Rasa is a word with many meanings. Essence, taste, and fluids or plasma are some of the words that define rasa. Ayana means “path” or “what enters” (Frawley & Lad, 2001). Therefore a rasayana can be translated as “path of essence” or “that which enters the essence or fluids of the body.” In Ayurveda, rasayana is both a category of herbs and the process of deep rejuvenation.
A good way to think of the meaning of rasayana is that it is the therapeutics which improve and promote dhatus. There are seven dhatus, or bodily tissues, according to Ayurveda. These dhatus can be viewed like concentric circles—each one expressing deeper layers of the body. The rasa (fluids, plasma) is in some ways the foundational dhatu. All of the organs of the body are bathed in rasa, so keeping this dhatu nourished and pure is vital.
Benefits of Rasayanas
By using rasayanas, one is able to nourish and rejuvenate one’s vital essence. In Vedic texts, Rasayanas are described as improving longevity, memory, intellectual power, complexion, voice, strength, and power of sense organs. Rasayanas are also said to increase resistance to disease.
There are a number of herbs that Ayurveda considers rasayanas. These special herbs are more than nutritive tonics; they are subtle, specific, and have deep, lasting effects (Frawley & Lad, 2001). Some rasayana herbs are beneficial and balancing for all three doshas. However, one can also tailor the rasayana to best suit the individual dosha.
Rasayanas For Vata
Rasayanas for Vata dosha will typically be warm in nature. Examples include ashwagandha, bala, calamus, garlic, ghee, kapi kacchu, licorice, sesame seeds, and haritaki (Dass, 2013).
Rasayanas for Pitta
Rasayanas for Pitta dosha will generally be cool in nature. Examples include aloe vera gel or juice, amalaki, brahmi, gotu kola, ghee, licorice, manjista, saffron, and shatavari (Dass, 2013).
Rasayanas for Kapha
Rasayanas for Kapha dosha are often pungent and spicy with a warm energy. Examples include bibhitaki, guggulu, honey, pippali, and shilajit (Dass, 2013).
Also, there are specific herbal compounds, such as Chyawanprash, that are highly revered as time-tested rasayanas. You may notice that Chyawanprash contains many of the rasayana herbs listed above.
Types of Rasayana Therapy
Rasayana is as much a noun as it is a verb. This Ayurvedic process of deep rejuvenation involves more than herbs alone. Yoga, mantra, and meditation may all be included in rasayana.
You Can’t Dye a Dirty Cloth
Rasayana is most effective if excess toxins, or ama, are eliminated before undergoing a rasayana protocol (Frawley & Lad, 2001). As Ayurvedic practitioners and scholars Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad (2001) explain, “[Rasayana] is what penetrates and revitalizes the essence of our psycho-physiological being” (p. 72).
Just as it is near impossible to dye a dirty cloth, rasayana will be much deeper and more penetrating if the individual first undergoes a purification process or cleanse. This process can be as deep as pancha karma, but of course, it is always helpful to consult with a trusted Ayurvedic practitioner to determine the ideal course of action for you.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.
Dass, V. (2013). Ayurvedic herbology East & West. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.
Frawley, D., & Lad, V. (2001). The yoga of herbs. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.