Rasayana, a Sanskrit word (with literal meaning: "Path" (ayana) "of the Juice" (rasa), or Elixir vitae), is used to describe chemistry and alchemy, and chemistry is generally called "Rasayan Shastra" in Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi, Kannada and several other Indian languages. Ancient rasayana texts center around the use of prepared forms of mercury (see samskaras), as do occidental alchemical texts.However, there is also ample mention of the preparation of medical tinctures in the ancient science of rasayana; rasayana is in fact a part of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda, the oldest health science has eight branches. Rasayana (rejuvenation) is one of them. Rasa has different meanings like "taste“, “essence", "flavor”, ”juice”, or “emotion", but is not limited to any of these. In therapeutic process Rasa is concerned with the conservation, transformation, and revitalization of energy. Rasa nourishes our body, boosts immunity and helps to keep the body and mind in best of health. Rasayana describes an herbal preparation that promotes a youthful state of physical and mental health and expands happiness. Rasayana herbs have high levels of both safety for daily use and effectiveness. They are given to small children as tonics, and are also taken by the middle-aged and elderly to increase longevity. [ [http://oneearthherbs.squarespace.com/understanding-herbs/] Tillotson, Alan, AHG, PhD D.Ay, "Understanding Herbs"]

Rasayana herbs and formulas are often confused with the categories of adaptogens, amphoterics, alteratives and tonics, even though they are not identical. Rasayanas affect the body in a "general" way, i.e. they may affect the immune system rather than the lungs. They are nontoxic in normal doses and are amphoteric, in that they won't over-tonify the body. Tonics will "build up" or stimulate the body towards normal health but can be over-tonifying. Alteratives will help normalize physiology, but do it through gentle "eliminative" functions that tend to focus on one or more organs, so are quite different. Amphoteric herbs seem to have a built in buffer that will help the body achieve homeostatic or allostatic balance, building or eliminating to achieve physiological equilibrium. While all rasayanas are amphoteric, some amphoteric herbs can be specific to an organ and are thus not rasayanas. Both rasayanas and adaptogens are nontoxic, and amphoteric, but adaptogens tend to work on a body-wide basis, by stimulating the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system. Some rasayanas do not stimulate the HPA axis or may focus somewhat more narrowly on major systems of the body such as the digestive or immune systems. However the categories tend to overlap and many herbs belong to both categories. [Winston, David & Maimes, Steven. "Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief," Healing Arts Press, 2007.] [ [http://oneearthherbs.squarespace.com/understanding-herbs/] Tillotson, Alan, AHG, PhD D.Ay, "Understanding Herbs"]

The aim and types of Rasayana

Rasayana therapy enriches rasa with nutrients to help one attain longevity, memory, intelligence, health, youthfulness, excellence of luster, complexion and voice, optimum development of physique and sense organs, mastery over phonetics, respectability and brilliance.

;Types of Rasayana [ [http://www.boloji.com/ayurveda/av047.htm Inducting Rasayana Therapy in our Daily Routine by Dr. Krishna R.S ] ]
#Kamya Rasayanas are promoters of normal health. These boost body energy levels, immunity and general health.
#*Pranakamya – Promoter of vitality and longevity
#*Medhakamya – Promoter of intelligence.
#*Srikamya – Promoter of complexion.
#Naimittika Rasayanas help to fight a specific disease.

In pursuit of these matters, herbal prescriptions with many herbal substances, preserved in ghee and honey are given. Chyawanprash is one of the traditional rasayanas. Specific adaptogenic herbs are also included in rasayanas including amla, shilajit, ashwaganda, holy basil, guduchi and shatavari.

Several rasayana herbs have been tested for adaptogenic properties:

The whole, aqueous, standardized extracts of selected plants (Tinospora cordifolia, Asparagus racemosus, Emblica officinalis, Withania somnifera, Piper longum and Terminalia chebula) were administered orally to experimental animals, in a dose extrapolated from the human dose, following which they were exposed to a variety of biological, physical and chemical stressors. These plants were found to offer protection against these stressors, as judged by using markers of stress responses and objective parameters for stress manifestations. Using a model of cisplatin induced alterations in gastrointestinal motility, the ability of these plants to exert a normalizing effect, irrespective of direction of pathological change was tested.... All the plant drugs were found to be safe in both acute and subacute toxicity studies. Studies on the mechanisms of action of the plants revealed that they all produced immunostimulation. The protection offered by Tinospora cordifolia against stress induced gastric mucosal damage was lost if macrophage activity was blocked. Emblica officinalis strengthened the defence mechanisms against free radical damage induced during stress. The effect of Emblica officinalis appeared to depend on the ability of target tissues to synthesize prostaglandins. Recent data obtained with Tinospora cordifolia have led researchers to suggest that it may induce genotypic adaptation, further opening the arena for more research and experimentation. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?itool=abstractplus&db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=abstractplus&list_uids=10404532 Rege NN, Thatte UM, Dahanukar SA. "Adaptogenic properties of six rasayana herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine." Phytother Res. 1999 Jun;13(4):275-91. ]

Rasayana formulas

Puri [RASAYANA: Ayurvedic Herbs of Rejuvenation and Longevity. Puri, H.S. (2003) Taylor & Francis, London] has given detailed account of Classical formulations such as Amrit Rasayana, Brahm Rasayana, Jawahar Mohra, Kamdugdha Ras, Laxami Vilas Ras, Laxman Vilas Ras, Madanoday Modak, Makrdhawaj vati, Manmath Ras, Mukta Panchamrit Rasayana, Nari Kalyan Pak, Navjeevan Ras, Navratna Ras, Navratnakalp Amrit, Panchamrit Ras, Paradi Ras, Ramchuramni Ras, Rattivalbh Pak, Shukar Amrit Vati, Smritisagar Ras, Suvarn Malini Vasant, Suvarn Vasant Malti, Swapanmehtank, Vasant Kusmakar Ras, Visha Rasaayana, Vrihda Vangeshwar Rasa.

These classical Rasayana formulas, contain a large number of ingredients, including minerals, pearl, coral and gems, and include a specially processed (samskara) mercury (the word ras indicates mercury as an ingredient). Because of negative publicity and cost factor, the use of the classical rasayana formulas has declined considerably, and most of the preparations available now have herbal ingredients with a couple of mineral and animal products. The non-availability and wild life protection act has made the use of musk, amber and parts of wild-life animals, nearly impossible.

The current Rasayana formulas are based on such ingredients as amla (Emblica officinalis which has very high stable Vitamin C), Terminalia belerica, Terminalia chebula, Shilajit (a mineral exudate high in fulvic acid), Long pepper, Black pepper, Ginger, processed Guggul, Guduchi, Ashwaganda, Shatavari and similar ingredients. Here are some of the best known rasayana remedies and their modern uses. Since rasayana formulas are general and nontoxic,they are frequently prescribed with more specific formulas that address specific concerns. Nonetheless they may also have specific affinities as shown [Alan Keith Tillotson. AHG, PhD, D.Ay "The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese, Western, and Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments"2001] [ [http://oneearthherbs.squarespace.com/understanding-herbs/] Tillotson, Alan, AHG, PhD D.Ay, "Understanding Herbs"] :

*1. "Alarasayana" (standard formula). Blood tonic.
*2. "Chandanadi powder" (standard compound). Anti toxic, anti cancer,energy
*3. "Gokshuradi Guggulu" pills (Sarngadhara Samhita). Anti toxic,urinary tonic
*4. "Kaisara Guggulu" pills (Sarngadhara Samhita). Anti cancer, anti toxic
*5. "Kanchanara Guggulu" pills (Sarngadhara Samhita). Anti cancer
*6. "Shilajita Triphala" pills (Shilajita with Triphala) for Diabetes, anti toxic,
*7. "Trikatu pills" (Piper longum, Piper nigrum, Zingiber officinalis) Digestive
*8. "Triphala pills" (Emblica officinalis / Terminalia belerica / Terminalia chebula) Digestive, anti toxic. laxative
*9. "Triphala Guggulu" pills are made from Guggulu gum resin (Commiphora wightii), Triphala (Emblica officinalis / Terminalia belerica / Terminalia chebula) and Pippali fruit (long pepper / Piper longum). (Sarngadhara Samhita). Anti toxic, anti cancer
*10. "Yogaraja Guggulu" pills (Bhaisajya Ratnabali). Nerve tonic
*11. "Chyawanprash" (standard formula) Lung tonic,

Rasayana has meanings beyond healthful substances. Rasayana Shastra in Ancient India was much less developed than today. Nevertheless, the use and practice of Rasayana was widespread in Ancient India, and some examples of applied rasayana include paints used in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, Maharashtra state, the steel of "Vishnustambha" (literal meaning: the tower of Vishnu), and a processed wood sample in the Kondivade caves near the Rajmachi fort in Maharashtra.


According to Multhauf & Gilbert (2008): [Multhauf, Robert P. & Gilbert, Robert Andrew (2008). "Alchemy". Encyclopædia Britannica (2008).]

The oldest Indian writings, the Vedas (Hindu sacred scriptures), contain the same hints of alchemy that are found in evidence from ancient China, namely vague references to a connection between gold and long life. Mercury, which was so vital to alchemy everywhere, is first mentioned in the 4th- to 3rd-century-BC Artha-śāstra, about the same time it is encountered in China and in the West. Evidence of the idea of transmuting base metals to gold appears in 2nd- to 5th-century-AD Buddhist texts, about the same time as in the West. Since Alexander the Great had invaded India in 325 BC, leaving a Greek state (Gandhāra) that long endured, the possibility exists that the Indians acquired the idea from the Greeks, but it could have been the other way around.

Significant progress in alchemy was made in ancient India. Will Durant wrote in "Our Oriental Heritage":

An 11th century Persian chemist and physician named Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī reported that they "have a science similar to alchemy which is quite peculiar to them, which in Sanskrit is called Rasayāna and in Persian Rasavātam. It means the art of obtaining/manipulating Rasa, nectar, mercury, juice. This art was restricted to certain operations, metals, drugs, compounds, and medicines, many of which have mercury as their core element. Its principles restored the health of those who were ill beyond hope and gave back youth to fading old age." One thing is sure though, Indian alchemy like every other Indian science is focused on finding Moksha: perfection, immortality, liberation. As such it focuses its efforts on transumation of the human body: from mortal to immortal. Many are the traditional stories of alchemists still alive since time immemorial due to the effects of their experiments.

The texts of Ayurvedic Medicine and Science have aspects similar to alchemy: concepts of cures for all known diseases, and treatments that focus on anointing the body with oils.

Since alchemy eventually became engrained in the vast field of Indian erudition, influences from other metaphysical and philosophical doctrines such as Samkhya, Yoga, Vaisheshika and Ayurveda were inevitable. Nonetheless, most of the Rasayāna texts track their origins back to Kaula tantric schools associated to the teachings of the personality of Matsyendranath.

The Rasayāna was understood by very few people at the time. Two famous examples were Nagarjunacharya and Nityanadhiya. Nagarjunacharya was a Buddhist monk who, in ancient times, ran the great university of Nagarjuna Sagar. His famous book, "Rasaratanakaram", is a famous example of early Indian medicine. In traditional Indian medicinal terminology "rasa" translates as "mercury" and Nagarjunacharya was said to have developed a method to convert the mercury into gold. Much of his original writings are lost to us, but his teachings still have strong influence on traditional Indian medicine (Ayureveda) to this day.


Further reading

* Winston, David & Maimes, Steven. "Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief," Healing Arts Press, 2007. Contains monographs and information on health benefits for the following rasayana herbs that are identified as adaptogens: Amla, Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Holy Basil (tulsi), Shatavari and Shilajit.
* Alan Keith Tillotson Ph.D., A.H.G., D.Ay, (Author), O.M.D., L.Ac., Nai-shing Hu Tillotson (Contributor), M.D., Robert Abel Jr. (Contributor) "The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese, Western, and Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments" Kensington press, ISBN 978-1575666174
* Puri, H.S. "RASAYANA: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation". Taylor & Francis, London, 2003. Gives monographic account and illustrations of 57 plants used as Rasayana in India, along with old as well as new Rasayana formulations.
* Puri, H.S. Ayurvedic Minerals, Gems and Animal Products for Longevity and Rejuvenation. India Book Store, Delhi 2006. Scientific details of all the ingredients other than herb, used as Rasayana in Ayurveda is given. The study on gold, mercury, sulfur, musk and Shilajit are given in good details.
* Anonymus: National Seminar on Rasayana, 8-10 March, 1999, Proceedings, Central Council for Research in Ayurveda & Siddha, New Delhi. A very good account of various aspects of RASAYANA by many learned authors.

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