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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 145-148

Traditional Phytochemistry: Identification of Drug by ‘Taste’

1Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, University of Pune, Pune 411007, India
2Hethe House, Cowden Kent TN8 7DZ, United Kingdom

Received 7 November 2005; Accepted 22 August 2006

Copyright © 2007 Kalpana Joshi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Ayurveda, the system of traditional medicine from India, holds that ‘Rasa’, a concept roughly corresponding to taste, is a basis for identifying pharmacological properties of plants and other materia medica used in Dravyaguna—its system of phytomedicine. This idea has recently found support in studies of ibuprofen, the pharmacological properties of which are similar to those of oleocanthal, because the two substances have very similar tastes. This paper discusses a possible scientific approach to understanding the Ayurvedic (hypo)thesis in terms of the stereochemical basis of both pharamaco-activity and taste, and the numbers of possible pharmaco-active compounds that ‘Rasa’ may be able to distinguish. We conclude that molecules binding to a specific enzyme active site should have their own ‘Rasa’, and that the number of different subjectively experienced ‘tastes’ is more than enough to distinguish between molecular shapes binding to all enzyme active sites in the body.