Herbal medicine are prescribed to be taken with various mediums of intake. Such vehicles for taking herbs are called Anupanas.
Cold water, hot water, honey, ghee, butter, raw suger, herbal decoctions or infusions like ginger or mint tea, fruit juice or meat soup are the various anupanas.
By consuming herbs in these manner, it enhances the therapeutic effects of the herbs. For instance, dry ginger given with honey increases its power of expectoration. Anupanas may relieve the side effects of herbs, as when hot spices are given with milk to lessen the aggravation of Pitta.They may serve as flavoring agents to make medicines palatable. They are used much like supplementary herbs in the formulas themselves.
They can also serve as catalytic agents to help direct the effect of herbs to the deeper and subtler tissues of the body, for eg. when ghee is used as an anupana
Anupanas may change the dosha the herbs work on. Ghee is the strongest substance in helping herbs reduce Pitta and fever while sesame oil for the reduction of Vata, honey for the reduction of Kapha. The same herbs when taken with ghee may reduce Pitta but with honey, may target kapha.
The simplest way to use anupana is either with hot or cold water. Hot water is best for herbs to reduce Vata and Kapha and cold water is best to reduce Pitta.
Water conveys the effects of herbs to rasa, the plasma. Honey brings them to the blood and muscles while milk brings them to the plasma and blood.
Raw sugar and milk used as anupanas increases the tonic effect of herbs. They tonify plasma and blood, relieve heat and protect tissues as well aiding in metabolism.