The general belief that Ayurvedic medicines do not have any expiration date and that their shelf life is infinite is not true. Ayurvedic medicines generally made of herbs, do tend to lose their herbal medicinal qualities over a period of time. As a consumer of Ayurvedic medicine, it is very important for you to know about the expiration date of Ayurvedic medicine.
Definition of expiration date of medicine: The time from the date of manufacturing of the medicine to the time till which the medicine has sufficient potency to bring about the desired therapeutic action can be termed as shelf life or expiration date.
When put in simpler words, the time till which the medicine has sufficient strength to bring about the desired action is termed as expiration date or shelf life.
General principle of expiration date
Once after you open the jar of an herbal product, the product is exposed to air, moisture, sunlight etc. This speeds up the degradation of the herbal product, shortening its shelf life. This happens due to
- Probable degradation of active principles of the herbal product due to sunlight
- Reaction of the active principles of the herbal product with air
- Probable contamination (suppose someone touches the tablets with not-so-clean hands) etc
As a general rule, the expiry dates are explained in detail in Ancient Ayurvedic test books. Taking that into consideration, the Government of India has established the shelf life period of Ayurvedic medicines, which is found below. So, if you have any Ayurvedic medicine in your shelf, which has exceeded the expiration period, then simply throw out the medicine.
Factors determining expiration
The expiration date of medicine (also known as expiry date) is largely dependant upon
- The quality of herbs and ingredients used in the Ayurvedic medicine.
- The nature of herbs used in a formulation – wet or dry
- The dosage form of the Ayurvedic medicine (Herbal powder, herbal jams, ghees, oils etc)
- Usage of particular herbs that usually contribute to the anti oxidant / natural preservative property of the Ayurvedic medicine.
For example, If Amla powder in a particular medicine (say Chyawanprash), contributes to the shelf life by its anti oxidant property.
In an Ayurvedic sugar syrup, if the quantity of sugar is about 66.6 %, then the sugar syrup itself acts as a natural preservative.
Shelf life of Ayurvedic preparations
1. Churna (Herbal powder mix) – two years. (This applies if the Churna jar is kept airtight closed. As a general rule, once opened, the Churna jar should be finished within 2 – 4 months)
Kwatha Churna (powders for preparing herbal teas) – 2 years
Lepa churna – powders to prepare external applicable ointments – 2 years
Danta Manjana – tooth powders – 2 years
2. Ayurvedic tablets / Vati / Gutika / Kashayam tablets –
Tablets prepared from herbal and mineral ingredients – 5 years from the date of manufacturing.
Tablets prepared from herbal ingredients – 3 years
Tablets prepared from mineral ingredients – 10 years
3. Tablets in which mineral ingredients are used, or Guggulu is used (guggulu tablets) – 5 years
4. Avaleha / Leham / lehyams/ herbal jams/ Paka – 3 years.
Khanda Paka (eg: Haridra Khanda) – 3 years from the date of manufacturing
Guda – jaggery based herbal jams – 3 years from the date of manufacturing.
5. Louha (Iron containing Ayurvedic medicines) – 10 years
6. Ghrita (Ayurvedic Herbal ghee) – 2 years
7. Taila (Ayurvedic Herbal Oils) – 3 years
8. Arka (Distilled herbal extracts) – 1 year
9. Lavana, Dravaka, Kshara, (Salts and Alkalis) – 5 years
10. Lepa Churna (Herbal powder for external paste application) – 3 years
11. Herbal dental powder / Herbal dental paste – 2 years
12. Herbal syrups – 3 years
13. Kashayam (Herbal teas)– 3 years (when added with preservatives)
14. Mineral preparations – Quality increases with time.
15. Ayurvedic ear drops/ nasal drops – Karna Bindu, Nasa Bindu – 2 years
16. Ayurvedic Eye drops – Netra bindu- 1 year
Anjana Kalpana prepared with herbal ingredients – 1 year
Anjan prepared with herbal and mineral ingredients – 2 years from the date of manufacturing.
Anjan prepared purely with mineral ingredients – 3 years
Asava and Arishta – liquid medicines containing self generated alcohol – 10 years from the date of manufacturing.
Dhupana Kalpana – 2 years from the date of manufacturing
Kupi pakwa rasayana – 10 years from the date of manufacturing.
Malahara kalpana – ointments – 2 years
Mandoora kalpana – 10 years from the date of manufacturing
Naga Bhasma, Vanga Bhasma, Tamra Bhasma – 5 years
Bhasmas (except Naga, Vanga and Tamra) – 10 years
Parpati – 10 years
Pishti – 10 years
Pravahi Kwatha – 3 years
Rasayoga – excluding Naga, Vanga and Tamra – 10 years
Rasayoga – herbal and mineral ingredients or with guggulu – 5 years
Satva – 2 years
Sharkara, Panaka, Sharbat, juices – 3 years
Shweta Parpati – 2 years
Varti – 2 years.
Above mentioned expiration date is for the medicines when brought in a sealed condition. However, if you have opened the jar of medicine and are using it, then you need to empty it a little faster.
Explanation as per Sharangdhara Samhita
Generally, Ausadhis (medical recipes) lose their Potency after one year of their Preparation, churnas after two months, gutikas and lehyas after one year, ghruta and taila after 16 months (according to some scholars 4 months), recipes like paka which will be digested easily and quickly, become poor in action after one year.
While asavas and datus (metal and mineral recipes) become more potent as they become old. If in a Prescription, drugs included are inappropriate for the diseases, the wise Physician should omit them, and can include drugs suitable for the disease even though not mentioned in the prescription.
Saviryata Avadhi of different preparations:
Texts of Ayurveda recommended for Ausadha and Ahara Kalpana’s and their Saviryata Avadhi (Diet and Medicinal formulae and their expiry dates, i.e., the period for which they can retain potency). The following are intended to serve as guidelines for the purpose.
Swarasa Sadhyosevana (to be consumed immediately)
Basti Kalpana Is used immediately after preparation
Manda Kalpana Sadhyosevana
Mamsa Rasa Sadhyosevana
Putapaka Swarasa Sadhyosevana
Upnaha Kalapna Till it is in hot state after the preparation
Kwatha Kalpana With in 4 Yamas (12 hours)
Ksira Paka Kalpana 1 day (is used in sukoshna state only)
Anna Kalpana (Bhakta Kalpana) 1 day (is used in sukoshna state only)
Yavagu Kalpana 1 day (is used in sukoshna state only)
Panaka Kalpana 1 day
Mantha Kalpana 1 day
Udaka Kalpana 1 day
Takra Kalpana 1 day
Peya Kalpana 1 day
Yusa Kalpana 1 day (is used in sukoshna state only)
(Akruta Yusa, Kruta Yusa)
Vilepi Kalpana 1 day
Dadhi Kalpana 1 day
Dadhi Kurchika Kalpana 1 day
Lepa Kalpana Prepares lepa for 1 day
Laksa Rasa Kalpana 7 days
Saktu Kalpana 1 Month
Khanda kalpana 1-4 month
Choorna kalpana 2 month
Malahara kalpana 2-month
Paka Kalpana 2 – 4 months
Dhumrapana Kalpana 4 months
Sarkara Kalpana 4 months (If kept in good condition, can stay upto 1 year)
Ksara Sutra 4 – 6 months
Sneha Kalpana (Ghrta & Taila) 4 months (According to some scholars 16 months)
Dhupana Kalpana 6 months (can stay till the volatile principles and smell is lost)
a. Aranala 6 months
b. Dhanyamla 6 months
c. Sukta 6 months
d. Kanjika 6 months
e. Tusodaka Dried Herbs 6 months
Arka Kalpana 1 year
Ghana Sattva Kalpana 1 year
Masi Kalpana 1 year
Rasakriya Kalpana 1 year
Lavana Kalpana 1 year
Varti Kalpana 1 year
Kasta Ausadi 1 year
Gugulu kalpana 1year
kshara kalpana 1-5 years
Vati kalpana 1 year
Kumbha Ghrta 100 years
(the ghrta kept in earthen pot and called Purana ghrta)
Ayaskrti Kalpana Older the better
Asava – Arista Kalpana Older the better
Parpati Kalpana Older the better
Bhasma Kalpana Older the better
Pottali Kalpana Older the better
Madya Kalpana Older the better
Khanija sattva Older the better
Factors causing loss of potency
Factors responsible for losing the potency:
Wind, sunshine, humidity, temperature, seasonal variation, dust, infection by microorganisms, shelf degeneration, evaporation hygroscopic nature etc, causes changes in color and taste.
Signs of spoilt medicines
How to know if your herbal medicine is not good for use anymore ?
Observe for these changes. If found, throw it out.
- Change in its normal taste. Gives foul taste.
- Change in its normal colour, gives mixed colours or some differently coloured spots.
- Change in its normal form – powders may roll into round masses, tablets and capsules becoming sticky, etc.
- A white layer formed above the surface of liquids or solids
- You feel like vomiting or any other symptoms develop, that you were not usually getting, while using the product.
I have an opened product at home, giving these features, but it was opened three days prior.
Even if the product has not crossed expiration date, if you have these features of foul smell, etc, throw it out.
I had opened the jar of a product long back and have been using it even after the mentioned expiration date. But nothing bad has happened.
Better to go with above mentioned expiration dates and throw that product out, rather than waiting till something bad happens.
What to do if you have consumed an expired product?
Consult your doctor immediately.
Methods to increase shelf life
Precaution for better shelf life period:
There are different techniques used for better preservation, storage, packing etc. of various medical preparations in order to increase its shelf life period. We should take various precautions while performing this procedure. Deterioration of Pharmaceutical products may be due to chemical, physical, or biological effects.
Chemical:Chemical decomposition may be caused by oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water vapour present in the atmosphere. It may be due to the contamination of non sterile containers or lids.
Physical:Physical decomposition may result from extremes of temperature causing volatilization or precipitation or it may be caused by moisture in the case of substances which are hygroscopic or deliquescent.
Biological:Biological effects may be due to enzymes or micro-organisms which include bacteria, viruses, Yeasts and moulds.
This may be prevented by sterilization and storage in sealed containers or by the use of preservatives. The commonly used preservatives for medicinal products are:
Benzoic acid and Benzoates: As preservative for food, drugs and cosmetics – Concentration = 0.1 – 0.2% – (for oral preparations).
Salicylic acid and salicylates: Concentration – 0.1 – 0.2 % – for oral preparations.
Parahydroxy benzoates – The commonly used derivatives are methyl, ethyl, Propyl and butyl esters.
These are effective at low concentration and cause low toxicities. They are used as single esters or in combination.
The usual concentration used is 0.005 – 0.05%.
Phenyl mercuric acetate or nitrate: For cosmetic preparations. Concentration: Parenteral preparations & Eye drops. 0.01%.
Benzalkonium Chloride: For eye drops – 0.01 %
Phenols: Phenol (0.5%), cresol (0.3%), Chlorbutol (0.5%) and chlorocresol (0.1%) can be used for parenteral as well as lotions and such other externally used preparations.
Storage of drugs
The medicinal preparations are stored under conditions that prevent contamination and deterioration as far as possible. Precaution is taken in relation to the effect of the atmosphere, heat and light. As a general rule, high temperature is avoided when storing raw material and medicinal products.
Medicinal agents should not be exposed to conditions of high temperature, humidity or extreme fluctuations of temperature. Suspension in particular is stored at an even temperature as otherwise crystal growth may occur. Containers should not be exposed to direct sunlight even when they are light resistant.
Cold place: Any temperature not exceeding 80C A refrigerator is a cold place in which the temperature is maintained thermostatically between O0 C – 80 C. A freezer is a cool place in which the temperature is maintained at 200C – 100
Cool Place: Any temperature between 80C – 150 C.
Room temperature: The temperature prevailing in a working area. Controlled room temperature is a temperature maintained thermostatically between 150C – 300C.
Warm Place: Any temperature between 300 C – 400 C
Excessive Heat: Any temperature above 400 C.
Protection from freezing:Freezing leads to the risk of breakage of the destructive alteration in the dosage form, hence the product is protected from freezing.
Packaging of Pharmaceuticals
It is absolutely necessary to select the right package for a product; because the container or the package forms an integral part of the product. Proper packaging protects the integrity, Purity, Potency and quality of the product.
A package consists –
The container in which the product is placed
The enclosure which seals the container to exclude oxygen, moisture, bacteria etc and prevents loss of the product through evaporation
The carton or outer cover, which is made of a variety of materials such as cardboard, plastic or polymer, which gives protection against mechanical and other environmental hazards.
The box in which multiples of the product is packed. The box usually contains suitable shock absorbers or cushioning, in order to protect the product from mechanical shock.
The Saviryataavadi is said to be an important part in pharmacognocy. The shelf life period of each and every drug will differ according to many factors. It will depend upon the climate, container humidity, packing etc. So the shelf life of the drug will depend upon these many factors. After the shelf life period, the drug will lose its potency.
It can be prevented only by proper and careful preparation and packing. By proper and careful preparation and packing then also each and every drug will only last for certain period. Texts of Ayurveda recommended for Aushada and Ahara Kalpanas and their Saviryatha avadhi. [Diet and medical formulae and their expiry date is period for which they can retain potency. Many of Ayurvedic texts has explained about Saviryatha avadhi. The modern texts has also explained about the expiry period. Each and every drug will have its own expiry period. It will change according to the drug.
Thus by concluding this the “saviryata avadi” is very important. They are different product of shelf life for different medicines. If a physician does not know about the shelf life period of a drug, he cannot prescribe the drug, for example he wants to prescribe swarasa. Its shelf life period is said to be “sadyosevana”. So if he is don’t know about it, he cannot tell about the dose of drug. The potency of drug will vary after that period. So it will not act. So it is important to know about “saviryata avadi”.
Bhaishajya Kalpana Vijnana By Ramachandra Reddy
A Text Book Of Bhaishajya Kalpana By Dr. Shobha G Hiremath
Bhaishajya Kalpana Vijnana. By Siddhi Nandan Mishra