Ayurvedic treatments involve a whole lot drugs and herbal medicines. One among these popular drugs used for Ayurvedic treatment is arishtam. Arishtams come in different formulations and there are different arishtams for different diseases. These are mainly decoctions and are some of the most common and widely used formulations in Ayurveda. They are so popular that even allopathy lovers are familiar with arishtams such as Dasamoolarishtam and Jeerakarishtam. A unique quality of an arishtam is that their distinctive medical formulations increase their shelf-life and thus they can be preserved for a long time without damage. The classic texts on Ayurveda define arishtam as ‘Naa rishyathe ethi arishtam’: that which does not deteriorate is arishtam.
The major components of arishtams include:
- Dravadravyam (medicament in decoction form)
- Gudam (jaggery)
- Prakashapachoornam (medicament in powder form)
- Dhathaki flower (flower of Woodfordia floribunda)
Arishtams follow a long manufacturing process. These are prepared by soaking the drug materials either in powder form or as water extracts (kashayam) in a solution of sugar or jaggery, as the case may be, for a specific period of time. One essential ingredient in the formulation is the powdered Thathiri Pushpam (flower of Woodfordia floribunda) which acts as a natural fermenting agent. These compounds undergo fermentation in a properly closed container either in a special room or in a cellar to ensure normal fermentation. This process facilitates easy extraction of the active principles contained in the drugs. A constant temperature is maintained during the process as varying temperature may impede or accelerate fermentation.
The preparation of asavams differs slightly in that the aqueous medium for arishtam is a decoction of powdered drugs whereas in asavams, the medium is boiled and cooled water.
The medicinal properties of drugs in arishtams are very active and give immediate results as they are in the medium of self-generated alcohol and are hence easily digested and absorbed. Alcohol also ensures more shelf-life for arishtams compared with kashayams (water extraction) or choornams (powder).
During the bulk manufacturing of kashayams, special care is taken to monitor the alcohol percentage, acidity, pH values and the presence of total soluble solids to ensure the final product quality.
Arishtams are used to cure various ailments such as indigestion, constipation, general debility and arthritis.
The average adult dose of arishtams is 25-30 ml twice a day. This can be varied by the physician according to the severity of the disease and the body constitution of the patients. Since arishtams contain sugary material, extra care is needed when administering them to diabetics.
Arishtams, unlike popular belief, is not a medicine for all digestive problems. In fact, diseases related to pitha or hyper-acidity will aggravate if they are taken without medical advice. However, there is no harm in taking them on an empty stomach.
Arishtams are the most commercialized Ayurvedic product in the market because of the presence of alcohol, though self-generated, in them. One must ensure that one buys them from reliable manufacturers and stores as even pure alcoholic drinks are being hawked as arishtams in local markets.
There are many arishtam formulations mentioned in various classical texts like Charaka Samhitha, Susrutha Samhitha, Ashtangahrudayam, Bhaishajyaratnavali, Srgadhara Samhitha and Sahasrayogam.
The few different types of arishtam include Dasamoolarishtam, Abhayarishtam, Saraswatharishtam, Punarnavasavam and Lohasavam.