Matrakalakriya Bhumidehadosa Gunantaram |
Prapya Tattaddhi Dashyante Tato Bhavastatha Thata |
Tasmatsvabhavo Nirdistastatha Matradirashrayah |
Tadapekshyobhayam Karm Prayojyam Siddhimicchata |
Tadeva Hyapathyam Deshakala San yoga viryapramanati Yoga dbhuyastarampathyam Sampadyate |
Tatra Khalvimani Astavaharvidhivishesayatanani Bhavanti |
Tadyathaprakatikarana San yoga rashideshakalopa yoga Sansthopayoktastemani Bhavanti|| Charak Sutra
Meaning: Quantity (of food), time (at what time it is prepared or is being eaten), process (of its preparation), place (including soil, climate and surrounding conditions, etc) at which its raw constituents have grown, constitution (chemical, botanical, properties, etc), defects (subtle and gross defects, unnatural effects or impurities, if any) are the principal factors responsible for the making a food pathya (worth eating, health y) or apathya (not worth eating, harmful). The un health y nature or flaw in any one or more of these could convert a generally edible food into non-edible or apathya. Charak further enjoins that some substances are naturally non-edible; they should never be used in food. Even the medicinal plants, vegetables and grains should be taken only in proper mode while taking into account the above aspects.
Eating Process: The "Charak Sanhita" describes eight principal factors associated with the process of eating. These are collectively termed as astavidh ahara vidhi vishesayatan. These are supplementary to each other and comprehensively represent the process of eating. Each of them contributes to health y or negative effects of the food being eaten. These are: (i) natural quality of food; (ii) method of preparation of food (who prepares the food, how and where all are part of this important factor; whereas, for most of us only the taste matters), (iii) combination (of various components or constituents of the food); (iv) amount or quantity of food; (v) place (at which the food-ingredients are grown; where it is prepared and being eaten) the seasonal effects are also included here; (vi) time (of preparation and consumption of food); (vii) the mode of eating; (viii) the physical and mental state of the person who is eating it. The importance of above factors is justified scientifically. For example, it is well known that which food will be digestible in which season and in what quantity etc, depends upon the basic properties of the raw substances in it, the method of preparation (e.g., mixing some other substances increases or negates some of its qualities; or steam-cooking would be health ier than frying, etc) and upon the metabolic fitness of the person who eats it. That metabolic system is highly sensitive to mental condition is also confirmed in many clinical trials the world over. Apart from these, the "Charak Sanhita" also takes into account the subtler aspects e.g. the sanskar as of the food (this includes the manner in which it is obtained/purchased, the way the money/resources used in getting or preparing it are earned, etc) and the sanskar as (intrinsic tendencies) of the person who prepares the food, etc.
Types of Food: Acharya Sushrut has described the major categories (from medical point of view) of food under the heading "dwadashashan vicara" in the following shloka: Ata urdhwam Dwadashashan, Praticaran Vakshayamah | Tatra Shitosna Snigdha Ruksha, Dravshuskaika Kalika Dwikalika Ausadhiyukta Matrahina Dosa Prashamana Vatyarthah || This shloka implies twelve different types of food in terms of their gross basic properties and also conveys what type is good under what natural conditions. Let us look at these properties and the conditions in terms of the prominent natural constitution or tridosa-level and/or diseases caused by the imbalance in the tridosa under which they are prescribed.
1. Shita (Cold): This type of food (which has a cooling tendency) is advised for those suffering from acidity, heat or plethora. It is also advised for those weakened by excessive sexual indulgence, or due to some toxic effect.
2. Usna (Warm): It is recommended for those suffering from the diseases or problems of excess of vata or kaph dosas. The food intake (in small quantity) after total stomach cleansing, fasting, etc, should also be of this category.
3. Snigdha (Smooth or Naturally Oily): This type of food is suitable (in appropriate quantity) to suppress the dosa of vata. Those used to physical labor or substantial physical exercises also benefit from such food. It is also remedial against dry-skin, bony, thin or weak body.
4. Ruksa (Rugged & Arid): It helps controlling the dosa of kaph. Those having fatty body or oily skin should also use this type of food.
5. Drava (Liquid or Watery): The diet of those suffering from dryness inside the body (which may lead to boils, peptic ulcer, or ligament problems, etc) should consist of this type in substantial proportions.
6. Shuska (Dry): Those suffering from leprosy, prameha (excretion of sperm and several vital hormones with the urine), erysipelas or wounds should be given dry food.
7. Eka-Kalika (One-timely): Those suffering from loss of appetite or weak digestive system should take food only once a day to help normalization of the appetite and metabolic disorders.
8. Dwikalika (Two-timely): In normal course, health y people should take proper meals only twice a day.
9. Ausadhi-Yukta (Medicinal): Those who cannot take medicines orally may be given these mixed in appropriate food. Sometimes, specific medicinal plants or herbs are also advised as essential ingredient of the regimen in specific diseases.
10. Matrahina (Light): Those having liver problem, suffering from fever or having loss of appetite due to some other disease(s), should take light and easily digestible food. (This may be dry or liquid, warm or cold type, as per the nature of the ailment and natural tendency in terms of the level of tridosa).
11. Prashamanakaraka (Tridosa-Controller): For health y as well as diseased persons, the choice of food should be according to the season and the level of dosas. For example, warm and sour and sweet food helps suppressing the vata dosa in rainy season.
12. Vatti Prayojaka (Naturally Soothing): For health y persons, nourishing food is that which helps maintaining and strengthening the vital elements and stamina and which increases resistance against diseases. Apathya (unsuitable) Food: This category of food corresponds to what either causes some ailment or disorder of some kind or aggravates or prolongs an existing disease or weakness. The founders of Ayurveda had affirmed food as the essential source of sustenance and strengthening of health . However, they had also alerted that "what one eats and how?" could be the major factor for or cause of illness; it could even prove to be toxic. In fact, the same type of food could have contrary effects, though invisible, under different circumstance or for different persons; most important is what kinds of guidelines one follows in the selection and preparation of food and in his eating habits. According to the following shloka appearing at "Sutra Sthan" in Chark Sanhita, the food or medicine, which might suppress an ailment or temporarily control the imbalance of the dosas but does not uproot or eliminate them completely is also apathya (unsuitable and harmful).