 or 2 hours daily for about 8-9 months continuously, by wetting with goat urine. On completion of the grinding process, the mass is rolled into small pills. When processed in the traditional way, the pills never dry up. The daily grinding helps the mass to acquire a particle size adequate for recharging of the microbial inocula, which may include yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. This process may lead to S.S.F. It may be possible that the biotransformation of berberine, observed elsewhere (Chandra et al. 2012) may be taking place in Bilvadi gulika also under an extended period of preparation, as most of the constituent herbs are rich in berberine (Sabu and Haridas 2015). The biotransformation of herbal bioactives during the preparation of ayurvedic pills, in the presence of microflora needs to be investigated.

In Ayurveda the five-fold characteristics (rasa, guna, virya, vipaka, prabhava) are indicated for whole herbs. Nevertheless, only aqueous decoctions of herbs (,kvatha) are administered internally. All the water-insoluble compounds are left out in the spent herb as waste. Crude drugs like black pepper, long pepper, dry ginger, turmeric and others are boiled and the spent herb is discarded, along with their water-insoluble compounds. As these compounds are also biologically active, it will be interesting to judge the therapeutic efficiency of hydroalcoholic extracts as liquid preparations, instead of kvatha. As the hydroalcoholic extracts contain all the phytoconstituents, the medicinal preparation will have enhanced therapeutic activity. Moreover, the dose can also be reduced. The same innovation can be applied to the preparation of taila and ghrta as well. At present only water extracts are used in the preparation of taila and ghrta.

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