Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge
Vol. 6(1), January 2007, pp. 144-149
Traditional alcoholic beverages from Ayurveda and their role on human health
Department of Biotechnology, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli 620024, Tamil Nadu
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Received 29 August 2006; revised 10 November 2006
The traditional medical system of Indian Ayurveda indicates availability of a variety of alcoholic beverages named
generally as Madya, which are hitherto unreported. The objective of this work was to compile and analyze such information
obtained from traditional literature in order to document the impact of these beverages on human health. In this work, the
Ayurvedic alcoholic beverages are grouped into seven major categories based on the nature of raw materials used and the
nature of fermentation. Constituents and medicinal properties of diverse alcoholic beverages falling into each category are
compiled. Novel information about the fractions of beverages, quality assessment and changes in properties as a result of
storing are highlighted. The means for the application of modern scientific tools and vistas of scientific knowledge to hull
out useful information as well as to document and validate the rich tradition of fermented therapeutics of Ayurveda is
Key words: Ayurveda, Madya, Alcoholic beverages, Traditional medicine, Biomedical fermentation
IPC Int. Cl.8: A61K36/00, A61K36/00, A01G1/00, A01G17/00, A47G19/00, A23L1/00, A23L1/06, A23L2/02, C12G,
A61P1/14, A61P3/04, A61P3/06, A61P3/08, A61P3/10, A61P5/00, A61P5/50, A61P9/00, A61P9/04,
A61P9/14, A61P29/00, A61P31/00, A61P33/00, A61P33/10, A61P35/00
Ayurveda, the traditional Indian System of Medicine the potential medicinal properties and care to be taken
is regarded as one of two living great traditions of the while using them as medicines.
world along with the traditional Chinese System of Madya are of various kinds like sura, sukta, sidhu,
Medicine. Ayurveda extensively uses plants in etc. Ira, madira, hala and balavallabha are synonyms
addition to certain minerals and animal products. As a of Madya. All kinds of Madya are hot in potency,
result of research investigations, numerous drugs have slightly sweet, bitter and pungent in taste, slightly
entered into pharmacopoeia1. World Health astringent, sour at the end of digestion. It aggravates
Organization indicated that primary health needs of pitta, mitigates vata and kapha, causes purgation,
countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are met digests quickly, creates dryness, non-viscid, kindles
by traditional medicines2. Ayurveda has been digestive fire, helps taste, quick in action, enters into
estimated to meet 70-80% of the healthcare needs of minute pores of the body and cleaning them, spreads
India3. Ayurvedic medicines are of various types, viz. quickly and produces looseness of joints5. They are
herbal teas, infusions, decoctions, tinctures, capsules beneficial to those having loss of sleep or excess sleep
& powders, infused oils, ointments, creams, lotions, of both lean and stout persons. All of these properties
arishtas (fermented decoctions), and asavas are conferred, if they are used judiciously considering
(fermented infusions) 4. Ayurveda have also indicated them as medicines. They cause intoxication and act
about the medicinal uses of a variety of alcoholic like poisons if they are used otherwise6.
beverages, which are generally named as ‘Madya’.
Madya are not prescribed in current practice of Alcoholic beverages from Ayurveda
Ayurveda probably because of the restrictions for In this work, Ayurveda beverages are grouped
their inadvertent use as drinks. This work is intended based on the nature of raw materials used and the
to compile and analyze the information about such nature of fermentation, viz. sugar based beverages,
alcoholic beverages obtained from the traditional fruit based beverages, cereal based beverages,
literature and their translation. This is to ultimately beverages prepared from cereal with or without fruits
identify the components of such beverages, bring out but contains herbals, Maireyah (triyoni), sukta
SEKAR: TRADITIONAL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES FROM AYURVEDA 145
(vinegar fermentation) and tonic wines. Among them, kaphaja piles (a type of piles with increase in
Maireyah consists of 3 major components (flour, kapha)5,7,9.
jaggery, and honey), which are fermented, in a two- The sidhu prepared using boiled sugarcane juice
step process or all 3 components are co-fermented. fermented with Dhataki and after a certain period of
Other products are formed as a result of single fermentation added with little ghrta (ghee) and
fermentation where sugar, fruits or cereals or a jaggery is known as sasyaka. Aksikah–sidhu is made
combination of cereal and fruits are used as raw of decoction of bibhitaka [Terminalia bellirica
material(s) for effecting fermentation by supporting (Gaertn.) Roxb.] and jaggery and processed with
microbial activity. Dhataki flowers. It alleviates anaemia, astringent,
sweet, pitta alleviating and blood purifier9. Sidhu
Sugar based beverages made of jambu [Syzygium cumini (L.) Skeel] fruit is
Sarkara: It is a wine prepared using sugar. It is anti diuretic, astringent and vata aggravating. Sidhu
sweet smelling, sweet in taste and easily digestable6. prepared of madhuka (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) flower
It is a cardiac tonic and digestive stimulant. It cleans is burning, appetizer, astringent, pacifies kapha while
the urinary bladder and alleviates vata. It is sweet in aggravates vata and pitta9.
vipaka (transformed state of ingested substances after
Fruit based beverages
digestion), appetizer and stimulant of senses (indrya
Mardvika/ Kapisa: If an alcoholic preparation is
made out of Mardvika (dry grapes), then it is called
Gouda/ Gauda: Gouda is a wine prepared by using
Mardvika or Kapisa. It is the best among the alcoholic
molasses (treacle). It causes elimination of urine,
drinks. For this preparation, dry grapes are cooked
faeces and flatus and increases hunger6, 8. It is
well and juice is strained out through a piece of cloth.
refreshing, pungent, bitter and sweet in taste and
The juice free of astringent taste is suitable for
nourishing7. The alcoholic drink prepared using
fermentation. This alcoholic preparation is also called
flowers of Dhataki [Woodfordia fruiticosa (L.)
Bhimavikranta or Kapisapana10. Mardvika is
Kurz.], water and guda (jaggery) is called as Gauda.
unctuous, sweet, laxative, appetizer, carminative
It promotes the power of digestion, complexion and
(drug curing flatulence), cardiac tonic and
strength7. Gauda eases passage of flatus and faeces
nourishing9,10. It promotes strength and semen. It
and improves appetite8.
causes amlapitta (acidity in stomach) and aggravation
Sidhu (sita rasa or sita rasika, pakvarasa sidhu, of vata. It does not cause burning sensation and it
sasyaka, aksikah-sidhu): The alcoholic preparation alleviates kapha. It cures pandu (anaemia), ksaya
made out of uncooked materials is called sita rasa or (consumption or pulmonary tuberculosis), meha
sita rasika. Unboiled sugarcane juice is used in this (obstinate urinary disorders, including diabetes), arsas
preparation. This type of sidhu is inferior in (piles) and visama jvara (typhoid), hemorrhoids and
quality5,7,9. It improves digestion, voice and intestinal parasites6,7. Wine prepared from grapes is
complexion, combat swelling, abdominal disorder, not contraindicated even in intrinsic hemorrhage
piles and useful for slimming8. because of its non-burning property and sweet taste9.
If the same sidhu is prepared from boiled sugar Kharjura: It is a wine prepared from dates. It is
cane juice, it is called Pakvarasa sidhu7,10. It slightly inferior in quality in comparison to mardvika
aggravates vata and pitta and diseases of kapha, type of alcoholic drink. It aggravates vata, heavy and
obesity, dropsy (an excessive accumulation of fluid in hard for digestion. It is a cardiac tonic, astringent,
any of the tissues or cavities of the body), sweet and fragrant. It activates the senses (indriya
enlargement of abdomen and haemorrhoids (piles bodhana)6,7,9,10.
with painful swelling at the anus)6. This sidhu is better Jambava: The alcoholic preparation made out of
than sita rasa. Pakvarasa sidhu promotes good voice, the juice of jambu [Syzygium cumini (L.) Skeel],
digestive power, strength and complexion. It is a jaggery and honey is called jambava10. This helps in
cardiac tonic, unctuous and an appetizer. It cures the prevention of excretion (baddha nisyanda)7.
vivandha (constipation), medas (adiposity), sopha
(oedema), arsas (piles), svasa (asthma), udara Cereal based beverages
(obstinate abdominal diseases including ascites) and Sura/ kantoli/ kohali/ Yava Sura: Sura is prepared
diseases caused by kapha relishing wholesome of by fermenting a mixture of water, flour of rice,
146 INDIAN J TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE, VOL 6, No. 1, JANUARY 2007
jaggery resembling the beer of the present day. Sura blood formation7. Aksiki improves appetite; good for
cures abdominal lump, enlargement of abdomen, treating anaemia and worms8.
haemorrhoids, duodenal diseases and consumption Maireyah (triyoni): It is made by the refermentation
(pulmonary tuberculosis). It is hard to digest, causes of sura and asava (fermented infusion), prepared
constipation, mitigates vata and causes increase of fat, separately then combined together which has the
blood, milk, urine and kapha6. Sura is useful for effect of both of these preparations. The basic sources
treating emaciation, gaseous abdominal swelling, of sura and asava are flour and jaggery, respectively
urinary obstruction, insufficient lactation and piles8. It to which honey is added thus making it triyoni (three
bestows strength, breast milk nourishment and basic sources); alternatively, flour, asava and jaggery
relieves dropsy and dysuria (difficulty and pain in fermenting together make it triyoni. It is sweet,
urination) 5,7. The alcoholic preparation made out of astringent and alleviates piles, kapha, gulma
the yava paste (barley) and masa (Phaseolus munga (gastritis), worms, fat and vata9,10
L.) is called kantoli or kohali10. Yava Sura prepared
from yava (barley) causes constipation and not easily Sukta (vinegar): The portion prepared by adding
digestable6. It is pitta increasing, slightly induces rhizomes, roots and fruits along with fat and salt in
kapha and aggravates vata8,9. water is called sukta. It produces raktapitta (a disease
characterized by bleeding from different parts of the
Kohalah and Tusambu: Kohalah is made of body) and chedana (which takes away tissues like
parched barley flour. Others take it as sura of cooked cutting). It cures pandu (anaemia) and krmi (parasitic
rice. It vitiates three doshas and acts as non- infection). It is purgative, helps in the digestion of
aphrodisiac9. Tusambu is prepared by fermenting food, hot, diuretic, cardiac tonic, alleviator of kapha
uncooked and dehusked barley. It is an appetizer, and pungent in vipaka. It is a good appetizer5,7. Sukta
alleviates heart diseases, panduroga (anaemia) and causes intrinsic haemorrhage, digests foods and ama
worms9,10. (indigestion), produces hoarseness of voice, alleviates
kaphaja pandu (a type of anaemia with increase in
Beverages prepared from cereals and/ or fruits kapha) and worms9.
with herbals Dhanyamla (dhanyasukta): Dhanyamla is a liquor
Vibhitaka sura: Sura prepared from vibhitaka prepared by fermenting the water in which rice and
[Terminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb.] is easily such other grains like kodrava (Paspalum
digestible, good for health, treats wounds, anaemia, scrobiculatum L.), pulses, etc. have been slightly
leprosy and other skin diseases6. cooked or merely washed. It is purgative, penetrating,
Varuni: The alcoholic drink prepared from hot in potency, aggravates pitta, cold to touch,
punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa L.) paste and rice is relieves fatigue and exhaustion, increases appetite and
called varuni. It is also prepared from tala (Borassus hunger, cure pain of urinary bladder, ideal for use as
flabellifer L.) and kharjura (dates) juice. The asthapana (decoction of enema) for all patients, good
alcoholic drink prepared of punarnava and salipisti to the heart, easily digestable, mitigates vata and
(dough of rice flour) together mixed with sura is also kapha6. It is useful in anorexia and diseases caused by
known as varuni. Varuni is easily digestible like sura, vata. It is satmya (whole some) for persons residing
mitigates rhinitis and pain5,7. Varuni shares the on the sea coast7. Dhanyamla is satiating and best
properties of sura. However, it is light and cures suited in loss of taste5.
pinasa (sinusitis), adhmana (flatulence) and sula Sauvira and Sauviraka: Sauvira is prepared using
(colic pain)7. de-husked barley either raw or cooked by adding 8
times of water and then fermented5. It cures duodenal
Madhuka madya: The alcoholic drink prepared of diseases, diseases of kapha origin, purgative, kindles
the flowers of madhuka (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) is digestive fire, beneficial in upward movement of gas
called madhuka madya. It aggravates vata and pitta7. and bodyaches5. Sauvira cures grahani (irritable
Aksika (aksiki): The alcoholic preparation made out bowel syndrome) and arsas (piles). It is digestive and
of the bark of aksa [Terminalia arjuna (Roxb. ex useful in udavarta (flatulence), angamarda (malaise),
DC.) Wight & Arn.] and rice grains is called aksiki10. asthi sula (pain in bones) and anaha (flatulence)7,9.
It is a promoter of strength, constipative, astringent, Sauviraka or suviramla is prepared by fermenting
sweet and cooling. It alleviates pitta and promotes wheat10.
SEKAR: TRADITIONAL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES FROM AYURVEDA 147
Aranala: It is prepared of dehusked godhuma action. The santaki prepared of the vataka (fried balls
(Triticum dicoccum Schubl.) either raw or cooked and of flour) of mudga [Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper] is
it shares all the properties of sauvira5,7. superior in quality. It alleviates vata. It is light,
Tusodaka: It is prepared by the coarse powder of appetizer and carminative par excellence. It cures sula
yava along with its husks. It is a digestive stimulant (colic pain), ajirna (indigestion) and vibandha
and a cardiac tonic. It cures pandu (anaemia) and krmi (constipation). It cleanses the urinary bladder7.
(parasitic infection). It is hot and carminative. It Sandaki helps taste, hard for digestion and increases
vitiates pitta, blood and cures pain in the urinary pitta and kapha5.
bladder5,7. Cukra and Asuta: Cukra is a type of vinegar and
Kanjika: The preparation made by fermenting prepared by 1 part jaggery, 2 parts honey, 4 parts
rhizomes, roots, fruits, kulmasa (half baked wheat) dhanyamla (a sour preparation of cereals), 8 parts
and dhanya manda (fermented cereals) is called mastu (lower portion of butter milk) and 16 parts
kanjika10. kanjika is also prepared by the fermentation water. To this, a small quantity of the powder of
of rice and millet9. It is purgative, hot, appetizer and trikatu (Zingiber officinale Roxb., Piper nigrum L.
carminative. When applied externally, it cures daha and P. longum L.) is added. Mastu is kept in clean jar
(burning syndrome) and fever. When taken internally, along with jaggery, honey and dhanyamla. This jar is
it alleviates vayu and kapha. kept inside a heap of cereals or heap of paddy of the
Scum of gruel of cereals and other grains, kept concerned season for 3 days. This is called cukra10.
undisturbed for some days and allowed to ferment This is also fermented with sugarcane juice, madhuka
become sour. It is bitter in taste, penetrating, hot in flowers and pilu (Coffea arabica L.)9. Asuta is
potency, helps taste, digestive, easily digestible, prepared using tubers/rhizome and fruits kept soaked
mitigates fever with burning sensation by touch in water and allowed to ferment. This helps taste,
(anointing), mitigates vata and kapha by drinking. digestive, mitigates vata and especially light for
When prepared from vataka (fried balls of flour) of digestion5.
masa (black gram), it is more superior. It is easily Madhusukta, Gaudani (gudasukta), rasasuktani:
digestible, relieves colic (severe pain in the abdomen), Madhusukta is prepared from the fruit juice of
indigestion, constipation, accumulation of undigested jambira [Citrus limon (L.) Burm.f.] mixed with
materials and cleanses the urinary bladder. Persons pippali mula (Piper longum L.). These are put in a
suffering from fainting, giddiness, intoxication, vessel containing honey and then kept within the heap
itching, leprosy (and other skin diseases), bleeding of paddy for 3 days9. Gaudani is made of jaggery,
diseases, anaemia, tuberculosis, emaciation, injury to water, vasa (muscle fat) and oil. It is also known as
lungs, exhaustion and mild fever are not suitable to gudasukta. Sour gruel fermented with jaggery water
drink kanjika, which shall lead to the aggravation of mixed with oil along with tubers, herbs and fruits is
dosas in them5,7,10. In the special preparation of also known as guda sukta. Rasasuktani is made of
kanjika, the portion prepared of kanjika mixed with sugarcane juice9.
ardraka (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) and salt is Tonic wines: Tonic wines are medicinally useful,
carminative and digestive stimulant. It alleviates increase vitality and improve digestion. Tonic wines
amavata (rheumatism) 7. are made by steeping medicinal herbs in wine for
several weeks4. A simple and effective way to make a
Kanjika because of being obtained from cereals is a
tonic wine is in a jar or a ceramic vat with a tape at
vitalizer, removes burning sensation by external
the base to enable the wine to be drawn off without
application while intake pacifies vata, kapha and
disturbing the herbs. Wine can be added periodically
thirst. It expels mucus and by gargle alleviates
to keep the herbs covered, although, in time, this will
abnormal taste, foul smell, dirt and dryness of mouth
reduce the wine’s tonic effectiveness. If exposed to
and also exhaustion9.
the air, the herbs may go moldy due to the unwanted
Sandaki: The portion prepared by the fermentation growth of fungi, making the remedy not only
of the leaves of mulaka (Raphanus sativus L.) is ineffective but also unsafe to consume4.
called sandaki. It is prepared using rajika (mustard),
mulaka dala (leaves of radish), jala (water) and Fractions of beverages and their properties
salipistaka (dough of rice flour). All are put together The upper portion of madya, which is light in
in a pot and allowed to ferment. It is purgative in nature, is called prasanna. The portion below that,
148 INDIAN J TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE, VOL 6, No. 1, JANUARY 2007
which is relatively denser, is called kadambari. The causes burning sensation, putrid in smell, bad in taste,
portion below kadambari is called jagala. The contains krmis (maggots, including microbes and
portion, which is at the bottom region of the worms) and thick in nature should be rejected7.
container, is called medaka. The lowest layer of
medaka containing the paste of drugs is called Fresh and stored wines and their properties
vakkasa. The material that is used for initiating Freshly prepared alcoholic drinks (nava madya) are
fermentation of alcoholic drinks is called kinva or abhisyandi (which obstructs channels of circulation).
surabija (it is the microbial inoculums). If kinva is not It alleviates all three dosas and is a laxative. It is not
matured, then it is called madhulaka. It is present in good for heart and not tasteful (virasa). It causes
not properly fermented madya7,10. burning sensation and produces putrid smell. It is
Prasanna: This supernatant clear portion of visada (non-slimy), heavy and difficult to digest7.
alcoholic preparation alleviates vomiting, anorexia, Navam which means immature in terms of taste and
pain in heart and abdomen, kapha, vata, piles, clarity; others take it as of not more than a year9. They
constipation and hardness of bowels9. Prasanna cures should not be used by persons who are having
anaha (flatulence), gulma (gastritis), arsas (piles), purgation (or had purgative therapy) and who are
chardi (vomiting) and arocaka (anorexia)7. hungry5,6.
Kadambari: The lower thick portion of wine is Purana madya, the same alcoholic drink, when
called kadambari10. Kadambari type of alcoholic preserved for a long time and used, is relishing. It
drinks is digestive stimulants. It cures anaha cures krmi (parasitic infection) and aggravation of
(flatulence), pain in the heart and pelvic region and kapha as well as vata. It is a cardiac tonic, fragrant,
colic pain. It is heavy, aphrodisiac, alleviator of vata endowed with good qualities and light. It cleanses the
and laxative7. channels of circulation, improves appetite and opens
Jagala and Bakkasahi: Jagala alleviates kapha. It is body channels7. Old wine is an appetizer, much
constipative. It cures sopha (oedema), arsas (piles) relishing, anthelmintic and pacifies vata and kapha
and grahani (irritable bowel syndrome). It is hot, and promotes digestion. It is consumed as of beyond
carminative and strength promoting. It cures ksut of one year5,9.
(morbid hunger), trsna (morbid thirst) and aruci
(anorexia) 7. Beneficial for colic, dysentery, Conclusion
borborygmi (sound of flatus in intestine), and It is hereby evident that Ayurveda constitutes a
constipating8. Jagala is digestive, produces oedema profile of alcoholic beverages with therapeutic
and alleviates dysentery, gurgling sound in bowels, properties. It is indicated that such alcoholic drinks,
piles, vata and consumption. In oedema, it is applied taken according to the prescribed procedure, in proper
externally. Bakkasah is a jagala free from liquid and dose, at the proper time, along with wholesome food
consisting only of yeast and drugs. It is vata and according to the capacity of the individual
aggravating, appetizer, laxative, diuretic and non- produces effects like ambrosia7. When used
slimy9. inappropriately, it causes diseases and works as a
Medaka: It is sweet, strength promoting, stambhana poison. The dose taken should not cause intoxicated
(which increases the power of retention), cooling and movement of eyeball5,7,10. It is further important to
heavy7. apply the modern science to understand the traditional
Vakkasa: This portion from which alcohol is taken systems of human life. The tradition of Ayurveda
out is constipative and it aggravates vata7. requires multifaceted approach of research for
Kinvaka: It alleviates vata. It is not good for heart validation. To cite, the traditional beverages and their
and difficult to digest 7. medicinal properties can be investigated by modern
Madhulaka: It is unctuous, constipative, aggravates scientific approaches. Understanding of microbes
kapha and difficult to digest7,10. involved in theses biomedical fermentations, the
chemistry of fermentations and associated
Assessing the quality of beverages biotransformation processes have to be studied in
The alcoholic drink in which 5 tastes are detail so as to validate the living great tradition of
manifested, which is pure and endowed with good Ayurveda. Further, assessment of the quality of
smell is of good quality. The alcoholic drink, which beverages in terms of ethyl alcohol content, dry
SEKAR: TRADITIONAL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES FROM AYURVEDA 149
extract, volatile acid content, fixed acid content, sugar 2 URL: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs134/en/
content and testing of methyl alcohol, etc. have to be print.html
3 Viswanathan MV, Unnikrishnan PM, Komatsu K, Fushimi H
performed in order to use them medicinally. & Basnet P, A brief introduction to Ayurvedic system of
medicine and some of its problems, Indian J Traditional
Acknowledgement Knowledge, 2 (2003) 159-169.
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(Reference Press, New Delhi), 2004.
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Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Academy, Varanasi), 1998, 479-484.
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rendered by TV Narayanan Varier of Ashtanga Academy, Varanasi), 1994, 68-73.
Ayurvedics (P) Ltd., Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu are 7 Dash VB & Kashyap VL, Materia Medica of Ayurveda,
(Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi), 1980, 187-203.
acknowledged. 8 Valiathan MS, The legacy of Caraka, (Orient Longman
Private Ltd, Hyderabad), 2003, 125-127.
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1 Patwardhan B, Vaidya ADB & Chorghade M, Ayurveda and Varanasi), 2004, 449- 459.
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