Vipaka

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The Sanskrit term ‘Vipaka’ (also spelled as vipaaka or vipAka) means specific transformation or effect after digestion of a substance. Detailed and in-depth description of the process of metabolism is the key component of Ayurveda physiology as well as pathology. Almost all the pathologies occurring in the human body are caused due to imbalance or malfunctioning of metabolism governed by the agni. Thus, it is of utmost importance for every physician to know the function of agni in detail. The process of metabolism is divided into two main components i.e. avasthapaka and vipaka. Avasthapaka is the general process of catabolism needed for all food and medicines ingested orally. It involves three stages viz. madhura (sweet), amla (sour) and katu (pungent) avasthapaka. Avasthapaka refers to a series of changes that food undergoes in the gut (koshtha). Agni is responsible for digestion and metabolism. In the first stage of digestion (madhura avasthapaka), the food in stomach (amashaya) undergoes primary transformation. In the second stage (amla avasthapaka), the food undergoes vigorous digestion in duodenum and small intestine (pachyamanashaya). Amlabhava develops under the action of the acid medium. In the third stage (katu avasthapaka), absorption of water and electrolytes occurs in the large intestine. The faeces are formed after maximum water absorption (pari pandita pakwasya). Odoriferous products with pungent gases are also released (vayusyatkatubhavatah). [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/9-11]

Diet and drugs undergo some inevitable changes during digestion. This may not feel change in the taste of the ingested substance. The characters are modified by agni in such a way that the ingested foreign substance can be assimilated by the body. Even though some properties of the substance persist after digestion, the end outcome of the digestion is governed by the vipaka of the substance. This vipaka is ultimately governed by the agni of the individual. Thus, vipaka can be predicted only by logical inference after observing the action on various components of the body.

Vipaka mainly starts in stomach and duodenum (grahani), and is responsible for the ultimate effect of the food or medicine ingested. The effect in the time of avasthapaka is momentary and confined to the region of the process, while the effect of vipaka can be seen on the whole body. The concept of 'vipaka’ holds significant importance in ayurvedic approach of metabolism as well as pharmaco-therapeutics. Vipaka is one of the components of rasa panchaka i.e. pharmacodynamic attributes of the drug. Thus, comprehensive knowledge of vipaka is essential to attain excellence in preservation of health and management of diseases through Ayurveda.

Contributors
Section/Chapter/topic Concepts / Vipaka
Authors Bhojani M.K.1, Joshi Sumedh2
Reviewers T. Saketh Ram3, Basisht G.4, Khandel S.K.5
Editor Deole Y.S.6
Affiliations

1 Department of Kriya Sharira, A.I.I.A., New Delhi, India

2 Department of Dravyaguna, A.I.I.A., New Delhi, India

3National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage, C.C.R.A.S. Hyderabad, India

4 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

5Arogyalaxmi Ayurveda Consultancy, Jaipur, India

6 Department of Kayachikitsa, G.J.Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabhvidya Nagar, Anand, Gujarat, India
Correspondence email meera.samhita@aiia.gov.in, carakasamhita@gmail.com
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of first publication: July15, 2022
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2022.e01.s09.102

Etymology and derivation

The word Vipaka is made by adding the prefix ‘Vi’, meanings specific or distinguished [Monnier Williams] to the root verb ‘Pach- Paka’ meaning digestion, assimilation of food. [Monnier Williams] It can also be derived as “Vi” is Vishishtha meaning specific, and ‘Paka’ refers to the function assigned to agni (metabolic energy).[1]

Synonyms

  1. Vipaka: The term denotes specific transformation of ingested food/medicine by means of digestive capacity (jatharagni).[Sarvangasundara commentary by Hemdari on A.Hr. Sutra Sthana 9/20][2]
  2. Nishthapaka: In this process, transformation of nutrient fluid (rasa) takes place that can be considered as the final product after digestion. [Ayurveda Deepika commentary by Chakrapani on Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/9-11]

Definition

Vipaka is defined as the transformation occurring in the nutrient fluid (rasa) after the action of jatharagni.[A.Hr. Sutra Sthana 9/20][2] The process occurs only after completion of avasthapaka. Vipaka occurs when the ingested food gets divided into two parts viz. fluid formed after digestion (ahara-rasa) and excretory products (mala).[Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/9-11]

Types

Various theories can be witnessed regarding the number and/or types of vipaka as described below in table 1:[3]

Table 1: Types of vipaka
S. no Name Types of Vipaka Explanation Reference
1. Yatharasa vipakavada (predictable as per taste) Six types of vipaka Scholars of this view opine that vipaka of each substance is definite and is according to the taste (rasa). E.g. Sweet substance (madhura rasa dravya) will definitely transform into madhura vipaka ( transformation into sweet substance in body) [Shivadassen on Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 40/10][4]
2. Aniyata vipakavada (unpredictable) Innumerable Scholars of this view opine that the predominant taste (rasa) at the time of digestion overpowers other taste (rasa). Resultant vipaka will be according to the dominant rasa. [Yogendranath Sen on Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 40/10][4]
3. Panchavidha vipakavada (five types) Five types of vipaka Scholars of this view opine that vipaka depends upon the predominance of one of the mahabhuta in dravya. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 40/10] [4]
4. Trividha vipakavada (three types) Three types of vipaka Probably pungent (katu), bitter (tikta) and astringent (kashaya) substances undergo katu vipaka; Sour (amla rasa) undergoes amla vipaka and sweet (madhura) to madhura vipaka [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/57-58], [A.Hr. Sutra Sthana 9/21][2]
5. Trividha vipakavaada (three types) Three types of vipaka In Parashar’s opinion, sweet (madhura), bitter (tikta), astringent (kashaya) and salty (lavana) substances undergo madhura vipaka, pungent (katu) and sour (amla) rasa undergo Katu and Amla Vipaka respectively. [A.S.Sutra Sthana 17/17-18][5]
6. Dwividha vipakavada (two types) Two types of vipaka Scholars opine that vipaka are of two types - Sweet (madhura) and pungent (katu). Madhura vipaka is considered as heavy to digest (guru) due to dominance of prithvi and jala mahabhuta. Katu vipaka is light to digest (laghu) due to dominance of agni mahabhuta, vayu mahabhuta and akasha mahabhuta. [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 40/10-12][4]

Assessment of vipaka (vipaka upalabdhi hetu)

Vipaka can be determined by the action of the dravya on the body. Prediction of the vipaka is always confined to the logical inference obtained after examining the effects on the whole body. The ingested substance undergoes complete process of digestion and exhibits particular action on dosha, dhatu and mala, which can infer vipaka.[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/59-60] Perception of vipaka is done through increased or decreased states of doshas in the body. [A.S.Sutra Sthana 17][5]

Table 2: Properties of vipaka
Sr No Vipaka Guna Effect on Dosha Effect on Dhatu Effect on Mala
1. Madhura Unctuous (snigdha), Heavy to digest (guru) Vitiates kapha Increases shukra (reproductive components) Helps normal urination and defecation (srushtavinmutra)
2. Amla Unctuous (snigdha), Light to digest (laghu) Vitiates pitta Reduces reproductive components (shukra-nashana) Helps normal urination and defecation (srushtavinmutra)
3. Katu Dry (ruksha) Vitiates vata Reduces reproductive components (shukra-nashana) Blocks normal urination and defecation (badhhavinmutra)
4. Guru - Vitiates kapha pacifies vata-pitta dosha - Helps normal urination and defecation (srushtavinmutra)
5. Laghu - Vitiates vata and pacifies kapha - Helps normal urination and defecation (srushtavinmutra)

[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/59-62]

Superiority of vipaka

In pharmacotherapeutics, vipaka is superior in activity profile due to following reasons as given in table 3:

Table 3: Superiority of vipaka
Sr. No. Superiority Cause
1. Responsible factor (nimittatwa) Stimulation or suppression of dosha is under the control of vipaka (doshakshayavruddhi)
2. Tissue construction (dhatupadehata) Building up various tissues of the body is possible by digestion/ metabolism.
3. Dependency for therapeutic effect (vipakapekshatwa) The therapeutic effect depends on vipaka
4. Emphasis by classics (shastra pramanya) Classical texts or treatises quote vipaka as an important entity of dravya

[Bhadanta Nagarjuna][6]

Assessment of vipaka

Vipaka of any dravya shows its effect on dosha, dhatu (shukra in specific) and mala (urine and faeces specifically). Though it is difficult to assess the effect of dravya on any dosha, the effect on mutra (urine output) , purisha (faecal output and consistency) and effect on shukra (sperm count) can be assessed in experimental models. Several studies have done on experimental models to assess vipaka of an extrapharmcopoeal drug, Flemingia strobilifera (L).W.T.Aiton[7] and to compare vipaka of some samana and vichitra pratyayarabdha dravya.[8] Parameters like body weight, food consumption, water intake, fresh and dry faecal output and food conversion ratio were assessed and statistical analysis was done to evaluate the effect of the dravya. In the chosen dose and duration of pharmacological study selected samana and vichitra pratyayarabdha drugs showed apparent impact on koshtha related parameters as per their vipakas (post digestive effects) although the observed results are non-significant. Further studies are needed to design perfect pharmacological model for assessment of vipaka of a new or unknown dravya.

Contemporary approach towards vipaka

In the contemporary view, avasthapaka and vipaka can be mainly connected to the process of digestion. Digestion mainly involves process of breaking down of the complex food-stuff with the help of digestive juices into simple constituents, which can be normally absorbed and assimilated in the body. High molecular weight compounds like carbohydrates, proteins and fats are thus broken down into low molecular weight, water soluble and absorbable constitutes after various processes occurred in organs of digestive system. Thus, avasthapaka can be considered as various phases of digestion.[9] While vipaka can be seen as the process of ultimate transformation of the ingested material. Some researchers also opine that, gut microbiota surely plays a role in decreasing as well as increasing drug activity.[10]

Exceptions

It is a general rule that sweet (madhura), salty (lavana) rasa herbs have madhura vipaka; sour (amla) rasa have amla and remaining all rasas give katu vipaka. However, some herbs are exceptions to this. Ginger (shunthi) is pungent in taste, but shows madhura vipaka. Such herbs and dietary substances are indicated by the concept called ‘vichitra pratyarabdha dravya’, that have certain property specifications.

Importance of vipaka

Vipaka plays significant role in pharmacotherapy used in Ayurveda. It is explained that substances work according to the potential of their vipaka. Though, ginger (shunthi) is pungent in taste, it does not vitiate pitta dosha due to its madhura vipaka. It is therefore a generalized theory that when all pharmacodynamic attributes of the dravya have comparable/similar potential, the vipaka always dominates the rasa.

Vipaka is very important among all other pharmacodynamic properties of dravya because the results of taking diet or medicine depend on correct or incorrect digestion. Agni plays crucial role in digestion and vipaka. The desired/undesirable actions of the dravyas directly/indirectly depend on the vipaka of the dravyas. Vipaka of any dravya depend on the inherent properties of the dravyas as well as condition of agni of the consumer. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/63] Plumbago zeylanica (chitraka), if digested properly, causes agnideepana (desired action of stimulation of digestion). While if not digested properly, it causes constipation (undesirable action). Similarly, properly digested Piper longum (pippali) enhances shukra (desired effect), while improper digestion leads to excessive formation of kleda (untoward effect of moisture).

Vipaka is also important because the aggravation and improvement of the doshas as well as the accumulation of dhatu in the body directly depends on the vipaka. A well digested diet or medicine is beneficial, while the same if poorly digested causes various diseases. Therefore, it can be inferred that vipaka is one of the most important factors among all the attributes of dravya.

Current researches

  1. Anuruchi Jadoun and Rambabu Dwivedi studied effect of selected samana and vichitra pratyayarabdha dravya w.s.r. to vipaka. They stated that, all the drugs having vichitra pratyayarabdhata showed effect according to their vipaka in few parameters. But most of the results were statistically insignificant, which suggested that substances perform their action according to their properties (pratyayarabdhata).[11]
  2. Marilena Gilca and Dorin Dragos connected the concept of extra oral receptors to the concept of Ayurvedic pharmacology so as to describe the possible mechanism of vipaka.[12]
  3. Anagha Vishwas Ranade, Amey Shirolkar, and Sharad Daulatrao Pawar have given different insight to concept of vipaka by explaining it on the basis of gut microbiota. It says, the holistic mechanism of gut microbiota coincides to some extent, with the doctrines of Ayurveda in the context of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics.[13]
  4. Chakrapany Sharma and Chandan Singh have put forth a review to interpret Ayurveda theory of vipaka v/s pharmacokinetics. They have concluded that, the term vipaka in Ayurveda covers a broad area that is not limited up to the metabolism, only. All kinds of agni (jatharagni, dhatvagni and bhootagni) works one by one on ingested diet or drug. This helps to liberate the molecular substance from the chemical structure of ingested diet or drug, assimilate and absorbs in body at the site of action.[14]
  5. Bidhan Mahajon, Ravi Shankar B., Remadevi R. conducted an experimental study for assessment of ‘vipaka’ (metabolism) of a new medicinal plant, Flemingia strobilifera of family Fabaceae. They have studied various parameters like body weight, faecal output, urine output, water intake etc. and concluded that the drug has katu vipaka.[7]

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References

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  8. Jadoun Anuruchi, Solanki S K, Ashok B K, Dwivedi R R (2012), Pharmacological study to assess the vipaka of certain Samana & Vichitra Pratyayarabdha drugs in albino rats, Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med., Volume 1(11), 620–628
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  11. Jadoun A, Dwivedi R. Effect of selected Samana and Vicitra Pratyayarabdha Dravya w.s.r. to Vipaka. Ayu. 2013 Oct;34(4):373-8. doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.127718. PMID: 24696574; PMCID: PMC3968699.
  12. Gilca M, Dragos D. Extraoral Taste Receptor Discovery: New Light on Ayurvedic Pharmacology. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:5435831. doi: 10.1155/2017/5435831. Epub 2017 May 31. PMID: 28642799; PMCID: PMC5469997.
  13. Ranade AV, Shirolkar A, Pawar SD. Gut microbiota: One of the new frontiers for elucidating fundamentals of Vipaka in Ayurveda. Ayu. 2019 Apr-Jun;40(2):75-78. doi: 10.4103/ayu.AYU_210_18. Epub 2020 Mar 20. PMID: 32398906; PMCID: PMC7210818.
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