Kwatha or Kadha - Ayurvedic Herbal Decoction

Whenever we talk about Ayurvedic medicines, a picture of herbal powder and decoction first comes to our mind. Especially, decoction has become an identity of Ayurvedic medicines.

Kadha or decoction as commonly called in India, has been an integral part of Indian home remedies. From cold & flu to stomach ache, this decoction finds a wide range of applications in home remedies.

Ayurveda has classified herbal medicines in primary five forms i.e., fresh juice, herbal paste, herbal decoction, cold water infusion, & hot water infusion.  Among them, the decoction is the most extensively used form of medicine.

There is a misconception that Kadha is just for fever, flu, and allergies. But it is not so. There are about 394 Kwatha preparations mentioned in various Ayurvedic texts for various diseases.

Read on to know more about Ayurvedic decoctions.

What is Kwatha?

Decoction in Ayurveda is known as Kwatha or kashaya. Kwatha is derived from the root word ‘kwathana,’ literally meaning the ‘process of boiling.’

Kwatha is liquid herbal preparation obtained by boiling coarsely powdered drugs on mild fire and reducing it to the desired quantity.

Kwatha is probably one of the oldest forms of medicine. It is a powerful medium to transfer the active medicinal principals of herbal drugs in the body.

Kwatha is used in a wide range of ailments from acute to severe. It is not only meant for internal consumption but also for external application, as an eyewash, enemas, & in preparation of other medicinal preparations either as a base or as an adjuvant.

How to make Kwatha?

This is the most common question asked about Ayurvedic decoctions. Many don’t know how much water to use & for how long to boil the decoction.

Ceramic or earthen utensils are the best to make decoctions. Or you can also use a stainless steel vessel.

 The first step to make an herbal decoction is boiling the water. The proportion of water depends on the hardness of the drugs as well as the quantity of drugs.

In case of soft herbs i.e., when leaves & flowers are used, add four times of water. Boil eight times of water for moderately hard drugs i.e., for soft bark, roots, & tubers. For hard herbs, take 16 times of water i.e., for hard tree bark, root barks, heartwood, etc.

When using a poly-herbal mixture, add eight times of water.

Add one part of the coarse powder of drug as prescribed by your physician. In case you are using tender branches, leaves, or flowers, then pound them coarsely and add to the water.

Now, place the vessel on mild flame i.e., on a temperature of 95-100°C. Throughout the boiling process, keep the container open. Boil it well until only 1/4th part of the water is remaining.

Strain the liquid and add advised adjuvant to improve the taste and benefits of the decoction. Drinking it hot is highly recommended.

However, there is no single standard method to prepare a decoction. Techniques vary from case to case, and hence, various types of Kwatha preparations are practiced by different physicians.

What is the dose of Kwatha?

100 ml i.e., ½ cup is the general dosage of Kwatha. If you don’t wish to drink it at once, then take 50 ml twice a day.

However, the dosage varies according to the digestive strength of the patient and the severity of the disease.

The best time to drink decoction is after having meals. This ensures better digestion and absorption of herbs. Thus, it works more efficiently and gives better results.

Which adjuvants can you add?

As many herbal decoctions taste bitter & are difficult to drink, it is suggested to add adjuvants. Such adjuvants are recommended, which not only enhances the taste of decoction but also the potency of the medicine.

Sugar, honey, rock salt, black pepper powder, cumin powder are the most preferred adjuvants. But how much adjuvants should be added? This depends on the kind of adjuvant you are using as well as per the dominant dosha of disease.

Add sugar in a dose of 1/4th part, 1/8th part, & 1/16th part of decoction for vata, pitta, & kapha related disorders, respectively. Reverse the order when using honey.

If you are adding cumin powder, Guggulu gum, alkali powder, rock salt, Shilajatu, asafoetida, black pepper, long pepper, or dry ginger powder, then use 3g in 100 ml of decoction i.e., ½ cup.

If you are adding any liquid like milk, ghee, jaggery, oil, etc. then add 12 g of it in 100 ml of decoction.

Always add adjuvant just before you consume the decoction. Never mix adjuvant during the boiling process.

What are the uses of Kwatha?

Kwatha is not merely for internal consumption. It is so potent and beneficial that as a medicine, it serves multiple purposes. Kwatha is most widely used as a base material in the preparation of medicated ghee, oils, fermented syrups, tablets, linctus, etc.

In many diseases, the decoction is recommended to use for all cooking purposes instead of water, for bathing in many skin disorders, for fomentation, as adjuvant, hot packs, enemas, eyewash, & washing wounds.

Key takeaways

A decoction is widely used because of its unique qualities. Decoction powders are readily available at the markets nowadays, so it could be made easily at home. It is convenient to consume, it gets absorbed quickly, and it can be made palatable with adjuvants.

Always use decoction instantly. However, it stays good until 3 hours; after this, its medicinal properties decrease. Always boil on mild fire and avoid over-boiling as it destroys the potency of herbs.

With the right preparatory method, the decoction is indeed a very wonderful way to take Ayurvedic drugs.