Tastes in Ayurveda – 2 Virya

The word ‘Virya’ is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Vira vikranto’. It signifies energy or potency of a particular herb or a medicinal plant.  According to Charak ---- ‘Virya is a driving force behind the therapeutic value of a plant’.  Virya can be compared to the active constituent of a drug.

According to Charak there are two types of viryas ---
Usna (hot): It aggravates Pitta but pacifies Vata and Kapha.  As is clear from its name it increases the heat factor.
Sita (cold): It aggravates Vata but pacifies Kapha and Pitta. As is clear from its name it increases the cold factor.

Sushrutu has divided these two types of viryas to further sub-types:

- Usna Virya

1. Laghu -- It is of light potency. It is composed of Agni, Vayu and Akasha (elements of fire, wind and space). It pacifies Kapha. However, it increases Vata.
2. Ushna – It increases the heat factor.
3. Tikshna – It is sharp.
4. Ruksha – It is dry.


- Sita Virya

1. Guru -- It is of heavy potency and composed of Prithvi (earth element) and Jala (water element). It pacifies Vata. However it increases Kapha.
2. Snigdha – It is moist.
3. Shita -- It increases the cold factor.
4. Mridu -- It  is soft.

All medicines in Ayurveda are a combination of many attributes. One or two dominate and are capable of curing ailments. Virya is more powerful than rasa. In this way it minimizes the effect of rasa. All the medicines are divided into two types based on their potency --- cold and hot. Hot and cold medicines are prescribed according to the patient’s body constitution. Health can be improved and ailments can be cured with the potency.  The physical, elemental and curative composition of the medicine changes during metabolism and digestion.


Effects of Virya on the Body

Sita Virya creates potential energy. They cause cheerfulness, exhilarate the mind and increase moisture in the body. They are helpful in good sleep and improve function of excretory system.

Usna Virya creates kinetic energy. It increases heat in the body. It increases digestive power, sweat, exhaustion and feebleness.

In fact Virya is much stronger than Rasa. Thus it has great effect on the physiological functions of the body.

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