Prabhava: Special Effect of Herb

Article by MS Krishnamurthy.
Dravya – the matter is the substratum of Guna (qualities) and Karma (action). The Dravya (substance / medicinal herb) contains
Rasa – taste
Guna – qualities
Vipaka – taste conversion during and after digestion
Veerya (poteny)
Prabhava – special therapeutic action, contradicting Rasa, Guna, Vipaka and Veerya.

Prabhava is the special efficacy of the herb which cannot be explained by means of Rasa, Guna etc.

magical ganja

Definition, synonyms

Prabhava is the one which is specific and special power of the Dravya.
The property which is responsible for the special or peculiar action of Dravya is known as prabhava.
Prabhava may be defined as the special property which produces actions which are different from and contrary to those attributed to rasa, guna, virya and vipaka.

Vichitra pratyarabdhatwa
Vikriti Vishama samaveta
Achinthya veerya


Characteristics Of Prabhava:
Prabhava is the property which is characterized by specific actions of substances which can not be explained interms of the pharmacological actions of various constituents of Dravya when they are considered individually in relation to each other.

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

Prabhava is the unimaginable effect of the drugs as it is happens in the case of Mani (precious stones). Manthra (sacred chantings) 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 shakthi 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 has been explained while describing virya like, Dravya gatha shakthi of 2 types

Chinthya is one which has got base of karya karanabhava, hence it is called as chinthya other one is Achintya. It is told that due to sahaja dravya swabhava. i.e., Yukthipratipadya but not Buddhigamya.
Swabhava is Achintya hence prabhava also dravya- swabhavagatha 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 Achinthya.

Prabhava as Achintya (unpredictable) generally from the constituents of a Dravya. It is also told the virya as Achinthya and chintya. The ‘ Achintya virya’ is considered as prabhava.
Prabhava can be explained through concept of ‘ Achintya virya’ Prabhava janya karma is Achintya ( unpredictable) and unquestionable.

On the basis of Panchanbhowtika composition dravya are divided into 2 groups:
Samanya pratyarabdha dravya — Samanya pratyarabdha dravya are which exhibit structure related pharmacological activities and therapeutic effects.
Vichitra prathyarabdha dravya – Vichitra prathyarabdha dravya are which do not have structural similarity among the constituents

There is another classification:
Prakritisama samaveta
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 tentavely divided into two categories.
Vikriti- vishama samaveta: structurally similar but functionally dissimilar
Vichitra pratyarabdha: structurally dissimilar but functionally similar.

Vichitra Pratyarabdha Dravya examples

b) Yava
Vichitra prathyarabdha
sweet, heavy
sweet, heavy
Vichitra prathyarabdha
sweet, heavy
sweet, heavy
Vichitra prathyarabdha
sweet, heavy
sweet, heavy
Madhura Vipaka
Katu Vipaka
Pigeon meat
Vichitra prathyarabdha
Vichitra prathyarabdha
Vichitra prathyarabdha
Vichitra prathyarabdha
Sheeta veerya, grahi
Ushna veerya, rechaka
Vichitra prathyarabdha
Katu vipaka, ushna veerya
Katu vipaka, ushna veerya
Vichitra prathyarabdha
Sweet vipaka
Cold potency
Pungent vipaka
Hot potency
Heavy, unctuous
Pitta vardhaka
Pitta shamaka
Agni sadana

Examples for Vikriti – Vishama Samaveta

Mahat Panchamula Madhura, kashaya, Tiktha Ushna
Anupa mamsa Madhura, kashaya, TikthaUshna
Saindhava lavana LavanaSheeta
Amalaki   AmlaSheeta
Arka TiktaUshna
Agarce Tikta Ushna
Guduchi Tikta Ushna

Other Examples

Mani dharana: Diamond which is a C5- isotope emits certain radiations which may help in various disease condition including cancer.
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 third month.
Virechanopaga: These are the pro-drugs and analogues pro-drugs are used to improve pharmacological or biological properties. Analogues are used to increase potency and to achieve specificity of action.
Ubhaya bhagahara: The dosage of virechana dravyas and vamana dravyas is different therefore their actions, emesis and purgation are dose dependent.

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 outcome of Nipata might have been quoted as Achintya virya or prabhava.

Kshira and grita are shamana pratyarabdha dravyas but the kshira reduces appetite while the gruta is appetizer.
Loshuna which has katu rasa, snigdha, guru guna, katu vipaka, it acts as kaphavatahara instead of increasing it.
Raktashali and yavaka have similar properties but the former is Doshahara while the later is Doshavardhaka.
Shirisha ete acts as antidotes.
Sometimes exposing the individual suffering from poisoning to antidote. May yield good result.

Prabhavajanya Karma

Prabhavajanya karma is of 3 types:

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

The following actions are exhibited through Prabhava: 
Agadiya karma (antidotal activity) Ex: Shirisha.
Virechana karma (Purgative property) Ex: Danthi
Rakshoghna karma (Antimicrobial property) Ex: Guggulu, jatamamsi
Manasa karma (Psychologic activity) Ex: Kushta, Raktachitraka.
Bhowtika karma (Physical activity)

Prabhava in modern pharmacology

Prabhava: According to Modern Pharmacology:
According to Modern Pharmacology Prabhava can be explained in following ways:
Prabhava is considered as 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.Some times drugs with similar chemical structure may have entirely different actions.

Ex: Morphine and papavarine are structurally similar but their pharmacological action is different, the former is norcotic and CNS dipresent while the later is non-norcotic 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:
Structurally non-specific
Structurally specific

Structurally Non- specific: This activity is dependent on physical properties like solubility partition coefficients and vapor 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 accumulation of a drug in some vital part of a cell with lipid characteristics.

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

Medicinal Dravya’s which has prabhava:
DRUG                                                     GROUP                                                                   PRABHAVA
Swarna                                                        Dhatu                                                                           Thridoshaghna
Abhraka                                                      Dhatu                                                                           Thridoshaghna
Kshara                                                         Kshara                                                                         Thridoshaghna
Mandukaparni                                           Medhyadi                                                                   Medhya
Indri                                                             Medhyadi                                                                   Medhya
Shankapushpi                                            Medhyadi                                                                   Medhya
Jyothishmati                                              Medhyadi                                                                   Medhya
Kushmanda                                                Medhyadi                                                                   Medhya
Ustukuddasa                                              Medhyadi                                                                   Medhya
Ahiphena                                                    Madakari                                                                    Madaka
Bhanga                                                        Madakari                                                                    Madaka
Vacha                                                           Madakari                                                                    Medhya
Jatamamsi                                                  Madakari                                                                    Bhutaghna (Manasadoshahara)
Sarpagandha                                              Nidrajanana                                                               Nidrajanana
Rasna                                                           Vedanastapana                                                          Vishaghna
Kadamba                                                     Vedanastapana                                                          Vedanastapana                             Padmaka                                                      Vedanastapana                                                          Vedanastapana                             Vetasa                                                          Vedanastapana                                                          Vedanastapana                             Suchi                                                            Vedanastapana                                                          Madaka                                         Paraseekayavani                                        Vedanastapana                                                          Madaka,Vedanastapana               Guggulu                                                      Vedanastapana                                                        Thridoshaghna
Bhurjapatra                                                Akshepashamana                                                      Chakshusya
Chakshushya                                              Chakshusya                                                                Chakshusya
Kataka                                                          Chakshusya                                                                Vishaghna
Shleshmataka                                             Swedopaga                                                                  Kushtaghna
Khadira                                                        Kushtaghna                                                                 Hridya
Arjuna                                                          Hridya                                                                          Hridya
Hrithpatri                                                    Hridya                                                                          Hridya
Tharani                                                         Hridya                                                                          Hridya
Kaphi                                                             Hridayothejaka                                                          Gandamalanashaka
Kanchanara                                                  Gandamalanashaka                                                   Vamana
Madanaphala                                               Vamana                                                                        Ubhayatobhagahara
Dhamargava                                                 Vamana                                                                        Ubhayatobhagahara
Kritavedana                                                  Vamana                                                                        Vamana                                       Aristaka                                                         Vamana                                                                        Mandaka
Tamraparni                                                  Vamana                                                                        Vamana                                       Hijjala                                                            Vamanopaga                                                               Vamana                                       Shanapushpi                                                Vamanopaga                                                               Vamana
Kankusta                                                       Tikshavirechana                                                         Madaka
Dathura                                                         Shoola-prashamana                                                   Krimighna
Vidanga                                                         Krimighna                                                                    Krimighna
Chowhara                                                      Krimighna                                                                    Krimighna
Ingudi                                                             Krimighna                                                                    Krimighna
Tulasi                                                              Krimighna                                                                    Krimighna
Aphasantina                                                  Krimighna                                                                    Krimighna
Akhaparni                                                      Krimighna                                                                    Arshoghna
Mahanimba                                                   Arshoghna                                                                    Arshoghna
Sunishnaka                                                    Arshoghna                                                                    Arshoghna
Surana                                                            Arshoghna                                                                     Pleehaghna
Rohitaka                                                        Pleehaghna                                                                   Pleehaghna
Petrangeeva                                                  Prajastapana                                                                 Garbhakara
Langali                                                           Garbhashaya-Sankochaka                                         Garbhapatana
Sharapunkha                                               Pleehaghna                                                                    Pleehaghna
Kebuka                                                          Garbhashaya-Sankochaka                                          Garbhashaya-Sankochaka
Haritaki                                                         Rasayana                                                                        Rasayana
Pashanabheda                                              Ashmaribhedana                                                           Ashmaribhedana
Varuna                                                           Ashmaribhedana                                                           Ashmaribhedana
Gorakshaganja                                             Ashmaribhedana                                                           Ashmaribhedana
Shala                                                              Ashmaribhedana                                                           Vedanasthapana
Chilahinta                                                      Rasayana                                                                         Vishaghna

Superiority of Prabhava: 
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:
Achintya (Unpredictable): Its effects are quite unpredictable and therefore it is considered as superior.
Daiva pratighata(Super natural power): It exhibits supernatural power. Hence it is important.
Visha pratighata (Antidotal effects): It helps in antidotal activity irrespective of drug constituents hence it is superior.
Darshana (Practically visible): Its extra ordinary effects are practically seen.
Shravana (praise): Many scholars praise its efficacy and superiority.
Tulya-rasa-guna vishesha (non-specificity): it will exhibit very special action independent of other drug constituents.
Adhbhuta karma (Magic effects): using precious stones hypnotism hymns chanting ete, will yield some magic effects. Hence prabhava is superior.
Agama (classical treatise): All the classical texts high-lighted prabhava as the main quality of a dravya.
Therefore prabhava is considered as superior among sapta padarthas.

Discussion and Conclusion

Prabhava 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 is happens incase 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 inspite of its ushna virya it acts as pittahara (pitta) which means Rasa, the taste is more active in this drug Brhat panchamoola drugs though have kashaya rasa which increases vata acts as palliative of vata by virtue of ushna virya.

Shunti (dry ginger) has tikta rasa which has to increase vata but it is palliates 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 configeration. This is because similar will produce similar. However it need not be compulsory always. When there is equality or similarity there will be sajatheeya karma will occur (samana prathyarabdha) other wise vijatheeya karma will occur (vichitra prathyarabdha).

If we consider prabhava as karma; karma can not be 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 (un predictable) and vishista karma or specific or special action of the Dravya.

Totally the prabhava can be considered as specific and special power of the Dravya it is also called a shakthi, Achinthya virya swabhava of the dravya. Hence I have been explained the various definitions of the prabhava its characteristics the concept discription regarding prabhava according to various samhithakaras. Different classification based on its characters also explained.

Examples for prabhava, prabhava of dravya its karma and guna also explained the various drugs which acts by their special effect also mentioned here.

According to Modern pharmacology the action of the drug. Its classification like structurally non-specific and structurally specific is also explained.At last I have explained the superiority of the prabhava, among dravya sapta padarthas.

Hence totally 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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