Respected organizers, Honorable guests & all respected people who work in field of Ayurveda,
I am very thankful to you for giving me this opportunity to present my views in front of all these experts working in field of Ayurveda. I am addressing this speech to everybody working in Research especially in Medicinal Plants. This even includes people working in Pharmacognosis & Pharmacology as well.
Face of Medicinal Science is changing in interesting ways worldwide. While Modern Medicine is conquering new heights in terms of vast research on various known & unknown diseases, Traditional Health Practices are attracting people worldwide with its own way to handle Health Problems.
Researches in Traditional Medicinal Sciences are attracting people once again after ruling over the world once, in long ancient times. No one can tell this better than people working in field of Ayurveda.
I think of myself as a very fortunate person who is a part of the new generation of students, practitioners & researchers working in Ayurveda.
We got opportunity to study Ayurveda which is one of the most ancient old ‘Medicinal Sciences’& we also are witnesses of success of Ayurveda in this ‘Research Era ‘.
We can proudly say that we have seen the new powerful face of Ayurveda which is not faded or have become ‘boring’ with time, but has become attractive with help of Modern Research Techniques. We are fortunate that we also got opportunity to test these ancient old theories with latest Research Technologies.
Every Ayurvedic student gets impressed by Ayurvedic ways of treating people & also to see how effective it is till date. At the same time rebellious mind of every student thinks why I should believe something told almost 4000 to 5000 yrs back. Every Student mind comes up with lots of queries.
I have also thought in the same way in initial years of my Graduation. After some years we loose that curious nature & we blindly start practicing Ayurveda.
Still a corner of our mind is always curious to test these theories in many ways.
E.g. Ayurvedic students interested in DravyaGunaVidnyan might be curious about link between chemical compositions of a plant & Rasa-Veerya-Vipak or somebody might be curious to know Rasadi Gunakarmas of an alien plant or plants introduced in India from the other country. Even somebody may be suspicious to use some particular plant on a person from different climatic conditions. Same thing happened with me, when I came to South Africa.
I was curious about Traditional African Medicinal System & also about Medicinal Plants of South Africa. When I read books about South African Medicinal plants, I wanted to understand their gunakarmas according to DravyaGunaVidnyan. I thought if I can get ‘DravyaGunaVidnyan’ of South African Medicinal Plants I can use them more confidently.
I wanted to interpret Rasadi gunakarmas of these plants according to Ayurveda, so I can use them in Practice more conveniently. But for a person like me with a very less knowledge & experience this was like ‘mission impossible’. With the expert guidance & kind support of Dr.P.H.Kulkarni, I dared to take this project, Ayurvedic Interpretation of Medicinal Plants of Southern & Eastern Africa.
Subject of speech-
The subject of this speech is ‘New Perspectives in Research on Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants’.
Ayurveda has attracted attention worldwide. When people consult Ayurvedic practitioners in a country other than India, it becomes a bit problem to decide a perfect Dravya or ‘Maatra’ of a particular ‘Kalpa’. Sometimes availability of a particular Dravya especially if it is required fresh or if it is uniquely indigenous plant, then we have to compromise with some other Dravya or a Kalpa in which it is used. This concerns more to a person who is specifically interested in DravyaGunaVidnyan. He faces lots of questions about Rasa, Veerya, Vipak, Desh & Bhumi vidnyan of that particular plant.
However, we manage to treat a patient as Ayurveda has given many invaluable theories which make it applicable anywhere & anytime.
As Ayurvedic practitioners working abroad, we know how difficult it is to decide a proper Dravya for a patient who is living in different country with different or sometimes exactly opposite weather pattern. E.g. When we need to decide a ‘Kalpa’ or ’Dravya’ which has Sheeta Veerya for a patient who is Canadian by birth & lived in Canada, it makes us a little bit cautious that what if it will cause Kaphaprakop or Vataprakop which is not exactly expected.
Every Ayurvedic practitioner or student who has worked in countries other than India must have thought that it will be better if we can grow Ayurvedic Plants here where we work. Some people might have thought of using local herbs instead of Dravya recommended in Ayurvedic Texts.
We always need Ayurvedic medicines & plants there in which country we are living, abroad.
This is not always easy to make available all Dravyas there where we live or sometimes we have to think about Desh & Bhumidnyana while using these plants.
After my study, I can say that we can use Indigenous Medicinal Plants of the country where we live, instead of Ayurvedic Dravyas.
I studied Medicinal Plants of South Africa in perspective of Ayurveda.
Today I want to share some points from my study with all of you. I hope this will help them who are interested in this work.
Medicinal Plants of South Africa:
Medicinal plants play an important role in Traditional Medicinal System of South Africa. Almost 3000 species are used as medicinal plants while 350 species are commonly used.
Methods of using these plants are somewhat different but most of medicinal uses seem to be relevant to principles similar to Ayurvedic Principles.
I have studied indigenous medicinal plants of South Africa & interpreted them in Ayurvedic perspective; i.e. I have tried to explain Panchbhautikatva & Rasa-Veerya-Vipak of these plants.
I studied almost 40 medicinal plants of Southern & Eastern Africa in this way. Some of them are indigenous & some are exotic but naturalized in that land.
I have studied 17 plants used for Mental Health in Southern Africa.
I am studying plants used as ‘Rakshoghna Dravya’ or ‘Charms’ which is an integral part of African Culture.
I am studying around 200 medicinal plants used for Women Health in Southern & Eastern Africa.
Steps of the Study:
1. Three years ago, I got opportunity to live in South Africa. On the first place, the bio diversity and cultural diversity of South Africa attracted my attention.
I started collecting information about History, Geography, cultures & current events in South Africa. Whenever I used to go for sightseeing or read about events in South Africa, I felt that I should tell my people about this beautiful country. I started writing articles about South Africa.
2. As an Ayurvedic Doctor the traditional healing practices and different manner of using
Herbs attracted my attention more.
South African Healing tradition is also ancient one, like Ayurveda. The history of use of plants as a medicine can go back till the time of San people, very first inhabitants of African Continent. But the medicinal knowledge is not well-represented in form of texts like Ayurveda. Still it is taught orally. No written matter is available to tell how they used to diagnose the disease and how medicine works. It is more like a spiritual experience limited to Healer & patient. This makes very difficult to study their ancient traditional system.
I started collecting data from books & peoples I met. I found so many interesting points studying Traditional Medicinal system of South Africa. Some points like selection of particular plant, harvesting methods of medicinal plants & some rituals related to Traditional methods of healing like Initiation ceremony & sacrificial ceremonies, are points which compel anybody to think about it.
3. Whenever I used to read about medicinal plants in South Africa, I couldn’t help of thinking Indian medicinal plants. Some plants were same plants used in India & they were showing similar uses. Sometimes exactly same plant seems to be working in quite different manner from plant in India. But there were lots of other plants of different species which were working in different interesting ways. It was like a treasure of medicinal plants.
4. As first step in this study, I started collecting thorough information about these plants. Initially my intention was to collect information about medicinal uses of indigenous plants in South Africa. But I came to know that many exotic plants are also used in Traditional medicines which got introduced in South Africa & became naturalized. I found information about some plants which were not Indigenous to South Africa but were exotic plants from other countries of Africa continent like Eastern African countries, Southern African countries & also from other continents. Some plants were garden plants which were indigenous & exotic as well. I was not able to see all the plants I got information about. But I tried to understand ‘swaroop’ or morphological information of these plants from botanical texts, books on indigenous South African plants & photographic guides.
I visited different places like indigenous forests & nurseries to know exact morphology of these plants & how they look in different seasons.
5. Whenever I used to read information about these medicinal plants in South Africa, I was trying to understand these uses in terms told by Dravya-Guna-Vidnyan. I started thinking about these plants according to Dravya-Guna-Vidnyan. I started interpreting medicinal uses of plants in South Africa according to Ayurvedic principles mentioned in Dravya- Guna-Vidnyan. Surprisingly, all plants of same Genii show at least some of uses similar. They were showing some variations in morphological structures but exactly similar actions described in Ayurvedic texts. Some plants having different species but same genii as Indian medicinal plants sometimes show exactly similar uses told as per Ayurvedic texts.
Some plants were used for same indication but in different manner.
6. According to Ayurveda, ‘Dravya’ works due to Rasa, Veerya, Vipak, Prabhav & Gunas.
I thought that if I know about Karmas of a particular plant, I can predict about Rasa,
Veerya, Vipak, Prabhav & Gunas.
I started working to find out about Rasa, Veerya & Vipak of
As most of these plants were poisonous or potentially harmful, I couldn’t dare to taste or take Pratyaksha Dnyana of Rasa. I was able to tell about Vipak & Veerya as per principles told in Dravya-Guna-vidnyana.
I know that these plants may have some different Rasa, Veerya, Vipak & I might go wrong in some places. That is why I have also tried to mention about Panchbhautikatva of these plants on the basis of occurrence or ‘Bhumidnyana’, morphological structures or ‘swaroop of Dravya’ & known medicinal uses or ‘Karmas’. I hope that this may help researchers in future to predict more accurately about Rasa, Vipak & Veerya of these plants.
7. South Africa is well known for her geological treasure. It is full of mines of different
precious stones, metals & elements. Soil in South Africa, which is rich in minerals,
definitely has influence on chemical composition of plants & also on human body.
Ayurveda mentions about ‘Bhumidnyana’ before ‘DravyaSangraha’. Traditional Healers of
South Africa also consider specific site, slopes of mountains while collection of herbs.
I thought that I can use this ancient old knowledge about effect of geographical position of plant and pattern of soil on pharmacological actions of plant. I collected information about occurrence of these medicinal plants. In this point, I collected information about geographical & geological occurrence of plants. From this information I was able to predict about Panchbhautic composition of that particular plant & also comparative aspect about Panchbhautic composition of both plants, plant in South Africa & plant of same genus in India. This collection of geographical & geological information may also help for cultivation of medicinal plants in India.
8. Some times these plants show some Pharmacological actions or Karmas which do not
seem relevant to their active ingredients. I couldn’t found information about exact active
Ingredient which makes that plant work in this way. We can explain it as Prabhava.
I couldn’t find explanation about these actions in Traditional South African Healing
Systems. These plants will be studied in detail in future to find out exact chemical
composition which may explain about their pharmacological actions.
But right now I don’t have exact reason why these plants work in such unexplainable
Basis of study
• Ayurvedic principles are eternal, so we can apply these Ayurvedic theories in all ages and all over the World. This made me confident to believe that I can compare Ayurvedic medicinal plants to South African Medicinal plants. All Ayurvedic theories are related to each other so it is important to study those all. But Ayurveda is such a vast science, it is impossible to study all at once. One can only try to understand. So I have compared these plants using mainly following theories.
• Panchmahabhoot theory-According to this theory all living & non-living things in this world are created out of “Panchmahabhootas” or “ Five Universal Basic Elements” namely; Aakash (Space), Prithvi (Earth), Aapa (Water), Tej (Fire) and Vayu (air). Not only the physical structure but the properties & actions or effects of every substance is influenced by Panchmahabhootas.
• Pindi-Brahmandi nyaya- According to this theory, Man is microcosm of nature. Five mahabhootas namely, Aakash (Space), Prithvi (Earth), Aapa (Water), Tej (Fire) and Vayu (Air); present in nature are also present in human being. Plants are also Panchbhautic like human bodies. It explains why plants can make difference in our lives.
• Dravya-Guna-Rasa-Shastra is an important and integral part of Ayurveda. It deals with Dravya means a substance. That substance may be of herbal, animal or mineral origin. It says that nature contributes in every possible way of every stage in creation, maintenance and destruction of human being. This also proves the role of plants in our lives.
• Aushadhitva of all Dravyas - According to Ayurveda there is nothing in this world which can not be utilized as a medicine. But thorough knowledge of the substance is required and that is provided by Dravya-Guna-Rasa-Shastra or Ayurvedic Pharmacology-cum-Pharmacy.
• ‘Rasoplabdhi Hetu’- I have explained about Rasa-Veerya-Vipak of South African plants on the basis of ‘Anuman’ & ‘AptopDesh’ which are given as ‘Rasoplabdhi Hetu’ in Dravya-Guna-Rasa-shastra.
These Ayurvedic principles inspired and helped me to study about South African Medicinal plants in Ayurvedic view. I know this is a very vast and complicated subject to compare Ayurvedic medicinal plants especially with Indigenous South African Medicinal Plants which are grown in different geographical and geological circumstances. But I dared to step in because of my strong belief in Ayurvedic principles and kind support of Dr. P. H. Kulkarni.
Other supporting theories-
• According to Modern Science, medicinal uses of plants are due to their active ingredients. According to Ayurveda, medicinal uses of plants are due to their Rasa-Vipak-Veerya. We know that Rasa of Dravya depends upon chemical composition or active ingredients of the plant. I have dared to say about Rasa-Veerya-Vipak of South African plants on the basis of ‘Anuman’ & ‘AptopDesh’ which are given as ‘Rasoplabdhi Hetu’ in Dravya-Guna-Rasa-shastra. We can see that most of the plants can prove this statement. But more research is required to prove Rasa-Veerya-Vipak of these South African Plants.
• There must be having slight variations in amount of active ingredients, in different species of same genus & same family or in same species occurring in different geographical & geological conditions. But basic active ingredient should be the same in plants of same genus & family. That is why I can say that when an Indian plant is compared with a South African plant of same genus & Family, both of them may be showing similar Panchbhautic composition & Rasa-Vipak-Veerya. Surprisingly some plants show almost similar Karmas or actions. Thus we can say that these plants may be having similar or same Rasa-Veerya-Vipak by ‘Anuman’.
• In case of the remaining plants ,which show different or sometimes opposite actions, we need to encourage laboratory research to find out variations of active ingredients & also clinical research is needed whether these African plants will work in same way in similar Ayurvedic indications. There may be more or less efficiency in action due to more or less amount or combination with other chemical components added due to different geological conditions. But basic principle of treatment should remain same.
• For example, In India, Chilies (Capsicum annum) are grown in every climatic condition. But it is seen that chilies are less spicy & hot (Less Katu Rasa & Ushna Veerya) which are grown in cold climatic conditions like Jammu-Kashmir & other northernmost parts of India compared to those grown in hot climate of South India. It means that Rasa-Vipak-Veerya remains same but according to Desh, (Three land patterns decided by Ayurveda with flora & fauna), it shows slight variations. Taking advantage of this, we can say that these Indigenous South African plants can be cultivated in India as both countries are sub-tropical countries with variety of climates.
• This also can be supported by continental drift theory which now accepted by most Geologists. This theory states that Indian plate was attached to African plate in very early ages of history of our planet. Due to sub-lithospheric activities Indian plate moved from north-eastern side of African plate & was drifted towards northeast till it was collided to Asiatic plate which gave birth to Himalayas. We can say that this must have some effect on geological pattern of these both countries. Geographically also South Africa shows variety of land patterns & climates same like India.
• When I got information about medicinal uses of garden plants of South Africa, I thought that we can cultivate these plants in Indian gardens also. This thought encouraged me to interpret about Ayurvedic description of garden plants of South Africa, indigenous & exotic as well. We can grow these Indigenous South African plants in similar climate providing similar soil pattern. Now days, it is not impossible due to advanced agricultural techniques which are also used in India. We can cultivate these species & can be used as additional medicinal help for our Ayurvedic medicines. This will provide us some new medicines or a new way of thinking about our medicinal plants. This is a way by which two ancient old cultures with rich traditional medicinal systems can benefit each other by enhancing their strong points & by eliminating weak points.
India is taking major steps to protect invaluable medicinal plants & other endangered plants.
With the help of traditional knowledge of South Africa, we can get some help in this task.
Here are some general suggestions which can help us in many ways.
1. Selective Harvesting Methods - We can use the method of selective harvesting while using barks of trees. In South Africa mostly bark is seen to be used. There are so many Indian plants of which bark can be used instead of root bark & roots, which can save the whole plant from destruction. Harvesting of bark should be done carefully as informed in study. Ring -barking should be avoided. There are also some suggestions given regarding use of other plant parts to save trees from over-destruction by bark harvesting.
2. Pharmacognotic research & use of foreign herbs as an alternative-We can supplement our herbs with some additional foreign herbs.
With slight variations of Pharmacological effects due to changed geographical and geological conditions we will be at least able to draw some benefits of these unique plants e.g. Baobab Tree, Marula Tree, Buchu Tree and many more. Introduction of these plants may give a new exciting direction to research and progress of Ayurveda.
Probability of use of Indigenous South African Medicinal Plants in Vyadhis described in Ayurvedic texts can be studied more with the help of well equipped research institutes of Ayurveda.
3. Pharmacognotic research & use of local alternative herbs-Some local alternative herbs can be used for rare herbs. It is seen in Ayurvedic texts that alternative herbs are suggested to be used when original plant is not available. Sometimes plants of closest species are also used. In this study I have suggested some more plant species which can be used as alternative for some rare medicinal plants. This also requires thorough laboratory research on those plants to find out chemical composition of those plants.
4. Cultivation of medicinal plants of Southern Africa-We can cultivate plants in South Africa of similar genii of plants found in India. This can be beneficial to avoid over destruction of endangered medicinal plants in India & may provide some new medicinal uses as I have suggested in this study.
5. Geological & Geographical research of both countries, India & South Africa for cultivation of medicinal plants- When we see similar plants working in different manner, definitely we think about influence of ’Desh’ or ‘Bhumi’ on Panchbhautikatva of those plants. Geographical and geological research should be undertaken to study ‘Actions of medicinal plants in South Africa when grown in almost similar geographical & geological pattern’. Comparative studies of climate, soil, minerals and water in South Africa and India will be considerably helpful to improve efficacy of herbal drugs and to eliminate unwanted effects. This study will also help for the purpose of cultivation of South African medicinal plants in India.
6. New perspectives in methods of storage of medicinal plants-In South Africa, there are some unique ways of collection and storage of plant which varies with type of plant and part of plant used e. g harvesting of Aloes.
I have also given information about few specific methods of storage of some plants in this study. This can help us to get new ideas about storage of Ayurvedic plants.
7. New perspectives in extraction methods or Kashaykalpana-There are extraction methods which are different for different plants in South Africa. There are some exciting exceptions like Rooibos Tea. Leaves of this plant are fermented before using as Herbal Tea.
I have given suggestions under description of that specific plant to suggest if we can use our plants in that suggested way.
8. New perspectives in pest controlling-Research on pest controlling must be undertaken with the help of Traditional South African Knowledge, to avoid wastage of valuable Indian herbs.
9. New perspectives about use of Ayurvedic plants for Pharmaceutical companies-The most important output from this study are Pharmaceutical companies can use conclusions & suggestions mentioned in this study in their products.
Suggestions & projects which can be undertaken regarding Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants:
In this thesis, I have interpreted medicinal plants of Southern Africa & I can say that according to principles of Dravya-Guna-Vidnyan, we can use these plants & Ayurvedic plants in new perspective, as mentioned above. I have also suggested some conservation methods on the basis of this study.
Apart from Ayurvedic interpretation, a person may want to know about these plants in the terms of chemical analysis. While studying these plants as Ayurvedic Doctor, I learnt some things about some relation of Active ingredient & Rasa-Veerya-Vipak of a particular plant. On the basis of my study I can say that chemical analysis of these plants can add some valuable knowledge in the field of research in ‘Phytomedicines’.
I am suggesting some researches in terms of Chemical analysis of Southern African Plants & Ayurvedic plants. Most of these researches can be done as ‘chemical analysis of plant extract ‘& I suggest these plants to be studied under ‘Pharmacognosis’.
I am interested in all these projects mentioned as follows & ready to help in these projects.
I think that we can interpret indigenous plants of many other countries in this way; it can be a unique way to blend two traditional sciences, Ayurveda & Local Traditional Herbal Medicine of that country. It will be a great effort in research of Dravyagunavidnyan & we can create lots of new Nighantus.
This study even can provide new ideas for research in Pharmacology & Pharmacognosy.
I wish all the best to all who are interested in this work & wish a very good future for Dravyagunavidnyan.
I wish this study of mine may inspire others who live in different countries to study Medicinal Plants of that country in this way.
I am very much thankful to all of you for sharing my thoughts.