Veerya, Potency Of Herbs And Doshas – Inter-relationship

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Virya means potency or active property of a substance. This is a property of dravya i.e. substance. Term is derived from root word ‘veera vikrantau’.

Sanskrit verse


Meaning – ‘That which is responsible for actions of substance is called veerya’.

Power / internal strength with which a substance performs its actions are called veerya. This substance can be a food substance or medicinal herb.
Read – Substances, Qualities, Action – 9 Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana

These viryas will have their impact on doshas of the body.

Dosha relation

Dosha relationship with virya i.e. potency of a substance

As already said, substance / medicinal herb works only on basis of potency it has. If a substance doesn’t possess potency it becomes ineffective and no action of that substance is seen.

Fresh herbs and foods have good impact on body and its health. Loss of freshness is proportional to loss of their potency, therefore their action too will be less or depleted.
Read – Qualities Of Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha – Easy Explanation

While some consider virya as potency, some consider it as a quality of substance and others opine that it is functional capacity / action potential of a substance.

Concept of potency also explains expiry date of a medicine and why a particular medicine fails to provide any relief in certain diseases and symptoms after elapse of long time after its preparation. This happens because of loss of potency of medicine.
Read – Shelf Life Or Expiration Date Of Ayurvedic Medicines

There are mainly two kinds of broad classification of veerya. They are –

2 and 8 types

As per Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 1st chapter,

उष्णशीतगुणोत्कर्षात्तत्र वीर्यं द्विधा स्मृतम् ।
uṣṇaśītaguṇotkarṣāttatra vīryaṃ dvidhā smṛtam |

Ushna veerya – Foods that are hot in potency
Sheeta veerya – Foods that are cold in potency.

Two kinds of virya

  1. Sheeta Veerya – cold potency
  2. Ushna Veerya – hot potency

Eight kinds of veerya

  1. Sheeta Virya – cold potency
  2. Ushna Veerya – hot potency
  3. Snigdha virya – unctuous potency
  4. Ruksha veerya – dry / non-unctuous potency
  5. Guru virya – heavy potency
  6. Laghu veerya – light potency
  7. Mrdu virya – soft potency
  8. Teekshna virya – sharp / quick acting potency

Read – Prabhava: Special Effect of Herb

Among all these potencies, hot and cold are said to be chief potencies.

When we look at these potencies we would understand that they are so similar to the qualities of substances.

Names of all viryas are same as names of 8 qualities mentioned among 20 types of qualities of substances. But when same qualities become responsible for action of substances, they will be called as potencies.

All these potencies will act on doshas in one or other way. Potency either increases or decreases a dosha. Below given tabulation explains action of different potencies on doshas.
Read – Functions Of Doshas In Balance In The Body – Prakrita Dosha Karma

Features of each type

Sl No Name of potency Chief actions rendered Action on doshas
1 Sheeta Virya – cold potency   Provides comfort, stability, wetness, longevity, strength prevents discharges, heaviness Increases kapha and vata, Mitigates pitta.
2 Ushna virya – hot potency   Causes heat, burning sensation, digestion, unconsciousness, sweating, purgation, melting, giddiness, thirst, tiredness Increases pitta. Decreases vata and kapha.
3 Snigdha veerya – unctuous potency Provides unctuousness, bulk, nutrition, longevity and is aphrodisiac. Decreases vata.
4 Ruksha veerya – non-unctuous, dry potency Causes accumulation, dryness, loss of unctuousness, healing of wounds Increases vata. Decreases kapha.
5 Guru virya – heavy potency Causes bulk, besmearing, obstruction, bluntness Decreases vata.
6 Laghu virya – light potency Causes scraping of tissues and wastes, removes / evaporates dampness and discharges, dryness, Increases vata. Decreases kapha
7 Mrudu virya – soft potency Produces softness, has soothing and calming action, clearing and soothing of muscles and blood Decreases pitta.
8 Teekshna veerya – sharp / quick acting potency Removes obstruction and constipation, causes discharges and flow, shatters, breaks or bursts open Decreases kapha

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