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Ayurveda relies on medicines obtained from natural sources like plants, minerals and ores. Before utilizing these as medicines, it is important for a physician to know the properties and uses of these medicinal substances. These properties are mentioned in the form of rasa, guna, virya, vipaka and prabhava.. Each of these factor has its own action on the body, some times similar and sometimes contrary. But the cumulative effect of all will lead to the exact pharmacological action of that particular drug. Sometimes, effects are observed which are beyond the actions of these rasadi gunas. These actions are called as prabhava. They are unpredictable by the rasadi gunas, but have a unique action and are important for the clinical and therapeutic effects. Hence the concept of prabhava has a wide range of clinical applicability in the field of ayurveda.

Section/Chapter/topic Concepts/Prabhava
Authors S. Pavan Kumar 1
Reviewers Sawant B.2, Basisht G.3,
Editor Deole Y.S.4
Affiliations 1 Department of Dravyaguna, TTD's S.V. Ayurvedic Medical College, Tirupati , India
2 Department of Dravyaguna, G. J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat, India
3Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
4 Department of Kayachikitsa, G. J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat, India
Correspondence emails,
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of publication: March 03, 2022
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2023.e01.s09.131

Etymology, Synonyms and Meaning

According to Monnier and William’s Dictionary Prabhava means might, power, majesty, dignity, strength and efficacy.[1]
It is formed by Pra + bhava, where “pra” denotes that it extraordinary or excessive or rich and bhava or the qualities or the actions.
So prabhāva can be considered as that extraordinary capacity of a drug to act on diseases beyond expectation.
The word prabhava is described as the shakti (strength or ability) with which special actions will be expressed by the drugs.[2] Eg: Lakucha and Amalaki despite of being similar in guṇa (properties), show different actions, like tridoṣhahara property (prabhava) of amalaki, is not seen in lakucha.[3] Hemachandra considered it as Teja (energy or the light).[4]
In the sarasundari commentary on the book Amarakoṣha, it is said as shaktivisheṣha (specific ability or strength), which will be formed from the superior form of the veerya.[5]


In a drug, if the taste (rasa), properties (guna) , potency(veerya) and post digestive effect (vipaka) are functionally corresponding to each other, but the action is contrary to the expected, then that action or effect is called as prabhava. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 26/67]
It is clear that rasa, guna, veerya and vipaka must be functionally corresponding, then prabhava can be considered. If any of the above is different, then it cannot be considered as prabhava. If any variation occurs, then the action can be because of that particular guṇa and that particular action will be considered as karma.
The karma or the predictable actions of the drugs based on the rasadi gunas are limited and are easily anticipated, but the prabhava or the unpredictable actions are unlimited and has a greater per view in the field of clinical medicine.
The effects of the prabhava are considered as “achintya (unpredictable)”
If the rasa, guna, veerya and vipaka are functionally similar and are present in a dravya, then some drugs act by virtue of their rasa, some by the virtue of their guṇa, some by virtue veerya and some by the virtue of vipaka. But the prabhava dominates and suppresses the above properties and shows its peculiar action.
Some Examples of prabhava mentioned in ayurvedic texts:

  1. Chitraka and Danti have pungent taste (katu rasa), pungent post digestive effect (katu vipaka) and hot potency (ushna veerya). However, the actions of both the drugs are different. Danti acts as purgative (virechana dravya), but Chitraka does not have virechana action.
  2. Visha(poison) acts as anti toxic (visha hara dravya).
  3. Emetic (vamana) and purgative (virechana) drugs act by virtue of their prabhava and not by their rasa, guna, veerya and vipaka.
  4. Wearing gems stones (mani dharana) causing some unpredictable effects and are considered as the prabhava of that gems.
  5. Draksha and madhuka have similar properties, but Draksha acts as virechana dravya and madhūka does not have the property of virechana.
  6. Ghrita (ghee) and dugdha (milk) have similar properties (Madhura rasa and madhura vipaka) and ghrita acts as dipana, but dugdha does not.
  7. Lashuna decreases vata and kapha dosha, in spite of having snigdha and guru gunas, which should increase vata kapha.
  8. Even though rakta shali and yava have the similar properties, rakta shali decreases tridosha and yava increases tridoshas.
  9. Medhya action of shankhapushpi, vishaghna action of shirisha etc. can also be considered because of the prabhava.

Assessment of prabhava

The knowledge of prabhava of dravyas cannot be accessed by yukti or tarka. This can only be understood by the pratyaksha pramana and shastra pramāna. So it is important for the vaidyas to know about the prabhava of the dravya before using them for the treatment. Without the knowledge of the effects of the prabhava, if a drug is given to the patient considering only the rasa, veerya and vipaka, the drug may give rise to adverse-effects and can harm the patients.

Concept of samana pratyarabdha and vichitra pratyarabdha

If the mahabhutas are responsible for the production of dravyas (dravya - arambhaka mahabhutas) and the mahabhutas responsible for the rasa, veerya and vipaka are similar, then the effect of the dravyas will be according to the rasa, veerya and vipaka. This is called as ‘Samana pratyarabdha’. The mahabhuta composition does not change even after the various stages of the digestion and assimilation of the dravya. Hence the effects will be according to the properties and will have predictable actions. Eg:- dugdha.
If the mahabhutas composition of the dravya and its rasa, veerya, vipaka are different or if the mahabhuta combinations changes after different process of the digestion and assimilation, then new combinations will be formed giving rise to sudden changes in the actions of the drugs. Then those drugs are considered as ‘vichitra pratyarabdha dravya’. These vichitra pratyarabdha action of the drugs can be considered as prabhava.

Contemporary approach

Phytochemical views:

The action of the drugs can be attributed to the various chemical contents or phyto active compounds present in that particular drug. Each and every drug will have many chemically active compounds. The net action or the pharmacodynamics of all the chemical contents will decide the pharmacodynamics of that particular drug, especially herbal drugs. There may be some contradictory actions or opposite actions among various active chemicals present in that particular herbal drug. The properties of the drug also taken from the cumulative nature of all the properties of that drug. Sometimes, the chemicals corresponding to the action may not be in a observable quantity or they may not express their guna like rasa, guna, veerya and vipaka, but may show the action. Such chemical may be responsible for the action on various ailments. These actions shown by the chemicals which do not express their properties can be taken as prabhava of that particular drugs.

Psycho-spiritual therapy

The effects of the gems stones on human health can be explained in view of psycho spiritual therapy . The gem stones are related to the various grahas (planetary actions) and can satisfy or nullify the effects of various planetary motions on human body. These effects are also considered as prabhava.
Some psychological effects are seen when perceived by the sense organs like feeling of happiness by seeing a loved person, secretion of saliva by seeing or smelling tasy food etc, can also be considered as prabhava. These also have effect on the pscyho-somatic well being of the humans. These can be used to treat the conditions caused by asatmendriyartha samyoga (disease caused by the abnormal utilization of the sense organs).

Current researches

There is a vast scope of research on the concept of prabhava and its practices.


From the concepts of prabhava it can be understood that prabhava of the drugs plays a major role clinically. Even though prabhava is unpredictable with rasa, guna, veerya and vipaka, it has got very vast clinical importance and application.

Further reading

  2. Vaidya Yadavji Trikamji Acharya, Drvyaguna vijnanam Purvardha, 7th Reprint, Sri Baidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Limited, Nagpur. p. 297-312.
  3. Vaidya Yadavji Trikamji Acharya, Charaka Samhita of agnivesha with Ayurveda Dipika Commentary, 4th Edition, 1981, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Limited, New Delhi. p. 148-149.
  4. Anna Moreshwara Kunta and Krishna Ramachandra Shastri Navare, Ashtanga Hrudayam of Vagbhata, 9th Edition, 2005, Chaukhambha Orientalia, Varanasi. p. 171-173.
  5. Vaidya Yadavji Trikamji Acharya, Sushruta Samhita with Nibanda Sangraha Vyakhya, 4th Edition, 1980, Chaukhambha Orientali, Varanasi. p. 180-181.
  6. Bulusu Sitaram, Bhavapraksha of Bhavamishra, Volume – 1, First Edition 2006, Chaukhambha Orientalia, Varanasi. p. 127-128.
  7. Bapalal G Vaidya, Nighantu Adarsha, Volume 1, 2nd Edition, 1998, Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi. p. 93-100.
  8. Mallikarjuna Rao P, Dravyaguna Vijnan, Volume 1, 1st Edition, 2021, Chaukhambha Vishwabharati, Varanasi. p. 112-126.
  9. Priya Vrat Sharma, Dravyaguna Vijnana, Volume 1 (Basic Concepts), 1998, Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi. p. 232-237.

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  1. Sir Monier Monier Williams, A Sanskrit – English Dictionary, Motilal Banarasidas, Delhi, first edition, 1986 reprint, pp.684
  2. Srujan Jha, Shabdakalpadruma, Android app.
  3. Bhavamishra. Bhavaprakash First part
  4. Hemachandra ??
  5. Amarkosha commentary