Yavagu – Preparation, Benefits, Uses In Fever

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

Yavagu is a word used for describing gruels of different kinds that are explained in Ayurveda. Yavagu, depending on its composition, method of preparation and proportional difference between the water and solid part at the end of preparation are of different types. Those types are named as manda, peya and vilepi.

Yavagu is used as part of dietetic protocol in many diseases. When processed and prepared with herbs specific to cure those diseases (or doshas) in which it is served, yavagu also acts like an effective medicine. Different kinds of yavagu are also given after administering therapeutic emesis or purgation to kindle the digestive power. Therefore the use of yavagu is multidimensional and thus is an important concept of Ayurveda dietetics. Yavagu is a praised diet and medicine for curing fever.
Read – Importance Of Diet (Pathya) For Specific Diseases

Yavagu in Fever

Yavagu as Pachana – for digesting ama in taruna jwara

Taruna Jwara: Fever, from the day of its onset to7th day is called taruna jwara i.e. the first 7 days of fever. There is also an opinion that the first 6 days (day and night) and 7th day morning of fever is called as taruna jwara.

During first 7 days of fever there is presence of ama. All measures of treatment done during this period will be to digest this ama. Digestion of ama is called as pachana or ama pachana.
Read – Ama – Word Derivation, Meaning, Definition, Formation

Below mentioned are said to be the best measures to digest ama associated with doshas in taruna jwara –

  • Langhana – fasting
  • Swedana – sudation
  • Kala – 8th day of manifestation of fever
  • Yavagu – thin and thick gruels prepared with medicinal herbs, mainly those tasting bitter
  • Tiktaka rasa – bitter tasting herbs for preparing food, gruels and water for drinking

Yavagu is mentioned as one of the important measures to digest ama and a remedy for avipakva doshas i.e. doshas associated with ama in acute stage of fever.

Yavagvah – Here the author has used the plural of the word yavagu. This means to tell that all forms of yavagu i.e. peya, vilepi and manda shall be used according to the condition of the fever and patient, as and when required.
Read – Ayurveda Home Remedy For Fever

Rules for administration of yavagu

Yavagu should be administered in proper time to the patient of taruna jwara who has been administered with –

  • Vamana – therapeutic emesis to expel the agitated doshas predominant with kapha located in the stomach
  • Langhana – fasting, until signs of proper lightening therapy are obtained and lightness of the body is seen

So the golden rule is to administer gruels only after emesis and fasting. These measures would have taken care of excess kapha and ama respectively. This provides an ideal environment for the gruels to be utilized to optimum levels in the body. Yavagu itself can digest ama as already discussed.
Read – Ayurveda Lifestyle and Diet For Fever – 45 Important Things To Know

In what form gruels are administered?

Gruel is prepared with suitable medicinal herbs and then administered.

Till when gruels are administered?

  • Until the intensity of fever reduces and fever becomes mild or
  • For a time period of 6 days (from the day of onset of fever)

One of these conditions applies for deciding the limitations of administering yavagu. They look like two options but are interconnected.

When we link up both these conditions we learn that yavagu is given until fever intensity comes down but we cannot wait for long time for that to happen. Physician should look to reduce the intensity of fever in 6 days while giving gruels. The other way too is true. Yavagu is given for a time period of 6 days and within those days intensity of fever should be brought down. Gruels shall not be administered for more than 6 days and intensity of fever should not take more than 6 days to come down. Obviously each rule applies to the other. A wise physician should look to achieve the desired results, whichever happens first.

Fever has its origin from stomach. This happens due to weak digestive fire and weak digestion leading to indigestion of food and consequent formation of ama.

The dosha(s) causal for fever are associated with ama. Since the digestive fire is weak the person should fast at the beginning of the manifestation of fever.

Should the patient refrain from eating anything? Can he at least have light food?

Though Master Charaka in Nidana Sthana has mentioned that both ‘light to digest food’ or ‘total starvation’ are beneficial for patients of fever, the rule is limited to the premonitory stage of fever wherein the fever has not yet been manifested. Once the fever gets manifested, fasting itself should be advocated. This means that in acute stages of fever, even light food is contraindicated.
Read – Importance Of Diet (Pathya) For Specific Diseases

Where does the patient derive energy from if he is deprived of all food?

Use of gruel is one among the main interventions mentioned in acute stages of fever i.e. for the first 6-7 days of the fever. Gruels are lighter forms of food, rather they form dietetic protocol more than the food and also have therapeutic role and are antipyretic when processed with fever alleviating herbs. They are also intended to increase and balance the digestive fire apart from digesting ama.

But even light foods are contraindicated in fever…!

Yes, this is because the weak stomach and weak fire therein will not be capable of digesting even a small quantity of food.

Gruels are also forms of food?

Yes, but as already said they are not given with an intention of giving food. They have multi-dimensional role. Like fasting they help in kindling the digestive fire and digest ama. Apart from that they provide energy to the person who is fasting. Therefore, they can be considered as energy supplements for a person who is starving (therapeutically) during the treatment of acute fever. It is also logical to use them since they kindle the digestive fire and capacity in contrast to the light foods which may deplete the digestive fire further. Therefore gruels are complementary interventions with fasting.
Read – Langhana Therapy – A Unique Ayurvedic Treatment Principle

Gruels balance energy during fasting

Master Charaka mentions ‘yavagvah’ which is plural of yavagu. This means to tell that different kinds of gruels i.e. manda, peya and vilepi should be used as per need. The method of preparation of these gruels differs and so does the proportional difference of solid and liquid portions of these preparations. These are prepared in the same way as explained in the context of samsarjana krama – graduated dietetic protocol administered in the post-treatment procedures (follow up) of purification therapies, mainly emesis and purgation.

Master Charaka tells that the fasting should be such that it doesn’t pose threat to the life of the patient and it should be practiced to one’s capacity. If the patient fasts too much or beyond his capacity, he may face serious complications including death. So the energy levels need to be maintained during fasting and for this, the gruels is the best choice.

Yavagu as deepana – digestive fire kindling measure

Yavagu prepared with fever alleviating herbs is also a good deepana i.e. kindles the digestive fire when administered in proper time after administering emesis and lightening therapies.

Simily – ‘Yavagu kindles digestive fire in the same way the fuel in the form of dry wood intensifies the fire’.

Later, Master Charaka contributes association of medicinal herbs in its preparation and the lightness quality naturally prevailing in yavagu for it to act as deepana.
Read – Understanding Digestion Process From An Ayurveda View

In acute fevers, doshas causing fever are associated with ama and are considered as unripe. Primary interventions in acute fevers is to ripen these doshas by separating ama from their association after digesting ama. Different kinds of yavagu is used for digesting ama. The other method of ripening doshas include fasting, sudation, time period (8th day) and bitter tasting herbs.

If we consider the words ‘yavagvah tiktako rasah’ together, it would mean that the gruels prepared with bitter tasting herbs shall be used to ripen the doshas in acute fevers.
Read – Bitter Taste – Qualities, Health Benefits, Side Effects

Are gruels necessarily complementary to fasting therapy?

We have discussed that the gruels complement as dietetic supplements while the patient of acute fevers is fasting and also provide energy to tolerate fasting. But in the above said reference from Charaka Chikitsa we have seen that yavagu has been given an independent status among the ‘pachana’ measures. This means to tell that yavagu can be independently used in the treatment plan-up of acute fevers since it bestows the same benefits as those of fasting and is also a diet.
Read – How To Do Fasting? A Step By Step Guide For You

So, can we start treating acute fevers straightaway with yavagu first instead of fasting?

No, the treatment of acute fevers as a rule should be started with fasting.

Rule 1 – If the person is strong enough to tolerate fasting, continue it until he can or until signs of proper fasting have occurred or till lightness of the body is experienced. This may take 1-3 days. Slowly introduce a bit of sudation and gruels into the protocol after stopping fasting.

Rule 2 – If the person initially tolerates fasting but very soon develops tiredness in a day or one and half days, immediately start with gruels.

Rule 3 – If the person is not accustomed to fasting allow him to fast for a small portion of the day and switch over to gruels in the major portion of the day.

Rule 4 – Depending on physical and mental strength of the patient –

  1. People who are strong should do more of fasting and less of gruels initially and gradually shift over to gruels.
  2. People with moderate strength should do equal proportions of fasting and gruels, intermittently.
  3. People with less strength should consume more of gruels and sudation and less of fasting.
  4. People who are not at all tolerant to fasting should receive sudation and gruels.

Rule 5 – Patients in whom fasting is contraindicated should receive sudation and gruels.

Rule 6 – Patients in whom gruels are contraindicated should be prescribed with soups.

Benefits of Yavagu

Benefits of YavaguReason
Kindles digestive fire – agni deepanaLight in nature and is prepared with medicines
Expels morbid doshas through anal route -AnulomanaExpels vata (fart, flatus), urine, feces and doshas
Causes sweating, sudation – SwedanaLiquid and hot in nature
Pacifies thirst -Trt shantayeLiquid nature
Conducive for life, strengthens the patient – PranayaIt is a form of food
Brings about lightness of the body – Laghavaya Because of its laxity / fluidity property
Antipyretic -LaghavayaIt is the best food and medicine for fever

Charaka also specifies that yavagu should not be given in fevers caused by excessive consumption of alcohol.
Read – Alcoholism: Ayurvedic Treatment, Medicines, Remedies

Contraindications of Yavagu in Taruna jwara

Yavagu should not be given in taruna jwara in the below mentioned conditions –

  • In persons who are intoxicated
  • Those who consume alcohol daily
  • Summer season
  • In exacerbation of pitta and kapha in the body
  • In bleeding disorders wherein the blood contaminated by pitta is moving upwards and is expelled from upper orifices

In the above conditions even if the person is eligible to consume yavagu, it should not be given.

In Pitta-Kaphadhika Jwara yavagu should not be given only in presence of excessive quantity of pitta or kapha in the body. Else it can be given in Pittaja and Kaphaja fevers.

Yavagu too shall not be given to those in whom there is exacerbation of both kapha and pitta in mixed proportions.

Even according to a reference from Harita –

‘Just as a heap of sand or dust gets wet and slushy when it rains on it, the kapha too gets swollen and gets slushy and exacerbated when yavagu is administered in high kapha conditions’. Therefore this rule of not giving yavagu is applicable to only high kapha conditions associated with fever and not in kaphaja fevers wherein there is no severe exacerbation or accumulation of kapha.

In Kaphaja fever too if excessive kapha has been dealt with by administration of fasting, emesis etc measures yavagu shall be readily administered. Yavagu is beneficial for kaphaja fevers too. Same is the case with Pittaja fevers.

According to another reference in Charaka (will be discussed ahead) – gruel prepared with puffed grains and made cool is advised to be given mixed with honey in pittaja fever.
Read – Vamana Therapy – Right Method, Side Effects, Management

Sanskrit Verses

Peyas / Yavagus in Fever

  1. Laja Peya – gruel prepared with parched grains processed with powders of ginger and long pepper is served. This enables easy digestion and also cures fever.
  2. Laja Peya – gruel prepared with parched grains is mixed with ginger and sour pomegranate and served to those who show liking towards sour foods. The same gruel should be served cold and mixed with honey if there is presence of diarrhea along with fever or if it is fever of pitta origin.
  3. Raktashali Peya – gruel prepared from red colored rice and processed with decoctions of swadamshtra – Tribulus terrestris and kantakari – Solanum xanthocarpum should be served in presence of pain in flanks, urinary bladder and headache.
  4. Prishniparnadi Peya – Gruel prepared with decoction of prishniparni – Uraria picta, bala – Sida cordifolia, bilwa – Aegle marmelos, Ginger, utpala – Nymphaea stellata and Coriander, made sour with sour pomegranate juice is given in fever associated with diarrhea.
  5. Vidarigandhadi gana dravya siddha peya – gruel prepared with herbs of Vidarigandadi group of herbs is given to the patients of fever suffering from cough, dyspnea and hiccough. This gruel also kindles digestive fire and causes sweating.
  6. Pippali Amalaki siddha peya – Gruel prepared with barley and red rice processed with pippali – Piper longum and Amalaki – Emblica officinalis, mixed with ghee is served in presence of constipation. This causes expulsion of doshas in downward direction.
  7. Drakshadi kwatha siddha peya – gruel processed with draksha – Vitis vinifera, pippalimula – roots of Piper longum, chavya – Piper retrofractum, amalaki – Emblica officinalis and shunti – Zingiber officinale is served when doshas are stagnant in stomach and colon and in presence of pain abdomen associated with fever.
  8. Shunti-Amalaki siddha peya – Gruel prepared with decoction of ginger and amalaki – Emblica officinale fried in ghee and mixed with sugar is given when there is absence of sweating, loss of sleep and excessive thirst.
  9. Baladi Kwatha siddha Peya – Gruel prepared with bala – Sida cordifolia, vrikshamla – Garcinia indica, amla badara – sour Ziziphus jujube, prishniparni – Uraria picta and kantakari – Solanum xanthocarpum mixed with powder of unripe bilwa pulp – Aegle marmelos fruit is given to drink in presence of sharp shooting pain / cramps in fever.

Alternatively the decoctions of all the above said should be prepared. Gruel of red rice should be prepared with this decoction and given to drink.

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