Unmada-Insanity: Ayurvedic Understanding And Management

Article by – Dr. MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD (Ayu).
Ayurvedic understanding of Unmada is too difficult to explain in a single co-related term in modern science as ‘Insanity’. Ayurveda explains the condition of insanity with respect to three important entities like buddhivikara (deformity of will), manovikara (deformity of mind) and atmavikara.(deformity of intellect).

Buddhivikara refers to impairment in will and thinking pattern. Cognition of thinking and paranoid reactions are commonly found in this category of illness.
Mano vikara refers to the impairment of mind. Due to this, inaction and passivity is found.
Atmavikara causes impairment of feelings. Due to this, depressive psychosis is found.
Insanity (unmada) is a condition where according to the Dosha dominance, all the above features are found in gradable variation.

Origin of insanity (Unmada)

Acharya Sushruta explained the origin of insanity as below:
Due to favorable causative factors, the morbidity (vitiated Dosha) ascends upwards to the mind, from the main site of heart. This leads to functional disturbance in its main location (heart) as well as disposed areas like brain and its various relative compartments. Due to this, the individual gets false belief or delusions and person appears as if intoxicated due to the unawareness or the situation. This condition is called Unmad, a kind of psychosis.



Viruddhahara (incompatible foods)
Dushta ahara (infected/contaminated food)
Ashuchi ahara (polluted food)
Deva-guru-dwija pragharshana (insult towards teachers and elders)
Mano abhighata (mental shock)
Bhaya (fear)
Harsha (unusual/ unnatural pleasure due to accidental happening) etc.


Vataja, Pittaja, Kaphaja, Tridoshaja, Shokaja (Caused due to grief) and Vishaja (originated due to toxicity).

Prodromal symptoms

Moha (delusion)
Udvega (anxiety)
Karna swana (auditory hallucination)
Gatrapakarshana (general debility)
Atyutsaha (occasional unnatural enthusiasm)
Aruchi (tastelessness)
Swapne kalushabhojana (dream of having contaminated food)
Vayunonmathana (sensation of being taken by the wind) etc.

General clinical features

Illusion of intellect (buddhivibrama)
Satwapariplava(dilemma of the mind)
Akuladrishti(biased willing and thinking)
Adheerata (loss of confidence)
Abaddhavak (irrelevant talk)
Hridayashoonyata (emptiness of the mind)
Moodhachetana (disorganized consciousness) etc.

Specific features

Vataja Unmada

Undue laughing, dancing, singing, irrelevant talk, waving the body parts, crying, roughness, emaciation, reddish discolouration of the face, elevated mood, impaired thought etc.

Pittaja Unmad 

Impatience, agitation, naked emotions, excessive actions, hot temperament, desire to have rest under shade, like towards the cold food and drink, yellow lustre etc.

Kaphaja Unmada

Reduced speech and actions, tastelessness, inclination for women, sleepiness, vomiting, excess of salivation,  pallor of the nails etc.

Sannipatic (Tridoshaja) Unmada

Mixed features of all the three doshic factors

Shokaja Unmada

This is usually associated with the history of scaring by the thieves, officials, enemies, animals etc. Or else loss of money or relatives, mental shock due to accidental happenings etc.

Vishaja Unmada

Usually possesses a history of poisoning. It is presented with redness of the eyes, debility, debilitated sense organs, helplessness, smoky appearance of the face etc.

Management of unmada

1. Snehapana (internal oleation with medicated ghee)
2. Mridu shodhana (mild body purification by emesis or purgation)
3. Niruha basti (decoction enema)
4. Shirovirechana (medicated errhines) and
5. Sanjna prabodhana (oral medication to stabilize the mind)

Single drugs usage

Single drugs recommended in insanity (unmada)
1. Lashuna-Garlic-  Allium sativa Linn.
2. Hingu-Asafetida-  Ferula narthex Boiss.
3. Choraka-  Angelica glauca Edgew.
4. Sarshapa-Mustard-  Brassica campestris Linn.
5. Brahmi-  Bacopa monnieri (Linn.) Pennell.
6. Jatamamsi Nardostachys jatamansi Dc.
7. Jyotishmati-  Celastrus paniculata Linn.
8. Shankhapushpi  Convolvulus pluricaulis Chosis.
9. Kooshmanda-Ash gourd-  Benincasa hispida (Thunb.) Cogn.
10. Sarpagandha-  Rauwolfia serpentine Benth. Ex Kurz.
11. Rudraksha-  Elaeocarpus ganitrus Roxb.
12. Vacha-  Acorus calamus Linn.
13. Yastimadhu-  Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn.

Ayurvedic formulations

Formulations recommended in insanity (unmada):
1. Kalyanaka ghrita
2. Mahakalyanaka ghrita
3. Mahapaishacha ghrita
4. Lashunadya ghrita
4. Unmade gajanakusha rasa
6. Saraswata choorna
7. Sarsawatarishta
8. Sarpagandha ghanavati
9. Brihatvata chintamani
10. Yogendra rasa etc

Wholesome diet and habits

Light and easily digestible food
All measures which give mental pleasure
Assurance in case of depression
Memory tonics (medhya rasayana)
Cow’s milk, cow’s ghee etc
Good sleep
Red rice, older wheat, green gram, dry grapes, meat of rabbit and koel etc.

Unwholesome diet and habits

Pungent and spicy food
Penetrative and irritant food
Irritating, insulting or provocative incidences and activities
Suppression of natural urges
Incompatible and polluted food
Sleeplessness etc.

Last drop:
Modern science explains psychiatric diseases under two headings like major psychological disorders and minor psychoneurosis conditions. Even though, Ayurvedic explanation related to insanity (unmada) presents with all the features of minor psycho-neurosis few of the symptoms of functional psychosis are also found here. So, Ayurvedic way of treatment covers varied kinds of therapeutic procedures which help to normalise the condition both in psychological and neurological levels.
Even though few of the measures referred in Ayurvedic classics like oblation, worship, sacred bathing, sacred offerings to the personal deities are still today in practice in various parts of the world, their scientific validity is not get proved which needs to be explored much with various possible dimensions.

5 thoughts on “Unmada-Insanity: Ayurvedic Understanding And Management”

  1. A very brief and comprehensive coverage. Wonder how well and insightfully Ayurveda has documented this aspect of Health hundreds of years back, which Science is still exploring.

  2. Dr. Hebbar,
    thank you for such an interesting and comprehensive article. Thank you for helping keep the ancient wisdom alive in todays world.

  3. Dr hebbar ehat would you recommend for my son diagnosed with catatonia?
    Is a clinic possible and where! He is aware but doesnt speak the article is so Accurate! Wont go back to psychiatry that was the worst i would never allow that again


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