By Swami Harshananda
Auṣadha literally means ‘derived from the plants and herbs’.
From the Beginning of the Vedic era, importance of the body, has been duly recognized. The desire for enabling people to have a strong and healthy body lead to the development of Ayurveda (life-science or health-science).
Treatment of diseases and improving the general stamina forms a salient aspect of Āyurveda. Medicines or drugs used for such treatment has been given the general name, ‘auṣadha.’ Derived from the word ‘oṣadhi’ (plant, herb), it means a ‘preparation made of plants and herbs.’
Nowadays, it refers to all medicines derived out of herbs, animal products or minerals. Ayurveda has developed its own methods of pharmacy. It aims at retaining the medical properties of the ingredients of drugs with the necessary modification brought about by dilution, heating, emulsification, clarification, impregnation and other means.
The auṣadhas are generally compounded with bases like ghṛita (ghee), taila (oil), water and milk. They may be administered as kaṣāya (decoction) guṭikā (pills), modaka (uncooked pills), curṇa (powder), kalka (paste of plant), leha or lehya (thick plant extracts with sugar to be taken by licking), ariṣṭa (fermented drink) and so on.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore