The Concept of Prabhava in Ayurveda

Prabhava in Ayurveda is an important topic every Ayurveda expert should know. It is the factor or power which changes the pharmacodynamics of a herb or drug. Generally, the drug shows their effects on the body by the virtue of their properties and active potent constituents. But, the Prabhava is a factor which changes the effects or action of the drug generally shows. This article will explain in brief about Prabhava, it’s characteristics and why it is very important to understand the drug action.

Prabhava in Ayurveda

Dravya (Aushadha or medicine) the important tool in the physician performance and one of the four limbs of treatment should be known by name form, properties and actions.

Read: What is Dravya according to Ayurveda

Read: Shada Padartha: Superiority Concept in Ayurveda

Prabhava is the non-specific activity or specific power which is one among Dravya sapta padarthas.


  1. Prabhava in Ayurveda is the one which is specific and special power of the Dravya.
  2. The property which is responsible for the special or peculiar action of Dravya is known as prabhava.
  3. The prabhava is the non-specific effect of a Dravya.
  4. Prabhava may be defined as the special property which produces actions which are different from and contrary to those attributed to rasa, guna, veerya and vipaka.

Synonyms of Vipaka in Ayurveda

  1. Shakti
  2. Vichitra pratyarabdhatwa
  3. Vikriti Vishama samaveta
  4. Achinthya virya
  5. Achinthya
  6. Anavadharaniya
  7. Swabhava


Prabhava in Ayurveda is the property which is characterised by specific actions of substances which can not be explained in terms of the pharmacological actions of various constituents of Dravya when they are considered individually in relation to each other.

Even though rasa, virya, vipaka are equal karma is mentioned especially because of one specific power. That specific property is known as Prabhava.

Prabhava in Ayurveda is the unimaginable effect of the drugs as it happens in the case of Mani (precious stones). Manthra (sacred chanting) and celestial herbs. They act in a manner entirely different from the expected action without depending on taste, potency, quality and digested taste existing in them. The term shakti or prabhava indicates the special or extreme capability of a drug this is always explained comparing two drugs, one with prabhava and one without.

Concept of Prabhava

Prabhava in Ayurveda has been explained while describing virya like, Dravya gat shakti of 2 types

  1. Chintya
  2. Achintya

Chintya is one which has got the base of karya karanabhava, hence it is called as chintya other one is Achintya. It is told that due to sahaja dravya swabhava. i.e., Yuktipratipadya  but not Buddhigamya. Swabhava is Achintya hence prabhava also dravya- swabhavagata hence that is Achintya. But it can not be considered under the base of karyakaranabhava action of the Dravyagata rasadi padartha’s will be changing because of prabhava and cause of this variation can not be predicted hence it is Achintya.

Prabhava as Achintya (unpredictable) generally from the constituents of a Dravya. It is also told the virya as Achintya and chintya. The ‘Achintya virya’ is considered as prabhava in Ayurveda.

Prabhava can be explained through the concept of ‘Achintya virya’ Prabhava janya karma is Achintya (unpredictable) and unquestionable.

On the basis of Panchabhoutika composition dravya are divided into 2 groups-

    1. Samanya pratyarabdha dravya
    2. Vichitra prathyarabdha dravya
    • Samanya pratyarabdha dravya are which exhibit structure related pharmacological activities and therapeutic effects.
    • Vichitra prathyarabdha dravya are which do not have structural similarity among the constituents.

    There is another classification:

    1. Prakritisama samaveta
    2. Vikrit vishama samaveta

    Basically, there is no difference between samanya prathyarabdha dravya and prakritisama samveta dravya but vikriti vishama samaveta differs from vichitra prathyarabdha dravyas. Vikriti vishama samaveta dravya will have similarity among the constituents but exhibits the special therapeutic effect independent of constituents. Thus prabhava may be tentatively divided into two categories.

    1. Vikriti- vishama samaveta: structurally similar but functionally dissimilar
    2. Vichitra pratyarabdha: structurally dissimilar but functionally similar.


    Sl. No.






    b) Yava


    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Madhura, guru

    Madhura, guru




    b) Matsya

    Samana prathyarabdha

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Madhura, guru

    Madhura, guru

    Sheetha virya

    Ushna virya


    b) Simha

    Samana prathyarabdha

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Madhura, guru

    Madhura guru

    Madhura vipaka

    Katu vipaka


    b) Paravata

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Samana prathyarabdha





    5a) Kapitha

    b) Dadima

    c) Dhathri

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Samana prathyarabdha

    Amla rasa

    Amla rasa

    Amla rasa




    6a) Dhataki

    b) Haritaki

    Samana prathyarabdha

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Kashaya rasa

    Kashaya rasa

    Sheetha,virya grahi

    Ushna, virya rachana

    7a) Masha

    b) Gruta

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Madhura vipaka

    Madhura vipaka

    Pitta vardhaka


    8MadyaVichitra prathyarabdhaKatu vipakaPitta shamaka
    9VasaVichitra prathyarabdhaUshna viryaAgni sadana
    10PhanithaVichitra prathyarabdhaGuru, snigdha ushnaVatakara
    11a) Danthi

    b) Chitraka

    Vichitra prathyarabdha

    Samana prathyarabdha

    Katu, vipaka, ushna virya

    Katu, vipaka ushna virya




    1Mahat PanchamulaMadhura, kashaya, TikthaUshna
    2Anupa mamsaMadhura, kashaya, TikthaUshna
    3Saindhava lavanaLavanaSheetha
    4AmalakiAmla rasaSheetha

    Other examples of Prabhava in Ayurveda

    1. Mani dharana :Diamond which is a C5- isotope emits certain radiations which may help in various disease condition including cancer.
    2. Pumsavana karma: Human foetus is bisexual till 2-3 months of Intra-uterine life. Though sex is genetically predictable a substance called “ Differentiator” is finally deciding the sex of the human foetus before the third month.
    3. Virechanopaga: These are the prodrugs and analogues prodrugs are used to improve pharmacological or biological properties. Analogies are used to increase potency and to achieve specificity of action.
    4. Ubhaya bhagahara: The dosage of virechana dravyas and vamana dravyas is different therefore their actions, emesis and purgation are dose dependent.
    5. Bhallataka: When Bhallataka applied externally produces blisters because of its ushna virya. Same results virya subsides the Kapha and also results in Rasayana property, when Bhallataka is applied or used internally. The former utility is the examples of Nipatha or Adhishava and the later utility is the examples of Adhivasha. The invisible effects which are the outcome of Nipata might have been quoted as Achintya virya or prabhava.
    6. Kshira and grita are shamana pratyarabdha dravyas but the kshira reduces appetite while the gruta is an appetiser.
    7. Loshuna which has katu rasa, snigdha, guru guna, katu vipaka, it acts as kaphavatahara instead of increasing it.
    8. Raktashali and yavaka have similar properties but the former is Doshahara while the later is Doshavardhaka.
    9. Shirisha etc. acts as antidotes.
    10. Sometimes exposing the individual suffering from poisoning to the antidote. May yield a good result.

    Prabhava janya karma

    Prabhavajanya karma is of 3 types.

    1. Dravya prabhava: Drug action independent of the constitution. Example-  Some of the drugs which are Dosha prashamana, dhatu pradushana, swastahitha.
    2. Guna prabhava : Drug action depends on upon the constituents.
    3. Dravya-guna prabhava: Drug action depending upon the Dravya as well as guna.

    The following actions are exhibited through Prabhava.

    1. Agadiya karma ( antidote activity)- eg- Shirisha.
    2. Virechana karma  ( Purgative property)- eg- Danthi
    3. Rakshoghna karma  ( Antimicrobial property)- eg- Guggulu, jatamamsi
    4. Manasa karma  (Psychological activity)- eg- Kushta, Raktachitraka
    5. Bhowtika karma ( Physical activity).

    Prabhava – Acc. to modern pharmacology

    According to Modern Pharmacology Prabhava can be explained in following ways-

    Prabhava is considered as a non-specific activity of drugs. There are many pharmacological properties mentioned in Modern pharmacology which results in non-specific activity. Usually, it is believed that drugs with similar chemical structure will have similar pharmacological actions. But it is not possible to predict their activity on the basis of chemical structure alone.

    Sometimes drugs with similar chemical structure may have entirely different actions. Exapmle- Morphine and papaverine are structurally similar but their pharmacological action is different, the former is narcotic and CNS depressant while the later is non-narcotic and muscle relaxant. There are certain drugs like phenobarbitone chloral hydrate paraldehyde etc, which are structurally different but all are CNS depressants.

    In pharmacology, the drug activity can be classified as

    1. Structurally non-specific
    2. Structurally specific
    1. Structurally Non- specific: This activity is dependent on physical properties like solubility partition coefficients and vapour pressure and not on the presence or absence of some chemical group. Substances such as alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, alcohols amides, ethers, ketones & chlorinated hydrocarbons exhibit narcotic activity and potency of each substance is related to its partition coefficient structurally non-specific action results from the accumulation of a drug in some vital part of a cell with lipid characteristics.
    2. Structurally specific: This activity is dependent upon the factors such as the presence or absence of certain functional groups, intra-molecular distance and shape of the molecule.

    Activity is not easily correlated with any physical property and small changes in structure often lead to changes in activity structurally specific activity is dependent upon the interaction of the drug with a cellular receptor.


    Sl. No.
    13JatamamsiMadakariBhutaghna (Manasadoshahara)
    20ParaseekayavaniVedanastapanaMadaka and Vedanastapana
    54KebukaGarbhashaya- sankochakaGarbhashaya Sankochaka
    59ShalaAshmaribhedanaVedana stapana

    Superiority of Prabhava in Ayurveda

    The drug action is ultimately controlled by prabhava because that is the special or specific power of drug and it is superior among the drug constituents.

    The different factors which highlight the superiority of Achintya virya i.e., Prabhava are as follows

    1. Achintya ( Unpredictable): Its effects are quite unpredictable and therefore it is considered as superior.
    2. Daiva pratighata( Supernatural power): It exhibits supernatural power. Hence it is important.
    3. Visha pratighata ( Antidote effects): It helps in antidote activity irrespective of drug constituents hence it is superior.
    4. Darshana ( Practically visible) : Its extraordinary effects are practically seen.
    5. Shravana( praise): Many scholars praise its efficacy and superiority.
    6. Tulya-rasa-guna vishesha ( non-specificity): it will exhibit very special action independent of other drug constituents.
    7. Adhbhuta karma ( Magic effects): using precious stones hypnotism hymns chanting etc, will yield some magic effects. Hence prabhava is superior.
    8. Agama ( classical treatise): All the classical texts highlighted prabhava as the main quality of a dravya.

    Therefore, prabhava in Ayurveda is considered as superior among sapta padarthas.

    Discussion & Conclusion

    Prabhava in Ayurveda is the Non-specific effect of the Dravya. It includes both internal usage and external usage of drugs like Manidharana etc.

    Prabhava is the unimaginable effect of the drugs as it happens in case of Mani, Mantra Dravyas. They act entirely different from other padarthas. It is the term i.e., shakthi or prabhava indicates the special or extreme capability of a drug. This is always explained by comparing 2 drugs, one with prabhava and one without.

    Normally, the drug action basing on the predominance i.e., if rasa is powerful, the drug action in an accordance with rasa even if the guna, karma etc are different from rasa.

    Ex: Guduchi is tikta in taste and in spite of its ushna virya it acts as pittahara ( pitta) which means Rasa, the taste is more active in this drug Brahat panchamoola drugs though have kashaya rasa which increases vata acts as a palliative of vata by virtue of ushna virya. Shunti( dry ginger) has tikta rasa which has to increase vata but it is palliated vata by the virtue of madhura vipaka. The action of a drug which is not corresponding to any of first 4 pharmacological entities like Rasa, guna, virya vipaka is known as shakthi or prabhava, the special effect.

    Dravya, guna, karma will have similarity is genesis usually due to panchamahabhootha configuration. This is because similar will produce similarly. However, it need not be compulsory always. When there is equality or similarity there will be sajatheeya karma will occur ( samana prathyarabdha) otherwise vijatheeya karma will occur ( vidhitra prathyarabdha).

    If we consider prabhava as karma; karma  can not produce another karma so it is not possible to consider prabhava as karma. Hence it is concluded that prabhava is shakthi. It is sadhana for particular karma. Totally it can be considered as Dravya swabhava which is Achintya ( unpredictable) and vishista karma or specific or special action of the Dravya.


    Totally the prabhava in Ayurveda, can be considered as specific and special power of the Dravya it is also called a shakthi, Achinthya virya swabhava of the dravya. The prabhava can be considered as the property which is responsible for the specific or peculiar action of dravya which is unpredictable. This is the total concept of prabhava which is nothing but a special or specific property or power of the dravya.

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