The beauty of Ayurveda is that it approaches health in a holistic manner. Ayurveda is not only a way to treat illnesses but also preventive and protective science. Following a lifestyle with habits and a diet as prescribed by Ayurveda will support better health.Each person has their own personal Dosha balance that is unique. According to Ayurveda, the lifestyle and habits of the person should ensure that the natural Dosha balance of the person is maintained. When the balance is lost diseases and health problems result.
The traditional medical system seeks to normalize body functions with varied techniques including food and activity, Panchakarma purification treatments, surgical methods, and internal herbal preparations. Lifestyle choices and habits are also an important factor.
As per Ayurveda, digestion is the key factor in preventing disease. Efficient digestion is subject to the strength of the digestive fire Agni and the Dosha balance. Agni is dependent on the Sun. When the Sun is at its peak in the sky the Agni is at its strongest. Inefficient digestion produces a metabolic waste called Ama that is the root cause of diseases and degeneration.
Ayurveda uses natural ingredients not only as medicines to treat diseases but also as supplements to maintain the Dosha balance, good digestion, and relieve toxic buildup in the body. These natural ingredients are fruits, seeds, stems, leaves, roots, salts, oils, and milk to name a few. Many of the Ayurvedic herbal ingredients are found in Indian kitchens. We are familiar with some of them as common home remedies that have been passed on from generation to generation. Knowing more about these wonderful herbs and their role in Ayurveda helps us use them better to maintain good health the Ayurvedic way.
Knowledge of the benefits of these herbs that have been used for centuries by our ancestors better enables us to benefit from them. When the actual efficacy and action of a herb are understood we can incorporate more of it into our cooking or diet when required. We can also better understand why a certain herb is a component of prescribed Ayurvedic medicine and help support the action of the herb through our diet and habits. Ayurveda has more to it than just popping a pill or drinking medicine. It is a science that helps us get more in tune with the natural tendencies of our bodies and to harmonise them.
Right from the ancient times, Ayurvedic herbs offered a solution to all kinds of diseases, some of which were considered impossible to treat by other fields of medical sciences. They are derived from a plant source, where the leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, roots, bark and resin are used to prepare medicines. These herbal medicines have the potential to maintain a balance between the mind and the spirit. Some of the commonly used Ayurvedic herbs and their uses are mentioned as follows.
Ajwain or (Trachyspermum ammi) is the humble carom seed that is used as a spice and is the base of many home remedies. It has a very distinctive aroma and taste. Ajwain is a member of the Apiaceae family and is related to carrot, cumin, coriander, anise, asafoetida, etc. Ancient Egyptian civilizations used it as a medicine as well as a culinary spice. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is known to treat asthma, persistent coughs, flatulence, and indigestion.
Benefits of Ajwain -
Ashwagandha is highly regarded in the traditional Ayurvedic medicine system. It is a small and woody shrub of the Solanaceae family that is found in India as well as in Africa and a few parts of the Mediterranean continent. Ashwagandha gets its name from two Sanskrit words – Ashva, meaning horse and Gandha meaning smell. Its roots have a strong aroma that is described as “horse-like” and is also said to bestow upon its user the vitality and strength of a horse. The traditional description of being as strong as a horse relates to the description of this herb and its Ayurvedic medicine benefits.
It is commonly used as an adaptogen to help the body cope up with stress and increase its energy and vitality. It also assists the body in preserving and sustaining adequate energy levels throughout the day while promoting restful sleep at night. Traditionally, the roots and berries of the Ashwagandha plant are used for preparing Ayurvedic remedies.
Benefits of Ashwagandha -
Brahmi also called Bacopa monnieri, herb of grace, thyme-leaved gratiola, is one of the best Ayurvedic herbs that has been in use from ancient times to treat neurological disorders. It can be found in wet and tropical environments and can also be used as an Ayurvedic remedy for improving memory, reducing anxiety and treating epilepsy. Certain researches have pointed out that it may be effective in boosting brain function as well. The leaves of the plant are considered as highly sattvic or pure and were eaten by yogis to assist in meditation in olden times.
Benefits of Brahmi -
Cardamom is one of the ancient spices of the world. It grows wildly in the Western Ghats of Southern India and in Guatemala, which is the largest producer and exporter of this spice. It has a strong aroma like that of cloves and is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Benefits of Cardamom -
Native to the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia, cumin is a spice that comes from the Cuminum cyminum plant. It is quite popular in many food cultures and is used as whole dried seeds or ground powder, especially in Indian, Mexican, African and Asian cuisine. In the Middle Ages, when spices were relatively rare, cumin was believed to promote love and fidelity. People would carry it in their pockets and bring it to weddings. Apart from this, cumin has been widely used as a medicine to treat different ailments in many parts of the world for many years.
Benefits of Cumin -
Licorice has been around as a common ingredient in many natural medicines. The ancient Greeks used it for treating cough, and it was also found among the many treasures in the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb. Licorice comes from the juice of the roots of the plant Glycyrrhiza Glabra. It is also used as a sweetener in candies and beverages.
Benefits of Licorice -
Manjistha is a perennial climber that detoxifies the body by purifying the lymph and blood. The lymphatic system drains out wastes from the body and regulates the immune system. As lymph is pumped through muscle contractions, sedentary lifestyles may result in improper functioning of the lymphatic system giving rise to increased toxic levels in skin, joints, muscles and other tissues. Manjistha is a potent lymph mover that calms aggravated Pitta and breaks up congested Kapha. Many pitta-aggravated imbalances in the body, especially the ones related to the blood, may be supported by Manjistha. It is an effective Ayurvedic medicine to clean the liver, regulate kidney functions and clear acne. It is one of the most popular Ayurvedic ingredients used in traditional medicines to improve the complexion and voice. It is also used in Ayurveda to ease the symptoms of skin problems, blood sugar issues, ear pain, eye pain, inflammatory problems, urinary tract, and gynaecological disorders.
The word “Neem” is derived from the Sanskrit Nimba – which means the bestower of good health. Through the ages, the neem tree has been revered by Indians for its miraculous healing powers. Its medicinal properties are well documented in ancient Sanskrit texts, and it's estimated that it is used in one form or another in almost 75% of Ayurvedic compositions. All the different parts of this tree are used in traditional folk medicine and Ayurveda.
Benefits of Neem -
Shatavari or Asparagus racemosus is an adaptogenic herb that promotes fertility and offers a myriad of health benefits, particularly for the female reproductive system. Shatavari is called the queen of herbs. It is high in saponins, compounds with antioxidant abilities.
Benefits of Shatavari -
It is useful in Ayurveda as a nutritive tonic, diuretic, laxative, antitumor, aphrodisiac, anti-depressant, adaptogenic, rejuvenative, antacid, antispasmodic, antioxidant, demulcent, galactagogue, anti-microbial, and immunomodulator.
Shatavari can reduce inflammation in the body without causing any serious digestive side effects
It helps in enhancing immunity
Shatavari root juice is known to be effective in alleviating cough
It may be suggested as a diuretic to help the body get rid of excess fluid
Helps in the treatment of stomach, intestine or esophagus ulcers
It may help maintain blood sugar
The antioxidants in Shatavari reduce the free radicals that lead to skin damage and wrinkles. It may also help in preventing collagen breakdown and maintaining the skin’s elasticity
Turmeric is one of the most popular and widely researched Ayurvedic spices in the world. It is native to South Asia, particularly India, but is also cultivated in other warm regions of the world. The Latin name for turmeric is “Curcuma longa”, derived from “Kurkum”, which is the Arabic name of the plant.
Turmeric, belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, goes by many names in Sanskrit, such as Kanchani or the Golden Goddess, Haridra, or the yellow one, Gauri, or the one who has a shining face. It is used in Ayurveda for its properties of being an excellent detoxifier, anti-microbial, immunomodulator, liver function regulator, anti-arthritic, antioxidant, and anti-diabetes. It is no wonder then that most Indian savoury recipes call for a pinch of turmeric as a matter of course.
Benefits of Turmeric -
The translation of the word Haritaki is that which removes diseases and makes the body shine. Historically, the use of Haritaki for healing and higher consciousness of mind for thousands of years has been documented in India, Nepal, Thailand, and many other regions of southeast Asia. Due to its potential to increase energy, intelligence, and awareness, it was referred to as the “King of Herbs” in the Ayurvedic and Siddha healing systems of India. It is well known for being one of the Triphala herbs.
Haritaki was so popular in the Buddhist culture that it was referred to as “The Supreme Nectar That Illuminates the Mind”. For medicinal purposes, the dried fruit of the tree is used. Haritaki has a bitter taste and is rich in vitamin C and substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Haritaki is used in Ayurveda as a natural anti-viral, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-bacterial, hypolipidemic, antioxidant, immunomodulator, anti-diabetes, hypolipidemic and wound healer.
Benefits of Haritaki -
Guduchi or Tinospora cordifolia is one of the highly revered herbs in Ayurveda for its rejuvenating, detoxifying, immune-boosting, and anti-rheumatic properties. The name “Guduchi” means the one who protects. Originating in India, the herb can also be found in Sri Lanka and Burma.
According to Ayurveda, guduchi is considered to be one of the three amrit (nectar or ambrosia) plants, the other two being garlic and haritaki. Generally, the roots, stem, and leaves of the guduchi plant are used for medicinal purposes, but the bitter starch of the plant holds the most importance.
Benefits of Guduchi -
Amalaki is considered as a powerful rejuvenating herb in Ayurveda. It is commonly known as Indian gooseberry or amla, and is used as an Ayurvedic herb for hair growth and to boost the immune system of the body. Amalaki is native to tropical Southeastern Asia and can be found in different regions of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Mascarene Islands. In Sanskrit, Amalaki means “the sustainer”.
Benefits of Amalaki -
Aloe Vera or Ghrita Kumara in Sanskrit was considered as the “plant of immortality” by the Egyptians. Aloe was recognized in ancient Indian, Greek, Chinese and Roman civilizations for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Benefits of Aloe Vera -
Guggulu or Commiphora mukul is a potent purifying herb, which comes from the flowering Mukul myrrh tree found in arid climates in India. Ancient Ayurvedic texts have mentions of Guggulu as a purifying herb that protects from diseases. For thousands of years, it has been in use to cure sinuses, treat obesity, soothe inflamed joints and relieve chronic skin disorders. It is also prescribed as a recommended treatment for the obstruction of channels caused due to lack of exercise and excessive consumption of fatty foods.
Benefits of Guggulu -
Triphala is an Ayurvedic medicine composed of three medicinal fruits, namely amla (Emblica officinalis), bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), and haritaki (Terminalia chebula). It has been an important part of Ayurvedic practice for thousands of years. Its uses have been mentioned in the Sushrut Samhita, which dates back to 1500 BC.
Benefits of Triphala -