Ayurveda is redefined as Dravuaguna by Caraka (YATASCAYUSYANI ANAYUSYANI CA DRVYAGUNAKARMANI TATOPYAYURVEDAH –C.S.Ci.30). Raja Narahari the author of Raja Nighantu considered Dravyaguna as the first branch of Ayurveda (DRAVYABHIDHAN GADANISCAYA KAYA SOUKHYAM O Ra Ni.). It is Prolf. P. V. Sharma who had provided the Sanskrit version of definition for Dravyaguna.
Pursuits for health and longivity have been the main activity of human kind since times immemorial. Using the natural resources for maintanace of health and management of disease dates back to Vedic period. It is observed that the history of drugs is essentially the history of civilization and science. The Vedic culture reflects the unfolding science and civilization of ancient India. Hindu mythology put forward ‘Brahma’ as the propounder of four Vedas viz., Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. These Vedas are the sources of correct and complete knowledge in ancient India.
‘Ayurveda’—the knowledge of life sciences is emerged as the upaveda of Atharvaveda (1200 BC) and is full in medical knowledge. The emphasis laid on single drug therapy for different diseases in the Vedic period is quite evident from the available references. The number of medicinal plants delineated in Rgveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda are 67, 81 and 189 respectively.
The utility and usage of vegetable drugs is more identified in the samhita period. It is recorded that Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata have described 1100, 1270 and 1150 drugs respectively in their treatises along with their pharmacological properties and therapeutic effects under different classifications.
Earliest references about dravyaguna nighantus (lexicons on material medica) are available from 6-7 AD. Some of the important lexicons include: Dhanvantari Nighantu of Mahendra Bhogik (9 AD), Dravyaguna of Madhava (10 AD), Dravyagunasangraha of Cakrapani (10 AD), Pathyapathyavibodhini of Kaiyadeva (12 AD), Namaguna-sangraha of Sodhala (13 AD), Madanavinaoda of Madanapala (15 AD), Bhavaprakasa of Bhavamisra (16 AD), Nighanturaja of Nrsimhapandita/Narahari (17-18) etc.
These lexicons are followed by several compilation works on medicinal plants in the modern era. Saligrmanighantu of Lala Saligram Vaidya, Nighantu Adarsh of Bapalal vaidya and Priyanighantu of Acharya P.V. Sharmaji are some of the examples for the modern time nighantus. In the process both the nighantus and other compilation works contributed many new drugs to Indian Materia Medica.
The author of this text is of the opinion that for Ayurveda, Dravyaguna is like Pharmacology for modern medicine. More precisely, Dravyaguna is a combination of herbal pharmacology, pharmacognosy, phytochemistry and clinical pharmacology. Therefore, three will be enormous pressure on an average student to understand all the intricacies and move on in the academics. The author recollects the concern shown by Sodhala in his work Nama Sangraha as an example. Sodhala had shown concern over the non-availability of lucid text books for the average students of Ayurveda. This is applicable to subject Dravyaguna as well. If we review carefully, several books have been written over this subject in different languages. But, when it comes to Dravyaguna texts in English which is the recommended language by CCIM (along with Sanskrit), we do not come across number of works.
The author had earlier published DRAVYAGUNA VIJNANA in an elaborate manner which is the only English version on this subject and is available in five volumes (Chaukhambha Orientalia, July 2000-08). Afterwards, it is realized that there are several typographical errors in the earlier work and decided to correct by publishing the second edition. However between 2008-2014, there were several amendments to the syllabus of Dravyaguna by CCIM committee. The author’s Ph.D. guide Prof. Dr. Tanuja M. Nesari was part of these committee and after several discussions the author as well as the senior author has decided to come out with a new text on the basis of new syllabus. Thenceforth, a book was completed and sent for press in 2012 when the author was heading the Dept of Dravyaguna at Sri Dhanwantry Ayurvedic College at Chandigarh.
But, in 2012 the newly elected CCIM body established a new syllabus committee in which the author as well as the senior author was members. This committee finalized the Dravyaguna syllabus in 2014 and the authors have realized that there is no text available on the basis of new syllabus in any language. In record time with the needed corrections the text is made ready to benefit the students.