Elixir of life: Rasayana
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
Rasayanas have almost become mainstream. Yet, what are they and when should you take them? What is Rasayana therapy? If you have ever received Pancha Karma, you might have experienced that after this intense detox, your body needs extra nutrients to build up strength again. In a nutshell, this is what Rasayana does. However, there is a more elaborate therapeutic function.
The root of Rasayana is the term “Rasa.” It has several meanings, but only two are here relevant, “fluid” and “life’s essence.” Rasa refers to our first dhatu (tissue), which in the West, we refer to as both the plasma and lymphatic fluids. In short, Rasyanas enhance our first dhatu. Plasma and lymph nourish our body by carrying nutrients to all organs and helping the body eliminate toxins. Therefore you can understand the importance of rejuvenating this tissue. When we keep our rasa nourished, consecutive tissues are formed in a healthy way. In Ayurveda, we believe when the Rasa is nourished, the mind stays calm.
Wear and tear of tissues
Charaka Samhita (one of the oldest scriptures) describes Rasayana therapy as “a therapy that boosts the health of even a healthy person”. There is a concept in Ayurveda that through Dhatu agni (metabolism), natural wear and tear occurs to the tissues. And with age, we notice these effects on the body, right? So in order to rebuild and rejuvenate all the tissues, we take Rasayanas.
When to take it?
Charaka Samhita states that you should start taking Rasayanas at age 40. In other sutras, it also suggests taking it when we start having intimate relationships. However, here are specific cases it is highly recommended to take Rasayanas:
- When suffering from physical or mental exhaustion.
- After recovering from an illness.
- When preparing for pregnancy.
- After Pancha Karma or any other Shodhana (detox) therapy.
However, always be aware that for taking Rasayanas your digestive fire or Agni needs to work correctly. Since Rasayanas are nutrient dense it puts more strain on our digestive system. If we can not digest it, it harms the body more than it does any good.
The most important Rasayana is food. From food, our tissues - and firstly our rasa tissue - are built. So diet is always the first principle to address when rejuvenating the body and tissues.
A few important Rasayanas:
Ashwagandha - Withania somnifera
Bacopa - Bacopa monnieri
Jatamansi - Nardostachys jatamansi
Mandukaparni - Centella asiatica
Passion Flower - Passiflora incarnate
Shankhapushpi - Evolvulus alsinoides
Skullcap - Scutellaria lateriflora
Vaca - Acorus calamus
Photo: In Life Healthcare
Book: Charaka Samhita by Cakrapani Datta
Book: Dravyaguna for Westerners by Atreya Smith