Longevity Promoting Herbs – Vayasthapana
Author: Brenden Skudder
As mentioned in the Mahakashaya of Caraka Samhita
The action of the herbs listed under the group Vayasthapana are those herbs or agents that counter aging. Aging is due to the catabolic effect of the vata dosha on the dhatu’s governed by our individual Prakruti, Khavagunya – weakness, lifestyle and the stage of life. The herbs listed under this group are kapha promoting herbs as this directly affects rasa dhatu, the dhatu that nourishes the six remaining tissues and supports hydration and nourishment at a cellular level. Some of the herbs listed act directly on the colon, the seat of vata governed by apana vayu, one of the five subdoshas of vata. By supporting the action of apana vayu and bringing balance to apana, the four remaining vayu’s are affected bringing balance to each vayu’s individual expression. By stabilizing vata dosha, the catabolic action in the body is reduced and the anabolic action is nurtured counteracting the aging process.
The qualities of guru and snigdha are nutritive in action, being similar in quality to rasa dhatu it feeds and strengthens rasa dhatu establishing solid grounding for the six remanding dhatu. Being tikta rasa it is pacifying to the pitta dosha, whilst having kashaya as a secondary taste it is also balancing to kapha. Vata is balanced by the guru and snigdha qualities that counter the dry and light qualities of vata. The heating Virya not only stimulates correct digestive fire treating manda agni and vishama agni but coupled with its tikta rasa it does not aggravate pitta whilst digesting ama – toxins. The presence of the two gunas, guru and snigdha and the post-digestive action of madhura indicate that the action of the herb is more anabolic than catabolic in nature and from an energetic perspective it counters the catabolic nature of aging.
Guduchi is a rejuvenative to pitta and is used traditionally to treat rakta vata – rheumatism, a disease associated with old age. In clinical testing it was shown to have anti-microbial, anti-ulcerogenic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, anticancerous, hypoglycemic, immunomodulator, anti-stress, anti-allergic, antioxidant and diuretic properties.
Having all the tastes except salty it is pacifying to all the doshas; however Haritaki is predominately kashaya in taste. Although it has the qualities of laghu and ruksha it is recorded as being more vata pacifying and used in extensively in disorders of vata. This may be due to the heating virya and madhura vipaka, both of which counter vata. It is revered for its rejuvenative action and hence it is recommended for long term intake being combined with various agents during the different seasonal changes to promote and fortify its rejuvenative properties. It is pacifying to diarrhea and constipation depending on the dosage at the time of administration. This indicates that it acts directly on Apana vayu the main vayu responsible for the balance of vata. Thus acting on the seat of vata it brings balance to the remanding four vayu’s. It is one of the three agents in Triphala.
In clinical testing it was shown to have anti-spasmodic, hypolipidaemic, laxative, immunomodulator, cardiotonic, cytoprotective and antimicrobial properties.
Amalaki is a rejuvenative to the pitta dosha, via its cooling quality and virya, and due to its madhura vipaka. It is also balancing to vata and kapha; vata is balanced by the predominate amla – sour taste and the madhura vipaka and kapha is balanced by the tikta, kashaya taste and the qualities of laghu and ruksha. Its vata pacifying action due amla rasa and madhura vipaka is expressed in the anabolic action as it supports the building and strengthening of tissues countering degeneration associated with aging. It shows an affinity with mamsa dhatu – muscle tissue increasing lean body mass. It is an important ingredient in Chyavanaprasha – the famous restorative and immune building preparation and is one of the three agents in Triphala.
In clinical testing it was shown to have anabolic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, immunomodulator, cytoprotectant and nutritive properties and produced results in treating myocardial necrosis, hyperacidity, acne vulgaris and hypercholesterolaemia. In was shown to increase lean body mass, enhance cellular regeneration and supported the production and secretion of interferon and corticosteroids.
4. Yukta – ?
5. Sweta / Girikarnika (White variety)
Having the main feature of having snigdha quality, madhura rasa, shita virya and madhura vipaka, indicates that this herb is building and strengthen in its actions supporting the kapha dosha in maintaining stability of the tissues. Its predominant kapha qualities counters the catabolic effect of vata and metabolic effect of pitta, which when increased can cause increased metabolism leading to catabolism. The nutritive effect supports the formation of rasa dhatu and ojas maintaining health and immunity, providing strength and energy and nourishes the remanding dhatus. The quality of laghu maintains equilibrium with the other properties of the herb so that kapha is not aggravated, however of overuse of the herb or the excess quanity at the time of administration will aggravate kapha.
7. Atirasa / Shatavari
Shatavari renowned as a female tonic for its estrogen promoting action is pacifying to both vata and pitta. Its madhura, tikta rasa and shita virya is pacifying to pitta and vata is pacified by the madhura rasa, guru and snigdha qualities and madhura vipaka. It is a nourishing herb to rasa dhatu observed in its galactagogue action as breast milk is an upadhatu of rasa hence exhibits the quality of rasa in its production. It is a building and nourishing herb countering the wasting of tissues.
In clinical testing it was shown to have anti-tumor, immunomodulator and galactagoge properties and produced results in treating male infertility, duodenal ulcers and nausea and vomiting.
A herb highly regarded for its action on the central and peripheral nervous system as well as on the mind itself, Mandukaparni also known as Bramhi promotes circulation to the peripheral tissues as well as the brain. The herb Gotu kola often recorded as Centella asiatica is used in western herbalism to promote strengthening of the arteries and veins. Its action as a Vayasthapana relates directly to the actions on the mind as it promotes memory recall, concentration and reduces stress. The actions previously listed in regards to circulation and blood vessel health can also be associated with anti-aging properties as disease in old age can be cause due to the degeneration of blood vessels as in arteriosclerosis and varicose veins, and in conditions arising from poor peripheral circulation. It is prescribed in dementia Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases associated with degeneration of the nervous system due to aging.
In clinical testing it was shown to have sedative, anabolic, immunopotentiating, anticancerous and anti-inflammatory properties and produced results in treating ulcers and wounds.
9. Sthira / Salaparni
The qualities of guru and snigdha, the rasa of madhura, the heating virya and madhura vipaka all indicate that the herb is pacifying to Vata. Pitta is pacified by the madhura, tikta rasa and kapha by the tikta rasa and ushna virya. The energetic profile of the herb suggests that it is a building strengthening herb that nourishes the kapha aspect of the doshas whilst it’s heating virya guards against the excess formation of kledaka kapha in the stomach. The herb is a nervine and cardiotonic effective in treating heart conditions caused by mental stress such as heart palpitation.
Punarnava’s vata pacifying action can be seen in the madhura rasa, the heating virya and the madhura or anabolic post digestive action – vipaka. It laghu, ruksha qualities with heating virya counters the qualities of ama –toxins. It is an effective rejuvenative of the urinary system where it is prescribed in kidney disorders such as nephrotic syndrome when one is not only wanting to support the formation of urine but wants also to promote healing of the damaged tissues affecting urine formation.
Problems often arise in the urinary tract with the aging of tissues, Punarnava is an excellent agent to support and nurture the urinary tract – ambuvaha srota by aiding urine formation and rejuvenating the tissues that support ambuvaha srota’s function. By supporting the formation of urine and nurturing the urinary tract it promotes the passing of urine bringing balance to apana vayu.
In clinical testing it was shown to have diuretic, anabolic, anti-hepatotoxic, antimicrobial and cardiotonic properties and produced results in treating ulcers due to stress, leucorrhea and spermatorrhea.
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Lad, Dr. Vasant. Frawley, Dr. David., Yoga of Herbs. Wisconsin USA. Lotus Press 1986 Second edition 1988.
Pandey, Dr. Gyanendra. Dravyaguna Vijnana. Varanasi India. Krishnadas Academy, Second edition 2002
 Puri, H.S. Traditional Herbal Medicine for Modern Times, Rasayana – Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation. Taylor & Francis, London. 2003
 Singh, I.P., Guru, L.V. (1975). The effect of Amalaki Rasayana on experimental rats with special reference to their nitrogen balance. Journal of Research in Indian Medicine, 10, 141-146.
 Sharma, Prof. P.V. Caraka Samhita (Text with English translation), Jaikrishnadas Ayurveda Series. Varanasi India: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 2000
© Brenden Skudder 2004
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