Starting from the Vedic times, the importance of the body in our life, whether secular or sacred, has been duly recognised. It is only a strong and healthy body that can serve our purpose best. This naturally led to the development of Āyurveda (life-science or health-science).
Treatment of diseases and improving the general stamina form a salient aspect of Āyurveda. Medicines or drugs used for such treatment have been given the general name, ‘auṣadha.’ Derived from the word ‘oṣadhi’ (plant, herb), it means a ‘preparation made of plants and herbs.’ However in practice, it refers to all medicines whether derived out of herbs, animal products or minerals.
Āyurveda has developed its own methods of pharmacy. It aims at retaining the medical properties of the ingredients of drugs with the necessary modification brought about by dilution, heating, emulsi-fication, clarification, impregnation and other means.
The auṣadhas are generally compounded with bases like ghṛta (ghee), taila (oil), water and milk. They may be administered as kaṣāya (decoction) guṭikā (pills), modaka (uncooked pills), cūrṇa (powder), kalka (paste of plant), leha or lehya (thick plant extracts with sugar to be taken by licking), ariṣṭa (fermented drink) and so on.