Sushruta Samhita, volume 1: Sutrasthana

by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna | 1907 | 148,756 words

This current book, the Sutra-sthana (english translation), is the first part of this voluminous medical work. It contains a large summary of the knowledge envelopig the medical aspects of Ayurveda. Descriptions of diseases, various diets and drugs, the duties of a surgeon, surgical procedures, medical training; these are only some of the numerous s...

Chapter XX - Suitable and unsuitables for health

Now we shall discuss the Chapter which treats of the salutary and non-salutary effects of regimen, etc. (Hitahitiya-adhyaya).

According to certain eminent medical authorities, an article or a substance which is beneficial in derangements of the bodily Vayu may prove positively injurious in a Pittaja affection; hence it is impossible to name an article or substance which is absolutely or universally wholesome (irrespective of the nature and type of a disease, and of the deranged bodily humours involved therein).

But we cannot subscribe to the foregoing hypothesis, since by nature or combination, things (substances) are, or become endued with properties, which prove absolutely beneficial or unconditionally harmful or exert a mixed virtue (both beneficial and injurious) according to the difference in the natur and type of the disease in which they are employed. Things or articles such as, clarified-butter, water, milk and boiled-rice, etc. may be denominated as absolutely beneficial owing to their congeniality to, or natural suitableness to the human organism.

Similarly, substances such as fire, alkali and poison, may be designated as unconditionally harmful in virtue of their burning, suppurating (lit: boiling) and fatal effect upon the organic bodies in general. A substance, which is innocuous by nature, may prove equally injurious as any active poison through an injudicious or incompatible combination; whereas a substance or an article, which proves beneficial in a derangement of the Vayu, may prove otherwise in a disorder of the Pitta.

Articles or substances which may be safely included within the food stuffs of all human beings are the members of the group (Varga) known as the red Shali, the Shastika, the Kanguka, the Mukundaka, the Panduka, the Pitaka, the Pramodaka, the Kalaka, the Ashanaka, the Pushpaka, the Karddamaka, the Shakunahrita, the Sugandhaka, the Kalama, the Nivara, the Kodrava the Uddalaka, the Shyamaka, the Godhuma and the Venu, etc., as well as the flesh of the Ena, the Harina (copper coloured deer), the Kuranga, the Mriga, the Mriga-matrika, the Shvadanstra, the Karala, the Krakara, the Kapota (pigeon), the Lava, the Tittiri, the Kapinjala, the Varttira, and the Varttika, and such like beasts and birds. The varieties of pulse which form the articles of human food are known as the Mudga, the Vana-Mudga, the Makushtha, the Kalaya, the Masura, the Mangalya, the Chanaka, the Harenu, the the adhaki and the Satina. Similarly, the different species of pot-herbs, which may be safely used by a man to give a greater relish to his food, are named as the Chilli, the Vastuka, the Sunishannaka the Jivanti, the Tanduliyaka, and the Mandukaparni, etc. Clarified-butter, the salt known as the Saindhava, and the luscious juice of the pomegranate and the amalaka, should be generally deemed the most wholesome articles of food.

Similarly, the practise of self-control, residence in a room protected from the strong gusts of wind, sleeping only at night, tepid water, and moderate physical exercise should be regarded as absolutely conducive to a better preservation of health.

We have already enumerated the names of substances which are absolutely beneficial or unconditionally injurious to human health. Things which are both wholesome and injurious are those, which, for example, may prove beneficial in a distemper of the bodily. Vayu though otherwise in a Pittaja affection. The Valli fruit, the Karaka, the Karira, the Amla-phala, the salt, the Kulattha, the Pinyaka, curd, oil, Virohi, cakes, the dried pot-herbs, goat’s flesh, mutton, wine, the Jamboline fruit, the Chilichima fish, the flesh of the Godha, and the Varaha (wild boar) being eaten simultaneously with milk, furnish an example of articles which may act as deadly poisons through incompatible combinations.

Metrical Texts:—

An intelligent physician, considering the nature of the disease, the strength and temperament of the patient, and the state of his digestion as well as the seat of the affection, the physical features of the country and the then prevailing season of the year, should prescribe a diet which he thinks the most proper and suitable to the requirements of the case. Since the conditions infinitely vary in the different types of diseases and even the same conditions do not obtain in one and the same type,[1] physicians generally prescribe a diet of their own selection, one determined with regard to its general effect on health, in preference to one that has been laid down in books of medicine.

If asked to prescribe either milk or poison to a healthy person, a physician would naturally prescribe the former, and thereby, prove the absolute wholesomeness of milk and unconditional harmfulness of poison. Thus is verified, Sushruta, the correctness of the dictum, that things such as water, etc., are absolutely and unconditionally wholesome or otherwise, by virtue of their respective natural properties.

Things which are unwholesome through combination:—

Now I shall enumerate the names of substances which become positively unwholesome through incompatible combinations. The flesh of any domestic (Gramya) or aquatic (anupa) beast or bird, as well as the flesh of those which live in marshy ground (Audaka), should not be eaten with boiled rice prepared from paddy which has commenced sprouting, or with lard, honey, milk, treacle or Masha-pulse. The pot-herbs, known as the Rohini and the Jatu-shaka, should not be partaken of in combination with milk and honey; nor the flesh of a heron, eaten simultaneously with Kulmasha and the spirituous liquor known as Varuni. Marica (black pepper) and Pippalis should not be eaten in combination with the pot-herbs known as the Kakamachi. The pot-herbs known as the Nadima and Siddhi should not be simultaneously eaten with curd, and the flesh of a cock. Honey should not be taken immediately after drinking warm water, nor meat and bile should be simultaneouly eaten. Sura (wine), Krishara and Payasa should not be taken in combination. Similarly, Souviraka and sesamum paste, fish and modifications of sugarcane juice, treacle and Kakamachi, honey and Mulaka, treacle and the flesh of a wild boar, or honey and boar’s flesh should not be taken in combination.

Similarly, milk and Mulaka, mango fruit and Jamboline fruit and the flesh of Godha, Porcupine and hog should not be eaten together. All fish, specially those of the Chilichimi species, should not be taken with milk, nor the fruit of a plantain tree should be simultaneously eaten with Tala fruit, milk or whey. The fruit known as Lakuca should not be taken with milk, curd or meat soup, nor with honey and clarified-butter, nor immediately before or after the drinking of milk.

Incompatible preparations of food:—

Now we shall enumerate the names of substances, which become unwholesome through incompatible preparations. Flesh of pigeon fried with mustard oil should not be eaten. The flesh of a Kapinjala, Myura (peacock), Lava, Tittira, and Godha, boiled with castor oil and on a fire of the twigs of castor plants, should not be eaten. Clarified-butter, kept in a vessel of Indian bell metal for ten consecutive days, should be rejected as unwholesome. Honey should not be used in combination with an article or substance heated by fire, nor in the seasons of spring and autumn. The pot-herbs known as the Kakamachi, boiled in a bowl in which fish or ginger had been previously boiled or prepared, should be rejected as positively injurious.

Similarly, the pot-herbs known as the Upodika should not be eaten by boiling them with the levigated paste of sesamum. The flesh of a heron prepared with hog’s lard should not be taken with the pulp of the cocoanut fruit. The flesh of a Bhasa bird, roasted on a spit over a charcoal fire, should not be eaten.

Objectionable proportions:—

Now we shall enumerate the names of substances which become unwholesome by being mixed in objectionable proportions. Two oily substances (such as oil and clarified butter) or honey and any of the oily substances, mixed in equal proportions, should not be taken; nor should rain water be drunk immediately after having taken honey and clarified-butter.

Incompatible tastes, potencies and chemical actions:—

Now we shall describe the substances enumerated in couples, and possessed of different tastes, which prove incompatible to each other through their respective tastes, potencies and chemical actions Vipaka). Sweet and acid tastes, or sweet and saline tastes should be deemed incompatible to each other in respect of their potencies and inherent properties. Sweet and acrid tastes are incompatible to each other in all the above three respects.

Similarly, sweet and bitter, or sweet and astringent things should be deemed incompatible to each other in respect of their tastes, and chemical action. Acid and saline things are incompatible to each other as regards their flavours. Acid and acrid things are incompatible as regards flavour and chemical action. Acid and bitter, or acid and astringent things, are incompatible to each other, both as regards their respective flavours, potencies, and digestive or chemical transformations. Saline and pungent things are incompatible to each other as regards their respective flavour (Rasa) and digestive (chemical) transformation.

Similarly, saline and bitter things or saline and astringent things are incompatible to each other in respect of all the three abovesaid relations and categories. Pungent and bitter tastes are incompatible to each other in respect of flavour and digestive transformation, whereas substances of pungent and astringent or bitter and astringent tastes are incompatible to one another as regards their respective potencies, flavours and digestive (chemical) action or transformation.

Degrees of incompatibility:—

Substances that are incompatible with, or antagonistic to, the system through a difference of degree or intensity, as well as things which bring about an extreme dryness of the organism, or those which are extremely oily in their composition or are characterised by extreme cold or warmth, should be categorically rejected.

Authoritative verses on the subject:—

Things or substances which are incompatible to one another in their respective tastes, potencies and reactionary transformation should be denied as absolutely unwholesome, while the rest should be considered as possessed of mixed virtues (wholesome or injurious under certain circumstances) as described before.

By taking substances which are incompatible to one another as regards their tastes, potencies and digestive transformation, a greedy and intemperate person becomes afflicted with disease and weakness of the sense-organs, and ultimately meets with his doom.

Anything, which being taken enrages or agitates the bodily humours without causing the assimilated food (effete matter) to be evacuated out of the bowels, or is possessed of a taste contrary to, or other than what is necessary for the purposes of vitalization, should be looked upon as the primary source of all bodily distempers.

Diseases, brought about by a food or drink composed of incompatible substances, are amenable to the use of purgatives, emetics, or pacifying (corrective of the deranged humours) medicines; and such a diet, even when found unavoidable, should be preceded by the use of drugs or substances potent enough to neutralise its baneful effect.[2]

A meat, in the composition of which substances of incompatible virtues and potencies largely enter, fails to develop any distressing or harmful symptoms in subjects who are habitually addicted to it, or who takes it in small quantities, as well as in persons of youthful vigor and strong appetite, or in those who have become invigorated by the use of oily and albuminous food and healthful physical exercise.[3]

The effects of the winds:—

Now we shall describe the effects of the winds on the body, (as they blow from the dfferent quarters of the heaven).

The East wind:—

The East wind, which is cool and sweet in its potency, is heavy and charged with salt; it aggravates blood and Pitta and gives rise to an acid digestive reaction. It specially aggravates the disease in a patient suffering from a wound or an ulcer, or from the effect of any poison, and affects persons of Shleshmala temperament. It is highly efficacious to fatigued persons, as well as to those of a Vatala (nervous) temperament, or who are afflicted with any sort of Kaphaja disease; though it increases the slimy secretion in their ulcers if there be any.

The South wind:—

The South wind is light, sweet (produces the same soothing effect on the organism like a thing of sweet taste) and is followed by an astringent after-taste (Anurasa) being antacid in its reaction. It is the best of winds, gives vigour to the eyes, increases the strength, and soothes the blood and the Pitta without aggravating the bodily Vayu.

The West wind:—

The West wind is pure, non-slimy, dry, rough to the perception, and keen. It absorbs the albumen or oily principle of the body. It absorbs or dries up fat and Kapha, produces a parched condition in the body when exposed to it, and speedily diminishes the strength of a person.

The North wind:—

The North wind is cold, crisp, mild, of a sweet taste terminating in an astringent one. It does not in any way enrage or agitate the deranged bodily humours. In healthy subjects it increases the strength and the running secretions from the different orfices of the body (such as the nostrils etc.). It proves extremely salutary to patients suffering from consumption, cachexia and the effects of poison.


Thus ends the twentieth Chapter of the Sutrasthana in the Sushruta samhita which treats of salutary and nonsalutary effects of the regimen.

Footnotes and references:


The propriety and impropriety of a particular diet should be determined with a full regard to the antecedent and attending circumstances of a particular malady.


This couplet occurs also in the Charaka Samhita.


Different Reading:—In a child or in a man of voracious appetite.

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