Ashwagandha / Withania somnifera
Ashwagandha/Withania Somnifera commonly known as “Indian Ginseng” is a revered “Rasayana” and nervine tonic in Ayurveda. Most of the Rasayana herbs are adaptogenic in nature or anti-stress agents. Ashwagandha belongs Medhya rasayanas sub-group of Rasayanas. Medhya typically refers to the mind and mental/intellectual capacity.
Health Benefits:The root of Ashwagandha is regarded as a tonic, aphrodisiac, narcotic, diuretic, anthelmintic, astringent, thermogenic and stimulant. The root smells like a horse (“ashwa”) and is believed to provide the power/energy of a horse.
- Ashwagandha enhances the function of the brain and rejuvenates the nervous system leading to increase in the cognitive ability of all age groups starting from young children. It treats insomnia and relaxes the nerves for its adaptogenic properties.
- Ashwagandha improves the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
- Ashwagandha has anti ulcer and anti tumor properties. It prevents stress-induced ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Ashwagandha is anti pyretic in nature, an analgesic that soothes nervous system from pain response and it has powerful anti-arthritic properties.
- It improves the function of the reproductive system promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance.
- Ashwagandha leaves are used as a hypnotic in the treatment of alcoholism and to relax the spasms of the lungs for the treatment of asthma and emphysema.
- Ashwagandha is effective in treating central nervous system (CNS) disorders, particularly in epilepsy, stress and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disorders, tardive dyskinesia, and cerebral ischemia.
Modes of consumption:
- Ashwagandha root is commonly available in powdered form and mixed with water, ghee (clarified butter) or honey.
- Recommended dose is 6 to 10 g, twice a day. Powdered Ashwagandha mixed in hot cup of milk before bedtime helps treat insomnia and anxiety.
Caution: Large doses of Ashwagandha can have side effects in terms of increased anxiety as it acts as a stimulant. For pregnant ladies, Ashwagandha consumption is not recommended due to potential aborptive effects.
Ghrit Kumari / Aloevera
“The plant for immortality”, Ghrit Kumari finds its mention in the Rigveda and was known to ancient civilizations from over the world for its versatile properties and its healing potential. It is cold in potency. Constituents within Ghrit Kumari “Aloevera gel” can penetrate through all seven layers of the skin resulting in prompt and marked effect of rejuvenation, natural healing, and protection. Aloevera leaf is composed of three layers:
- An inner clear gel that contains 99% water and rest is made of glucomannans, amino acids, lipids, sterols and vitamins. It is highly effective in treating all kinds of skin wounds, burns, and disorders.
- The middle layer of latex which is the bitter yellow sap and contains anthraquinones and glycosides. This part of the leaf is effective in gastrointestinal disorders and is a strong laxative.
- The outer thick layer of called as rind and protects the inner parts.
Aloe vera contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids.
- Aloe vera hydrates, soothes, and regenerates the skin through increased collagen production. Highly effective when consumed internally and externally, Aloe vera is used in the treatment of hemorrhoids, dermatitis, and in psoriasis.
- It helps to treat burns on the body from the Sun as well as effective in treating impact of radiation on the body.
- Aloe vera contains 8 enzymes some of which are anti-inflammatory in nature and effective on both internal and external problems such as relieving from joint and skin inflammation.
- Aloe vera contains 6 antiseptic agents, hence its effective inhibitive action on fungi, bacteria and viruses.
External application of Aloe vera may sometimes cause allergies, so it is advised to test on a small part of the skin first. It can also lead to diarrhea, hence regulated consumption is recommended. Oral consumption of Aloe vera is not recommended during pregnancy due to stimulation of uterine contractions. In breastfeeding mothers, it may sometime causes gastrointestinal issues to the infant.
Tinospora Cordifolia “Giloy”, “Guduchi”
Also termed as “Amrit” or the elixir of life, Giloy or Tinospora Cordifolia has multiple positive effects in human body. Almost all parts of the plant are used for several medicinal purposes with the stem being most common. Tinospora harmonizes the three “Doshas” making it such a potent herb for rejuvenation, treating ailments, and for boosting immunity. A great detoxification agent, Tinospora cleanses the micro circulatory system ( lymphatic system and blood circulatory system). It has the unique ability to remove toxins from both exogenous and endogenous sources .
Giloy protects the body and helps in its proper functioning under stress. Fresh herb is more effective than the dried form, although dried form is easily to consume and lasts longer. Tinospora Cordifolia stem is rich in alkaloids, diterpenoids lactones, glycosides, steroids, sesquiterpenoids, phenolics, aliphatic compounds, and polysaccharides. Leaves of Giloy are rich in protein and fairly high in calcium and phosphorous.
- Giloy is also used as an adaptogenic herb to reduce mental stress and anxiety. Giloy enhances the cognitive ability, promotes memory and longevity by reducing oxidative damage to cells and endogenous cleansing of brain toxins.
- Known for its hypoglycemic actions, Giloy reduces blood sugar and lipid levels considerably. This makes it very useful for treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Protects against gamma radiation and has anti-tumor properties leading to significant reduction in tumors when used regularly.
- Giloy boosts the white blood cell count and maturation of bone marrow stem cells leading to an increased immunity response that corresponds with activation of macrophage (protective cells).
- Giloy is known to increases appetite, quench thirst, and increase body strength. Giloy promotes life and has anti-ageing properties such as destruction of wrinkles and graying of hair.
- Mixed with other herbs, Giloy is also used as an aphrodisiac and to increase sexual potency. It cleanses sperm and is known to provide virility to sterile men and women.
- It relieves from the gastro-intestinal and urinary disorders (diuretic in nature) such as digestion issues, piles, and pain in bladder.
- Giloy purifies the blood, leads to a healthy and glowing skin and complexion. Due to its cleansing action, Giloy helps in various skin related issues such as eczema, psoriasis, lupus, and skin inflammation.
- Giloy is anti-pyretic in nature, it is known to be highly effective in reducing chronic and high fevers.
- The anti-inflammatory action of Giloy makes it beneficial for treating inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Juice from Giloy stem significantly balances high uric acid level in the body.
It is hot in potency and can have some side effects such as constipation and low blood sugar levels, hence prescribed to be used under supervision of an expert. Giloy is also not recommended for pregnant and lactating women due to potential side effects, Ayurvedic experts should be consulted in case one plans to consume the same.
Manjishtha/ Rubia cordifolia/ Indian madder
Known as the best herb for blood purification, Manjishtha is highest impact on the “Rasa – Plasma”, Rakta – Blood”, and “Mamsa – Muscle” Dhatus or boddy tissues. Manjishtha is known to alleviate the “Kapha” and “Pitta”, while aggravating the “Vayu” Doshas in human body. This gives it a property to help destroy benign and malignant tumors, while regulating the actions of kidneys, spleen, liver, and pancreas. Mature roots, stem, and leaves of the plant are used for various therapeutic purposes as described in this article.
- Manjishtha positively effects female reproductive system, hence prescribed for menstruation disorders such as pain, oligomenorrhea, amenorrhea, and post patrum uterus stimulation and cleansing, and during menopause.
- Manjishtha is prescribed for good functioning of circulatory system. It regulates blood pressure, blood vessel constriction and also the tendency of blood to form clots.
- As a blood purifier Manjishtha improves complexion, gain glow, and helps in skin problems such as erysipelas, eczema, acne, and parasitic allergies.
- Effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, dysentery, and edema.
- With a marked effect o functioning of kidneys, spleen, and pancreas, Manjishtha is used to treat diseases such as hepatitis, herpes, and jaundice.
Modes of Consumption:
As a decoction, powder, paste, or mixed with ghee
Manjishtha should only be consumed under an expert’s supervision. It is not prescribed for pregnant women and lactating mothers. It can lead to severe chills in some cases.
Also termed as “The Miracle Tree”, Moringa Oleifera is believed to cure more than 300 diseases in Ayurveda. All parts of the plant; seeds, flowers, leaves, fruit, stem bark, roots are used for therapeutic purposes. Compatible for sustainable agriculture, Moringa plant is easy to grow and flourishes in tropical/sub-tropical climates.
The Moringa Oleifera plant has over 46 different antioxidants and 92 nutrients. The plant also contains 36 anti-inflammatory compounds and over 20 amino acids. Moringa leaves are a great source of Iron and Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and B7, C, D, E and K. It is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and diuretic in nature.
Modes of Consumption:
- Moringa leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months without loss of nutritional value.
- Diabetic patients can take Moringa leaves twice a week to reduce inflammation in hands/feet etc.
- Drumstick leaves can be used as a wonderful tonic for infant and growing kids to promote strong and healthy bones and for purifying the bloodstream. This tonic can be prepared by grinding the leaves with water, followed by filtering and then mixing with milk.
- Juice of drumstick leaves are considered beneficial to lactating mothers as it boosts milk production and help overcome sluggishness of uterus. For pregnant ladies, caution and supervision should be used in consumption (only Drumstick fruit can be consumed and not rest of the tree parts) as it is known to cause uterine contractions.
- Drumstick leaves, flowers, and seeds can also be used as aphrodisiac and to treat sexual debility.
- Drumstick leaves are also used to treat respiratory and lung related problems such as Asthama, Bronchitis, Wheezing, and Tuberculosis.
- Dried and powdered bark of the drumstick root can also be used for fungal skin infections.
- Moringa seeds are also eaten green, roasted, powdered and steeped for tea or used in curries.
- Oil from Moringa seeds is a sweet non-sticky oil. It is used in foods, perfume, hair care products, and machine lubrication.
Amlaki or Phyllanthus Emblica
Continuing on our green spree, we will focus on Amlaki or “Phyllanthus emblica”, its benefits, and modes of application in this post. All parts of the plant are used in various Ayurvedic herbal preparations, including the fruits, seeds, leaves, root, bark and flowers. Considered as one of the most potent rejuvenating herbs, Amalaki is said to possess cooling properties to help soothe “Pitta” Dosha, excess of which leads to inflammation, sleep deprivation, skin and gastrointestinal disorders, and stress-related issues such as high blood pressure. When put in mouth, Amlaki tastes very sour but slowly leaves a sweetened taste.
Rich source of vitamin C (445 mg/100 g), which is around 20 times more than in the orange juice), minerals such as zinc, copper, chromium, amino acids, natural bioflavonoids, alkaloids, enzymes, and tannin (high antioxidants).
- Fights high cholesterol, Amlaki purifies the Rasa Dhatu and Rakta Dhatu and supports the functions of the liver. It also stimulates the liver and helps to eliminate toxins from the body. This in turn results in a lusturous skin, free from bacterial infections.
- Nurtures blood circulation and supports the cardiovascular system. Amlaki may simulate the heart hence for heart patients, it is advised to consult the doctor before regular consumption of Amlaki.
- Relieves menstrual cramping and keeps the cycle healthy when consumed regularly for few weeks. Amlaki nurtures all seven Dhatus in both men and women, hence supporting the reproductive function (enhances fertility). Specially for women, Amlaki strengthens the uterus system.
- Improves eyesight, reduces intra-ocular tension. Regular consumption of Amlaki juice with honey helps people suffering from nearsightedness and cataracts.
- Results in healthier hair and fights problems such as premature graying and thinning.
- Strengthens the urinary system and can help address urinary issues such as burning sensation. Amlaki supports natural diuretic action, hence helping to eliminate waste from the body without over-stimulating the urinary system.
- Tonic for strengthening and nourishing the lungs and the respiratory tract (major seat of Kapha Dosha in body) as it pacifies Kapha Dosha. Amlaki also pacifies Shleshaka Kapha, that governs moisture balance in the lungs. This is primarily the reason why Amlaki juice and honey is also prescribed to patients suffering from Bronchitis and Asthama.
- Enhances food absorption, helps the body to digest food better and to assimilate minerals such as Iron and Calcium. Another ехсеllеnt digestive іѕ ginger, bυt ginger tends tο heat thе body. Amla dοеѕ nοt heat thе body, аnd іѕ gentler οn thе entire system
Modes of consumption:
- Powdered form as Amlaki retains most of its Vitamin C even after processing/heating/drying. Highly effective remedy for hyperacidity, ulcers and blood impurities. Can be used as a decoction and paste both internally and externally.
- Juice form with honey is highly beneficial to fight obesity (by enhancing the metabolism), acts as tonic for eyes, hair, and to fight the diseases.
- In hair oils/shampoos for strong hair
- Pulp mixed with other herbs in an Ayuurvedic medicine called Chayavanprash
We are kicking-off our series with commonly found herb – Green Curry Leaves, scientifically known as “Murraya Koenigii”! In Ayurveda, curry leaves are believed to have mild laxative properties, which helps the stomach to get rid of unwanted waste and also removes the toxic wastes “ama”. Consumption of curry leaves balances out the “Pitta Dosha” in the body.
Nutrient information: Rich source of Vitamin A and C, Calcium , Antioxidants, and Folic Acid, Kaempferol (anti inflammatory)
- Helps in the absorption of iron – Add curry leaves to meals, modes of consumption given below
- Boosts blood circulation, immune system, and metabolic processes
- Prevents Diabetes – Powder of dried curry leaves can be added to meals
- Delays premature graying of hair - Application mentioned below
- Relieves from Nausea and Heart burn – Juice of curry leaves mixed with fresh lemon juice and sugar helps to treat nausea and indigestion
- Anti inflammatory and Anti microbial in nature
- Improving the eyesight and prevents the eye cataract
Modes of consumption:
- Ingestion – Chewing few leaves (8 to 10 in quantity) with empty stomach to regulate peristalsis, onset of diabetes & control high levels of cholesterol.
- External application – Boil handful of curry leaves in one table spoon of coconut oil till they changes colour. Use this oil to massage the scalp (root of hair) and wash after 2 hours with shampoo. This will help the hair to grow, prevent premature graying, and address hair fall.
Some recipes with curry leaves
Ayurveda in our daily lives
In this series of “Ayurveda in our daily lives”, we will bring you health benefits and modes of practice/consumption of the herbs/food items/health remedies that can be practiced in our daily lives. These quick tips can be easily integrated in your lifestyle and food habits irrespective of the pace at which you live. Stressing on the factors to build your immunity, capability of these items to help you rejuvenate, and perform at your best in every facet of your schedule.
We will introduce the commonly available herbs, special herbs as described in Ayurveda, common practices, and special Ayurvedic treatments that one could avail at their own ease.
The Sapta Dhatus – Seven bodily tissues
The “Dhatus” are the basic varieties of tissues which compose the human body. The word “dhatu” comes from a Sanskrit word which means “that which enters into the formation of the body”; the root Daa (dha) means “support, that which bears”. The primary Dhatus are seven in number. They are:
- Shukra dhatu – reproductive tissues
- Majja dhatu – bone marrow and nervous tissues
- Asthi dhatu – bone tissues including cartilages; supports Majja and Masma dhatu
- Meda dhatu – fatty tissues that lubricates the body; consists of adipose tissue and provides support to Asthi dhatu
- Mamsa dhatu – muscle tissues; provides physical strength and supports Meda dhatu
- Rakta dhatu – formed/circulating blood cells; nourishes all muscle tissues Mamsa dhatu and provides physical strength and colour to the body
- Rasa dhatu – plasma is derived from digested food; nourishes every tissue and cell of the body
A unique feature of Saptdhatus is that each human tissue is formed from the previous tissue in ascending order of complexity. Each tissue type “dhatu” has its own “agni”, which determines metabolic changes in the tissues. And forms by-products, which are either used in the body or excreted.
When food is ingested it is digested until, in the small intestines, it becomes a liquidy, chyme-like material known in Ayurveda as “ahara rasa” or food essence. With the help of “ahara rasagni”, this “ahara rasa” is converted into Rasa dhatu (blood plasma)–the first and most simple tissue. Rasa dhatu–catalyzed by Rasagni–is transformed into Rakta dhatu (formed blood cells), the second fundamental bodily tissue. Rakta dhatu in turn, with the help of raktagni, becomes mamsa dhatu (muscle), and so on.
Since the dhatus support and derive energy from each other; affecting one can influence others. For instance, interference in the manufacture of the plasma affects the quality of the blood, which in turn effects the muscle.
The Trigunas – Principles that define the mental state
The three “tri” gunas of “Sattva”, “Tamas” and “Rajas” are the three essential components or energies of the mind. In the word triguna, “tri” stands for three and “gunās” stand for intangible components. Ayurveda provides a distinct description of people on the basis of their Manasa (psychological) Prakruti (constitution).
- Sattva - It is the energy / force of balance and equilibrium and translates in quality as good and harmony and happiness and light. Predominance of Sattva in a person is characterized by happiness, contentment, virtues like patience, perseverance, ability to forgive, and spiritual yearning.
- Tamas – All energy in its grossest, densest and heaviest form is Tamasic energy. A dark heavy cloud is tamasic energy. It is force of ignorance and inertia and translates in quality as obscurity and incapacity and inaction. It makes the body and mind feel lazy, heavy , sleepy and dull.
- Rajas - It is force of motion, vibration and translates in quality as struggle and effort, passion and action. It is fast moving and unrythmic. All pressure, tension, stress, worry, impulsive behavior pattern are its creation.
The Panchamahabhutas – Five basic elements of nature
Ayurveda describes five basic elements ” Panchamahabhutas ” of Air “Vayu”, Water “Jal” , Fire “Agni”, Earth “Bhumi”, and Space/Ether “Aakash”. The Panchamahabhutas mix together in multiple ways and proportions to create unique and distinct form of matter.
In human body, correspondence of the presence of Panchamahabhutas can be drawn as:
- The space represents the voids within the body such as mouth, nostrils, abdomen
- Air denotes the movement of muscular and nervous system
- Fire controls the functioning of enzymes and corresponds to intelligence, functioning of digestive system and, metabolism
- Water is in all body fluids such as plasma, saliva, digestive juices
- The earth manifests itself in the solid structure of the body such as bones, teeth, flesh, and hair etc.
The Panchamahabhutas therefore serve as the foundation of all diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully.
The Tridoshas – Principles that define the physical state
The “Panchamahabhutas” work together in different ways to create physical energies, termed as “Doshas” in individuals. These three govern creation, maintenance and destruction of bodily tissues “Dhatus” as well as the assimilation and elimination.
- Earth + Water → “Kapha” corresponding to structure and all of the oily factors of our body such as, fat tissue, lubricating fluids like synovial fluid in joints, the mucous secretions in the digestive system and respiratory system. Qualities - heaviness, slow movement, oiliness, liquidity, thickness and density.
- Air + Fire → “Pitta” corresponding to digestion, bio transformation of the digested food, and the factors responsible for our metabolism. The seats of Pitta are in the digestive system, skin, eyes, brain, lymph, liver, spleen and blood. Presence of Pitta is evident through our body temperature. Qualities – hotness, sharpness, lightness, liquidity, sourness, oiliness and fast spreading nature.
- Air + Space → “Vata” corresponding to movements of our body and inside our body. These include movements of the muscles, movement of food through our digestive tract and movement of the blood through the blood vessels. Qualities - dryness, roughness, coldness, mobility, clarity and astrigent taste.
Each person is born with a unique combination of these “Doshas” which decides their temperament or body type and is termed as “Prakruti”. Understanding of each person’s Prakruti for deciding their personal diet and exercise pattern, supplements and medicinal herbs, cleansing and rebuilding therapies that is right for them are among the chief methods, Ayurveda employs for the maintenance and restoration of health.
Physical features of an individual can also be utilized to understand the Prakruti of the person, shown below: