What is Dravya according to Ayurveda

The first mentioning of Dravyaguna is traceable from  the description of Charaka who defined Ayurveda as the science which deals with Dravyaguna (Ayurvedic pharmacology) and Karmas (actions of drugs or pharmaco-kinetics) of helpful and harmful material. (CH. SU. 30). Dravya Guna Shastra has been identified as a separate speciality by Narahari, the author of Raj Nighantu (17 A.D.)


Acharya Priyavrata Sharma defined Dravyaguna shastra as the branch which deals with the property action and therapeutic effects of various dravyas((drugs).

Actually, Ayurveda does not advocate the concept of pharmacology and therapeutics separately, it advocates the concept of pharmacotherapeutics and clinical pharmacology .

Dravyaguna does not agree with universal truth, but it is based on the principle of thesis truth.These principles have been derived through knowledge experience,repeated elucidation of findings.

The two main goals of Ayurveda are –

  1. To protect the health of a healthy person .
  2. To eradicate the disease.

These two goals will be achieved with the help of dravya.

  • The imbalance of the body can be treated with the help of panchabhouthika dravya. (Su su 42)
  • The versatile action of a drug can be explained as follow based on dosage. Even an acute poison can become an excellent drug if it is properly administrated. Even a drug if not administered properly can become a poison .

Sapta Padartha

Bhavamishra (16-17 AD) quoted about the five constituents of a dravya viz Rasa, Virya, Vipaka, Guna and Prabhava. Adding dravya and karma to the above five, Acharya Yadavji Trikamji mentioned about sapta padartha .

DRAVYA (Drug)-

A substance which possesses Guna (property) and Karma (action) with inheritance relation is known as Dravya.

  1. RASA (Taste)- The property perceived through the taste buds is known as  Rasa.
  2. GUNA (Physical property)

It is the property which will have an inherent reaction with dravya but remains inactive.


This may be considered as the pharmacologically active ingredient of the drug which performs pharmacological activities.

  • Read The Concept of Veerya in Ayurveda

VIPAKA (Drug Metabolism)-

It is a property of a drug which is responsible for the change in original taste on exposing to GIT enzymes.

  • Read The Concept of Vipaka in Ayurveda

PRABHAVA (Non-Specific Activity)-

When a drug produces an effect which is not in accordance with the constituent is called as prabhava.

KARMA (Pharmacological Action)-

The inseparable relation for association and dissociation of the drug in exhibiting its action is called as karma.


The properties and action have no identity or existence without the substance and the substance has no identification without the properties and action. In a broad sense, any substance or mixture of substance intended to be used internally or externally for the preservation of fortification of health and for the prevention mitigation or cure of disease either man or another animal is called as Dravya. (Ch.su. 9/3)

Chikitsa Chatuspada – The four aspects of Therapeutics are the physician, patient, medicament and attendee. They are responsible for the cure of disease.

According to Charaka, there is no any substance in the world which may not be used as a medicine.

The drugs (dravya) perform a certain action in the body by virtue of its properties (guna) which exists in a state of co-inherent. This uniformity of the drug on other hand form the basis of the principle of similar and dissimilar. These principles imply that the predominant proto-element of the drug will increase similar proto-element in the body dissimilar will decrease the dissimilarity.

Thus the six padharta gets a practical application in Dravya Guna Dravya holds the position of prominence in this six padharta of ayurveda .

Derivation of Dravya –

  • The word dravya is derived from “Dru Gato Dhatu”.
  • The word Dru means origin and Gato mean movement, knowledge.

Defination of Dravyas-

  • Dravya is having, function & qualities with samavaya sambandha. (vi & su )
  • Dravya is having a base for karma & guna. They both defined on dravya with samavaya sambandha. (Ch su 1 )
  • Dravya is one on which the rasa etc 5 factors depends. Ex. Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna, parbhava. (Bhavamishra)
  • Five factors- Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna, prabhava depends on dravyas. (Rasa vaisheshika )
  • The lakshana of dravya is that the guna & karma is on it with samvaya sambandha. (Yoga ratanakara).
  • Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna, prabhava these all in a combination defined on dravya.   (Nagarjuna).
  • In this context, Chakarapani explained that guna term includes Rasa, virya, vipaka, guna, prabhava etc. (Chakrapani).
  • The one in which guna & karma are present with is called as dravya. (Dr. gu. su.)

Charaka quotes an example that, “a drug is like a fabric material and its properties and action are like the yarn of the fabric.” Though the definition of dravya given by Charaka is intended for Karma dravyas the same is applicable to Karya dravya.

The drug will show different Gunas – Karmas when used in therapeutics.

Badhanta Nagarjuna defined dravya as a set of operation for the activates of rasa, guna, virya & vipaka.

Concept of Panchamahabhuta in Dravya

For Ayurveda, panchabhuta theory is important as chemistry is for modern medicine. There is evidence about five elements theory in the western medicine during ancient times.

  1. Bhuta is defined as the matter which proves its existence through certain characteristic feature or it is the factors which produce all the inorganic and organic material. (Ra.va.)
  2. Sushruta mentioned about the process of conversion of food into body constituents through the action of Agni. (Su.su 46/80)
  3. Charaka concludes that all the objects in the universe are composed of Panchabhutas. (Ch.su26/10)
  4. Here Chakarapani clarified that the karya dravyas are only panchbhoutika but not karana dravyas.
  5. With this background, Sushruta correctly defined that the treatment ultimately depends on Panchamahabutas. (Su.sa.1/9)
  6. The body will need a diet which in turn composed of mahabhutas. Therefore they will undergo & improves respective biochemical equivalent in the body. (Su.sa1/9)
  7. The main difference is that explains their concept on the basis of Paramanu (atom) & Trisrenu whereas Sankhya explains as Tanmatra & mahabhuta which is also accepted in Ayurveda. Text mention that 2 parmanu become dvayanuka & 3 dvayanuka will make a trisrenuka. However, it is accepted by both the philosophy about physical & chemical characteristic one by one..(Su.sa1/9)
  8. It is stated that the creation begins with Ayurveda or Prakriti which is imperceivable in nature. In biochemistry, it is known as cosmic energy coming from the galaxy. The inline energy of the universe in its results only. After we have ahankara with the fragments viz vikarika, tejas, bhutadi. These 3 will represent the move stable energy particles i.e. proton, Rough is electron & is neutron. These 3 together known as trividha ahankara. Since satva is a source of positive energy. Scientifically, in modern Physiology all the motor and sensory function are the results of +ve & -ve ions across a membrane either depolarization by means exchange of +ve charged Cu+, K+, Na+, etc. or negatively charge CL, O, etc. results in bodily activities. The same is the basis for considering Satva & Rajas for Ekaadasha Indriya (11 senses).
  9. Panchamahabhuta mainly indicates the physical properties of matter or atom while Panchatanmatras mainly indicate the chemical properties of the atom along with physical properties have a linear or vertical expansion like the group in the periodic table.
  10. These five elements in the form of five compounds are a major constituent of the body. They are CO2, CH3, PO3, H2O, & NH3.
  11. It is mentioned in the classics that all minutest level have their individual characteristic like Shabda etc. There features add one to another as the evolution of bhutas complete. This process of quantification is denoted as Anyonapravesha or Panchpanchi karana in Ayurveda & Vedanta respectively. (Ch.sh. 1/27-28)
  12. As Avayakta is inactive, activity is provided by Purusha. This may be compared to the kinetic energy of the atom.


The action of the drug is intimately related to its chemical structure in the form of the preponderance of one or two proto – elements in them. Even during digestion or metabolism, there is always a chemical reaction leading to conjugation of molecules in drug showing different action in different stages.

The drug will show its proper effect if it is used at the proper time and after taking into consideration of different factors. Some of the substance which is chemical to the body element tends to disagree with the system and will cause different side effects. So after appropriate consideration, only one should use the drug for getting the desired effects.

The knowledge of dravya is very important, not only in Ahara (food) aspect but also in the Aushadha (drug) aspect because of its pancha bhoutikta. If the drug is not known then it can be compared with poision, fire, and thunderbolt. But if anyone knows about it then it acts like a nectar. (Raj nighantu)

A drug acts by its potency. Different drug has different arrangement of five proto elements in terms of weight, number and configuration. The drug shows different action at a different stage. But sometimes, the action of a substance cannot be explained and for them, we will give the name of Prabhava of substance. eg; effect of different stones on Graha (planets).

The drug mentioned by Charaka in Gana produces similar action individually and also in combination. But it is not in the case as explained by Sushruta. These drugs cannot give individually similar effect what is given by them in combination. This is the beauty of Dravya and Ayurveda.

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